December 07, 2000, 1:15 PM —
Thirty-five senior executives from around the world headed back to the classroom
last week to learn about emerging business models in the New Economy -- for $49,000 a
The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania kicked off its Fellows in E-
Business program, in which participants will spend three-and-a-half nonconsecutive
weeks during the next four months attending courses around the world -- in
Silicon Valley and Barcelona, Spain.
One of the participants, Richard Popp, director of human resources at Dearborn,
Mich.-based Ford Motor Co., said he sees the program's price tag "as a long-term
investment." Attendees aren't just paying for classroom learning, but also for a
lifelong network of key executives who are driving electronic-business initiatives at
their organizations, said Popp.
For instance, if participating in the program leads to a joint venture with another
company down the road, then the $49,000 will seem "like a drop in the bucket," he said.
Tom Simon, senior director of e-business solutions at Schaumburg, Ill.-based
Motorola Inc., spent part of last week working on a project learning how e-business can
help in implementing knowledge management initiatives.
David Foote, managing partner at Foote Partners LLC, a workforce consultancy in New
Canaan, Conn., said the cost of the program seems a bit high, especially since Wharton
benefits from it as well as the participants. Professors gain valuable information for
case studies and contacts for future consulting jobs. And Wharton MBA students can make
contacts at major companies through the program's reverse-mentoring component, which
pairs executives with Wharton MBA students.
Workers can find cheaper alternatives, Foote said. But, he added, the program can be
valuable for executives, especially if they don't have MBAs.
"Executives spend multiples of $49,000 and get zilch in return from consultants and
other experts," said Foote. In contrast, executive education lets employees tap into a
network of peers and generate ideas that can help in business.
Philadelphia-based Wharton will offer the program again in May, according to Jerry
Wind, academic director of the program. He said about two-dozen executives have already
signed up for the spring session.
Popp said that in the end, he hopes to learn how to leverage e-commerce to transform
the way a company does business, which is one of Ford's top priorities.
"That's no small feat for a company with thousands of employees," he said.