For those preparing for their upcoming Wharton Team-based Discussion (TBD), we wanted to offer up some specific guidance on how to approach the group interview and your 1-minute pitch.
Most of our advice centers on how you can get a proper grasp on the program's cultural and curriculum related nuances, as well as the strategic direction (former) Dean Robertson put into play at Wharton. Mastering both the granular and high-level aspects of Wharton will allow you to tailor your 1-minute pitch on interview day, and not be distracted by what others (i.e. interviewees and their respective pitches) may claim as aligning with what Wharton wants to see.
As a starting point, let's examine what Wharton wanted to see from it's class of 2016 R1 applicants (that is, applicants who applied 2 years ago in R1, Fall 2013). Remarkably, Wharton kept a version of this question for R1 and R2 of last year's applications (that is, applicants who applied in R1 & R2, Fall and Winter 2014 - class of 2017).
Interview invitees were sent the following:
The Dean of the Wharton School, Thomas Robertson, has built a strategic foundation for the School based on Global Presence, Innovation and Social Impact.Wharton’s Global Initiatives focus on educating and creating new knowledge to provide students, faculty and alumni with the necessary tools to lead in the global environment.For this discussion, imagine that Professor Harbir Singh, Vice Dean for Global Initiatives at Wharton, has asked for your recommendation on an idea for a new Global Modular Course (GMC) or another global academic opportunity for 2015. Keeping in mind that the purpose of a GMC is to provide students with local immersion, course concepts and emerging business issues, please work as a team to come up with a global learning experience to help contribute to a new course offering following either the GMC format or some alternative. For more information on the GMCs that are offered, please refer to the Wharton website and the following video.
Please come prepared to share your thoughts with the group in 1 minute or less before moving into the team discussion. You should plan to spend no more than one hour in preparation for this part of the process.
You should plan to spend no more than one hour in preparation for the Team-Based Discussion.
(Note: I would never recommend anyone spend "no more than one hour" preparing for their TBD.)
The first thing you need to know is that you really should propose a Global Modular Course.
Wharton's instructions do give you an out, but you have to consider that most of your fellow interviews will be preparing their GMC proposal as well. Since you should know that you (and the group) will be tasked with coming up with a single recommendation (i.e. one defined GMC or one defined "global opportunity"), it's best to get past competing class formats and just focus on honing a GMC. If you spend time debating whether or not it's even going to be a GMC (on interview day) you are wasting valuable time (as you will only have about 30 mins to come to consensus and pitch your proposal to the interviewers.)
The second thing you need to know is that it's not about your course or your idea, but about how you interact with others in getting to the "right" answer (i.e. single, agreed-upon GMC proposal).
Do you really think that your Wharton interviewers (either adcom members or 2nd year students) really give a hoot about what your course is (as long as it's not bat-shit insane)? The answer is "no." What they care about is how you facilitate the consensus-building process. So you need to go into this process with a "facilitator's" mindset, and not a "one right answer"mindset.
Now, make no mistake - there are better GMC proposals than others. Invariably and during the interview, a few bad ideas will pop up. You don't want to be the individual who knocks these bad ideas down. You have to be much, more sophisticated than that. This is why being a facilitator means understanding where Wharton is coming from, as well as where the school wants to go, so that you can guide the conversation back on course and look like a hero (comparatively).
The third thing you need to know is Wharton's history with Global Modular Courses, as well as its plethora of international options.
In the very least, you should know the following about Wharton:
More on Global Modular Courses - Google Site Search
GMC are a hot topic. Read about who started it -
The Value of a ‘Crash Course’ | Wharton Magazine
- Familiarize yourself with all the international study options that Wharton offers. Also, make sure your proposed topic does not overlap with anything here - That is, you do not want to propose something that already exists. That is a deal breaker.
- However, you should know that what you propose should stay within some confines - that is - don't propose a course or initiative that brings along 150 students when the norm is 15 (for example.)
- Familiarize yourself with the mechanics of a current GMC - read the course syllabus. This way you know what is actually going on in the class - so you don't propose something not consistent with current GMC electives.
Now let's back this up and take it to a slightly higher level so that we understand the greater context in which GMC and Wharton's international emphasis lay.
Familiar yourself with the 3 pillars (again.)
- Watch this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lCsAHtJV0Q
- Read this - http://www.wharton.upenn.edu/gcp/index.cfm
- Source - "Thomas S. Robertson: Leading with innovation to seize the future | The Jakarta Post" - "He (Dean Robertson) began by establishing three pillars – social impact, global presence and innovation – to serve as the foundation of Wharton as a business school. To manage the three components, Robertson created three new positions at Wharton: vice deans for social impact, international business and innovation.“Social impact communicates straightforward ideas that Wharton, as a business school, produces educated and socially responsible business leaders. To make the most of international opportunities in today’s interconnected world, Wharton is looking to expand its presence across the globe,” explained Robertson.“Innovation is the most important of the three pillars, as it is central to our culture. Innovation at Wharton has helped develop global presence and social impact.”'
- Source - "Poets & Quants: Wharton to Overhaul MBA Program" (2012) Dean Robertson says - “They are looking at the total experience: the culture, the content and the structure of our program,” says Robertson. “There has to be more of a focus on managing under ambiguity and the importance of ethical behavior.” The overhaul will be informed by what Robertson calls his three pillars, having to do with driving innovation, making the school more international, and cultivating a culture that is a force for good. “If I am going to have a legacy here, it’s going to be around those three pillars. They are a major part of differentiation for Wharton.”
The following is also key to understanding the direction that Wharton is moving in.
For example - This may allow you to pick something that is of recent interest (at Wharton) and tailor it based on your experiences, as well as other add-ons (i.e. getting alums and alumni clubs more involved).
- Global Initiatives Research and Teaching Materials Program
The Global Initiatives Research Program facilitates faculty research related to global, cross-border or regional issues, including the management of multinational firms, competing in international markets, the interdependence of financial markets, cross national studies of entrepreneurship, understanding differences in buyer behavior across cultures and countries, contrasting manufacturing practices across countries, and more.
The fourth thing you should know is that most interviewees will struggle with getting their pitches down to 1 min.
Approach this by revisiting the structure of each Global Modular Course. Pretty much all GMC's last for about 3 or 4 days and involve a cross-section of industry players – from governmental to social to business related parties. Think about who you would meet with on day 1, and what you would discussed during that high-level meeting. Consider with whom you would meet with on day 2, and again, what you could discuss in a day. Repeat this thought process for day 3. Would it make sense for you to meet with each vested industry player on each separate day? Probably. Start from there, and keep whittling down the scope until you can get your concise pitch down to 1 min.
That's all for today's post. We hope this provides you a foundation for approaching your Wharton Team-based Discussion, as well as its Global Modular Course component. If you would like more in-depth advice on preparing for the Wharton TBD - and would like to engage our interview preparation services, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.