Each year, hundreds of students travel to Philadelphia to participate in summer high school programs through Wharton’s Global Youth Program, where they take part in courses and activities focused on community-building, peer networking, and on-campus immersion.
When Penn’s campus closed due to COVID-19 this summer, the Program had to pivot — and fast.
“How could we replicate [what] Wharton summer high school students would experience if they joined us on campus? The reality was, we couldn’t,” said Summer High School Program Coordinator Allyson Vaughan. “But we could take the essence of Wharton and build a dynamic opportunity for our students to become an active part of a community.”
Here’s how they did it.
1. Launched New Virtual Courses
The Program coordinators moved some existing summer high school programs online, like MoneyBall Academy, while they designed others anew for a virtual environment.
The two-week Future of the Business World (FBW) course, for example, launched on Wharton Online and accommodated learners across global time zones throughout the summer. Rising high school seniors who wanted the rigor of undergraduate coursework could choose from four Pre-College for-credit courses, as well. Topics ranged from ethics and social responsibility, to negotiations, Python data science, and business statistics.
“We were able to double the number of high school students taking part in our summer programs this year,” said Prof. Serguei Netessine, vice dean of global initiatives, who oversees the Wharton Global Youth Program.
2. Tailored to Gen Z
The FBW course was inspired by Wharton’s real-time response to the pandemic, Epidemics, Natural Disasters and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty, an online course that launched in March for all Penn students. Like the real-time course, students in FBW learned from a variety of faculty, including Professors Peter Fader, Mauro Guillén, Barbara Kahn, Ethan Mollick, and Maurice Schweitzer.
By integrating current events with key global business themes, FBW was designed to appeal to Gen Z.
“The pandemic has been a time of change and innovation, with opportunities to analyze rich insights, especially for business,” said Eli Lesser, executive director of the Global Youth Program. “We reached out to our incredible Wharton faculty and collaborated with teams like the Learning Lab to design the curriculum. The end result is a truly unique course built to engage the next generation of business leaders in conversations about the future.”
3. Designed a Vibrant Remote Curriculum
In addition to live class sessions, recitations, individual assignments, and group work, students tested their creativity and problem-solving skills through other activities.
“By gamifying challenges, providing exclusive live events with organizations from across campus and workshops to interact with Wharton alumni and current Penn students, we have been able to do so much more than we’ve ever done in person,” Vaughan said.
Students like Jiro Noor, a high school student from Jakarta, Indonesia, welcomed FBW’s innovative framework.
“The OPEQ and Pivot or Perish (POP) simulations were breathtaking experiences,” said Jiro, who completed Session II of FBW in July. The two simulations focus on negotiation and retail strategy. “I learn best from interactions and the simulations definitely allowed me to further grasp the concepts.”
“We knew that the curriculum was somewhat experimental,” said Lauren More, director of Wharton Summer High School Programs. “We have been happy with the student response and, more importantly, the level of engagement with the course. Students have consistently worked hard and risen to the challenge.”
4. Built an Online Community
Instead of strolling down Locust Walk or visiting Van Pelt Library, participants this summer experienced the Wharton community through the Global Youth Meetup (GYM), an extracurricular platform open to all summer program students.
The GYM was structured like an online campus, with “rooms” named after Wharton and Penn landmarks. Students met virtually with their TAs, many undergrads themselves, at “Benny’s Diner” for one-on-one office hours, instead of at Joe’s Cafe in Huntsman Hall.
Just like they would on campus, students competed with and against each other in fun challenges, all while growing a global network of peers with nearly 1,100 enrolled participants.
“My experience has been incredible,” said Ralph R., a high school student from Bethpage, New York who participated in FBW and spent quality time in the GYM. “It’s enabled me to connect with Penn faculty and more students than I probably would have been able to meet in the regular in-person program. I feel as though I’ve gotten a good sense of the social and academic atmosphere at Wharton.”
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Posted: October 2, 2020