The list is built on exclusive LinkedIn data that examines career outcomes of MBA alumni, including job placement rates, advancement to senior-level positions, and network strength.
“As LinkedIn notes, MBA graduates benefit from the “career-boosting power of the MBA,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of the Haas Career Management Group. “This ranking captures the depth of our network, recruiter interest, and notably both the C-suite track and entrepreneurial experience.”
“Going to the Haas School of Business was a transformative experience for me,” Daniel Feldman, MBA 10, said in the LinkedIn article. “Yes, it is possible to acquire the knowledge in other ways. What cannot be replaced is the collaboration experience with some very smart people.”
The ranking is based on the following five pillars, including:
Hiring and demand, which tracks job placement rates and labor market demand, focusing on recent graduate cohorts from 2018 to 2022. This assessment is based on LinkedIn hiring data and recruiter InMail outreach data.
Ability to advance, which tracks promotions among recent cohorts. It also traces how quickly all past alumni have reached director or vp-level leadership roles. This assessment is based on standardized job titles.
Network strength, which tracks network depth, or how connected alumni of the same program are to each other; network quality of the recent cohorts (2018-2022), measured by average connections alumni have with individuals in director-level positions or above; and the network growth rate of the recent cohort—before and after graduation. This assessment is based on member connection data.
Leadership potential, which tracks the percentage of alumni with post-MBA entrepreneurship or C-suite experience.
Gender diversity, which measures gender parity within recent graduate cohorts.
Haas News asked Kreis a few questions about his startup’s success.
Tell us about Xepelin. Xepelin was founded in 2019, the year after I graduated from Haas. Our aim is to be the “digital CFO” for small- to mid-size companies, offering an online platform that helps businesses organize their accounts and automate payments to suppliers and payment advances from customers.
You’ve had quite a lot of success getting the company funded over the past year. Tell me a little about that.
Last year, the company secured $150 million in equity and a $140 million credit line from Goldman Sachs that we are using to expand software, payment, and working capital services in Mexico. We are headquartered in Mexico City and now have 400 employees.
How big is the market for your services and what’s your expansion plan?
The companies we are targeting account for over 60% of Latin America’s GDP. These companies present an enormous opportunity for us, with more than $10 trillion in unmet needs. High acquisition and servicing costs have kept them underserved. Xepelin is committed to equipping these companies with efficient access to software tools, payments, and working capital.
The companies we are targeting account for over 60% of Latin America’s GDP.
What resources at Haas helped you become an entrepreneur?
There were two resources I tapped at Haas: learning from entrepreneurs and investors in the Bay Area who had already built successful startups, and working on fintech projects with Lecturer Greg La Blanc. I traveled to Mexico several times while I was at Berkeley because of the size of the market. I studied the metrics, such as credit and software market penetration, before committing to building a regional company, starting in Mexico and Chile.
Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison, a renowned economist lauded for keeping Berkeley Haas’ six business programs ranked among the world’s best and significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the faculty, has been named Dean of the Year by Poets & Quants.
Poets & Quants Editor-in-Chief John Byrne announced the news to a global audience at a Thinkers50 virtual conference today. Byrne engaged in a sweeping conversation with Harrison that covered the impact of globalization on workers, the responsibilities of government and business in fighting climate change, the critical role of diversity on campus, and the enduring importance of the MBA.
“The MBA is a wonderful degree,” Harrison said. “It combines the rigor of statistics, data analysis, hard-core quant skills with skills like how to work with people, marketing, and how to sell,” she said. “What’s wonderful about an MBA is that it allows you to combine these different skills. Other degrees don’t offer that combination.” Haas MBA students care about making an impact, she added, “not just a great paycheck.”
Harrison has amassed an unimaginable and nearly breathtaking record of achievement. —John Byrne, Poets & Quants
In his Poets & Quants article, published today, Byrne wrote that Harrison has amassed an “unimaginable and nearly breathtaking record of achievement” during her four-and-a-half years as dean. Harrison, who has led Haas since January 2019 and was reappointed to a second term last February, said she was “deeply humbled” by the honor.
“I am so lucky to be surrounded by a tremendous community at Haas—students, staff, faculty, and alumni who are always going beyond themselves,” she said. “It’s only together that we can seek solutions to climate change, build a more inclusive society, and fuel innovation in all its forms. This is a business school that embodies excellence. I feel great pride in our past and am thrilled to have the opportunity to create impact for the future.”
Harrison is the second woman to lead Haas; Professor Laura Tyson served previously. As the former director of development policy at the World Bank and a longtime professor, Harrison has focused her research on international trade and global labor markets.
Since joining Haas from Wharton, Harrison has made big changes, Byrne noted. She has led a major diversity, equity, inclusion, justice & belonging (DEIJB) effort, broadening the profile of the Haas faculty, school board, and the student body. The school’s entering full-time MBA class this year is 41% women, 47% U.S. minorities, and 13% U.S. underrepresented minorities overall.
Harrison has woven sustainability content deep into the curriculum while maintaining the school’s historical focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.
“The challenges of climate change permeate all aspects of business: supply chain, economics, management, and finance,” she said. “In the latter field, we have pioneered new ways of investing. We need to hire in all these dimensions. It is a big agenda and we are making a lot of progress in a lot of different ways.”
Harrison also oversaw the launch of the first Flex online MBA cohort at any top business school. Applying learnings from the pandemic, Haas used new technology to make the MBA available to expanded groups of international students and working parents who require flexible schedules.
Under Harrison’s leadership, Haas also stepped up fundraising, raising a record total of $227 million, including $56.1 million during the last fiscal year. The school also secured the largest single gift in the school’s history—$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BS 66—to turn the undergraduate program into a four-year program.
Figuring it out together
In the Poets & Quants article, Courtney Chandler, Chief Strategy & Operating Officer and Senior Assistant Dean at Haas, noted that Harrison “hasn’t stayed in one lane as dean.”
“She’s ambitious, and she sees the full potential of Haas within UC Berkeley and is driven to realize that potential,” she said. “She has not been that one-dimensional dean and that is incredibly impressive.”
“She’s ambitious, and she sees the full potential of Haas within UC Berkeley and is driven to realize that potential.” —Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler
Harrison’s record as a highly cited scholar has also helped her lead the school’s professors, Byrne said.
“It’s hard to get faculty to buy-in to a dean’s vision, but she has been able to do that effectively,” Erika Walker, senior assistant dean for instruction, who has been at Haas for nearly 20 years, told Byrne. “She relates so well to them…. Ann is very thoughtful about where we should be going. A lot of her success stems from her ability to get the buy-in and then enlist others to figure it out together.”
During her second term, Harrison said she will continue to work with her team to build upon the school’s academic excellence as well as the student experience at Haas. One important goal is to ensure that the school’s degree programs remain the best in the world, she said.
Harrison earned her BA from UC Berkeley in economics and history, and her PhD from Princeton University. She held previous professorships in UC Berkeley’s College of Agricultural and Resource Economics, as well as at Columbia University and the Wharton School, where she was the William H. Wurster Professor of Management.
An avid hiker, Harrison told Poets & Quants that returning to UC Berkeley and California has allowed her to use time off to explore the state’s cliff-lined beaches, redwood forest, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, “a paradise for those who love the outdoors.”
Harrison is the 13th dean and the third woman to be named Dean of the Year by Poets & Quants, which covers business school education.
It’s lunchtime on a recent Saturday and Melissa Little and a group of fellow Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA students are scooping gluten-free noodles, free-range chicken, and organic salad into large pans after lunch.
“We only have a few minutes to load the last of the bowls before class starts,” said Little, EWMBA 24, an energy consultant who most recently worked as a strategic energy partnerships manager at Google. She and her classmates rush carts of food down the Chou Hall elevators and load up a hatchback whose driver is waiting at the curb.
The group has completed this mad dash since October 2022, when Little kicked off a program to donate hundreds of pounds of the cohort’s uneaten lunch food to the Dorothy Day House in downtown Berkeley, which shelters and services homeless and low-income people in the area.
For Little, the program is a long-awaited feat.
During her first few Saturdays in the EWMBA program, she discovered that most of the leftover lunch food for her Saturday cohort was thrown out— from boxed lunches to trays of turkey meatballs to chocolate chip cookies.
“It drove me crazy for the rest of the school year,” Little said. “I live in Berkeley and ride my bike here past unhoused people who could be eating this.”
Little worked with Kelly McCartney, a coordinator with campus’s Bancroft Catering, to figure out how she could donate the extra food. While McCartney was eager to help, Little didn’t yet have a partner to pick up the food and make her plan work—until she started a class called Design Thinking, taught by Lecturer Dave Rochlin.
In the class, her breakout group focused on the social sector and chose to address the needs of the unhoused. Little, a member of the Haas Sustainability Task Force, was on a mission to figure out how to donate the cohort’s food to a nonprofit in Berkeley.
Rochlin’s class recommends starting with user-centered research, including on-site visits, which led Little to Dorothy Day, where she met with Executive Director Robbi Montoya.
They talked for an hour straight, discussing the complex needs of the unhoused community and, eventually, how to make a food rescue plan work. Montoya agreed to transport the extra lunches to Dorothy Day every week if Little could meet a driver to get the food to the curb, and help load it.
Andrea Carroll, a cook at Dorothy Day, now transports the food from Haas and helps figure out how to best use it to build between 100-200 dinners that night. “The fact that we don’t have to dip into our storeroom to put out delicious meals is a huge boon to our residents and the folks we provide meals to out of our back door,” she said. “It’s such a good variety of lovely, fresh food that’s really healthy.”
Little recruited classmates, including Kevin Cheng, also EWMBA 24, to help her collect and load the food each week. To stay organized, she designed a logistics system to log communication with the Dorothy Day House volunteers and map out routes from Chou Hall to downtown, even on Cal football days.
A year later, Little and Cheng continue to volunteer together every Saturday. Cheng, who had volunteered with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project as a Cal undergraduate, said he enjoys serving hot meals to the community. So when he learned about Little’s project, he wanted to help give back, as well as use what he’s learned about problem-solving at Haas. “It’s a way to create opportunities for reducing waste and redirect food for good,” he said.
Rochlin said he was thrilled to learn about the successful outcome of an enterprise that had launched in his class. “This is what we hope to see,” he said. “Haas is at its best when the students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it outside in the world —and it’s even better when they create impact for populations in need. It’s a perfect example of Beyond Yourself.”
Haas is at its best when the students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it outside in the world. —Lecturer Dave Rochlin
Little is now working with Danner Doud-Martin, director of Haas Campus Sustainability, to make food rescuing a permanent student role within the Haas Sustainability Task Force. Their goal is to ensure that Little’s work with Dorothy Day will continue after she graduates.
Doud-Martin and Little are also looking to grow the program so that food in other Haas programs won’t go to waste. “The work that Melissa has done this past year on behalf of Haas and the EWMBA program with the Dorothy Day House is nothing less than extraordinary,” Doud-Martin said.
“This is a fantastic partnership,” Carroll said. “We’re saving this food by providing it to people.”
Berkeley Haas welcomed an accomplished group of nearly 700 new full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD students to campus, kicking off the start of the fall 2023 semester. (The new evening & weekend and executive MBA classes arrived on campus earlier this summer.)
Full-time MBA program
A total of 244 new full-time MBA students kicked off five days of Week Zero orientation last Monday. Orientation included sessions on academic life at Haas, diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and belonging (DEIJB), team building, and career planning.
Wendy Guild, the new assistant dean of MBA programs at Haas, welcomed the class. “I want to celebrate the fact that you are here,” she said, noting that 2023 is a special year for Haas, marking the school’s 125th anniversary. “We have staying power,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere… We’re just getting better.”
A total of 244 new full-time MBA students in the Class of 2025 arrived last week for Week Zero orientation. Wendy Guild, assistant dean of MBA programs, welcomed the group, noting that Haas is celebrating a special 125th anniversary this year.
The new MBA class is comprised of 41% women; 20% are first-gen.
Prof. Don Moore, acting Haas dean, urged students to reach out to each other and take advantage of the resources at Haas, especially when the curriculum gets tough. "All of us want to see you succeed," he said.
Introducing the Gold Cohort!
Introducing the Axe cohort!
Introducing the Oski cohort!
Introducing the Blue cohort!
The Haas Undergraduate Program team welcomed 421 new students Monday. A total of 3,306 students applied to the program.
The undergraduate class includes103 transfer students and 240 continuing UC Berkeley students.
New students met up in the Haas courtyard throughout orientation.
All photos by Jim Block and Noah Berger.
New students participated in a whirlwind of orientation activities—from a scavenger hunt to an ice cream social to cleanup work at a local nonprofit that supports people who are homeless.
The MBA students are an accomplished group, with an average of nearly six years of work experience, with 20% coming the tech sector and 24% from consulting.
Remy Freire, MBA 25, was a consultant at Bain & Company in Washington D.C. before coming to Haas.
“I’m interested in climate tech and renewable energy and I thought that the MBA would be a chance to take classes and do an internship in that area, and get some hands-on experience. A lot of folks are interested in this at Haas and I’ll be meeting people with similar interests to mine.”
The class boasts 41% women and is richly international, including students from 39 countries.
Imogen O’Connor, MBA 26, worked as an analytical manager with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK before she came to Haas.
“What really prompted me to do an MBA was around change management and leadership because I was coming up against a lot of barriers in the NHS,” she said. “I really care about health care and just helping people. I think I need to develop certain skills in order to do that properly.”
The class has an average collective GMAT score of 732, and GREs of 163 quant and 161 verbal, and an average GPA of 3.63.
Eric Askins, director of MBA admissions, told the students to expect to learn from peers who come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Notably, 20% of the students in this class are the first generation of college students in their families. Fourteen of the new students are pursuing a dual MPA/MPH (public health) degree; nine are enrolled in the MBA/MEng (engineering) program.
Orientation week alumni speaker Lo Toney, MBA 97, founding managing partner at Plexo Capital, shared his wisdom with the class, encouraging students to explore and take advantage of the breadth and depth of the UC Berkeley and Haas campus resources, focus on academics in the first quarter in particular, and reach out to alumni to build a network.
Acting Dean and Professor Don Moore, whose research covers leadership and confidence in business and beyond, welcomed the students.
“You’re joining a community of innovators, renowned researchers, entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers who have made a profound impacts on business and on society,” he said.
“You’re joining a community of innovators, renowned researchers, entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers who have made a profound impacts on business and on society.” – Acting Dean Don Moore
Moore said the long list of leaders who embody the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles (Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself) includes professional golfer Collin Morikawa, BS 19, who won the 2020 PGA Championship; Nabeela Syed, BS 21, the first Muslim Indian-American and the youngest woman to serve in the Illinois House of Representatives; and gaming entrepreneur Kevin Chou, BS 02, who with his wife, Dr. Connie Chen, provided the largest-ever personal gift to UC Berkeley by an alumni under the age of 40 to help fund Chou Hall.
Emma Hayes Daftary, assistant dean of the undergraduate program, told the students that “the DLPs will challenge you to shift from what you, as an individual, can achieve, to what we, as a community, can accomplish.”
“We are living in a time of tremendous global transition, and within this time of upheaval and transition comes an urgent call for informed, collaborative, effective leaders,” she said. “There are urgent issues that are facing us—urgent issues that will require extraordinary leadership to develop and execute solutions to solve them.”
The PhD program welcomed its largest-ever cohort of 19 new students from around the world—including Russia, China, Ethiopia, India, South Korea, Nigeria, Portugal, Canada, and Germany.
New students include Abdulmuttolib (Abdul) Salako, Ziyi Liu, Sean Chen, Sarah Danner, Hanna Yu, Sara Shemali, Jordan Mickens, Nikita (Nick) Akimov, Wenxiao Yang, Srikanth Janjirala, Yutao Chen, Maggie Ye, Skyler Chen, David Gravanita , William Zhang, Zi Yang Chen, Nathan Godin, Nick Otis, and Fikremariam (Fikre) Gedefaw.
Berkeley Haas this month is kicking off its anniversary celebration of 125 years of reimagining business. The festivities commemorate a significant milestone in the school’s history as a leader in advancing management education, corporate responsibility, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Founded in 1898 as the College of Commerce with just three students, Haas has expanded to nearly 3,000 students across six programs, all of which rank in the top 10 and boast a world-renowned global faculty. Haas has 44,000 living alumni worldwide, spanning more than 20,000 organizations in 81 countries.
“A 125th anniversary is a remarkable achievement for any business school, especially given the immense changes that business and business education have gone through,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann E. Harrison. “As the world’s number one mission-driven business school, we take pride in developing innovative business leaders who consider the long-term impact of their actions—and increasingly, that requires a lens for sustainability and inclusion.”
Haas has always been a pioneer. It is the first business school founded at a public university, and the second-oldest in the U.S. It is the only leading business school to be founded by a woman, Cora Jane Flood.
It’s also the first top business school to be led by two female deans, Professor Laura Tyson (1998–2001 and 2018), and Harrison (since 2019).
And from the start, the school has had a distinctive culture.
Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler, Haas’s Chief Strategy and Operating Officer, described the principles as much more than mere aspirations or platitudes. They are, rather, aligned tightly with the school’s strategy. “Powerful leaders think about culture all the time,” Chandler said. “If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.”
“Powerful leaders think about culture all the time. If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.” — Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler, BA 90, MBA 96.
The Haas legacy includes generations of researchers and teachers who have changed how industry leaders think and do business. That legacy includes two Nobel laureates. The late John Harsanyi won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994—along with John Nash from Princeton University and Reinhard Selten from Bonn, Germany—for advancing the study of game theory, and in particular, how parties act in negotiations with incomplete information.
The late Oliver Williamson became the school’s second Nobel laureate—along with Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University—in 2009 for bringing together economics, organization theory, and contract law to invent the field of transaction cost economics, fundamentally reshaping understanding of how firms operate in the marketplace.
Many other Haas faculty members have ushered new ideas into the world, including Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, who created the novel theory of Open Innovation; and David Aaker, the father of modern branding, who defined brand equity and the idea of the brand portfolio.
Professor David Teece established his groundbreaking theories of dynamic capabilities in 1997; and Ikujiro Nonaka, MBA 68, PhD 72, a knowledge management expert, envisioned knowledge as a living and breathing entity that must be shared among workers to reach its full potential.
Finance Professor Ulrike Malmendier, who researches how individual biases affect corporate decisions, stock prices, and markets, illuminated many ways in which human psychology and systematic biases influence economic behavior. For her work, Malmendier won the prestigious 2013 Fischer Black Prize.
Women at Haas have also made pioneering contributions as visionary leaders—since Mary Dickson became the first woman to get a degree from the school in 1906. Professor and former Dean Laura Tyson served on President Clinton’s cabinet, and was also the first woman to chair the Council of Economic Advisers and direct the National Economic Council.
Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen, who taught macroeconomics at Haas for 25 years, is now the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and was the first to chair the Federal Reserve.
Berkeley Haas has also been a hub of innovation and a launching ground for entrepreneurs over the years. In 2022, for the fourth straight year, UC Berkeley was named the nation’s best public university for startup founders, and the second-best university among both private and public schools, according to Pitchbook’s annual ranking.
In 2022, for the fourth straight year, UC Berkeley was named the nation’s best public university for startup founders
In 1970, six years before Apple Computer was founded, Dean Richard Holton taught one of the country’s first entrepreneurship classes at Haas with Leo Helzel, MBA 68. Lecturer Steve Blank took the teaching of entrepreneurship in a cutting-edge new direction in 2011 with his Lean LaunchPad method. Blank taught students to build a company by developing business models rather than traditional business plans, iterating models quickly based on customer feedback. This approach is now accepted practice for entrepreneurs.
Haas students have been honing startup skills for years in programs like the UC Berkeley LAUNCH accelerator; SkyDeck, a partnership between the Haas School of Business founded in 2012 with the College of Engineering, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research; and The Cleantech to Market accelerator program, which for 15 years has been pairing students with entrepreneurs to help bring promising climate tech innovations to market.
Over the years, Haas students and alumni have founded hundreds of companies as part of the UC Berkeley startup ecosystem. Among the school’s notable alumni entrepreneurs:
John Hanke, MBA 96, CEO of Niantic Labs, was instrumental in creating Google Earth, Maps, and Street View, which brought sophisticated geospatial data visualization to the masses. Hanke then masterminded the wildly popular augmented reality Pokémon Go game.
Paul Rice, MBA 96, founded Fair Trade USA, whose Fair Trade Certified seals signify products made according to fair trade standards.
The late Priya Haji, MBA 03, co-founded Free at Last, a national program for substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS intervention; World of Good,a sustainable/fair trade product marketplace acquired by eBay in 2010, and served as CEO at SaveUp, a rewards game for saving money and reducing debt.
Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, launched Ashesi University, Ghana’s first liberal arts college, in 2002, which pioneered a multidisciplinary core curriculum that challenged the dominant rote-learning culture in many African schools.
Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, both MBA 08, co-founded Indiegogo with Slava Rubin, building a crowdfunding platform for all creative, cause, and entrepreneurial projects.
Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, both BS 09, grew mushrooms from used coffee grounds in their Haas class, which led to their startup Back to the Roots—now a national brand with products sold in thousands of stores.
Jason Bellet, BS 14, along with engineering alumni Connor Landgraf, BS 13, MEng 14 (bioengineering), and Tyler Crouch, BS 14 (mechanical engineering), founded Eko in 2013 and developed an FDA-cleared platform of AI-powered stethoscopes for early detection of cardiovascular disease.
Roots of social responsibility
The Haas tradition of educating leaders who prioritize the social impact of business dates back more than 100 years.
The school is named for Walter A. Haas, Sr., BS 1910, whose family at Levi Strauss & Company outfitted Western miners in a new kind of work pants that evolved into Levi’s iconic blue jeans. Haas Sr.’s views on social welfare and public affairs were influenced by the school’s first female instructor, Jessica Peixotto, and led him to grow this apparel manufacturer into one of the country’s largest socially responsible businesses. Later, as Levi’s CEO, he noted that the company “owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business.”
The company “owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business.” — Walter A. Haas, Sr., BS 1910
During the late 1950s, Earl F. Cheit, the future dean, ushered in the study of corporate social responsibility through research and teaching. Cheit organized the first national symposium on the subject in 1964, and Berkeley’s coursework became the model for other leading business schools with support from Professors Dow Votaw and Edwin Epstein.
Decades later, The Center for Responsible Business in 2002, brought Haas into the modern corporate social responsibility and business sustainability movements. Six years later, TheFinancial Times named Haas number one in the world in this area.
Socioeconomic mobility is core to both the UC Berkeley and Haas missions. Over the past six years, Haas has made substantive changes to increase diversity and representation, engender lifelong learning around equity and inclusion, and cultivate belonging.
When Harrison joined as dean, she made Diversity Equity Justice and Belonging (DEIJB) a priority by meeting with student leaders; significantly increasing student support; modifying the core MBA curriculum to require a course on leading diverse teams; and diversifying the Haas faculty and Haas School Board.
Haas also appointed Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista to oversee a six-person team focusing on admissions, community-related DEIJB issues, and, uniquely, faculty support.
Building on the Defining Leadership Principles, the school’s DEI Strategic Plan, first drafted in 2018 and updated in 2021, outlines aspirations for a learning environment where everyone belongs and everyone can thrive. The plan aims to equip all members of the Haas community to effectively lead diverse teams. (Research from Haas faculty and the work of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) makes the business case that diversity on teams can drive performance.)
The Heart of What’s Next
Looking forward, Haas continues to build on its academic strength in undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree executive education offerings.
The school also continues to embrace new ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the school’s foray to digital education, inspired by Berkeley Executive Education’s early adoption of virtual classroom teaching.
The virtual classrooms now anchor the Flex MBA program,—now in its second year—which combines academic courses in a live online environment with the option to come to campus for electives. At the undergraduate level, the school’s two-year program is expanding to become the four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program. The first four-year cohort will enroll in August of 2024.
Stepping up to address the severity of climate change, Haas created the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change to support teaching and research across agriculture, real estate, energy, finance, and corporate sectors. The school’s investment in sustainability includes the greenest academic building in the U.S., Chou Hall, having earned TRUE Zero Waste certification at the highest possible level along with a LEED Platinum certification for its energy efficient design and operation. Plans are now underway to launch a joint MBA/master’s in climate solutions degree with Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources.
Many of the school’s advancements have been made possible through the support of its loyal alumni, who continue to make Haas stronger through their engagement as teachers, mentors, employers, partners, and donors to the school.
Harrison said she is looking forward to celebrating the school’s many milestones and to what the future will bring, noting, “We look back with pride, but we move forward to have impact.”
Elena Gomez, BS 91, a finance executive with more than 30 years of experience in leading global organizations, has been named the new chair of the Haas School Board. She is the first woman to serve in the role.
Gomez, chief financial officer at restaurant technology firm Toast, succeeds Jack Russi, BS 82, a national managing partner of corporate development at Deloitte. Russi, who recently retired after a 40-year career at Deloitte, served as Haas School Board chair for nine years.
“We are so thankful to Jack for his boundless wisdom and strategic guidance during his tenure,” said Dean Ann Harrison. “We know that Elena will continue Jack’s legacy of leadership excellence and we look forward to working with her to achieve so many of our future goals.”
The Haas School Board, which meets three times a year, advises the dean and supports the school’s strategic direction. Gomez began her three-year term July 1.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to chair the board, and work alongside Ann and her amazing leadership team to continue to help Haas thrive,” Gomez said.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to chair the board, and work alongside Ann and her amazing leadership team to continue to help Haas thrive.” – Elena Gomez
At Toast, Gomez directs finance and strategy, corporate development, accounting, treasury, and business operations. Prior to Toast, Gomez served as the chief financial officer at Zendesk, where she helped scale the company to over $1 billion in annual revenue. Gomez arrived at Zendesk after serving for six years as senior vice president of finance and strategy at Salesforce.
A strong advocate for more women and diverse leaders in business, Gomez served on the founding advisory council for the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership at Haas. As a Haas Board member since 2019, Gomez, a first-generation college student, has worked with Harrison on strategies to promote inclusion and recruit and retain diverse students.
In a recent Haas podcast, Gomez, the daughter of El Salvadoran immigrants, discussed the importance of being a role model throughout her career. She said she wanted others to see that “not only am I Latina and female, but I want to excel in my role, to show the next generation what is possible.
Gomez is a member of the board of directors at Smartsheet and PagerDuty, and is on the board of The Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. She was also named to the San Francisco Business Times’ 2017 list of “Most Influential Women in Business.”
Thomas Seidl, a data science manager for Red Bull Soccer in Munich, set a goal to get an MBA from a top American university to future-proof his career in sports analytics. Trouble was, he wanted to stay in Germany with his wife and two young children.
“I wanted to see whether there was an option to do an MBA in the United States at a world class university from home basically,” said Seidl, who holds a PhD in computer science in sports. “I was curious about whether I could get into a top-ranked program. I just wanted to give it my best shot.”
Seidl didn’t have any luck finding an online program in the U.S. that met his requirements. But then, while researching the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend Program, he discovered the new Flex MBA option, which lets students take courses remotely with the option to come to campus for electives. It sounded perfect, so Seidl applied and was accepted, joining 68 other students last year in the inaugural Flex cohort, who hail from the U.S., Canada, Egypt, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Flex cohort, launched last year, does things a bit differently. While the evening and weekend MBA cohorts meet in person during scheduled blocks of time throughout their programs—on either evenings or weekends—Flex students take their core courses remotely, with an option to come to campus for electives. For parents, caregivers, and professionals who move or travel often for their careers or for fun, Flex provides what they say they need most: schedule flexibility.
“The Flex program allowed me to stay in Los Angeles and stay very close to my family while also getting an MBA,” said Kevin Haroldo Ramirez, who was a philosophy and legal studies major as a UC Berkeley undergraduate. As a senior consultant at Edgility Consulting, Ramirez said he wanted an MBA to sharpen his business skills as his career progresses in the nonprofit sector.
“It worked out perfectly”
Like Ramirez, about 74% of the Flex class is from outside of the Bay Area, joining from nine California counties and 17 U.S. states. Seven students are living abroad, and many have relocated during the program, says Leah Rozeboom, director of Flex Experience.
Some students living in different time zones, like Seidl, log on in the middle of the night twice a week to take classes. “When class is over at 3 a.m., you start to think about the content and you try to get back to sleep,” he said. “But then your brain just starts to get into all of these ideas about ‘how can I apply this stuff in sports?’ Sometimes it’s difficult, but I think that’s a good sign that I am engaged.”
Kinshuk Verma, a product manager for Electric Hydrogen, who lives in San Jose, Ca., applied to Flex because of her heavy travel schedule. “At my previous job, I was traveling more than 50% of the time, and I knew that the weekend or weekday schedule was not going to work for me,” she said “Once I got into the Flex program, I had a baby, and it worked out perfectly.”
With an equally hectic life, Molly (Hill) Bjorkman, a mom of two who juggles work as a manager for an arts nonprofit and helps run Napa-based GRO wines with her husband, Lars Bjorkman, said she never considered commuting to do an MBA.
For Bjorkman, easing back into school during the first semester was difficult but fulfilling. “The core classes are challenging,” she said. “I am an all As” type so I have to be a little forgiving of myself and the first semester was, ‘how do I do school again? There’s so much that was new and there is still not enough time.” Last semester, Bjorkman, mom to an 11-year-old and 13-year-old, rose at 5 a.m. at her Calistoga, Ca., home to do an hour of asynchronous course work before heading to her local office. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. she joined live classes.
Bjorkman said she was impressed by the camaraderie among the many mothers in Flex. Her study group includes moms Erin Mitsuyoshi, who lives in Hawaii, and Sophie Christian, who lives in Portland, Oregon.
Christian, a college piano professor, said the group’s connection on Slack and at in-person weekend have helped make bonds stronger.
Christian said the pandemic and its many restrictions led her to pursue a new career path for herself that she believes will lead to a bigger impact. “I wanted something more flexible in business so I’m exploring,” she said. “I still run my teaching business but I am letting go of that part of my life. I jumped at the chance when Berkeley offered this program.”
Last April, the Flex cohort convened in Berkeley for an in-person weekend. Students participated in Leadership Communications course sessions on compelling storytelling and finding your authentic leadership style, completed one-on-one coaching sessions, and enjoyed small group dinners with Haas faculty and coffee with students in the evening MBA cohort.
Maria Carkovic, who taught their Macroeconomics class, surprised the cohort in person during lunch at Chou Hall, where they met her for the first time. “It was a wonderful surprise,” said Carkovic, who was chosen by the evening MBA class for the 2023 Cheit Award for teaching excellence. “I think that they were very aware that it was special to be together, so they were interacting to the max and connections were being formed. Life gets very complicated at the age that they go to grad school in business and the Flex program works to their advantage.”
Strong bonds have formed within the group, encouraged in part by cohort representative Lisa Dalgliesh, who is described by many classmates as a connector.
During Flex orientation kickoff, she said she was pleased to meet three other students from Texas sitting at her table. The group now meets for occasional dinners in Texas. Last August, while traveling for work to Washington, D.C., she had dinner and drinks with four classmates, and she hosted classmates when they traveled to Austin for work.
Dalgliesh, who lives in Austin and works as a people strategy and integration leader for Deloitte, said she chose Flex, in part, to stay put in her native Texas and not uproot her life. “I thought there would be a social trade off when you go to a program like this, but that’s not been the case,” she said.“Quite the opposite..It’s fun to visit people in their hubs.”
Flex is “the future of academia,” she added. “This is an equitable approach to ensuring that people from all walks of life and at all different stages of life have an opportunity to tap into an education from a top tier institution from anywhere.” she said.
“This is an equitable approach to ensuring that people from all walks of life and at all different stages of life have an opportunity to tap into an education from a top-tier institution from anywhere.” – Lisa Dalgliesh, EWMBA 25
Class from anywhere
The pandemic, though isolating for many students, proved that both remote work and remote teaching are possible, even preferable for some, which is one reason why Flex applications are rising.
“We don’t take a one-size-fits all approach to our part-time programs for working professionals,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of Berkeley Haas MBA programs. “Flex is an inclusive, future-forward program that works for an increasing number of students who want to earn a world-class degree that fits with their schedules and lives.”
Cairo serves as a perfect base for Scott Diddams to travel all over Europe. “I’ve attended (Haas) MBA lectures from Paris, Athens, London, and Cairo,” said Diddams, a product manager at Microsoft, who logs into class from different time zones. “I feel like I’ve been able to keep up and perform just as well as if I were in person. If anything, as an introvert, it makes it even easier for me to pay attention when I’m in my own space and not worrying about the classroom.”
“I’ve attended (Haas) MBA lectures from Paris, Athens, London, and Cairo,” – Scott Diddams, a product manager at Microsoft.
After coming to campus in April, Diddams, a former paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, stopped in Seattle to work at Microsoft headquarters before flying home. In a meeting with a senior engineer, Diddams said he tested some concepts he’d learned in his marketing class.
The manager gave him excellent feedback, he said. “Having that impact at work is something that I don’t think I would’ve been able to do a year ago before taking these courses,” he said. “I certainly felt much more confident.”
Macroeconomics was a favorite course, he said. “Attending that class from Egypt, which is undergoing a kind of financial inflation crisis, and being able to see that while learning about it,” he said, “that’s the perfect way to learn something.”
Like Diddams, Dalgliesh, who holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in human dimensions of organizations from the University of Texas, Austin, said she believes her MBA will take her to the next step professionally.
“It was important for me to learn more about the business world so I can have a seat at the table,” she said.
Commencement speaker Elena Gomez, BS 91, chief financial officer at Boston-based Toast, told undergrad students to learn “when to take the shot or pass the ball.” Gomez said that some of her observations on teamwork come from coaching a basketball team of 10-year-old girls that had one clear star.
“Part of me was excited about winning a lot of games, but what joy would that bring without getting the rest of the team involved?” she said. “As a player or as a teammate in the workplace, and more importantly as a star, because I see a lot of stars out in the audience, learn when your teammates need you to step up and take that last shot.”
As a leader, she continued, “you will have the opportunity to help others, your team, your colleagues, imagine the impossible. As graduates from Haas, you are ready for all of that. You are ready to be a star and you are ready to pass the ball and you are ready to help others see in themselves what they thought was not possible.”
Dean Ann Harrison noted that:
54% of the undergraduates are women.
47% have earned a dual degree.
20% are the first in their families to attend college
“Look next to you–look in front of you–look behind you,” Harrison said. “You are surrounded by some of the smartest, boldest, coolest people you will meet anywhere in the world.”
Undergraduate Award Winners
Departmental Citation to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business: Noah Oppenheimer
Question the Status Quo: Vedika Dayal
Confidence Without Attitude: Charissa Pham
Students Always: Jordan Laredo
Beyond Yourself: Vala Makhfi
Student speaker: Nina Dickens
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Lecturer Stephen Etter, BS 83, MBA 89 Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Khalil Somani, MBA 23
MBA Commencement (FTMBA + EWMBA)
Commencement speaker Frank Cooper III, BS 86, chief marketing officer at Visa, told graduates to embrace risk, reflecting on his transition from working in a law firm to the music industry.
“The fact that life is short is precisely the reason we should take risks rather than fear them,” he said. “It turns out there’s no such thing as a no-risk proposition anyway, even along what feels like the safest and surest path. From economic recession, to industry bubbles, to political surprises—we’ve all seen immovable mountains crumble.”
By taking a risk, Cooper said his varied experiences gave him the opportunity to work with extraordinary people, including Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lionel Messi, Magic Johnson, Eva Longoria, and Forest Whitaker.
What did they share in common? “They had an idea about their purpose in the world and had the courage to push back against uncertainty,” he said.
Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Kewenvoyouma
Confidence Without Attitude: Via Abolencia
Student Always: Julia Konso Mbakire
Beyond Yourself: Julian M. Ramirez, Jr.
Berkeley Leader: Afraz Khan
Student Speaker: Ricky Ghoshal
Academic Achievement Award: Math Williams (3.992)
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Professor Lucas Davis
Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Zia Mehmood, MS 20, PhD 24
EWMBA 2023 Award Winners
Question the Status Quo: Bob Wang
Confidence Without Attitude: Ana Martinez
Students Always: Krupa Patel
Beyond Yourself: Supriya Golas
Outstanding Academic Performance: Andrew Hurley
Student speaker: Farzad Yousefi
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Evening MBA Program: Lecturer Maria Carkovic Weekend MBA Program: Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): Mahek Chheda
Jayaditya Sethi, BS 24 (double major in business and computer science), along with Sahil Mehta, BS 23, (Business & Electrical Engineering/Computer Science) and Ethan Jagoda, BS 24, (computer science), founded Scribble AI, an AI startup that placed third in the recent UC Berkeley LAUNCH accelerator pitch day. The startup is also part of the Batch 16 startup cohort at the UC Berkeley SkyDeck accelerator. We recently asked Sethi, who will be a software engineering intern at PayPal this summer, five questions about Scribble AI. (Download the app here.)
Tell us what ScribbleAI is and how people use it?
Scribble AI is a simple mobile interface people can download that uses AI to effortlessly create customized written content live on iOS and Android phones. It can be used to generate emails, poems, tweets and everything in between across 12 different languages and 20+ style customizations.
What is your favorite way to use ChatGPT (an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI)?
Our favorite use for ChatGPT is for debugging code as this was crucial for us to launch the app within two weeks without any prior mobile development experience.
How did you meet your co-founders Ethan and Sahil?
We have been close friends since starting at UC Berkeley. Sahil and Ethan met through the startup accelerator and consulting club Entrepreneurs@Berkeley. Ethan and I met through a class and are now roommates. We have all collaborated on previous projects, such as being part of Entrepreneurs@Berkeley leadership and co-founding a music club together.
What is the most important takeaway from participating in LAUNCH?
Our biggest takeaway from LAUNCH was to constantly challenge our assumptions about our business. During each workshop, the mentors at LAUNCH questioned our hypotheses about our product and its use cases, helping us find a scalable business model. For example, we learned to find the root causes of a customer’s problem, rather than simply take what a user says at face value. These are lessons we will carry for years as we continue our startup journey!
What are your plans for Scribble AI now?
We plan to scale up traction in international markets, particularly among social media creators who need a tool to write content 10 times faster. We are also developing the premium version of our app, which will be tailored to each user’s specific needs
A student team that imagined a plan for Hyundai Cradle to build an electric-powered mobile medical fleet and market it in North America won the 2023 Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) Challenge.
Hyundai Cradle, Hyundai Motor Group’s Mountain View, Calif.-based open innovation and investment arm, sponsored the challenge, which was held April 23 at Berkeley Haas.
Cradle challenged students to develop novel business models for the company’s future PBV market launch in North America. Hyundai Motor Group is in the final stages of building a flexible automobile base, called a skateboard, that can be used to produce many kinds of PVBs—vehicles ranging from ambulances to passenger shuttles to delivery fleets for small businesses.
The first-place team took home $15,000 for its pitch. Winning team members included Srivatsa Chakravarthy, EWMBA 25; Oleksandr Krotenko, EMBA 23; Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25; and Simeon Ryan, EWMBA 25.
The competing teams, composed of graduate students from across all three Haas MBA programs and the UC Berkeley School of Information, participated in a semester-long series of training sessions, focused on the Lean Startup method and customer discovery training. The top three finalist teams were then tasked with finding and validating novel business models for PBVs that they pitched to judges at the end of the program.
“This was a fantastic way to showcase students from across all three of our MBA programs,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). “The program also provided a perfect opportunity for our MBA students to work with top graduate students from across the campus.”
Solving real problems
The winning group pitched a fix for emergency medical services that they described as “antiquated, expensive, and ripe for technological disruption.” The team suggested that Cradle partner with industry leader AMR (American Medical Response) to capitalize on the company’s market share and need to contract with an outsourced fleet.
Marcus, who works in corporate finance, said she was excited to work on solving a real problem experienced by a company outside of her industry.
“Going through the pitching process with judges was the pinnacle business school experience I’ve always wanted to try since I started my EWMBA,” she said. During Lean Launch, she said her group conducted more than 30 interviews with potential clients. “We had to pivot a couple times from our original idea to make sure we were solving problems for them,” she said. “Ultimately this led us to think hard and adapt so we could develop a detailed business plan that would benefit potential clients.”
During the pitch day, Kia’s vice president of new business planning, Ju yup Kang, a judge for the competition, outlined how KIA is transforming from a car company to a “full mobility solution provider.” Henry Chung, senior vice president and head of Hyundai Cradle, said the students had clearly put in a lot of effort to develop creative solutions to difficult problems.
Chung; Kang; Changwoo Kim, a chief coordinator at Cradle; Tafflyn Toy, an open innovation project manager at Hyundai Cradle; and Nick Triantos, chief architect, automotive system software at Nvidia, served as the final challenge judges.
Team Ingenium took second place ($10,000) with a pitch for all-in-one fleet management. Members included Reggie Draper, EMBA 23; Michael LaFramboise, MBA/MEng 24; Matthew McGoffin, MBA/MEng 23; and Michael Yang, MIMS (master of information management and systems) 23.
Team Mobility Moguls took third place ($5,000) for a strategy that addressed a mobile future for police & security. Team members included Anmol Aggarwal, EWMBA 24; Suveda Dhoot, MBA 24; Hrishikesh Nagaraju, MIMS 24; Nithin Ravindra, EWMBA 23, MIMS 24; and Lutong Yang.
John Graft, MBA 24, admits that he went “a little overboard” competing in four stock competitions during his first year at Haas. But the hours spent paid off. His team’s stock pitch in front of judges at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler led to a coveted summer internship offer at his first-choice firm: Harris Associates in Chicago.
“The person who interviewed me at Harris had listened to me pitch at the UNC competition,” Graft said. For Graft and a group of Berkeley Haas students focused on careers in public markets investing, stock pitch competitions are an integral part of the Haas finance experience, allowing students to synthesize stock research and network with top firms that often judge the competitions.
Public markets investing is on the rise at Haas, said Bill Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs for finance. Six first-year students seeking positions in public markets investing accepted summer internships at top investment firms including Blackrock, TCW, PIMCO, Clearbridge, Harris Associates, and Neuberger Berman.
“A decade ago we had up to a dozen MBA students going to public markets investing roles in a year,” he said. “Over time, student interest shifted more to tech investment banking and venture capital. While those interests remain strong, it’s great to see public markets investing bouncing back.”
Multiple internship offers
In a particularly difficult year for hiring, Haas exceeded expectations this year, with some students receiving multiple offers, said Ryan Tan, MBA 23, a Double Bear and the Berkeley Haas Investment Club president, who has worked closely with undergraduate and MBA peers to create more finance opportunities. That included bringing an impressive array of top industry speakers to Haas like Christina Ma, MBA 01, a partner and head of Greater China Equities at Goldman Sachs; Ben Meng, MFE 03, executive vice president and chairman of Asia Pacific at Franklin Templeton, and Ben Allen, MBA 05, CEO of Parnassus Investments.
In a particularly difficult year for hiring, Haas exceeded expectations this year, with some students receiving multiple offers. — Ryan Tan, MBA 23
Wearing many hats, Tan is also a graduate student instructor for the undergraduate Financial Economics course and a principal with the pioneering Haas Sustainable Investment Fund. (Since 2008, student principals in the Sustainable Investment Fund have more than tripled the initial investment to over $4 million, learning about SRI and ESG investment strategies and practices.)
Students in the public markets investing track agree that their group is collaborative, helping each other both in class and during job searches. They’re also given the chance to participate in a half-dozen stock pitch competitions that the club enters annually.
At competitions, teams develop a thesis around a stock or bond, build a financial model to value the security, evaluate the risks of the investment, and build a Powerpoint after synthesizing the research. “You put this together and pitch the security to a panel of judges, all of whom work at the top investment management firms,” Graft said.
Navigating pitch competitions
MBA students credit Tan for mentoring teams on how to navigate a pitch competition.
“He helped us to understand what the judges were looking for,” said Austin Schoff, MBA 24, a co-president of the Haas Investment Club, who led an MBA student team at the MIT Sloan School Stock Pitch Competition last November. Haas placed second at MIT Sloan, second at Chicago Booth, and third at the UNC Alpha Challenge.
Schoff, who came to Haas planning to pivot from private wealth management, landed an internship this summer with the equity research team at TCW.
“Ryan has done an enormous amount of work,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and is a founding partner at Greyrock Capital Group. “It’s nice to see when a student goes beyond himself for the benefit of all.”
Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24, competed in a pitch challenge online hosted by Columbia Business School and at the in-person event at Chicago Booth.
“At Haas, we go to as many challenges as we want and that gives you exposure to all the firms and prepares you to pitch a stock or bond,” he said. “That’s a huge part of the interview process, and having the practice of pitching gives you a leg up.” A Toigo Fellow and a Haas Finance Fellow, Jefferson will intern at Clearbridge this summer.
“At Haas, we go to as many challenges as we want and that gives us exposure to all the firms and prepares you to pitch a stock or bond.” —Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24
After participating in multiple pitch competitions—as usually the only woman or one of two women—on the team, Meredith Albion, MBA 24, noted that the competitions would benefit from having more female members.
As a Berkeley Haas Finance Fellow in investment management Albion was assigned a female mentor, who helped prepare her to interview for summer internships. (All 12 of the Finance Fellows named each year are assigned a Haas alumni mentor.) Albion credits her mentor with helping her land an internship at PIMCO in Newport Beach this summer. Like other first-year MBA students in the Investment Club, she plans to work on the Haas Sustainable investment Fund next year and integrate sustainable investing into her career.
With Albion, Schoff, and Graft at the helm as co-presidents of the Haas Investment Club —Tan said he’s confident that Haas will continue its success.
“The message we need to get out is that if you come to Haas for investment management and sustainable investing you will be involved and plugged in, you will be given mentorship,” Tan said. “And people get jobs.”
UC Berkeley student Egbert Villegas was driving his girlfriend, Nelly Elahmadie, to a doctor’s appointment last November when the pair spied an SUV flipped over on the freeway in Oakland.
They were on their way from Walnut Creek to Berkeley; the accident came into view right before the Caldecott Tunnel.
Other drivers were whizzing past the unsettling scene, but Villegas “sprang into action,” said Elahmadie, pulling over to a safe spot and then running to the overturned vehicle to help the driver, who was still strapped to his seat.
Last week Thursday, Villegas, a molecular and cell biology major, was honored on campus for his effort with a $1,000 award, a framed certificate and a performance by the Straw Hat Band. It all was a complete surprise, he said, since “I never expected anything out of this … I was always taught to do things out of the kindness of your heart.”
That’s exactly why Alan Ross, a lecturer and distinguished teaching fellow at the Haas School of Business, founded the Chris Kindness Award, which Ross gives monthly for a random act of kindness to a person who lives, works or goes to school in the city of Berkeley.
Ross, who has taught business ethics at Berkeley Haas for 33 years, named the award for Chris Walton, who was a preschool teacher for his daughter Haley, 21, and son Danny, 18. Walton, who died in 2012, “imbued in his young pupils a strong sense of community, charity and care,” said Ross.
The kindness award also aligns with what Ross teaches in his ethics course, The Social, Political, and Ethical Environment of Business. “When I teach corporate social responsibility, I call it ‘citizens’ social responsibility,’ for the responsibility we have as citizens,” he said. “What responsibility do we have? What more can I do?
The award definitely ties into what we teach, and the students see me doing this and not just talking about it.”
The graduating Master of Financial Engineering Class of 2023 was urged to work together and use finance to solve the biggest global problems—from pandemic to climate change.
Commencement Speaker Ben Meng, MFE 03, executive vice president and chairman of Asia Pacific, head of Global Private Equity, and the executive sponsor of Sustainability at Franklin Templeton, told the class to use their finance careers to change lives for the better. “Do well and do good at the same time,” said Meng, the former Chief Investment Officer for the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). During the COVID 19 pandemic, the private and public sector came together, Meng said, and through the combination of innovation and capital, the world dealt with the crisis.
He also urged the grads to lean on their loved ones, their Haas and Berkeley networks, and their relationships formed with each other during the MFE program, noting that a “healthy support system increases the chance of success.”
During the ceremony, held in Andersen Auditorium, Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison said that the 80 MFE grads will join those alumni who are using what they’ve learned at Haas to benefit the world.
“We have MFE alums at the highest reaches of the financial system,” said Harrison, who conferred degrees with MFE Program Director Jacob Gallice. “You will be the next generation of highly valued analysts, thinkers, consultants, and contributors.”
Award winners at commencement included:
Salutatorian: Wenhao Luan
Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Professor Johan Walden
Brett Fallentine, BS 03 (business), and BA 03 (film studies), is releasing his documentary Fire on the Hill: The Cowboys of South Central LA on several streaming platforms this month, including Amazon Prime Video. The film centers on a group of urban cowboys and the last public horse stable in South Central, Los Angeles—and the aftermath of a mysterious fire that destroyed it. PBS will broadcast Fire on The Hill in June to celebrate the federal Juneteenth Holiday.
An award-winning documentary and commercial director, Fallentine started his film career as an apprentice editor to George Lucas on the film Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith. He now runs his own film company, Preamble Pictures. He is currently working on a new film about a family that defied all odds to survive the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Sonoma.
Haas News: So how did you find the story that became Fire on the Hill?
Brett Fallentine: I had heard about this riding community when I moved to LA, and I became really fascinated with it—the juxtaposition of this rural equestrian lifestyle in this neighborhood with rival gang culture located at the juncture of two major freeways in Los Angeles. It’s a place that you would never expect to see something like this happen but it’s this culture that’s been there since the1940s. A lot of famous riders have come out of this stable who’ve gone on to become world champions in rodeo, but no one really knew that at the time. Ultimately, that was one reason why I became so interested in the story.
So how did you find the Hill?
I went to places where people said they’d seen the riders before and no one showed up. Through several trips, I found manure and followed a trail that led to the Hill horse stable. I started interviewing and one interview led to another and another and they invited me on a ride. I wasn’t sure of the story at first, but after the Hill stable fire, I started learning about the history of the stable, the impact it had on the youth in the community, and why having this culture was important for them. I ended up meeting their families and watching them grow up over subsequent years of filming.
Did making this film shatter a lot of stereotypes for you?
One of the big themes that started to emerge was that positive stories like this one don’t really emerge from South Central because popular media tends to focus on the area’s violence and crime. I grew up in the 1990s when movies like Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood popularized that area. So I believed that part of LA was dangerous and I avoided it. When I learned that this riding culture existed it sparked my curiosity enough to go down there and see for myself. I became interested in the story behind the Hill and the community of riders I met really changed my mind and my feelings about this area in a way that never would have happened otherwise.
Watch the trailer for Fire on the Hill.
You track multiple stories in the film, all different and compelling.
We follow Ghuan Featherstone, who worked with the youth in the community at the Hill. Among the rival gangs, the stable has always been a neutral zone that provides a way for kids to not only work with animals but to work with kids from other neighborhoods who they would not normally interact with. Since the fire, Ghuan has started a non-profit inspired by the Hill Stable called Urban Saddles. We follow Chris Byrd, a rising bull rider from Compton, who enters his rookie year of professional rodeo. There’s also Calvin Gray, who having found freedom on the back of a horse, must choose between the cowboy lifestyle and his family. Their stories shine a fresh light on what it means to be a modern “cowboy” in an urban world.
Their stories shine a fresh light on what it means to be a modern “cowboy” in an urban world.
How did Ghuan work with local youths? Were there challenges?
The kids in the neighborhood would wander into this stable, just mesmerized. They would first learn to care for the animals and eventually get to ride. But one of the quick lessons learned is that these animals are big and you can’t force them to do anything so you’re going to have to work with them. Ghuan told me about kids who learned to solve differences based on how tough they were. Soon they found out that you can’t really do that on a horse. You have to be willing to work with a horse and those insights started to carry over into how they were settling their differences back in their neighborhoods. That became an important message throughout the community.
How long did you work on this film?
I began filming in 2011 and the stable fire happened a few months into the process. The film took about five to six years after that to make because the subject’s stories were constantly evolving, even while we were in editorial. So I’d grab my camera and follow up on their stories. We completed the film in 2019, and showed it at festivals. Amazon Prime picked it up and released it in 2020, a time when the world was focused on Covid. So we’re thrilled to have it re-released on streaming channels like Amazon and have it nationally broadcast later this year through PBS.
We’re thrilled to have it re-released on streaming channels like Amazon and have it nationally broadcast later this year through PBS.
You said that you rode horses during the making of Fire on the Hill. Where did you learn to ride?
I did have some experience riding as a kid and riding was something that was always around me, but I had never really learned to ride until making this film. The cowboys provided a lot of opportunities to ride in South LA after the cameras had wrapped for the day. The men and women there were very open and willing to teach me and it’s become more of a part of my life now.
You entered UC Berkeley as a molecular and cellular biology major. How did you land in film?
I switched majors my sophomore year, which is pretty late in the game, especially going from science into the arts and business. I had always been behind a camera as a kid, making little movies and commercials growing up, but my family was science-focused, so that was the assumed route. I was in class in a lab one day and there was kind of an epiphany where I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ and at that moment I switched from being an MCB student to double majoring in Film Studies and business at Haas.
How do the two degrees work together in your career?
They work hand in hand. I started working on Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith during my last semester at Berkeley, and I was using a lot more of what I’d learned at Haas than I was with the film studies.Over the years, I’ve found myself going back to what I learned in marketing, accounting and organizational behavior. Film is a business and having that knowledge has been super important to me.
Classified articles spotlight some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.
It’s week four of the Climate Change and Business Strategy course at Berkeley Haas, and Senior Lecturer Andrew Isaacs kicks off with a slide that compares China’s CO2 emissions to those of the U.S. and other countries.
“What you notice right away is a three-fold increase coming from China,” he said, noting that the country’s blazing economic growth has come with a huge increase in demand for energy. “This is like nothing the world has experienced. China is the elephant in the room right now, even though the US still leads the world in cumulative emissions of planet-warming gasses.”
As class continues, Isaacs covers the different potencies of the main greenhouse gasses, presents a quick tutorial on the First Law of Thermodynamics—energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another—and posts graphs that show how much countries have warmed over time and track loss of ice and snow around the world. “There will be a September within your lifetime that sees an ice-free Arctic Ocean,” he tells the 51 Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students in the class at Chou Hall.
It’s a lot for students to take in. “I knew there was a crisis, but to see how it might play out is mind blowing,” said Harry Davies, MBA 23, who interned for Impossible Foods last summer and plans to pursue a career at the intersection of sustainability and food.
“I knew there was a crisis, but to see how it might play out is mind blowing,” – Harry Davies, MBA 23.
After launching the course two years ago, Isaacs’ worry about the planet’s fate has only escalated. “We’re only starting to grapple with these problems,” he said. “In the coming weeks of class we’ll look at the various solutions available to us. But if we get climate change wrong, it doesn’t matter what else we get right.”
One key to getting it right? Electrification—and moving away from the inefficiency of fossil fuels, particularly gasoline-powered automobiles, Isaacs told students. “If I’m driving to work in a gasoline-powered car, 10% of the energy in each gallon of gas I burn gets me to work, and the other 90% goes to heating up the air around the car. You wanted mobility, but you used something—an automobile —that instead is good at producing heat,” he said. “Our economy is built substantially on the inefficient and inappropriate use of resources.”
“Our economy is built substantially on the inefficient and inappropriate use of resources.” – Andrew Isaacs
Response to a wildfire
Isaacs created the Climate Change and Business Strategy course after being forced to evacuate his home in Napa, California, during the 2020 North Bay wildfires. A geochemist by training who started his career as a scientist at NASA, Isaacs didn’t end up losing his house. But the fire did lead him to examine how he could do more to educate students about climate change. Since introducing the course, he also helped Haas launch a summer minor in sustainability open to all UC Berkeley undergraduates.
The class has filled up every semester. It helps immensely that Haas Dean Ann Harrison and Sustainability Director Michele de Nevers have both supported the sustainability course since its inception, Isaacs said.
“Drew’s course is critical to ensuring that our students graduate equipped to take on both the challenges and opportunities that climate change poses to business and our world,” de Nevers said. “A basic understanding of the fundamental science of climate change is critical to implementing and evaluating whether a business’s sustainability efforts are effective or just greenwashing.”
“A basic understanding of the fundamental science of climate change is critical to implementing and evaluating whether a business’s sustainability efforts are effective or just greenwashing.” – Michele de Nevers
The class covers a sweeping number of topics, including climate governance, carbon offsets, carbon capture and storage, greenwashing versus informed decision making, and investing in climate solutions. Students also examine corporate strategies, studying Apple’s climate roadmap, Tesla’s impact report, and Unilever’s progress. Guest speakers this semester include Peter Fiske, MBA 02, director of the Berkeley Lab’s Water-Energy Resilience Institute, and Phoebe Wang, an investment partner at the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, who will discuss climate startups.
In April, Graduate Student Instructor Natàlia Costa i Coromina, who has taught the class since fall 2021, will teach a session, exploring a case she co-wrote with Isaacs that questions whether Gen Z’s climate knowledge matches its climate concern.
Costa i Coromina, a second-year student in the Master of Development Practice at UC Berkeley, said she wants students who enter the course with “radical passion and a willingness to learn,” and to leave not deflated by climate anxiety, but instead with an action plan and a systems change mindset.
“They learn how hard it is going to be, because climate change will be (and is already) impacting every aspect of our lives” she said. “We equip students with the science, from the Keeling Curve (a daily record of global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration) and GHG emissions to offsets and resiliency; and then their eyes open to what does this all means for business: that, in fact, every single department—marketing, supply chain, operations, finance, HR—has a role to play.”
Filling in the gaps
Students said they had a wide variety of reasons for enrolling in the class, from a desire to create more effective policies at work to exploring the science of climate change to making more effective changes in their personal and work lives.
Himanshi Arora, MBA 24, came to Haas after working as an operations manager at Procter & Gamble, where she considered how to make packaging more sustainable and delivery more efficient. “I’ve been thinking about getting deeper into climate change and sustainability for a while,” she said. “Climate change is such a huge problem that will impact every corner of the Earth, particularly people who are marginalized. I took this class because I want to know if my thinking (about how to make change) is right and to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.”
Some students, including Rathin Ramesh, EWMBA 23, enrolled in the course as part of earning the Michaels Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business, which includes nine units of sustainability coursework over the course of the MBA program. Ramesh said the course will help him to make more impactful decisions for his company, a cannabis delivery service. “All of my drivers use cars, and two of them have a Prius. In trying to apply this knowledge one of the first things you’d do is figure out how to electrify your fleet or implement more sustainable growing practices at the farms we work with.”
Joy Wang, MBA 23, who is from China and has lived in the U.S. for a decade, said the world—not just China—shoulders the responsibility for turning the climate crisis around. Wang, who will work at EY Parthenon after graduating, said many projects she worked on while interning at EY required a sustainability strategy. “One day, these projects will be a bigger part of my job, so I want to prepare,” she said.
For more than six years, Danner Doud-Martin helped lead the school’s progress in sustainability—from leading the effort to make Chou Hall the first zero-waste building on campus to planting pollinator gardens around Haas to leading volunteers planting hundreds of trees in the community. Now, Doud-Martin, former assistant director of the International Business Development (IBD) Program at Haas, has been named the first full-time director of campus sustainability.
In her new role, one of her first projects is tapping what she learned in a night course to build a carbon roadmap for Haas that will quantify what sustainability goals Haas has attained so far and what remains to be done. Haas News recently interviewed Doud-Martin about her plans for further reducing waste, making Haas more energy efficient, and working across the UC Berkeley campus to be a part of the overall strategy for achieving net zero by 2025.
Over the past six years, you’ve worn two hats as assistant director of IBD and the school’s zero waste/sustainability lead. How did you turn the sustainability role into a full-time job?
I feel really fortunate that Dean Harrison has made this a priority because it meant that I was able to convince Haas senior leadership that this is a full-time role.
What are your first priorities?
One of the things about having a team and a true strategic plan is that our Office of Sustainability can spend time thinking through not only what zero waste means but understanding the data—and what we’re diverting from landfill. We also want to understand what emissions we produce at Haas and how we can reduce our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Zero waste is a big part of our goal, but so is energy and transportation. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to understand Haas’ energy, water, and transportation data soon and that we will be able to tell the story of how Haas, within a huge university, is making significant reductions and changes.
What is Haas’s role in helping the UC Berkeley campus reach its zero waste goals?
UC Berkeley has committed to the strongest ban on plastic in the country and has mandated that we need to eliminate single-use plastic by 2030 Haas continues to be the place that the rest of campus watches. Zero waste is not only about Chou Hall but the initiatives that we’ve continued to roll out and/or pilot. The reusables (utensils, mugs, water bottles, etc.) program is one of them. We’re trying to think through how to make reusables work. There is a logistical piece: can they be washed on site or do they need to transported to be washed? What is the footprint? Are we really helping the environment with reusables versus a compostable?
How are you working now to eliminate plastic on campus?
This is about finding solutions to something as simple as eliminating single-use balloons and replacing them with vinyl reusable balloons that can be blown up many times. We’ve told our campus event planners about the vinyl balloons, so demand is up and we’ve expanded our inventory. We also want to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Haas, which is why we are planning graduation without plastic water bottles this year. We are all brainstorming on what we can provide to guests and graduates to replace plastic. Graduation gowns are another thing that we’re tackling. Haas has taken back graduation gowns for years and offers whatever is collected to next years’ students. We hope to scale this program to be able to eliminate single use gowns—and the UC Berkeley CAL Zero Waste team is trying to get it to happen campus-wide this year. They’re trying to turn it around fast. We’re really starting to put in these policies and find solutions.
We also want to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Haas, which is why we are planning graduation without plastic water bottles this year.
Haas moved away from plastics to “compostable” utensils years ago, and now your goal is to move away from these PLA single-use compostable utensils and clamshells made of materials like corn starch and sugar cane toward reusables. How compostable are the single-use “compostable” products?
You have to put all of it in a 40-day, high-heat commercial composting system. You cannot put it in your backyard compost.
Where do we send ours?
We send all of our composting to the Richmond Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where we recently planted 150 redwood trees as part of our efforts to offset our paper use through printing. We also planted trees at Verde Elementary School across the street from the MFR in an effort to green their school yard.
How does the reusables program work?
FoodWare, a student startup that we’ve been working with since last spring, helped us replace 4,200 clamshell food containers with reusable containers between spring and winter of 2022. Our goal for the next semester is 6,500. The Dean’s Speaker Series lunches are done completely with reusables. We are having conversations with all the different program offices about expanding reusables at their events. I’m also working with a student team that’s part of a course called Zero Waste Lab. They’re going to put together a lifecycle analysis for us that will show the environmental and financial footprint of a compostable clamshell versus a reusable one. Reusable cutlery is a dream of mine because those are the hardest things to break down.
How has the pandemic impacted support for the reusable strategy?
We’ve seen pushback with reusables, specifically because of fear of COVID. We’ve been slowly working to get both our catering and the cafe back to a place of comfort around health protocols and reusables. This semester, Café Think is taking reusable mugs and filling them with coffee drinks. Guests save 25 cents each time they refill a reusable. Haas also gave all full-time MBA students bamboo utensil sets this year, building on the water bottles and coffee mugs given out a couple of years ago. It’s all about behavior change. I keep my bamboo utensil set in my purse at all times. When you see people pulling out their own forks, you feel more comfortable doing it.
How do you inspire more people to make the changes you need them to make?
Lots of education and incentives. Fill It Forward, a company we have partnered with over the years, makes an app that works with barcodes to track when you refill your water bottle or coffee mug. It sends the information to a central hub and tracks your impact. Fill It Forward also has a mission to donate water to communities in need. As we know, students like to have things gamified and many of these apps offer prizes for engaging. Now that I’m in this role 100%, I can think about how to utilize more incentives and gamification to engage people more and create behavior change.
Can you talk about planned upgrades to systems in other campus buildings, beyond Chou Hall?
We’re trying to figure out how to make energy-saving improvements and whether we can install solar in our Faculty Services, Cheit, and Student Services buildings. But our first priority is the new Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. As the hub is being renovated, we have to think about what we can do during the construction and operations phases to hit all of the sustainability points. Because this is a renovation rather than new construction, we won’t be able to have the same level of certification on this project that we had with Chou, but I’m looking at what we can do in a smaller building. Regardless, we want to push ourselves to make a significant impact wherever we can from a sustainability standpoint.
Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison, lauded for keeping the school’s six business programs ranked among the world’s best and significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the faculty, has been appointed to serve a second five-year term.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin announced Harrison’s reappointment today. Her new term begins July 1, 2023.
“Please join us in congratulating Ann on her reappointment and her many accomplishments,” they said in a campus announcement. “With a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability, and DEIJB (diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging), her bold and transformative vision for the future of Haas will continue to set it apart from other top business schools.”
Harrison said she is thrilled by the reappointment and the opportunity to continue supporting student learning and well-being, growing the faculty and providing them with the necessary resources to conduct groundbreaking research, teaming up with the superb staff, and strengthening the school’s finances and reputation.
“As a public university, our mission is to transform the lives of as many students as possible and lead the world with path-breaking research,” Harrison said. “I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”
“I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”
Advancing the mission
Harrison is the 15th dean of Haas and the second woman to lead the school. Her new book, “Globalization, Firms, and Workers” (World Scientific Books, 2022), collects her path-breaking work on globalization and international trade. She is now the world’s most highly cited scholar on foreign direct investment.
Harrison earned her BA from UC Berkeley in economics and history, and her PhD from Princeton University. She held previous professorships in UC Berkeley’s College of Agricultural and Resource Economics as well as at Columbia University and the Wharton School, where she was the William H. Wurster Professor of Management.
At Haas since January 2019, Harrison has advanced the school’s mission in a number of critical areas, including:
increasing the size of the faculty, which allowed for diversification and the creation of new faculty groups. Since she arrived in 2019, Harrison has led the hiring of 33 new professors; 52% are women and 52% are people of color.
creating the first Flex online MBA cohort at any top business school. Haas applied learnings from the pandemic, using new technology to make the MBA available to expanded groups of international students and working parents who require flexible schedules.
raising a record $200 million over the last four years, including a record $69 million last year. Under Harrison, Haas secured the largest single gift in the school’s history—$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66—to turn the undergraduate program into a four-year program.
committing to making Haas a more inclusive school by creating a more diverse Haas Advisory Board; employing extensive resources to diversify the student body; rethinking faculty and staff hiring; and incorporating anti-bias training for senior leaders, staff, and students.
Harrison said she will continue to work with her team to strengthen academics as well as the student experience at Haas. One important goal is to ensure that the school’s six degree programs remain the best in the world. In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record high for the program. US News & World Report ranks both the highly-selective Haas Undergraduate Program and the Evening & Weekend MBA Program #2 in the U.S. The Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE)Program is also ranked #2 globally.
In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record-high for Haas.
Three priority areas
She also plans to continue work in her three priority areas: sustainability, DEIJB, and entrepreneurship.
“Business plays a critical role in mainstreaming everything from fighting climate change to creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces,” Harrison said. “Haas is preparing students to lead in those areas.” The school’s Accounting Group, for example, is assessing SEC proposals to increase financial disclosure requirements for climate risk, she said.
In sustainability, Harrison brought in Michele de Nevers, a top sustainability expert, from the World Bank, whose team has worked to combine the existing sustainability curriculum with new courses. By the end of 2023, all core courses at Haas will be on track to incorporate cases, topics, and assignments that will empower students to address climate change and other sustainability challenges through business. Haas is now set apart as the only school that offers depth and breadth across all of the key sustainability areas aligned with the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education: energy, food, real estate/built environment, corporate social responsibility, and impact finance.
In diversity and inclusion, Harrison oversaw the building of a team led by Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista, which includes four full-time staff and a part-time diversity expert who is working with faculty on curriculum and teaching. This past spring, the school launched its first-ever core course on leading diverse teams.
Known for its strength in entrepreneurship and innovation, Haas will be breaking ground on a new entrepreneurship hub this spring. In partnership with UC Berkeley, which is the #1 public institution for startup founders (as reported by Pitchbook), the hub will bring together students from across campus to network and innovate. On the faculty side, Harrison oversaw the creation of the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation faculty group in 2020.
Harrison, who has deep relationships with leaders across UC Berkeley, has also prioritized cross-campus collaboration, increasing the number of academic programs offered by Haas. She worked closely with the Berkeley School of Public Health and School of Law to bolster their joint programs and launched the Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program with the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, the MBA/MEng degree with the College of Engineering, and the summer minor in sustainable business and policy with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
She is currently developing a concurrent degree program for a joint MBA and master’s degree in climate solutions with the Rausser College of Natural Resources.
Merrick Robinson Osborne is the first postdoctoral scholar hired in a new Berkeley Haas program focused on racial equity in business. Osborne, who grew up in Portland, Ore., studieshow organizations address (or don’t address) prejudice at work and how that impacts social hierarchy.
As a postdoctoral scholar, Osborne will research new ideas, collaborate with Haas faculty, and advise doctoral students. He received a BA in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before earning a PhD at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in 2022.
Osborne recently discussed how his family influences his work, his research findings, and his future teaching plans with Haas News.
Who are some researchers who inspired you?
At the beginning of my PhD program, I was fascinated by a lot of the work by Haas Professors Cameron Anderson and Jenny Chatman, and I’m still very interested in their work. But I also hold interest in how other fields of study speak to the work that I want to do. Recently I read Audre Lorde’s book Sister Outsider, which was provocative because it spoke to the way I’ve been seeing diversity efforts develop. She says that “Black and third-world people are expected to educate white people about our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade responsibility for their own actions”. I wanted to represent this in my field because I think it has a very practical application.
How do you see it applying?
There are a lot of social hierarchy-related questions in her book. How do white people see people of color explaining racism? How do these conversations that Audre Lorde describes lead to conflict? And how did that impact her status and power? I’m starting to see more intersections with my work outside of my own field, which is really exciting.
Your mom is an experienced social worker and therapist. Has she sparked any research ideas?
My mom, dad, and sister have all touched my research in different ways. My mom’s job as a licensed clinical social worker, and experienced therapist, is to dive under the surface and ask more about what her clients are experiencing. Part of what I want to do is understand the assumptions that we hold about the way our world operates and the way people operate together in the world. But I also want to challenge those assumptions. In talking with my mom, I get a sense for how I can start asking questions.
My dad had a career in corporate America, where he was the first and only person of color. While rising to an executive position, he had to navigate a lot of issues that play out in the work that I am doing. He’ll say,”Oh, that actually relates to this experience that I had or that relates to something that I saw somebody else doing.” An important question is how to make the workplace a better place, especially for people who experience it as a dangerous place, or at least a mildly unsafe place.
An important question is how to make the workplace a better place, especially for people who experience it as a dangerous place, or at least a mildly unsafe place.
My sister’s interests have also shaped my research. She graduated from Howard University, an HBCU, before coming home to work in Portland. Very white spaces are not completely alien to either of us, and I think she has been comfortable moving back. But within that comfort, she does experience some discomfort. And a lot of discomfort that we share comes with being asked to do diversity work at work. Talking to her about her experiences has helped inspire and motivate me to develop research that speaks to her experiences, because I know she is not alone in having them.
What did you focus on during your PhD program?
My dissertation was on confronting prejudice at work, and what happens to a disadvantaged group member who witnesses an advantaged group member confront prejudice and then asks for that person’s input. There’s a lot of depth to it. For example, two men and a woman are in a room. One of the men says something problematic and sexist. The other man speaks up, but then asks for the woman’s input on what she experienced. I was curious about how one disadvantaged group member views these confrontations—when a man speaks up before the woman even has a chance to—and how that woman feels about being drawn into these spaces involuntarily.
At a broader level, when there is a display of prejudice at work, people look for insight about how to address that display effectively and increase inclusion. And oftentimes, they don’t know whom to turn to so they turn to people who they think are best suited for addressing prejudice, which are usually the people who are directly impacted by the prejudice display. I think that can be good, and that can be bad. It’s just important for us to really dissect what happens to the people whose input is sought, and the outcomes they experience.
What will you be working on at Haas in 2023?
A lot of my work now for the next month or two is going to be finishing up my work from USC. I do want to explore more with the folks here on how disadvantaged group members view diversity efforts more broadly. I’m excited to do that through avenues like the Culture Center that Jenny Chatman co-directs, but also through the research and teaching of Drew Jacoby-Senghor and Sa-kiera Hudson, who co-teach the new core course called Business Communication in Diverse Work Environments. I think it’s really important and nice to see the work that’s being done here up close and in person.
How do you feel about racial equity efforts at Haas, compared to other academic environments you’ve experienced?
Something I realized a couple of years ago is that the onus is on academia to make it clear that these are spaces where it’s safe for a marginalized person to operate in. What’s becoming increasingly challenging is learning how to signal that effectively. Part of what I hope for as a postdoc is that I can be a Black man who experiences success here. I want to show other people of color and marginalized people that they can come here and experience success and signal that to other schools too.
Something I realized a couple of years ago is that the onus is on academia to make it clear that these are spaces where it’s safe for a marginalized person to operate in.
Do you plan to teach?
I did an introduction to organizational behavior class for undergrads at USC. I enjoyed it, but I realized that I just wasn’t excited about it in the way that I wanted to be. That was in very large part because I felt like I wasn’t talking about things that really interested me. The MBA classes here include some really stimulating material both for the students and the professors who teach it. So I’m hoping that if I work hard enough, I can put myself in a position next year to teach.
“I was getting up at 4 a.m. and checking listings,” said Kroetsch, EMBA 23. “I found houses that came on the market before my agent even told me.”
Kroetsch started questioning the value of her real estate agent. Meanwhile, her challenges confirmed for Parker, a veteran Seattle real estate broker, that she probably didn’t need one.
So Parker decided to solve the problem by partnering with EMBA classmates to create startup Alokee. The company, which functions as a virtual real estate agent, empowers California home buyers to bid directly on properties.
The site is designed for people who grew up banking, paying bills, and shopping for most everything online without an intermediary, Parker said.
“Increasingly, Gen Z and other digital natives are baffled by why they have to talk to a real estate broker when they find all of the listings and tour the properties themselves and want to just make an offer,” Parker said.
“Increasingly, Gen Z and other digital natives are baffled by why they have to talk to a real estate broker.” —Matt Parker
Ease of use, money back
Launched nine months ago, the Alokee website is live in California, featuring photos of homes that have sold in San Jose and San Diego. The company plans to expand soon, and has a waiting list to beta test the site with customers in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada.
Alokee’s selling point is its ease of use: Create an account, provide proof of funds for a down payment, and then “make 12-to-15 decisions” on offer price, a closing date, loan payment schedule and amount, and other sales decisions. A buyer could potentially be in contract to buy a house in a matter of minutes, Parker said.
A second benefit is that the buyer receives a chunk of the agent’s fee in cash back after a sale. In San Francisco, for example, where the agent commission on a home sale averages $40,000, Alokee takes a set fee of $9,000 and returns $31,000 to the buyer. “We don’t want to chase down the big commissions,” Parker said. He added that the check comes at a perfect time, as buyers typically invest the most in their houses—additions like solar panels, window replacements, energy-efficient appliances, and insulation—at the time of purchase.
An EMBA team
Parker started Alokee with classmate Hamed Adibnatanzi, a legal affairs veteran. Adibnatanzi used his law expertise to make sure that the mass of paperwork required for any real estate deal on the site was simplified for a direct buyer and met federal, state, and local requirements.
Meanwhile, the team is still sorting out the website’s technical complexities. Noman Shaukat manages the code behind the offers that flow through the site. “It’s a technical challenge, not a legal one for us,” Parker said.
Parker also asked Marcus Rossi, a former commanding officer with the U.S. Marines, to be Alokee’s COO and invited Kroetsch, a chemical engineer by trade, to join as CMO. “I told him I’d love to help,” said Kroetsch, who worked with a branding agency to come up with the name Alokee, which combines the words Aloha and key (meaning the key to a house).
“We are working through the marketing plan right now, and I am happy to be a part of this team,” she said.
Learning to scale
This is Parker’s second startup. He came to Haas after starting national home improvement repair and renovation service ZingFix. At ZingFix, he realized that there are different skills required to manage a company as it scales across state lines. “A quickly-growing startup was a new business challenge for me,” he said. “The more people that joined, the more I realized that I would need an MBA to take care of our stakeholders.”
Deciding on Haas, he said the program has provided priceless support for what he’s trying to achieve, from mentorship to participating in the UC LAUNCH accelerator program and competition, in which Alokee was a finalist. “Once you get to the finals of LAUNCH you get introduced to top-tier mentors and a storytelling coach. These people understand what you are doing, and they pick apart your business model,” he said. Senior Lecturer Homa Bahrami spent time coaching the team, helping them to develop a hiring framework. “Everything she told us was correct,” Parker said. “She’s probably in the top 10 smartest people I’ve met in my life.”
He added that Distinguished Teaching Fellow Maura O’Neill’s New Venture Finance course also helped them navigate as the company works to land a seed round of funding.
While saving homebuyers money is a goal, Parker said the company will build more gender and racial equity into the home buying process by giving buyers direct bidding power. “Homes are how people stay in power and get in power,” he said. “We want to give all people the power to win in the real estate game.”