Philadelphia Kids Meet With World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellows

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High School Students Learn About Social Innovation From Young Leaders Across the Globe

PHILADELPHIA — When global economic and political leaders gather in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum meeting next January, the agenda may be influenced by the perspectives of Philadelphia’s public school students. In a collaboration between the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Leadership Fellows program and Summer Search Philadelphia, a group of Philadelphia high school students met last week with a group of WEF Fellows to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world today.

In addition to covering issues like global warming, conflict in the Middle East, and public health, the students and the Fellows discussed leadership, a topic that both groups have in common. The meeting took place on Thursday, July 14, 2011 at the Steinberg Conference Center located on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia.

The Global Leadership Program is an academic and professional fellowship created by the World Economic Forum. The program is dedicated to developing the next generation of world leaders: well-rounded professionals who feel equally at home in the public and private sectors.

Summer Search [] is a youth leadership development organization that inspires low-income high school students to become responsible and altruistic leaders by providing life-changing summer experiences, college advising, and year-round mentoring.

The Global Leadership Fellows are talented young professionals with an average age of 32 years old and originating from more than 25 countries. The Fellows, who have a master’s degree or a Ph.D., were in residence at the Wharton School from July 11 to July 15 for a week of customized study centered on leadership, social innovation and globalization. As part of their commitment to the World Economic Forum, the Fellows held one-on-one conversations about international careers with Philadelphia public school students and lead workshops in how to understand and interpret world affairs.

Gilbert Probst, managing director and dean of the Global Leadership Fellows Program, explained, “The Fellows have a unique opportunity to further their education both in the classroom and through more experiential opportunities. The Fellows come from around the world, but because cities, no matter where they are, face similar issues, what we learn about in Philadelphia and at Wharton has relevance beyond this singular educational opportunity.”

Summer Search executive director Amanda Jefferson explained, “Summer Search goes into ten public high schools in Philadelphia’s most underserved communities, and we find kids who are searching for a way to change their fate. And then we surround those students with access to life-changing opportunities and the kind of support network that is typically reserved for their more affluent peers. This collaboration with Wharton and the World Economic Forum is a wonderful opportunity to expose these resilient and responsible future leaders to an exciting array of international careers and issues that a few years ago may never have even been within their realm of possibility. We are thrilled to participate and have invited many of our partner nonprofits, like buildOn and the World Affairs Council, to send students as well, since we are all working towards the goal of college and career success for these great kids in our own special ways.”

The program is in alignment with Wharton’s commitment to innovation and social impact.

Prof. Harbir Singh, Wharton Management Professor and Vice-Dean of Global Initiatives, says that the school’s relationship with the WEF is a natural one. Among the major business schools, Wharton is the most global in orientation and most committed to cultivating a culture that is a force for good in the world, says Prof. Singh. The WEF is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

“Our ties to the organization run deep,” said Singh. “The Global Leadership Fellows are a highly impressive group. They are tremendously accomplished, in terms of both their education and professional backgrounds. Having them at Wharton brings together cutting-edge ideas, Wharton’s commitment to globalization, and current issues in the world.”

Participants in the WEF Global Leadership Fellows Program, a three-year long executive training program, learn from and work with diverse world leaders and topical experts to facilitate common solutions to many of the world’s most pressing issues. The program stands on three pillars: understanding the world, understanding teams and organizations and understanding self. Therefore, in addition to business workshops and face-to-face meetings with world leaders, the program leads the Fellows to become responsible leaders putting an importance on values and an ability to make sense of the world around them. The training modules can be varied, including subject areas such as social entrepreneurship, corporate finance and strategy, emerging markets development, corporate global citizenship, public speaking and negotiation.

About The World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum, an independent international organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, is committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

About the Wharton School

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania— founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school — is recognized globally for intellectual leadership and ongoing innovation across every major discipline of business education. The most comprehensive source of business knowledge in the world, Wharton bridges research and practice through its broad engagement with the global business community. The School has more than 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students; more than 9,000 annual participants in executive education programs; and an alumni network of 88,000 graduates.