JULIAN, Pa. — Soaring at 2,000 feet in a glider gave personnel manager Jack Thomas a whole new perspective on risks in the business world.
"When you take a risk doing that, you go back and think about taking a risk making a business decision. It's no big deal," said Thomas, who works for the Digital Equipment Corp. in Maynard, Mass.
Thomas took the half-hour glider ride as part of a four-week program for upper-level managers that began July 11. Albert A. Vicere, who runs the 22-year-old Executive Management Program at Penn State University, said the extracurricular activities are intended to push the current class of 36 managers from 10 countries completely out of their element.
"It's an attempt to open their minds to new concepts by also having them experience new things," Vicere said.
Other eye-opening activities include snake handling and scuba lessons, plus at least seven hours a day in class.
Executives taking part in the $8,500 program came from as far as Malaysia and Chile. Most are in their mid-40s and work for large corporations, according to Vicere. There are four classes scheduled per year.
During the day, they attend courses on internationalization of the business world, government-business relations and leadership and management, he said.
They also have some evening sessions and as much as two hours of homework a day.
In what little spare time remains, Vicere gives the managers a chance to take golf, racquetball, tennis and scuba lessons. Besides providing new experiences, the activities promote camaraderie, Vicere said.
He also has shuttled the managers to Shaver's Creek Environmental Center and plans an all-day canoe trip. All activities are voluntary, Vicere said.
At the environmental center on the opening day of the program, NYNEX Corp. staff director Bonnie Miller said she handled a black rat snake.
'Week of Firsts'
"This is a week of firsts," said Ms. Miller, who also took a glider ride and golf lessons.
"On the postcards I'm sending, I'm writing, 'I'm doing this and I'm doing that,' and at the bottom, I put, 'P.S., I'm also working very hard,"' she said.
On Sunday, Thomas stood with two other classmates along the edge of a narrow, 1,000-foot asphalt runway, waiting to ride in a bullet-shaped, two-seat glider at Ridge Soaring Gliderport.
"They're teaching us new things and new ideas, this fits right in," said John Donovan, a district engineer for New York Telephone Co.
Debbie Davis, a data-processing auditing manager for Virginia Power Co. in Richmond, Va., added, "This is not the sort of thing auditors generally do."