Wharton’s Residential MBA Exec Program: ‘A Communal Versus Commuter Feel’

A common question from students living in San Francisco and Philadelphia is whether they are required to stay over on class weekends. The short answer is: yes. Wharton’s residential EMBA program requires  all students to spend class nights either at a designated hotel in San Francisco or in the executive facilities of Wharton’s Steinberg Conference Center in Philadelphia. Not only does this provide the necessary time for groups to study and complete projects, it also fosters deep bonds among students as they get to know each other outside of class.

We asked Sami Kaipa and Suncheth Bhat, both second-year students at Wharton | San Francisco who live in the Bay Area, to share their experiences of the residential format. Here’s what Kaipa, a software consulting manager at IBM, had to say:

“I’m only a 15-minute train ride from Wharton so I was a bit shocked in the beginning that I had to stay over. Now that I’ve been in the program for a year, I fully appreciate the intent and am a huge proponent of the residential aspect.

“You can imagine that the alternative would be to end classes for the day and walk out the door. But at Wharton, you have dinner with your classmates and professors and then walk back to the hotel where you study in workgroups together. Later, we sit in the hotel pub and order late-night pizzas, have drinks, play poker and just hang out. We even threw a surprise 40th birthday for a classmate the other weekend.

“You think back to your undergrad days and it clicks that this format is very different from just sitting with each other in class and waving goodbye. When you spend this much time together – living together in a sense — you really bond in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise.

“My wife even joins me at the hotel on many weekends. Since families are welcome to stay over, my classmates have gotten to know her and we’ve gotten to know many of their partners and children. The residential aspect really does allow you to develop deeper relationships and it’s a great part of the program.”

Bhat, who is a Fellow in the Executive MBA program and works for PG&E in San Francisco as a regulatory manager in renewable energy, adds:

“I had friends a few years ahead of me in the program so I knew about the residential requirement, but I was still skeptical as to why it applied to those of us who live in the city. But now, I really look forward to school weekends and hanging out with my classmates. After classes, some of us play basketball at the YMCA near campus and then meet up with everyone at the hotel pub. Or if we don’t have exams or an assignment due, we’ll go out as a group in the city.

“Our class is very multicultural so we all have different life stories and perspectives to share. Staying in the same hotel really promotes those discussions and deepens our bonds. It’s only been a year and already we’re a really close group.

“I’d say half of the Wharton experience is in the classroom and the other half is from outside class. If I went home in the evening, I’d be missing out on a lot because there isn’t that much time to get to know everyone during our busy class days. The residential aspect really gives the program a communal versus commuter feel.”