Essentials of Leadership

Essentials of Leadership is an intensive, two-week summer opportunity for a select group of students seeking an introduction to outstanding undergraduate business education. Participants will develop leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, while learning from and collaborating with Wharton faculty, guest speakers, and other talented high school students from around the world. This new online experience involves case competitions and interactive digital simulations, including the Saturn Parable, an advanced leadership simulation from Wharton Interactive.


Essentials of Leadership prepares talented high school students to become leaders in the global economy. Through a curriculum of rigorous coursework and activities, students will build skills in emotional intelligence, problem-solving, interpersonal communication, and effective teamwork and collaboration. The program culminates in a simulated trip to Saturn, where small groups must navigate the obstacles of interstellar travel to achieve the goals of the mission.

Program highlights include:

  • 2 hours of daily live lectures introducing foundational leadership concepts 
  • 1 hour of daily recitation led by TAs to develop a business skill 
  • Interactive business simulations, including The Saturn Parable, an advanced leadership simulation from Wharton Interactive, utilized by Executive and MBA students 
  • Daily interaction with peers and instructors to problem-solve and discuss research-based theories of leadership and teamwork 
  • Experiential learning opportunities designed to exercise leadership, communication, and teamwork skills 
  • Collaborative group projects that will test your potential as future business leaders 

Read more about the fundamental principles of our Essentials of Leadership course.

Advanced Leadership: The Saturn Parable

Learn more about The Saturn Parable simulation via Wharton Interactive

Taking place in 2087 students assume the role of a member of the Enceladus Expedition, the first commercial space mission to Saturn’s moon Enceladus, whose south pole provides the only reliable source of liquid water beyond Earth. Each player will have to navigate real-world challenges in this fictional setting, receiving continuous, adaptive performance feedback via the gaming interface.

All participants who successfully complete the program will earn a Wharton Global Youth Certificate of Completion.


Course Meeting Times

Daily participation and engagement are required Monday through Friday, with exceptions as noted below. Each day will include some mixture of live, online class sessions; facilitated, small group discussions; collaborative group work; simulations; and independent work, completed within the Wharton Online Learning Platform. Live class sessions will meet as outlined below. 

Schedule Exceptions 

Students participating in Session 1, June 17 – June 28 should note the following schedule difference: 

  • Wednesday, June 19: classes will not meet due to the Juneteenth holiday 
  • Saturday, June 22: classes will meet as a makeup 

Live Session Schedule 

  • Monday – Friday: 11:00AM-1:00PM Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-4) 
  • Recitations: Students are required to attend a 1-hour TA-led recitation daily. Multiple recitation time slots will be available for students to choose from. Recitations are designed as skill-building workshops, and promote a deeper understanding of the lecture content through exercises in practical application.  
  • Live, Small Group Activities: Additional small group meetings may be required to complete collaborative activities or peer project work. If necessary, these meetings will be scheduled at the students’ convenience. 

Technical Requirements 

In order to fully participate in this course, you will need a computer that meets minimum system requirements for both Canvas LMS and Zoom Videoconferencing. Refer to the following links: 

All programming originates from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (Eastern Daylight Time)



High school students currently enrolled in grades 9-12 with demonstrated leadership ability. International students are welcome.


Admission to the online Essentials of Leadership is selective. Eligible candidates should demonstrate a record of academic excellence, formal and informal leadership roles, and a genuine interest in developing leadership skills.

Please note that participation in Essentials of Leadership does not guarantee admission into Penn.

Instructional Team

Program Leader: Keith Ellison

Keith D. Ellison teaches management communication at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. His corporate background includes positions at IBM, Proctor & Gamble and Manor Care, Inc.

He currently runs the Ellison Group, Inc., a leadership development and management consulting firm, with an emphasis on improving managerial and communication skills and cycle times of operational processes. He has worked with such clients as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lockheed Martin, Novo Nordisk and CIGNA.

Ellison also facilitates a six-month leadership development course for the Martin Luther King Development Institute. He also serves as the program director for the Urban League of Philadelphia Entrepreneurship Center, which leads a team of consultants in providing business advisory services and training to entrepreneurs in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Ellison earned an MBA from the Wharton School and a B.S. in electrical engineering and mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University.

Teaching Assistants

Teaching Assistants consist of both undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania. TAs facilitate small-group discussions, ensure student understanding, assist with final project development, and hold office hours to answer student questions and share their Penn and Wharton experiences.

"...the program outlined a four-year curriculum at Wharton through the videos shared by the professors which allowed me to gain insight into several different areas of business such as Business Law & Ethics and Management. I was able to apply the characters I had learned about high-performing teams to my own nonprofit organization and observed the success that followed...."

- Shreya B., Michigan, USA


Wharton Global Youth Meetup (GYM)

Wharton Global Youth Meetup (GYM) is a creative, co-curricular community open to summer students as a way to connect to one another — and Wharton — before, during, and after their programs. Featuring both live and independent programming, the GYM is designed to ensure virtual participants don’t miss out on valuable community building and networking. 

*The GYM is included in all online summer programs, except Understanding Your Money.