Wharton’s Global Modular Course in Rwanda Focuses on Conflict Resolution and Leadership

Wharton’s EMBA program is known for having a global focus with its International Seminar; however the addition of global modular courses has taken this to a whole new level. Launched in 2010, the week-long  mini-courses offer students opportunities to learn about topics such as financial institutions in Abu  Dhabi, supply chain management in Shanghai, innovation in India, and leadership and conflict resolution in Rwanda.

Having recently returned from the course in Rwanda, we asked EMBA students Marla Bleavins and Bill Williams to tell us about their experience. Here’s what Marla, a second-year student at Wharton | San Francisco who is a special projects manager for Los Angeles World Airports, had to say:

“Most Americans know about Rwanda because of the tragedy of genocide that happened there in 1994, but we aren’t as familiar with the progress the country has made since then. It’s the fastest growing economy in Africa and one of the safest and least corrupt countries on that continent so I was intrigued to learn more about it through this course, which was taught by Prof. Katherine Klein and called, ‘Leadership, Conflict, and Change.’

“I went to Rwanda with a group of full-time Wharton MBA students and EMBA students from both the Philadelphia and San Francisco programs. It was a nice aspect of the course to be able to interact with so many people from across the Wharton family.

“We started out each day with a discussion about the readings we were assigned and then we’d go to meetings with government officials and business leaders. In the evening, we’d have a wrap-up discussion and share our observations of the day. I really liked how we spent so much time talking to the local people. We had a high level of access and really got to interact with them.

“This course was a great opportunity to learn about leadership issues in a nontraditional way. It also was interesting how the course used a multidisciplinary approach so we touched on a lot of areas like economics, social psychology, business, politics, and how the confluence of all of these factors is impacting the future development of the country. It was a remarkable experience.”

East Coast first-year EMBA student Bill Williams, who is a financial analysis manager for Capital One in Richmond, Va., added:

“I saw the Rwanda course listed as an option and wanted to go because the country has been through so much turmoil and faced so many hardships, but is now one of the most amazing rebuilding stories in the world.

“I wanted to understand how leaders could affect such change in a country that has been through disastrous events. On a smaller scale, it’s applicable to how executives deal with conflicts in an organization, remembering the past, but rallying people together to strive for a common goal and positive change.

“The first day was devoted to the topic of conflict so we spent the day talking about genocide and its impact on the country. We went to the Genocide Memorial Museum, which was emotionally difficult and very eye opening.

“The second day we discussed leadership and had incredible access to government leaders such as the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Gender. We also heard how the Department of Finance is working to meet the country’s vision of its future from a financial standpoint.

“The third day we focused on economic change and met with many business leaders and entrepreneurs, discussing what it’s like to try to build a business in Rwanda.

“We also saw the sights in Kigali and many of us took a trip to see Rwanda’s famous guerillas. Many of us also travelled before or after the course to experience more of Africa. I spent a week in Kenya to go on safari and other students went to locations such as Ethiopia and South Africa.

“In addition to learning a lot during the course, the trip was a great opportunity to meet Wharton students from the other programs and make new friends. We’re already planning a get together soon to keep all of those connections going.”

Thanks to Marla and Bill for sharing their experiences.

See more photos of the Rwanda GMC on the Wharton Flickr account.

Learn more about Wharton’s global modular courses.