$49k Wharton E-Business Program Draws 35 Execs

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 head.

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 Philadelphia, Silicon Valley and Barcelona, Spain.

Lifelong Network

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.

This story, "$49k Wharton E-Business Program Draws 35 Execs" was originally published by Computerworld.

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