To fulfill her passionate commitment to education, Wharton student Cindy Dexin Liu, WG’18, GED’18, worked with administrators, faculty, and mentors to become the first graduate of a new MBA/MSEd offered with Penn’s Graduate School of Education.

Cindy Dexin Liu came to Wharton with a big goal. She wanted to create a global network of schools that focus on purpose-driven, personalized learning. While at Wharton, she learned about Penn Graduate School of Education’s new program in Education Entrepreneurship, launched in 2014. Cindy applied and was admitted, finishing her second year at Wharton and her MSEd degree simultaneously as the first graduate of a new dual-degree MBA/MSEd program offered by the two schools.

“Cindy approached us about her deep interest in education during her first year at Wharton,” said Dr. Jenny Zapf, Director of Education Entrepreneurship at GSE. “At that time GSE Associate Dean Matt Hartley and I were working closely with Lisa Rudi [Director of Dual Degree Programs] and Stephan Dieckmann [Deputy Vice Dean of Wharton Academic Affairs]to create a new dual degree pathway for MBA students interested in education entrepreneurship. Over the first three years of our program (we’re now in year four) many Wharton students had expressed their interest but we had no way to bring them into our program that maximized the value of their Wharton education.”

Now four MBA/MSEd students are enrolled.

The new MBA/MSEd dual-degree program is designed to help graduates create, finance, and manage innovations in complex, multidisciplinary educational environments. After one year at Wharton, students begin 13 months of classes in GSE’s executive-format program concurrent with their second year at Wharton. Graduates may enter fields including building education technology ventures, designing schools, scaling social impact initiatives, and leading innovation in educational organizations and corporations.

“Educating students from both business and education is part of our program philosophy,” said Dr. Zapf. “We believe that to succeed, MBAs need to understand education culture, practice, research and marketplace. In turn, educators must become experts in business essentials and entrepreneurial practice.”

Each student produces a capstone project, which involves researching, prototyping, testing, and iterating on an education program, service, application, or other product. By using resources of both Wharton and GSE, Cindy turned her capstone project turned into a new school, the first step in her long-term goal to transform education.

Cindy cited benefits from the combined Wharton and GSE program that helped her realize her goals.

1. The community

Cindy has developed close relationships with both Wharton classmates (especially in the Semester in San Francisco). She credits Wharton classmate Christian Villaran, WG’18, as one of her most trusted resources.

“He is also doing an education-related startup right now and had several startups in this field already,” she said. “He helped me to think through how to approach important decisions and negotiations, and he shared his experience with me to strategize a lot of conversations in this process.”

In addition, Cindy had a strong cohort of Education Entrepreneurship classmates — educational practitioners from London, Dubai, Vietnam, China and around the world — to lean on for firsthand advice about educational systems and practices.

2. The integration of classwork

Because the MSEd is executive format, the classes meet one weekend a month, while Wharton classes take place Monday through Thursday, allowing both programs to run concurrently.

“At Wharton I concentrated on my business classes, so in Education Entrepreneurship, my education classes were especially useful,” Cindy said. “The program has a lot of business classes which may be helpful for my classmates who have stronger education background.”

Because Cindy’s Entrepreneurial Management major in the MBA program had prepared her on the business side, she doubled up on Education classes. With the new dual-degree pathway, Wharton students can use their electives and transfer credits to cover 60-70% of the tuition for the Education Entrepreneurship program.

“For me, the Foundation of Education talks about education philosophy, curriculum design, and really set a framework for me to design my own curriculums and classes,” she said. “Another class I used was Economics of Education, which talks about the macro environment of education space in the United States.”

3. The mentors

Mentors are an element of the Education Entrepreneurship program that have helped Cindy integrate and apply knowledge across the two programs.

“One of my mentors in Education Entrepreneurship is Christian Talbot, the founder of Basecamp School and an experienced head of school in innovative private schools. He’s been very responsive whenever I bug him, so I’m really grateful,” she said.

Cindy also described Dr. Zapf, the director of the Education Entrepreneurship Program, as an unofficial mentor. “I discuss with her every single decision point of my venture, because it’s so new to me,” Cindy said. “She was able either to give me direct advice or connect me to the right resource.”

Read more about how Cindy used the resources of Wharton’s Semester in San Francisco to help launch a new school.

— Kelly Andrews

Posted: May 18, 2018

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