U. Penn Wharton School excels in Silicon Valley

Charla Bear Mar 26, 2012

Adriene Hill: Now on to another story about the business-of-education. It’s been 10 years since the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School opened a satellite campus in San Francisco. To mark the occasion, the business school has moved to a bigger — and shinier —  facility.

As Charla Bear reports, it’s part of Wharton’s plan to attract more MBA students from the Bay Area’s tech industry.

Charla Bear: Students like Michael Sinkula are exactly why The Wharton School set up a shiny new shop in San Francisco.

Michael Sinkula: I have a company here in Silicon Valley. Since I started the company, I wasn’t willing to leave and go to MBA school.

There are lots of Sinkulas out here — with years of experience working in startups, but little idea how to take businesses to the next level, especially going public.

Wharton is betting demand for its executive MBA program is big enough to supply a steady stream of students willing to pay nearly $175,000 for a degree. That includes, tuition, fees, food, lodging and lots of bells and whistles.

Campus tour: So, you’ll see here we have study rooms, with the technology embedded.  We’ve got Skype cameras, high speed internet. The whole floor is wireless so we all have iPads.

Tim Bajarin: These guys are basically coming to where the money is.

That’s Tim Bajarin. He’s a high-tech industry analyst in Silicon Valley.

Bajarin: Wharton operates as a business, not just a business school. So the idea of growing the campus back east is fine.  But if you have an opportunity to tap into a demand for MBAs, you look for the region that has that greatest demand. And at the moment, it’s probably here in Silicon Valley.

He says The Valley is full of sad stories about startups that failed because they didn’t have the right management. So this time around, venture capitalists are looking for companies whose execs have MBAs.

Bernadette Birt is COO of the school. She says expanding Wharton isn’t just about making money. It’s also about making connections.

Bernadette Birt: You know, we have our students for 24 months and alumni for life. So, now the number of alumni we have coming from this region and these types of companies, it’s immeasurable.

In other words, the bigger the network of Wharton grads in Silicon Valley, the cozier the school’s relationship with some of the country’s fastest growing companies, and their very rich founders.  

For Marketplace, I’m Charla Bear, in Silicon Valley. 

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