Pre-Term is Wharton’s MBA orientation, although it’s a bit longer than other programs’ as it lasts for 3 weeks.
The first week is the true orientation. The entire MBA class of ~850 students is divided into 4 Clusters of ~215 students, which meet in the same homeroom during the week for sessions introducing us to leadership opportunities, career management, student life, and academics. One of the highlights of the week for me was the session on Diversity. Many of us had sat through these types of sessions before either during college or at our previous jobs, thus we didn’t go into the session with high expectations – we were in for quite a surprise! The Diversity session consisted of a group of professional actors acting out various scenes often seen in the workplace that touched on different diversity topics: gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, etc… After acting out the scene the student audience was asked to discuss in small groups what the actors could have done better. The discussions were incredibly rich and productive. Everyone I talked to afterwards felt the session was the one of the best Diversity sessions they had been to.
The Clusters were also our introduction to MBA social life. From the start it was socializing on steroids – anyone you sat next to or ran into you introduced yourself to. After exchanging names you went through the routine of asking the following questions: “where are you from?”, “where did you go to undergrad?”, “what did you do before coming to Wharton?”, “what do you want to do after Wharton?”, and “where are you living in Center City?”. By the end of the first week everyone had their opening monologue rather memorized and started to turn to other conversation topics to keep things fresh and find other things in common with classmates. I’m still amazed at the sheer number of new friends I made in just a few short days.
The second week brought the introduction to our Learning Teams, small groups of 5-6 students that we will be doing group work with during the first semester’s core classes. The first chance to work with our Learning Teams was during an Innovation Tournament. Each of the ~850 students would come up with business ideas that would be part of the climate change solution. Learning Teams would then present 1 idea to a larger group and hope to make it to the next round. In the end, 9 final ideas were presented to the entire MBA class and a panel of Wharton alums who decided on the tournament’s winner. Although my Learning Team’s idea did not make it very far in the tournament, I had an awesome time getting to know my teammates and working with them for the first time.
Pre-Term closed with the first class of the curriculum – Management 610: Foundations of Leadership & Teamwork. The class was part lecture and part simulation. The simulation consisted of your Learning Team taking on operating roles (Finance, HR, Marketing, etc…) in a fictitious electric car company and managing the company for 9 simulated years in the future. Each simulated year presented a new challenge to overcome and every day we had a chance to put into practice what we had learned in the lecture.
After Pre-Term we were ready for the Fall Semester to finally begin. Although many students at the time wished they could have had a few more weeks of vacation, I think everyone will agree that we’re all now very glad to have had as much time as we did to get acclimatized to Wharton. As always, Wharton knows and does it best.