Cindy Liu arrived at Penn with a vision. She wants to create a global network of schools that focus on experiential and personalized learning.
Turning that vision into a reality will require succeeding in the classroom and on the balance sheet. So Liu is studying both business and education, as the first student in a dual-degree program that will allow her to earn an MBA from the Wharton School and a Master’s in Education Entrepreneurship from Penn GSE.
This new dual-degree program is designed to overcome the highly complex and multi-disciplinary challenges that often prevent innovations in education from reaching their full potential.
After students complete their first year at Wharton, they begin classes in Penn GSE’s executive-format M.S. Ed. program. The program provides knowledge, practical skills, and experiences necessary to create, finance, and manage innovations in education. Graduates are expected to leave with the tools necessary to promote new solutions in education such as building education technology ventures, designing schools, scaling social impact initiatives, and leading innovation in educational organizations and corporations.
Liu began taking courses at Penn GSE this summer, because she wanted to marry her growing expertise in business with her passion for education and effecting social change. Like all dual-degree students, she had applied and was accepted to both programs.
“When students start their program journey, they are asked to imagine an innovation in education that could fundamentally change the way we teach and learn in an increasingly digital and global marketplace,” said Jenny Zapf, Director of the Education Entrepreneurship Program and GSE Senior Fellow in Education.
“Our executive education students, who come from all over the world to participate in this one-of-a-kind program, will spend 13 months researching, prototyping, testing, and iterating on their design, which can take the form of a leading-edge education program, service, application, or other product.”
All EdEnt students complete a capstone project, which gives them the foundation to launch a new education venture or reinvent an existing one.
“My capstone is a private school in the Bay Area that offers purpose-driven personalized education,” Liu said. “We target young, innovative, open-minded and purpose-driven millennial parents who hold high expectations for children – but also care about children’s well-being, character development, and life purpose.”
Faculty at the Wharton School know that education is an interest for many of their aspiring and practicing entrepreneurs.
“Education technology is something that lots of educators and investors are also interested in,” Wharton assistant professor Laura Huang said. “I think this program really speaks to these changes and these opportunities.”
Huang, also a former DC public school teacher, runs a Entrepreneurship in Education bootcamp for Education Entrepreneurship students as part of their core curriculum.
Liu — who is studying this semester at Wharton San Francisco — said the dual-degree program has taught her that business-minded solutions can work philosophically and pragmatically in education.
She believes that will allow her to create better learning experiences for students.
“I realize that current formal education is extremely standardized,” Liu said. “Yet there are no two people who learn the same way. “
Technology will play a powerful role in her plan. “I want to use technology as a tool for teachers to keep track of students’ progress,” Liu said.
“I want to change the teacher-student relationship. Right now, the teacher delivers knowledge and the student accepts knowledge. I believe that teacher and student relationships should change, but not be simply flipped. Teacher and students should both be teaching and learning in the process, while teachers play a facilitating role to guide students through discovery.”