Wharton is first Ivy League business school to launch a hybrid executive MBA program

BY Sydney LakeAugust 18, 2022, 7:59 PM
Signage for the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School stands outside of the campus in San Francisco, California, as seen in February 2012. (Photographer: David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Business education at Ivy League institutions has largely been defined by in-person courses and strong networking, two elements that don’t necessarily translate to an online experience. However, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is breaking rank, becoming the first Ivy League school to launch a hybrid (25% in-person and 75% online) executive MBA program, as it announced this week. Fortune ranks Wharton as having the No. 3 full-time MBA program and No. 4 executive MBA program in the U.S.

“For us, the timing is right,” Peggy Bishop Lane, vice dean of Wharton MBA for Executives Program, tells Fortune. “Many of our faculty are engaged in and energized by online teaching. They see the promise of this for the future.”

The MBA Program for Executives, which will launch in May 2023, is intended to have a global cohort with business professionals from Asia, North America, Latin America, and Europe. Wharton started its executive MBA program in 1975 at its flagship location in Philadelphia, and started its San Francisco cohort in 2002. But during the past two years, the school has heard from prospective students that they were interested in a Wharton executive MBA program that doesn’t require bi-weekly travel, Lane says.

“Our experience offering courses online to our students during the pandemic gave us the confidence that we can offer a premier education in this format,” she says. “We believe this will give students the flexibility they want, while also creating the close-knit community for which we are known.”

How the program works and how to apply

The Wharton for Executives hybrid program takes 22 months to complete. Just like the Philadelphia and San Francisco programs, global cohort students will also participate in the one-week residential orientation in Philadelphia. There will also be five other residency weeks for online students, which will be hosted in Philadelphia, San Francisco, or other places around the world.

“We also know from our current students how important their close bonds are and how essential in-person interactions are in forming and solidifying those bonds,” Lane says. “That’s why we have included a series of residential weeks in the new global cohort.”

The target demographic of students for the program are busy executives with outside commitments and interests, she adds, so online courses will be synchronous (live) and will be held every other week on Thursday evenings, as well as Friday and Saturday mornings.

“The evolution of the Wharton executive MBA is a reflection of our entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to innovation in educational pedagogy,” Erika James, Wharton’s dean, said in a statement announcing the program. “The past two-and-a-half years have proven that high-quality academic programs can successfully extend beyond the traditional in-person classroom experience.”

Strong candidates for the program are executives and mid-career professionals with on average of 15 years of experience—and applicants must have at least eight years of work experience to apply. Wharton is especially keen to attract candidates from outside the U.S. for this cohort, Lane says. In the first year of the program, Wharton aims to have a cohort of about 60 to 70 students.

Application requirements include two letters of recommendation, responses to essay questions, GMAT, GRE, or Executive Assessment scores, unofficial transcripts, and TOEFL scores for candidates for non-native English speakers. Wharton also requires a sponsorship letter from a “person who has the authority to sign off on the time commitment involved with the program.” If you’re receiving financial support for the program, that information should also be included in the letter, according to Wharton.

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s degree programs in data science (in-person and online), nursingcomputer sciencecybersecuritypsychology, public health, and business analytics, as well as the best doctorate in education programs, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.