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EMTM Life: It Starts Here

It was early days for EMTM students but already the enthusiasm was palpable. "I think the feeling was one of nervousness and excitement when we first got here," says Amanda Lowe, a marketing consultant at Adobe who has relocated to Philadelphia and will be telecommuting to San Francisco for the length of the program.

The 2007 incoming student orientation, which was held Wednesday, August 22 through Saturday, August 25, brought together for the first time the newest class of more than 40 students. Though most students typically visit campus throughout the admissions process, the EMTM experience begins in earnest at this orientation. As with any orientation, a key objective is introducing students to the essential facts of campus life — i.e., where to find the library, how to set up a computer account, and where to get their various questions answered.

Yet the orientation goes well beyond the logistical details of EMTM weekends. The schedule of classes provides an early taste of the program's content and the demands of its rigorous curriculum. "The idea is to prepare for an academic environment a group of people who are coming from a work environment," says Dwight Jaggard, PhD, Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering and director of EMTM. "It is a transition that can be quite challenging."

Preparatory sessions included a Statistics Refresher and an optional Mathematics Boot Camp, both taught by Santosh Venkatesh, PhD, Associate Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering. These two classes drew positive feedback from students. "Venkatesh brought humor to the lectures. It wasn't just formulas written on the board, but concrete problems we can think about in a scientific manner," says incoming EMTM student Dan Leblanc, process science group leader at Alkermes in Cambridge, MA.

In a class taught by Wharton Associate Professor of Management Dr. Lori Rosenkopf, students learned to read and use case studies, an important skill for disciplines like marketing, management and finance. "I really liked the case studies session in particular, because it was a vigorous exchange of ideas and, given the broad range of experience the other participants brought to class, the discussion was profound and energized," says Frank Carruba, operations and quality manager at Dell in Austin, TX.

In addition, students took Jaggard's intensive Leadership and Team work seminar, which was spread out over three days. "What we've found is that teamwork becomes a survival skill, especially for the first year; it's not so much theoretical as very practical," Jaggard says. Students formed into teams to solve a dilemma in which they were stranded in a hypothetical desert, and had to rank the necessities they might need and construct a strategy for survival. Through discussion and readings, students explored group styles, decision-making models and approaches to managing one's self.

At Thursday night's dinner, alumnus Bob Petrie, EMTM '98, V.P. client operations of Vidavee in New York, NY, spoke of the program's leadership thread and how it positively impacted his own career. In his remarks, Petrie suggested that in a world where technology is changing at such a rapid pace, only graduates of a program like EMTM would be able to rise to a position of leadership. He urged students to set their sights high.

"The talk got me really charged up," says Ramesh Shrivastav, a developer in charge of work-flow management at Spheris in Sterling, VA. "It was great to hear how Bob Petrie was able to make the most of the program. But, honestly, I've been excited about EMTM since I first applied."

For the first time, orientation also included an Emerging Technologies Seminar, held on Friday evening. EMTM students are required to attend nine ETS sessions over the course of the program and with this seminar, in which Dr. Michael Kearns presented his cutting-edge research in behavioral network science, students had an opportunity to get a head start on their requirement.

Students report that both the quantitative and the leadership sessions were indeed useful in easing them back into academic life — from readjusting to homework and note-taking to reawakening critical thinking skills. "I appreciate every bit of the orientation," says Lowe. "Having been out of school for ten years, I can see how this immersion prepared us for our classes here."

"I've figured out that I have some knowledge gaps — ideas and concepts I didn't retain from years ago — so a big challenge for me will be not just keeping up with coursework, but doing prep along the way to catch up with basic concepts, says Uday Shah, a pharmacist/consultant with EDS in Harrisburg, PA.

Many participants said that they were enjoying their roles as students again. "At work, many things have to be learned on your own. It's truly a luxury to be taught in a formal classroom," says Andrea Sandor, project manager at UBS in Stamford, CT.

Most important, perhaps, was the opportunity students had to begin getting to know one another, inside and outside the classroom, particularly through working on teams and chatting over meals.

"There's a perfect mix in the orientation with technology-focused studies in the morning and more group interaction work in the afternoon," says Ajay Joshi, product development team leader at Johnson Matthey in Wayne, PA. "Everyone came in really wanting to meet one another, and it was great to meet other professionals with similar career goals."

"I expected the academic stuff they threw at us, but the big wild card was to meet the people we'll be relying on. I've been pleasantly surprised and really impressed," says Sandor.

Lowe says that by the end of the four days students were fully immersed in the program. "Within hours we were calling one another, exchanging phone numbers and getting LinkedIn invitations. It was incredibly valuable to make those connections that we'll now have."

Orientation is where students begin developing the support structures all the months of teamwork and camaraderie ahead, says Jaggard. "It's wonderful to see a diverse group of students start to participate and interact with one another; that's when the magic happens."


The 2007 incoming student orientation brought together for the first time the newest class of more than 40 students. Though most students typically visit campus throughout the admissions process, the EMTM experience begins in earnest at this orientation.

“The idea is to prepare for an academic environment a group of people who are coming from a work environment. It is a transition that can be quite challenging.”

Dwight Jaggard, PhD
Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering and director of EMTM

Alumnus Bob Petrie, EMTM '98, V.P. client operations of Vidavee in New York, NY, spoke of the program's leadership thread and how it positively impacted his own career.

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