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A Look Inside the Wharton COVID-19 Course
Ria | April 14, 2020

Three of my favorite things about academics at Wharton are that:

  1. There are a lot of classes that have travel components to them
  2. There are plenty of half credit courses available which run for half of the semester and cover some fascinating topics
  3. Our professors often have incredible real world experience in their fields, which makes their expertise even more fun to learn from

These three factors combined in a new half-credit course, Management 198: Epidemics, Natural Disasters, and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty. The course focuses on how COVID-19 is changing business environments today and was initially set up to offer a replacement to people whose travel-based classes were canceled due to the current global uncertainty. Once the switch to online classes was announced, more people were able to enroll by signing up through a form we were emailed. It is the largest Wharton course to have ever existed, with over 2000 registered students across all levels of Wharton (undergraduate, graduate, and executive MBA) and in all four undergraduate schools. The subject matter is clearly fascinating, and while the course is led by Professor Mauro Guillén (who put the course together in all of three days!), it also features brilliant faculty such as:

  • Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who advised the Obama Administration, writes for the New York Times, and is a leader in issues of medical ethics,
  • Dean Geoffrey Garrett, who is the current dean of The Wharton School,
  • Professor Kent Smetters, who is well known for his work with the Penn Wharton Budget Model,
  • Professor Angela Duckworth, who is widely renowned for her pioneering research on grit
  • Dr. Joseph Westphal, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia for years


These are just some of the faculty members included in the first lecture alone, and the biographies I wrote of them are by no means close to comprehensive. We can listen in to the lectures live, but if we are in a different time zone or otherwise unable to attend the live lecture, we can listen to recordings posted online. If you listen to the live lecture, you have the opportunity to post questions. A moderator, usually Professor Guillén or Dean Garrett, picks the questions they see as common or particularly insightful and asks them to the presenting professor.

I have never been in a class which features so many brilliant minds, has so many students, and focuses on a topic that is changing so rapidly. I am constantly impressed by how Dr. Guillén keeps the course up to date when the COVID-19 situation is so fluid, and am excited to hear from so many world leaders in their respective fields. My favorite lecture so far has been about behavioral economics and decision processes, where we learnt about how choices can be constructed and news can be framed to encourage certain behaviors. The most applicable information I have received through the course, though, comes from Professor Duckworth. She says that setting goals and making progress on them and maintaining human relationships are major contributing factors to happiness. These two behaviors definitely make it easier for me to stay positive while social distancing!

When applying to Penn, I remember writing about how I wanted my education to be interdisciplinary. This class is a prime example of that!

About the author

Hi everyone! My name is Ria, and I’m a student in Wharton who is still exploring what all the different concentrations have to offer. I grew up all over but lived in Dubai, U.A.E. before moving to Philadelphia, a city that I absolutely love to explore on the weekends. On-campus, I am involved in Wharton Council, Passion Projects, and work-study at the Development & Alumni Relations department. In my free time, you can catch me reading, doing yoga, and going on walks by the Schuylkill River.

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