Nellie Haghbin stood in the Haas courtyard last week, chatting with a few of her 252 new Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA classmates, ready to begin a new chapter of life.
“Being here is a dream come true for me—I always knew I wanted to come to Berkeley and I’m finally here,” said Haghbin, an engineer with Pratt & White based in San Francisco. “Everyone has been incredibly warm and welcoming. You just don’t find that everywhere.”
It’s about “identity change”
The WE Launch orientation weekend included a whirlwind three days of tours, info sessions, bonding games and skits—as well as advice from 2nd– and 3rd-year Evening & Weekeng Berkeley MBA veterans on how to survive the program. Most EWMBA students hold full-time jobs and many balance parenthood with the demanding three-year course of study, taking classes two evenings per week or on Saturdays.
Dean Rich Lyons welcomed them, letting them know that they are in for more than a mastery of business fundamentals. “Great education is often about identity change,” he said at the kick-off session.
Access to an innovation hub
Student Eric Vreeland said he chose Berkeley-Haas—and the Bay Area—because he wanted to be a part of its innovative, entrepreneurial ecosystem. He moved from New York to San Francisco 18 months ago and serves director of marketing for Jobr, a job-listing site acquired by Monster Inc.
“I’m interested in startups, innovation, and access to investors, as well as exposure to different aspects of entrepreneurship,” Vreeland said. “I also liked the intimacy of this program. So far, having conversations is easy.”
Tagel Shaked Zinger, a software engineer at YouTube, stood out from the crowd with her pregnant belly. Due in just a couple of weeks with her first child, she said the timing works out well with her four months of maternity leave. She’ll defer starting classes until the Fall B session so she can spend the first two months with her newborn, then two months as a full-time student and mom before returning to work.
“I was eager to start—I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time—and I didn’t want to put it off any longer because who knows what will happen next in my life?,” she said. “My husband has been very supportive, and so is my employer.”
The Class of 2020 has a median age of 30, with a median seven years of work experience. Women make up 31 percent of the group. The new students work at 180 companies and graduated from 152 colleges; 38 percent hold master’s degrees. About 69 percent are multilingual (with one student who speaks six languages), and they represent 20 different countries. About twenty percent are commuting to the program from outside the Bay Area.
In terms of professional experience, nearly one quarter work in engineering, with another 15 percent in marketing and sales, and 11 percent in finance.
It’s a multi-talented group with eclectic interests. One student has won 39 hackathons over the past three years, while another has directed four films focused on domestic violence and human rights. One student reported helping to revolutionize the milk pasteurization process in Taiwan and also building up the Taiwanese breakdancing scene by hosting events and trainings. Others have raced cars and motorcycles, flown planes, commuted by helicopter offshore in West Africa, and circumnavigated the earth by ship.
Zinger, who has always worked in tech, said she is excited to explore new areas. “What attracted me was a combination of surrounding myself with great people, and learning about other industries,” she said.
Learn more about the class.