Balancing school work with responsibilities at the office and at home is a challenge that comes with every executive MBA program. In an effort to make that balance easier, Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives provides concierge-style support to students through class directors.
“We want our students, who are incredibly busy, to focus on classes and studying so we handle the administrative details for them. We want the program to be seamless when it comes to the logistics,” said Philadelphia Class Director Amy Myers.
Myers is one of four EMBA class directors. There are two at the Philadelphia campus and two at the San Francisco campus. They offer a wide range of support, from registering students for classes and making hotel reservations to planning partner and family events.
Class directors are assigned an incoming class and then stay with that class for the entire two years they’re in the program — from the first day of Orientation all the way until Graduation.
“I really like the cyclical nature of it,” said San Francisco Class Director Amy Hazen. “As one group winds down and graduates, my next class immediately comes in and their energy level is through the roof. That is really revitalizing every two years.”
What Class Directors Do
In short, Wharton’s EMBA class directors do a little bit of everything. “Once students enroll, I am their first point of contact when they have questions. I like to think I know a little bit about a lot of things,” Hazen explained. “When they come to me, I can offer them my first-hand knowledge and then point them in the right direction to get more information if needed.”
Class directors organize all of the logistics for class weekends, working with Wharton faculty members to create academic schedules, book classrooms, and organize course materials for each weekend. They assist with travel logistics for class trips and for faculty flying from the Philadelphia campus to teach on weekends in San Francisco.
“Being at a smaller campus in San Francisco means that our faculty are just down the hall and very available. We see how much work they put into the classes, and we also see how excited students are to learn and apply that new knowledge,” said San Francisco Class Director Juana Droessler.
Class managers also handle logistics outside of the classroom, like making hotel reservations, planning breaks and meals, and organizing social events.
“I get all kinds of requests,” said Philadelphia Class Director Diane Harvey. “That might be writing a letter to someone’s sponsor about how well they did during this term or changing someone else’s hotel reservations.” She even pitched in to help a student who was moving to Italy for work by keeping his puppy at her desk for a few hours until his family could pick it up.
“I enjoy being with the students and helping them out. It’s rewarding because they are very grateful for what we do for them,” she said. “It’s like being part of a 100-person family. We get close to a lot of students during their time here.”
The class directors also get to know many of the students’ partners and kids in planning events that make them feel part of the program as well. “We’ve taken students and their families to San Francisco Giants games, which is a lot of fun. For some of our international students and their families, it’s their first American baseball game,” Hazen said. The events vary from year to year, but they’re always a big hit. Some of the most popular include a Cirque du Soleil show and a dinner cruise on the San Francisco Bay.
From ordering the caps and gowns to cheering on students, the class managers play a big part in facilitating graduation. They even put together “Masters of Understanding” certificates for partners, friends, and employers who help students get through their two years in the program.
Although graduation is the last official event where class directors support EMBA students, it’s usually not the end of their relationship. Just as students develop lifelong friendships with classmates, they often keep in touch with class directors long beyond graduation day. “I recently went to a party of a study group that graduated in 1996. They still get together at least once a year,” Harvey said.
— Meghan Laska
Posted: March 13, 2018