Garrett: Wharton is a global resource

Posted: June 19, 2014 by jennroig in English, Interviews
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Geoffrey Garrett will assume duties as the new dean at Wharton, UPenn, very soon next July. He answered questions for AmericaEconomia, this is the original English version.

Geoffrey Garrett, new dean at Wharton

Geoffrey Garrett, new dean at Wharton

Wharton is a global powerhouse when it comes to business education, but the current context is determined by uncertainty, change and constant need to adapt to new directions. What’s the vision of the new dean to lead Wharton to its next step?

It would be hasty of me to talk about a vision specifically for Wharton given the newness of my role. However, I think there are three big trends in the world that are affecting not only business education, but the world of business as well, that Wharton is very well placed to respond to.

First, globalization is affecting everything—and that doesn’t mean just traditional trade and capital flows, but more importantly multinational firms and global supply and distribution channels. Business schools are in essence like MNCs, and have to focus on internationalizing the curriculum, building international alliances, and creating international opportunities for students and faculty. The new Penn Wharton center in Beijing will be in the vanguard of this educational globalization.

Second, technology is disrupting business models from newspapers and retail to 3D printing and manufacturing. Challenges are everywhere, but so too are opportunities. Some people worry that universities are an endangered species, like newspapers and retail malls. But if we are smart, the opportunities provided by technology both to improve the quality of what we do and to increase its reach are immense. Wharton’s leadership role in the dominant MOOC platform, Coursera, is a prime example.

Third, while societal demands from better infrastructure to accommodating aging populations are ever increasing, the ability of cash-strapped governments to respond to them is limited. This will inevitably mean involving the private sector more in solving big global problems, from start ups for purifying water in Africa to financial innovations in public-private infrastructure partnerships. Wharton’s public policy initiative to bring business savvy to major policy challenges will be an important catalyst for new thinking and new action on the public impact of the private sector.

What will be the most important priorities for Dean Garrett, as soon as he takes over the role of new dean at Wharton?

Assess and absorb! Wharton is a huge institution with two campuses in Philadelphia and San Francisco, more than 230 faculty members, 5000 undergraduates, over 850 MBAs, 9000 executive educations clients annually and 92,000 alumni in its network. Taking over the role will require an exploration and discovery of all Wharton’s assets, its strengths and where there are opportunities for growth.

It was recently reported that Wharton has reached the first position of the U.S. News & World Report ranking, along Harvard and Stanford. But some months ago, there were concerns about the admission process, and declining interest on the school from MBA candidates. What is the actual situation of the school?

Admissions numbers dip and rise naturally in all business schools. The important factors for Wharton are the caliber of its class (this year’s GMAT was 725), its high yield (meaning better-suited students), the diversity of its student pool (42% women, 35% international students from 71 countries) and our high job placements (97.8% of last year’s class accepted job offers within three months of graduation.)

Prof. Garrett stated, “globalization and technological change are poised to transform business education. I have no doubt Wharton will be in the vanguard of this transformation” here and in other countries”. How does he envision that transformation? How does Wharton plan to be at the vanguard of transformation? Could you mention some concrete actions, innovations or initiatives?

Wharton has had a strong global brand for decades. In addition, Wharton believes in bringing the world into the classroom to prepare our students to be truly global leaders. We offer 10 intense in-country Global Modular Courses around the world, faculty and student exchange trips, partnerships with dozens of international institutions and a new point of presence in Beijing slated to open in 2015. My experience in Australia and as an Australian gives me a unique view to see Wharton as an asset to the world though seated on both coasts in the United States. Through the transformative nature of online education, like Wharton’s current work in Coursera, the School can touch more people than ever before in the world. In addition, the continued progression of using online modes of programming will shape a new method of pedagogy that opens up possibilities beyond geographical borders.

Wharton has taken steps to collaborate with other international business schools, to provide students with opportunities of a global experience (i.e. the “Business Strategy and Operational Execution: Bridging the Divide” course for the CEO Global program with IESE). Is this a trend that will continue? Are there any other global school being considered for future collaborations?

Wharton believes in partnerships with other institutions to share knowledge with scholars across the globe.  We continue to look for and explore those opportunities.

Considering that Latin American countries, and other emerging countries, will now offer the biggest pool of student candidates, is there any particular initiative or strategies to address these markets?

Latin America continues to be an important region to Wharton not only in attracting prospective students, but also in looking at some of those emerging economies that are vital in understand global business. The successes of major economies like Brazil in the past decade or so have been extremely impressive. When we think of emerging markets it is tempting to focus only on growing Asian titans like China, India and Indonesia. But the strength of democracy and free markets in Latin America positions the region ahead of Asia in terms of developmental time lines. For a school like Wharton, Latin America has to be an important pillar of its globalization strategy.


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