March 28, 2017

Executive MBA Students Head to Washington D.C.

Maura O'NeillBy Kim Girard

As President Barack Obama and his administration prepare to leave the White House, students in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program will spend a week in Washington D.C., gaining insights from White House policy makers, ambassadors, lobbyists, and journalists.

The Washington, D.C. immersion trip, to be held Dec. 5-9, is one of five immersive experiences organized for the Class of 2016, emphasizing experiential learning, collaboration with elite companies, and networking with high-level business and policy experts. This is the final immersion for the 69-member class, which will graduate in January.

Maura O’Neill, an entrepreneurship lecturer in the EMBA Program who teaches New Venture Finance, is leading this year’s trip. O’Neill, a Distinguished Teaching Fellow at Berkeley-Haas, has deep White House ties. Under the Obama administration, she served as the first chief of innovation and senior counselor to the administrator at the United States Agency for International Development. (USAID) until summer 2013, focusing on foreign assistance and development worldwide. She also served as a former chief of staff in the U.S. Senate.

O’Neill leads the trip for the first time this year. Prof. Laura Tyson, who served as an economic advisor to Presidents Clinton and Obama, paved the way for EMBA students by organizing previous Washington D.C. immersions.

O’Neill said that the Washington D.C. immersion is an essential part of the program. Students prepare by reading a wide array of material that covers topics ranging from the roots of income inequality to opposing views on international trade.

“Whether you work for a small business, start a business or work for a world-class global company, government policy and tax structure play a gigantic role,” she said. “If people want to be leaders in business and in their communities they’ve got to understand and be way more sophisticated about government. It’s an absolutely essential part of an MBA education today.”

The week begins with a meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom, along with Obama's Science and Technology Deputy Director Thomas Kalil, former special assistant to the Chancellor for Science and Technology at UC Berkeley. Meetings in the U.S. Senate to discuss access to start-up business capital will follow, as well as a timely preview of the expected fight over the future of the Affordable Care Act and tax reform. The students will also spend time hearing from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

On the final day of the trip, many of the students will participate in debates for their final project. The debates, held at the Aspen Institute, will cover seven subjects, including corporate tax reform, immigration, job creation, prison reform, trade, climate change, and Bitcoin. Mara Liasson, award-winning national political correspondent for NPR, will keynote the final lunch.

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