Wharton Spring ’21 Semester Plans

This page was last updated on April 9, 2021 @ 1:30pm

Program Dean Announcements

Update from Vice Dean Peggy Bishop Lane

Dear WEMBA students,

All of us on the WEMBA staff are excited to begin the return to campus this weekend, January 29. As you know, we are bringing you back in phases. Currently we can only begin the limited hybrid model on the Philadelphia campus, but anticipate opening the San Francisco campus on March 1.

For this first weekend, all second-year students who elected to return to campus were invited to do so. First-year Philadelphia students will be returning starting the weekend of February 5 based on their learning team assignment. Teams, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, and 18 are invited for the first weekend, and Teams 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, and 17 will return the weekend of February 19. This rotation will likely continue for the semester.

There was not significant interest on the part of the second-year San Francisco students to attend class in Philadelphia under the current conditions. Thus we will wait to welcome all of the San Francisco students when we can be together on their home campus. If this is delayed more than expected, we will again check in on the interest of second-year students to take their classes on the Philadelphia campus.

It will be important for those of you returning to campus to be aware of the systems in place to protect you and those around you. Please stay up to date by reviewing the updates on the Spring 2021 Planning website and messages posted on MyWharton. And, of course, if you have questions please reach out to any WEMBA staff member.

While we all continue to face many constraints and challenges, we believe that simply being together is an important step to take to strengthen relationships and share experiences that solidify and advance our learning together.

We look forward to seeing you, in person, in the very near future.

In the meantime, be safe and well.


Previous Messages

December 7, 2020

Dear WEMBA students,

I am writing to update you on our Spring semester hybrid plans.

As I’m sure you’ve seen in the news and in your communities, much of the U.S. is in the midst of a large surge in coronavirus cases. More specifically, both the City of San Francisco and the City of Philadelphia, as well as their respective states, have increased the restrictions on gatherings in a variety of industries and venues. It is expected that, with the upcoming holiday season, virus cases will not decline significantly in the next month.

Accordingly, we will move our target date for starting our hybrid model to January 29. The semester will still begin January 8 for 45E, 46E, and 45W and January 15 for 46W in a fully remote mode (current model).

    • Rationale: January 29 represents a more optimal hybrid start date for a number of reasons. First, the additional weeks give our communities time to understand any health ramifications coming out of the holiday season, explore new at-home testing options, and recover from what could be another or a continued resurgence of the virus. It also gives us time to successfully get approval from the City of San Francisco to operate in this mode. Currently, we could not return to campus without getting an exception from the City. New City of San Francisco guidance on November 28 for Higher Education states that we “should take all feasible steps to prohibit indoor gatherings… of more than three households…” and that “All new in-person instruction involving two or more individuals is now limited to Core Essential Classes.”  Thus we would not expect to be approved for an exception today. Further, both cities have prohibited group indoor dining again, and we hope to be able to dine together indoors once we return.
    • Future Evaluation: The January 29 start is our best estimate at this time, however, when we return from the winter break in the first week of January, we will reassess the date. As our spring pivot criterion included, an increase in case incidence AND/OR new guidelines for gathering will require updated assessments of our plans. Following the December 9 spring update from the University (go here to register for the Faculty Senate Seminar), we will alert you if Penn guidance changes our plans for the Spring semester further.

Our current plan regarding testing is to ask that you receive a negative result from a COVID test within 72 hours of the start of a weekend in which you will be attending in person. This is in line with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s guidelines for out of state travelers entering Pennsylvania. We are talking with our COVID test experts at the University on how best to administer the testing based on our student population, including investigating newly developed at-home testing kits where you can get the results at home.

Finally, I want to confirm that we are moving forward with Block Week planning for the 2nd year students. Currently, the MGMT 773 course with Prof. David Pottruck is scheduled for March 1–3 in San Francisco. I am in conversation with Prof. Nicolaj Siggelkow about what week to offer MGMT 782 in Philadelphia. Both professors have also offered to teach an online version of the course at a separate time for those who cannot attend in person. Those dates have not yet been determined. Any additional block week courses will be planned for March and beyond.

I know you’ve heard me say this, but it bears repeating: the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff are of the utmost importance to us. The flexibility this requires is difficult at times, but necessary for everyone’s health and safety.  I, of course, continue to appreciate your understanding and support.

November 2, 2020

Dear WEMBA students,

In a follow up to Dean James’ and President Gutmann’s emails, I write to provide the MBA Program for Executives plans for a hybrid in-person format for the Spring semester. Many of you have heard aspects of these scenarios as part of our data gathering student surveys and town halls. Details surrounding these plans are below, as well as on the newly launched Wharton Spring 2021 Planning website and in MyWharton.

Curricular Planning

In an effort to begin bringing students back to our campuses in the spring, the MBA Program for Executives is proposing a “blended hybrid” model. The model features two distinct elements:

    • Low Density Weekend Model: The first approach is a hybrid model that has a portion of the students on campus each weekend.  The final percentage will depend on course enrollments, as well as the number of students who know they will not return to campus in the spring term under any circumstances. Based on current inputs, we expect between 1/3 and 1/2 of the students to be present on each campus on a given weekend. This will be applicable to first- and second-year students. We will determine the percentage that will allow us to remain under 25 people in a classroom and maintain social distancing through the duration of the day.
    • Block Week Model: The second approach is a Block Week model, which provides a 1/2 credit unit elective course in a 3–4 day period mid-week. This option is for 2nd year students only. Enrollment will be limited to 24 students plus a professor. We are currently planning for four block week courses to be offered in the January to March time frame, with two offerings in Philadelphia and two offerings in San Francisco. Our next step is to identify exact dates and courses to be offered, which will happen over the coming month to six weeks. Should we see high demand and be able to secure additional Block Week opportunities, we will look to offer those later in the spring term.

The Low Density Hybrid and Block Week models can exist simultaneously. Should conditions change such that we cannot have students traveling to and from campus regularly, we may be able to implement only the Block Week scenario, allowing 2nd year students the opportunity to take a course on campus in their last official term. Of course, there remains a possibility that the virus’ impact may intensify in a way that requires us to suspend in-person classes and return to an online-only scenario, but that does not preclude us from reintroducing the Block Week or Low Density Hybrid approaches if conditions improve later in the term.

Along with these curricular delivery details, here are other program specifics as we know them at this time:

Global Travel

The University recently determined that there will be no global travel programs in the spring semester.  Thus, we will focus our attempts at a Global Business Week travel option for Class 45 in the June 2021 period. Alternatives to the GBW will be offered in the spring semester for Class 45. We will continue to make you aware of those options.

Health and Safety

At the forefront of these plans is the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty. You can find details on safety protocols and answers to many of your questions in the University message and on the FAQs section of both the WEMBA and Wharton-wide spring planning sites.

With our dual campus operations and students commuting to campus for each session, there is added complexity for our program to administer the mandatory testing for students attending in-person classes. However, students should know we are committed to providing testing capabilities at both locations as part of our return to campus planning and will communicate any additional WEMBA-specific testing protocols and policies in the coming weeks.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition will be adjusted for the room and board costs that you are not expected to consume. Room and board adjustments will depend on the frequency with which you will be on campus, so is a function of both your individual preference to attend in person and our determination of the proportion of students on campus each weekend. We will communicate tuition amounts to you as soon as these factors are known.

Global Business Week costs will be deducted from tuition and fees for Class 45 students. If we are able to organize a Global Business Week in June 2021, students who decide to attend will be charged the amount of the tuition reduction.

Exact details about tuition and fees, including any fee adjustments by the University, will be communicated as soon as they are determined.

Ongoing Communications

The messaging of the last few days should provide you with more visibility into, and clarity on, our intended spring plans. Please stay up to date on details and decisions by checking MyWharton regularly and referencing the Wharton’s Spring 2021 Planning website. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section is available on both locations. Both will be updated as information becomes known.

Throughout our planning process, our priority, in addition to your health and safety, is to create opportunities for you to engage with each other and build connections with the broader WEMBA and Wharton communities.

We look forward to your return to campus!

Important Community Updates

COVID-19 Testing: Given the high travel associated with our program, WEMBA is actively exploring several testing options for our students, including possible at-home testing kits for students to receive results in a timely fashion to determine travel.

  • NEW  Prevention Plan for Higher-Ed Programs: Read WEMBA’s COVID-19 prevention plan for San Francisco.
  • COVID-19 Testing Requirements: Students should receive a negative COVID test result 72 hours prior to arriving in Philadelphia or on campus. A viral test is required. There are two types: a molecular test (also known as an RNA or PCR test) or an antigen test (also known as a rapid test) are both viral tests. An antibody test is not a viral test. It is required to bring evidence of this negative test to campus before your first class. Those who have had a positive COVID test in the last 90 days are exempt from the testing requirement, but should bring evidence of their positive test. Those who have been vaccinated are not exempt from the testing requirement.
  • Flu Shots: Students should receive a flu shot before arriving on campus.
  • What to Pack for In-Person Classes:
    • Laptop or tablet
    • Power cord
    • Headphones
    • Masks
    • Bottle for water or other beverages
    • Straw(s)
    • Hand sanitizer

Curricular Overview

The MBA Program for Executives (WEMBA) is pursuing a hybrid model which would have students in-person every other weekend session or every third weekend session. For the other sessions, students would participate through Zoom. On in-person days, students would go through required testing and screening to enter the building, would agree to be socially distanced, wear masks, and avoid eating and drinking during any classes. Dining and breaks would also be socially distanced, with most dining occurring at the hotel. The hybrid model may include or be substituted with a Block Week model, whereby 24 students would attend a class for 3-4 days mid-week to complete a half-credit unit course. The same testing, behavioral compliance, and social distancing will be required during a Block Week.

Curricular Details

Academic Calendar

2-year schedule for Class of 2022:

Philadelphia Calendar 2020-2022 (PDF)

San Francisco Calendar 2020-2022 (PDF)

2-year schedule for Class of 2021:

Philadelphia Calendar 2019-2021 (PDF)

San Francisco Calendar 2019-2021 (PDF)

Changes to Original calendars for Spring 2021:

None at this time.

Grading/Exam Policies

Grading and Exam policies may be found in the Resource Guide under “Grading System.” The Resource Guide may be found under “Files” in MyWharton.  Changes in the grading system due to the pandemic are: a) a temporary elimination of the maximum CMGPA (Class Mean GPA) and b) no required LTs (Lowest Ten Percent) indicators in any course. Minimum academic standards are based only on “F” grades per the Resource Guide.

Whether in person or online, Wharton students are held to the highest academic standards. See the Ethics Code in the Resource Guide.

Honors requirements for the Class of 2022 are not changed from those stated in the Resource Guide. Due to the expanded P/F options in Spring and Summer 2020, the Class of 2021 honors requirements were adjusted in Summer 2020 as follows:

  • Eligibility for Director’s List each term requires that the student take at least 2.0 graded credit units of Wharton courses during Terms 4, 5, and 6.
  • Eligibility for Palmer Scholar or Graduation with Honors requires that the student take at least 6.0 graded credit units of Wharton courses during Terms 4, 5, and 6.

Remote Classroom Guidelines

Virtual Experience

  • Be on time. It will be customary to wait a minute or two to start any session. Please sign in before the class/event starts so it can get started on time.
  • Mute your mic, but not your camera. The speaker does need your non-verbal feedback to be able to “read the room.”
  • Be respectful. It is essential to keep in mind the feelings and opinions of others, even if they differ from your own. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it online either.
  • Be aware of strong language, all caps, and exclamation points. It is easy for written text to be misread and misunderstood.
  • Be careful with humor and sarcasm. You shouldn’t avoid being funny. Part of the class experience is getting to know each other. Most of our faculty have a great sense of humor. Make sure that it is clear you are being funny and not being rude. Emoticons and smileys can be helpful when conveying humor or sarcasm so that it is read correctly. Just remember to keep the smiley faces away from academic papers.
  • Grammar and spelling matter. In an educational setting (even online) however, keep it formal. Your written communication should be professional and reflect the proper writing style.
  • Cite your sources. Whenever you are sharing an idea that originated from someone else (even if it is not word for word), it is good practice to cite that source. This applies to discussion forums too. If you read a great thought in your text, share it, but be sure you let your audience know where you saw it first.
  • Don’t post or share (even privately) inappropriate material. Enough said there. Nothing is truly private online.
  • Be forgiving. Try to be understanding of others when they struggle with written communication. It is very different than simply talking to a person face-to-face.

In-Person Classroom Guidelines

  • Wear a mask at all times.
  • To drink in the classroom, lift up your mask slightly to use a straw.
  • Use a laptop or tablet to participate with remote student and remote faculty participants.
  • Use the sanitizing wipes in the classroom to clean your area.
  • Use hand sanitizer frequently.

Building Guidelines

Jon M. Huntsman Hall Guidelines

All class activities will take place in JMHH.

  • Enter and exit only through the Locust Walk entrance unless you are guided to the Walnut Street entrance by staff or faculty.
  • Masks must be worn at all times while in the building.
  • Bathroom occupancy is limited.  Please wait outside the bathroom if there is a queue
  • There is no eating or drinking in the building.  When in the classroom, you may drink from a cup or bottle if using a straw.
  • Printers are available in JMHH. To print, follow the instructions here.

Connect to AirPennNet to access University wifi in the building and on campus.

  • Select “Connect to AirPennNet” on your device
  • Open your web browser and go to www.upenn.edu
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to configure your device.
  • If you have trouble, connect to AirPennNet-Guest and contact Wharton Computing via computing.wharton.upenn.edu or 215-898-8600.

Course Breakdown & Registration Process

Registration for elective courses will take place through the standard process and guided by your Class Manager, with an ability to indicate if you want to take a course remotely or in-person. Change in attendance status can be made, but only in advance of a weekend. 

Cross-coast registration may only be done remotely.

Registration for core courses is done automatically, by section. Flexible core choices will be made via your Class Manager. 

Registration for MBA courses will occur after the end of the add period for MBA students later in January. After determining what course you would like to take, there is a form you complete and get the professor to approve. You then bring the form to your class manager who forwards to the MBA Program Office to see if there is space in the course and if so, will register you.

For-credit Travel Based Courses

The University of Pennsylvania has determined that there will be no travel for global programs during the Spring semester. Thus our focus for any for-credit Global Business Week opportunities will be on June 2021. If you do not wish to wait until  June to finish your global requirement and thus graduate in August, you may fulfill it in other ways prior to May.

To provide alternative ways to meet the global education requirement for the program, we will continue to develop Global Virtual Courses and other virtual options both with the Global Initiatives program and for WEMBA only. In addition, we will hope to be able to arrange domestic travel as a means to study international business issues later in the spring if permitted.


Prioritized Events/Activities

Celebratory events and unique activities are an important part of the spring semester. Some of these will be equally impressive in a remote format; others we are planning to hold in person.

The events and activities we hope to hold in-person this spring are:

  • Graduation for the Class of 2021
  • Capstone for the Class of 2021
  • Leadership Workshops during in-person weekends and Block Weeks

Those events that we will continue to plan for remotely are:

  • Other Leadership workshops
  • Prominent Speakers
  • Career Conversations
  • Alumni Orientation
  • Start-up Challenge
  • Executive Coaching
  • Entrepreneurship Day
  • Themed speakers series

School-Wide Safety Protocols


Testing, Health & Safety

Student Testing

Visit Penn’s Student Testing Resources: Spring Semester page to find instructions for undergraduate and graduate students. Please refer to your degree program’s Spring Plans page for specific testing guidelines.

Travel Quarantine

Anyone coming from outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is asked to be mindful of guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the City of Philadelphia. Although this guidance is fluid and changes frequently, the University requires students complete a 14-day precautionary travel quarantine, which is the gold standard of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students will receive gateway testing immediately upon arriving on campus. Results of the gateway test do not change the requirement to quarantine for 14 days. One cannot test out of quarantine.

Faculty & Staff Testing

All faculty, staff, and post-docs who are on campus for four or more hours each week interacting with other community members, or whose activities on campus involve teaching, or who are regularly in an aggregate setting of ten or more people in a single shared space on campus will be required to complete screening testing.


Facilities Access & Guidelines

In-Person Classroom Facilities

Students can only enter a Wharton building where they have a scheduled class or activity. Not all degree programs will use the same facilities. Please refer to your program’s Spring Plans page for specific guidelines.

At this time, we expect the following Wharton buildings to be utilized for the spring semester:

  • Jon M. Huntsman Hall
  • Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall
  • Wharton Academic Research Building

Building Cleaning Protocols

All Penn buildings are maintained, cleansed, and disinfected in accordance with CDC guidelines. Hospital Grade Disinfectant is utilized when disinfecting buildings daily, and the schools have implemented a fluorescent marking system that allows us to verify cleaning techniques. In addition, Wharton has multiple hand sanitizing stations through the facilities (not just in restrooms) and wipe stations strategically located between classrooms for individuals to access and to wipe down surfaces.

PennOpen Pass

Everyone who comes to campus (faculty, staff, and students) will be required to enroll in PennOpen Pass. PennOpen Pass is a daily symptom checker and exposure reporting system designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within the Penn community. Daily symptom checks or exposure reporting on PennOpen Pass are required of those who are on campus.


Student Compact & Governance

Penn Student Compact

All Penn students agree to adhere to the guidelines detailed in the Penn Student Conduct Compact. The updated Compact includes 4 distinct categories of governance: Health & Wellness, Campus Movement, Travel and Guests, and Social Life and Recreation.

The Compact outlines protocols for all Penn students, regardless of where they are living during the Spring 2021 semester. As always, the university is closely monitoring public health guidance and will communicate updates to the Compact as needed.

Compact Violations

Compact violations will be reviewed by the Compact Review Panel and may be forwarded to the Office of Student Conduct for disciplinary review and action per the Disciplinary Charter of the University of Pennsylvania.

Individuals can bring infractions to the attention of the review panel by submitting their information here: https://upenn.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6R4DIR9Pm2ziKsl

Frequently Asked Questions


Will there be a virtual option for all classes?

Yes, you will have the option to attend classes virtually throughout the spring semester.

Will all classes still be recorded?

All classes will be recorded. Faculty will make recordings available on the course Canvas site.

What will grading policies be for the spring term?

Grading policies will be consistent with those in the Resource Guide, which you can find under Files in MyWharton. However, for the Spring 2021 term there will be no maximum grade point average for a course and no LTs will be given.

What is the pass/fail policy for the spring term?

We will continue to keep the standard pass/fail policies. Students may only take up to 1cu of elective courses on a P/F basis each term and the standard deadlines apply.

Can I still participate in full-time MBA classes?

Second year students may take up to 1CU of MBA electives in the Spring 2021 term. Enrollment is dependent upon professor approval and space availability in the class after the MBA “add” period. See your class manager if you would like to explore this option.

How would an in-person weekend in which faculty are remote be managed? Can I meet in a classroom with the other students on campus?

Yes, students can meet on campus. Students will need to bring their laptops and view the professor via Zoom. This will help faculty see the students if each has their own camera.

What will the experience look like if we return to campus in the spring?

Entering Campus

  • Green screen from PennPass each day on campus
  • Temperature screening at entrance to building
  • Masks worn at all times, except while eating
  • Social distancing practiced at all times, including while eating
  • Eating and drinking only in designated locations


  • No more than 25 individuals per classroom
  • Students will need a laptop or tablet to participate via Zoom if the professor is remote or if they wish to see remote classmates.
  • Classrooms will be cleaned/have cleaning supplies & hand sanitizer available
  • Students will sit at least 6 feet apart in the classroom

Breaks and Dining

  • There will be designated eating spaces in Huntsman Hall and Vance Hall for breaks and lunch. Students and staff will need to be socially distanced at all times.
  • Breakfast and Dinner will be served at the Inn at Penn.

Will I be at a disadvantage if I cannot attend class in-person?

No. All classes will still be offered remotely. Classes will also be recorded as in the fall semester.

What are the attendance policies for the spring? How are they different for in-person classes?

The attendance policy will remain the same. You are expected to attend every class whether virtual or in person. If you are supposed to be in-person, but must attend virtually, we will ask you to inform us in advance so that we can make appropriate adjustments to classroom, dining, and hotel space.

If I am taking a class in-person, but do not feel well/have concerning symptoms, what should I do?

Do not come to campus. If you are able, participate virtually and let your class manager know why you are not attending in person. You should contact your medical provider if you are feeling ill. You can also contact Student Health Services at 215-746-3535 to speak to the 24/7 on-call provider. You do not need to have Penn Student Health Insurance to speak to a Student Health Services provider.

Is it possible that we will return to a fully virtual experience? What would happen?

The program will operate as it is currently. It has not been expressly determined what would cause WEMBA, Wharton, or Penn to move to a fully remote semester, but such situations might be a) positive COVID tests in the student body, staff, faculty, or vendors; b) increases in cases locally and in large feeder locations; c) student violations of the Penn Compact; d) University or governmental regulation changes.

Can I request a Leave of Absence for the spring semester?

Yes. However, re-enrolling with another WEMBA class will be based upon space availability.

Student Life

How can students safely gather to socialize? Will Wharton be providing students with opportunities to socialize and network?

We expect students to comply with the Student Campus Compact and local, state, and federal guidelines. Note that the City of Philadelphia and San Francisco prohibit gatherings of more than 25 people.

WEMBA will provide dining space in the evening. We expect there will be time to socialize during dinner and are investigating ways to enhance and extend the dinner hour to provide entertainment. If you have ideas, please pass them on to your class manager!

What if the behavior of another student makes me feel unsafe or may be putting the community at risk?

Students should feel empowered to respectfully discuss the issue with the classmate. In the event that they do not, or a peer-to-peer conversation is ineffective, students can advise WEMBA staff or building security. If the situation occurs in class, students may also alert the professor.

Career Services

Will all career sessions still be virtual throughout the spring term?

Yes. The Career Team has found these to be extremely effective, allow for more events to be shared across coasts, and allow for higher-level speakers to present.