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:
She increased 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.
She created 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.
She raised 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.
She committed to making Haas a more diverse and 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.
Dean Ann Harrison with Ned Spieker, BS 66, who provided the funding to transform the undergraduate program into a four-year program.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
Harrison said 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.”
In a recent Dean’s Speaker Series talk, RockCreek founder and CEO Afsaneh Beschloss weighed in on the long-term goals of ESG and impact investing and how her firm allocates capital to diverse asset managers and underrepresented founders.
Global investment firm RockCreek holds $15 billion in assets to invest in a diverse portfolio that integrates sustainability and inclusivity. “I like to call (our investment strategy) air, land, and water, because a lot of what we have all worked on traditionally is energy on land and food and agriculture,” she said during a fireside chat with Dean Ann Harrison. “But there’s also a lot going on with aviation fuels and, as we speak, we’re doing some early investments on alternatives to aviation fuels.”
Before starting RockCreek in 2003, Beschloss worked in economic development at the World Bank, where she rose to become treasurer and Chief Investment Officer. (Along the way, she met Michele de Nevers, the executive director of Sustainability Programs at Haas. Dean Harrison also worked as an economist at the World Bank.)
During her early career, Beschloss shifted focus from health to the energy sector, leveraging private sector investment as her group worked on projects to move countries away from coal to natural gas. As solar and wind technology started to develop, the World Bank began pioneering investing in these areas. “We got special grants from the Nordic countries to work on this in a number of countries that were well-suited for doing solar and wind,” she said. “And it was really quite spectacular to be investing in Latin America, in Africa, and in Asia in these cleaner forms of energy in the early days and doing environmental studies.”
C2M is a partnership between graduate students, startups, and industry professionals to help accelerate commercialization of cleantech solutions. Over 15 weeks, each C2M team spends nearly 1,000 hours assessing leading-edge technologies and investigating market opportunities.
Last week, teams presented their findings, followed by an audience Q&A. Dean Ann Harrison also took the stage, interviewed by Financial Times correspondent Dave Lee about the school’s work to put sustainability at the core of business education.
This year’s winners of the MetLife Climate Solutions Awards included:
Niron Magnetics: The team won $20,000 for working on powerful, low cost, and environmentally-sustainable permanent magnets to free electrification from dependence on rare earth elements. The team included Andrew Cahill, EWMBA 23, Ben Brokesh, JD 24, Campbell Scott, MBA 23, Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23, and Sepideh Karimiziarani, MS 22, Development Engineering.
GenH: The team won $10,000 for working on a rapidly deployable, fully modular hydropower system to electrify non-powered dams and canal heads to generate clean, stable, and cost-competitive renewable energy. Team members included Emily Robinson, EWMBA 23, Hon Leung “Curtis” Wong, MS 23, Development Engineering, Maelym Medina, MBA 23, and Santiago Recabarren, MBA 23.
Quino Energy: The team won $5,000 for working on scalable, non-flammable energy storage made possible by a proprietary zero-waste process that transforms coal and wood tar into designer flow-battery reactants. Team members included Dongwan Kim, MBA 23, Ingrid Xhafa, MS 23, Development Engineering, James Wang, MBA 23, Kennedy McCone, graduate student researcher, UC Berkeley College of Chemistry, and Noah Carson, EMBA 23.
The Quino Energy team also won the Hasler Cleantech to Market Award as audience favorite based on online polling throughout the day.
MetLife is a corporate sponsor of the C2M Program; The Financial Times served as an event partner.
Pearly Khare, MBA 23, was in a difficult spot. His ‘boss’ was confronting him about takingoff early for vacation, leaving his colleagues “in the dust.” “I definitely understand how that impacted the team,” he said, adding that he gave her and his team advance notice. Then he apologized.
Afterwards, MBA students who had watched the interaction discussed Khare’s apology to Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, who played the role of his boss.
“If we apologize, and we’re not even sure of what we did or we are not genuinely sorry for what we did, it can be another form of conflict avoidance,” says Jenkins, co-instructor of the new Berkeley Haas MBA pilot course Difficult Conversations: Conflict Lab, where students roleplay tricky situations that are dreaded at work. “We should ask ourselves if it’s just because we want to move past the discomfort.”
From delivering a poor performance review to providing a critical work project assessment to firing an employee, things often got “spicy” during the 10-week session, says co-instructor Francesca LeBaron, MBA 19. But the class isn’t about right or wrong or about debating morality. “It’s about maintaining connection, even when we disagree with the person,” LeBaron said. “What is your objective? Is it to make this person feel heard, to problem solve, or to share your own needs? And how effective were you at achieving that objective?”
The new Conflict Lab extends learnings from longstanding Haas School MBA offerings including [email protected], which delivers a common framework for teamwork across MBA programs, and the core Leading People course. It also compliments experiential learning on conflict management included in the class Leading High Impact Teams and the new core course Communicating in Diverse Environments.
Do you want to be promoted?
Jenkins and LeBaron kicked off their new class with a speed conflict session (similar to speed dating) where students role-played a back-to-back series of conflicts to get a sense of the discomfort they would experience in the class. The exercise helped students to assess if this style of experiential learning was right for them.
Ten undergraduate UC Berkeley students and a group of Berkeley Haas alumni—ranging from PWC partners to a Google exec to an NYU professor—also joined the class to play roles that would put students in the hot seat.
In one session, alumna Kelly Deutermann, MBA 17, confronted Mridul Agarwal, MBA 23, about why he wanted to get off a project. Deutermann aggressively questioned Agarwal. “Do you want to be promoted? Do you want to be taken seriously? This is your chance.” When Agarwal explained that “it might not be the best project for me at this time,” Deutermann responded with, “This project needs to happen. Do you just not want to work hard to do it?” In this role play, Agarwal had to balance his own bandwidth and need for support with Deutermann’s demands for project management.
After the difficult talk, Agarwal took a deep breath, and the two of them laughed and shook their heads.
Friends coming up with solutions
Jenkins and LeBaron met in their first year at Haas. They were in the same cohort and found they shared a lot in common: They were both Consortium Fellows, student instructors for the Leadership Communications course, and board members for the Haas Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGAL). After graduation, LeBaron went to work as an executive coach and mediator for startups at UC Berkeley’s accelerator SkyDeck; Jenkins runs leadership training courses as a senior leadership development associate at Pixar Animation Studios.
“I noticed themes and trends with what we were doing at work,” Jenkins said. “There was conflict avoidance and harm from conflict that’s not dealt with effectively. We talked to friends in other organizations and we realized quickly that everyone is dealing with workplace conflict.”
For example, LeBaron had recently coached startup founder and former Haas classmate Fahed Essa on how to fire someone. “Fahed is brilliant—has three masters degrees and has started three companies,” she said. “If he is still struggling with this, I bet many people are. I want Haasies to have this skill set that balances being compassionate with being honest and clear.”
After discussing the problem, Jenkins and LeBaron did what they were known for doing at Haas: they came up with a solution. With sponsorship from the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Haas (CSSL), they designed a syllabus for a pilot course completely devoted to managing difficult conversations. The class enrolled 32 MBA students, with a waitlist.
To track their progress throughout the class, students provide one another with feedback, write papers addressing their own conflict styles, and identify conflicts in the media and how they can be improved using lessons from the course framework. “It’s really important that the students find ways to continue to practice this work after the class is complete,” Jenkins said. “They should have a clear understanding of where they are in their conflict journey and what they want to do to continue to grow.”
During their final class, Jenkins and LeBaron took on a role-play with each other. Jenkins played a manager criticizing an employee for botching a critical client presentation. “I expected more of you,” Jenkins said. “I’m hearing that my actions didn’t meet your expectations. Can you tell me more about what that looked like for you?” LeBaron said. After more back and forth, they drilled down to the core issue: Jenkins was frustrated and disappointed because she wanted to appear competent in front of the client. The two decided to review all future presentations together before going to a client.
LeBaron asked the class to consider what Jenkins felt. “I don’t know if I made typos, but in her mind I made those mistakes,” she said. Her objective, she said, was to better understand her boss’ experience and unmet needs. “I can still hold my experience as true for me, while being curious about understanding her experience,” LeBaron said.
Working past fear through practice
After the 10-week class ended, students who identified themselves as conflict-avoidant at the start of Conflict Lab said they were starting to work past it.
Daryl Pugh, MBA 23, an executive recruiter before he came to Haas, said he’s learning to be “comfortable with discomfort” and was already using what he learned in class to help a friend through the difficulty of laying off employees. “I tried to talk to her through having that conversation and processing other people’s feelings, understanding what was happening and her interpretation of what was happening. We had a couple of sessions.”
What Pugh said he found most surprising over the weeks was understanding how inaccurately he can interpret the actions of others. “We need to focus on not ascribing emotion to people that could be just wrong,” he said. “That’s how we are trained our whole lives, even in social settings, is to interpret other people’s feelings. The only way to know how a person is feeling is to ask. This class taught me how to get others to express their feelings, then I can move past my observations and interpretations to a new level of understanding.”
Mariam Al-Rayes, MBA 23, said the course provided a set of tools that she plans to use at work and beyond. “I wish we’d learned this earlier in life,” she said. “The role playing was so useful—like when alumni talked to us as our managers. It was realistic and we applied what we learned in class first-hand.”
On the journey to create a new class of conflict-embracing leaders, LeBaron and Jenkins are well on their way—and plan to offer the class again in Fall 2023.
Haas Voices is a series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
Determined to break into TV news, Courtney Smith, EWMBA 25, took a leap of faith in her 20s that led to a career in broadcast journalism.
Now a local news producer for KTVU Fox 2, Smith aims to push the boundaries of entertainment media, opening it to new technologies and most importantly to her, more diverse voices. Before coming to Haas, Smith was a member of the Forté MBALaunch 2021 cohort, a development program that provides a road map for applying to business school. Here’s our recent interview with Smith.
How did you get your start in TV news?
I was still a bit fresh out of college living in Houston, and applying for jobs but not really getting the response that I was looking for. One day I got dressed up, as if I had an interview, and printed out a bunch of resumes. I just said, ‘You know what? I’m going to take a leap of faith.’
I went to one of the local television stations, where I planned to drop off a resume. I met with the security guard in the lobby to drop off a resume and she told me I could probably chat with the news director. So I picked up the lobby phone and dialed. When someone answered, I got so nervous that I hung up! But then I called back, and told him I was interested in a position. He asked me curiously, “Are you in the lobby?” I laughed and said yes, and he told me to stay right there, he would come get me. It was the moment that opened doors for me.
What brought you to the Bay Area?
Around 2018, a news director from KRON-TV reached out. I initially turned down the opportunity because my mother had just had surgery and was recovering after battling kidney cancer. I thought awhile about the decision, prayed about it, and reached back out to the news director and said if the position was still available that I would love to take it. It was an opportunity that I just couldn’t refuse: to move to the Bay Area and work in this market.
Why did you decide to apply to Haas?
When I first visited the campus it felt like home, and I knew right away that this was the place that would change me for the better. I wanted to pursue an MBA to develop my leadership skills and hone my business skills. I had given it some thought before the pandemic, but once 2020 rolled around, I knew that it was time. With the racial reckoning that our country was going through, and the host of issues that the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on, I felt a deep desire as a Black woman in media to do something that would have a lasting impact.
You are developing and assigning multiple story ideas daily with a team of 10 reporters, writers, and photographers. How are you juggling your job with your MBA program?
The life of a journalist and an MBA student is hard-work. I do keep a beautifully color-coordinated Google calendar that I swear by with alerts attached to almost every event. Notion and Goodnotes on my iPad are great, too. I also keep a written to-do list, where I jot down my top three priorities for the day, to-dos, and my wild ideas. I also write down things that went great in my day, followed by things that could have gone better. As a journalist, some of us work before most people are awake, or late into the night while others are enjoying dinner, or putting kids to bed. It’s a daily grind filled with deadlines you can’t miss. I have so much respect for the people working in my industry, as most people have no idea the sacrifices we make. I also think it’s so important in whatever your role is to give yourself grace. Life will always have its obstacle course days, so it’s important to be kind to yourself, especially as an MBA student so you can appreciate this journey and thrive.
Life will always have its obstacle course days, so it’s important to be kind to yourself, especially as an MBA student so you can appreciate this journey and thrive.
What is the most impactful or memorable story you have produced?
I was producing a live newscast in Beaumont, Texas, during the worst of Hurricane Harvey. I grew up in Houston so I’m very used to hurricanes, but this hurricane was devastating to so many smaller communities. I’ll never forget the voices of viewers on air that night. I worked to have local public figures speak to my news team on-air to get critical messages out, positioned reporters in hot spots where homes and buildings were hit the hardest, and dispelled myths that were beginning to surface throughout the evening in an effort to calm the community. Even when I wasn’t producing, I took the time to answer viewer phone calls. So many were in need of being rescued from their homes due to severe flooding. I did my very best that night to connect local rescue teams with those who needed immediate help.
What are your goals after graduating?
I have many goals, but one of them is to work for a TV network or streaming service as a CEO, president, or vice president. I also have a passion for entrepreneurship. I feel like the sky’s the limit and I’m open to all that life brings.
I would love to create more lanes of opportunity for diverse voices in TV & film. While there has been progress, there’s still a long way to go. I just want to be a strong voice and to make it easier for others to enter this industry, because there aren’t many women and men in positions of leadership who look like me. Increasing diverse leadership in any workforce improves it overall.
You’re clearly all about persistence, having started your career as an intern at Radio One and KPRC-TV in Houston before rising to producer in a top market. Where do you think that comes from?
I think it comes from being comfortable hearing the word no. If I have a goal that I just can’t stop working on, it’s one of those things that keeps me up at night. I’m going to keep trying and trying until I get a yes. I‘m open to criticism and I’m okay with putting myself out there as you can probably see from my crazy idea to walk into a building dressed as if I had an interview. I was truly walking by faith that day and said if it goes well then that’s great, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
If I have a goal that I just can’t stop working on, it’s one of those things that keeps me up at night. I’m going to keep trying and trying until I get a yes.
What are some impactful classes so far at Berkeley Haas?
Data and Decisions with Professor Frederico Finan and Marketing with Professor Zsolt Katona are truly amazing classes that gave me ah-ha moments, confirming answers to questions I’ve had for many years. From day one in Data and Decisions I became a better journalist just by learning how to identify poor quality data that many people see on a daily basis in morning headlines. In my marketing course I enjoy learning about how customers value brands/products and services along with the amount of storytelling that goes on in marketing. Leading People and Microeconomics classes are also wonderful. Leading People with Professor Ambar La Forgia takes you on a journey of what it is like to be a corporate leader and how to handle the challenges that come along the way. I learned so much about myself from this course and the type of leader I want to be. In Professor Ricardo Perez-Truglia’s microeconomics course I gained a better understanding of why companies made certain business decisions and how to think like an economist.
What are you most passionate about in your industry?
I’m so inspired by our youth today, and I just want to be in a position to support them so they can have an outlet to showcase their creativity and grow into leaders in this space. It’s work that I’m very passionate about doing.
I’m also very excited about where media and entertainment and this whole new world of streaming is going. I just want to be a part of it, and become a leader in that industry, so that I can continue to develop storytelling for diverse voices and open more doors of opportunity for others, like how others did for me.
As a strategy manager at self-driving car startup Zoox last summer, Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23, spent a lot of time thinking about the challenges of rolling out robotaxi fleets in cities.
“Watching self-driving cars navigate the complex streets of San Francisco is pure magic,” Vakis said. “But to commercialize at scale, the industry has big strategic questions to work on that no one has fully solved so far.”
Vakis, co-president of the Berkeley Haas Transportation and Mobility Club, is among a growing number of students drawn to the rapidly-changing and fast-growing transportation/mobility industry. At Berkeley Haas, interest in the sector reflects that growth, with eight students in the Class of 2022 taking full-time jobs in the industry, (up from previous years), and 15 students in the 2023 class accepting internships. One lure, aside from the fun of being immersed in new technology, is the impressive pay. Mean base salaries for the 2022 FTMBA grads reached the higher end of the school’s employment report, coming in at $152,000 with a mean $23,000 bonus.
Doug Massa, a relationship manager in the transportation and mobility sector for the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group, said the rise in interest comes at a time when companies that spent years on the technical aspects of building their products and services are looking to scale.
“That’s why these companies are recruiting strong MBA talent,” Massa said. “MBA roles like corporate strategy, product management, and operations are what get our students excited and these are the types of roles that they’re landing.”
Many current students are meeting and networking through the Haas Mobility Club, which is hosting its annual Haas Mobility Summit 2022 Saturday, Nov. 5, at Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. The summit, UC Berkeley’s largest transportation-focused conference, focuses this year on “reimagining sustainable and accessible mobility,” with senior executives from Zoox, Rivian, General Motors, Spin, Autotech Ventures, and others joining. The student-run Haas Mobility Club, now more than 175 members strong, welcomes graduate students from beyond Haas—in the Engineering, Data Science, and Urban Planning programs.
As the market has heated up, Massa said he’s fielding about 20 calls a week from first and second-year students who want to talk about job opportunities in transportation. In addition to Uber and Lyft, Massa helps students recruit for roles at upstarts as well as big automakers like GM and Ford, electric auto leaders like Tesla and electric adventure vehicle maker Rivian, and autonomous vehicles like Cruise.
Haas Mobility Club member Minjee Kang, MBA 23, landed an internship in strategic operations at Rivian. Kang, who worked in operations at Air Korea before coming to Haas, said her goal and her reason for getting an MBA is to be part of sweeping industry-wide change.
“I believe the airline industry is going to be disrupted soon, just like Uber and ride sharing disrupted the traditional auto industry,” she said. “I think the transportation and mobility industry is facing a variety of opportunities as a whole, and I want to be a part of it.”
Sarah Thorson, MBA/MEng 23, who studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, landed an internship in product management at Nvidia, where she worked on autonomous vehicle development tools.
Thorson said she’s always been pulled to the technical side of the auto industry and knew she could study both business and engineering in her dual degree program. “I wanted to come to Haas to explore a product role in tech and to learn about the impact of technology innovations on transportation and mobility,” said Thorson, co-president of the Haas Mobility Club.
Investment opportunities in transportation also lures MBA students. Logan Szidik, MBA 23, pivoted toward early stage venture capital investment at Haas, working as an intern at Menlo Park-based Autotech Ventures.
“With companies staying private longer than ever before, private capital has an outsized impact on the future of the automotive industry,” he said. “As someone with a deep interest in technologies addressing the climate crisis, I wanted to better understand how investors approach start-ups focused on emerging spaces like vehicle-to-grid and fleet electrification.”
As more Haas grads move into transportation, the alumni community has expanded, with about 180 members of the Haas Mobility Network’s WhatsApp group.
That community includes transportation industry entrepreneurs like Ludwig Schoenack, MBA 19, co-founder of Kyte, a cars-on-demand service, and Arcady Sosinov, MBA 15, CEO of FreeWire, which makes fast electric vehicle chargers and battery generators. Both Bay Area companies have found success in raising $239 million and $230 million respectively, to expand their businesses.
This rich alumni network will continue to serve students well, Massa said. (Carlin Dacey, MBA 22, for example, recently joined Kyte as a market manager)
“The network has led to internships and full-time jobs,” he said. “It’s become a really nice ecosystem.”
Afraz Khan, MBA 23, has led a life driven by faith, community engagement, and social activism. Prior to business school, Khan served as an outreach coordinator for the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program and wed interracial and interfaith couples within the Muslim-American community as owner of Muslim Wedding Service. In this interview, Khan, an LA native, discusses his journey to memorize the Quran, his activism and social enterprise work, and why he decided to study business.
What brought you to Haas?
I joined Muslim Wedding Service in 2017 as an officiant. Our focus is providing qualified officiants who work alongside interracial and interfaith couples to craft culturally inclusive wedding experiences for all those in attendance. In 2018, I took over the enterprise and have built it out to a team of about 25 officiants. We conducted 120 weddings last year across the U.S. and, given our business is a social enterprise, we successfully donated $50,000 to nonprofits and social services over the past three years. My thinking was, “Let me come to business school to get a better sense of how business strategy and revenue models are used to build sustainable funding streams.” The hope is to incorporate that type of approach into social enterprise work, where we can sustainably fund the types of initiatives that would help tackle some of our current social issues.
My thinking was, “Let me come to business school to get a better sense of how business strategy and revenue models are used to build sustainable funding streams.”
Tell us about your family background.
My parents immigrated from North India in the 1980s to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised with an older sister. Growing up, we were pretty attached to the local Muslim community, which was primarily immigrant and South Asian. My parents prioritized faith and building connections with immigrants from that same background.
How did you connect to America and LA from that space?
Until Kobe and the Lakers, my family had little attachment to American culture. However, we really started getting into basketball in the early 2000s when the Lakers were winning championships. I have a lot of memories of watching games with my family and listening to them on the radio. It helped me feel more connected to the broader American culture claiming the Lakers as a piece of our own. Also pivotal was 9/11, when I was in second grade. After 9/11, there was a push for us to demonstrate more of our patriotism. It was understood that you had to have an American flag in front of your house. I remember people in our community not sending their kids to high school because there were instances of racial targeting and Islamophobia.
How did 9/11 change your life?
One moment comes back from eighth grade. I was sitting in class and the clock struck noon and the teacher was in the middle of his lecture. My watch started beeping and this student yelled from across the room, “Watch out! He’s [Afraz] got a bomb.” Most of the kids were laughing. The teacher didn’t really say much, and I was frozen, not knowing how to react. But there wasn’t much addressing of the comment or an acknowledgement that it wasn’t appropriate. In high school, I was one of maybe five or six Muslims in a school of over a thousand kids. It was hard to understand how I, as a Muslim American, was supposed to integrate into this larger society. Islam felt foreign to the American experience, and there was not really a place for my faith identity to exist. This othering continues to persist.
It was hard to understand how I, as a Muslim American, was supposed to integrate into this larger society. Islam felt foreign to the American experience, and there was not really a place for my faith identity to exist.
You began memorizing the Quran in fifth grade and have continued religious work as a teacher and advisor. What drove that commitment?
A big part was this general desire to build a closeness with my faith and take ownership over my relationship with the divine. I spent eight years memorizing the Quran, which also included taking a gap year before college. As an undergraduate student at NYU, I found for the first time a large community of native Muslim Americans also trying to understand their journey with faith. I started deliveringsermons and facilitating classes at our Islamic center on campus and unexpectedly fell into a role in providing the community with something I hadn’t had while growing up: a person who possessed the lived experience of growing up Muslim in America and could draw upon deeper sources of knowledge of the faith in demonstrating how Islam can actually serve as a source of empowerment.
I found for the first time a large community of native Muslim Americans also trying to understand their journey with faith.
Where did you work after your undergrad program?
I spent a year in New York City government conducting community affairs work, and then the next three years at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, focusing on advocacy and outreach. I was doing some organizing work around changing the disorderly conduct statutes in the South. These were policies designed to provide law enforcement broad discretion in criminalizing students of color for typical youth behavior—like when a kid purposely burps in class or doesn’t sit in an assigned seat. Law enforcement was charging these kids with disorderly conduct. We were working to help dismantle that policy, starting a lawsuit and organizing. But we had to shift our priorities at a certain point based on the desires of our funders to focus on a different issue within criminal justice. It’s tough when you know the on-the-ground realities, but the folks providing the funding have a different view. So, there was that lack of agency plus the reactionary way in which a lot of nonprofits understandably need to behave that pushed me to think more about business as a potential force for good.
What relationship does your faith have with your activism work?
In 2016, our country bore witness to the continued murder of unarmed Black bodies at the hands of the police as well as a spike in xenophobic and anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks. In organizingseveral university-wide rallies alongside various allied minority groups, I started to learn how the same white supremacist institutions that govern this country uniformly and uniquely impact different marginalized communities. In learning from organizers and advocates who have dedicated their lives to social change, I sought to utilize my own lived experience of being Muslim in America to focus on dismantling broader systems of oppression. As activist Lilla Watson says, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
What’s a principle of your faith you seek to incorporate in your day-to-day work?
In 4:135, the Creator commands me “to uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly—if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.”
This verse pushes me to reflect on justice as a universal principle that exists outside of ourselves. A commitment to justice actually starts with a willingness to interrogate our own unjust behavior. This requires a strong development of humility and self-awareness which I believe is key to any movement work.
How have you continued your activism work at Haas?
I’m focused on leveraging the clout and influence of Haas to bring light to issues that otherwise aren’t discussed within elite institutions and circles. Through Haas Hearts, a student-led non-profit consulting program, I got to work with and now currently serve on the board of Urban Compassion Project, an Oakland-based grassroots organization dedicated to empowering unhoused populations. Over the past few months,we’ve organized volunteer events for Haasies to attend as well as hosted an on-campus discussion on the current housing crisis in the Bay Area and what our role as MBA students is in supporting those fighting for change.
Additionally, I’m working to expand Haas’ engagement with the broader UC’s union organizing efforts. Currently, a few of us student workers here at Haas are phone banking, tabling, and canvassing to build people power within our program to support the 48,000 UC student employees across the state who are fighting for a more fair and equitable contract.
You recently performed a rap at Haas that highlighted the disconnect between how history is taught in the U.S. and the realities that shaped your heritage under British colonial rule. When did you start rapping?
In third grade I wanted to run for student government vice president. I wrote a first draft of my speech and my teacher told me that the presentation was boring and that I should rewrite it. My sister suggested rapping the speech and came up with a very simple rhyme and I was like, “What the heck?” and performed it. I was so nervous that I didn’t look away from my paper. I ended up winning. I ran for VP twice more and for president and just kept rapping all my speeches throughout middle and high school. At the end of high school, I started getting more into spoken word and slam poetry, using rap not just as a tool to have a fun experience but to also share more about my own narrative and experience.
For those who are curious, here’s my original rap:
Vote for me for VP/ — I’ll be the best, you can put me to the test/ — Yyou won’t regret and that’s a bet, it’s a promise that will be kept/ — Iif I win, I’ll put a spin to the school year that’s bright and clear/ – Sso don’t forget and put a check, next to the best… Afraz!
Watch Afraz Khan performing “Colonization of the Mind” last month at UC Berkeley’s Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL)’s annual EGALapalooza event.
What made you want to revisit your study of clusters of innovation?
In my first book, we outlined and demonstrated how innovative technology companies tend to emerge in clusters in certain regions—and we questioned what drives that process. The world has since entered a period of severe economic, cultural, and environmental disruption due to an ongoing series shocks. We wanted to investigate what was happening in these innovative communities and whether they demonstrate enhanced resilience. We found that the answer was a profound “yes”. Clusters of Innovation demonstrate an entrepreneurial agility that enhances their resilience to external shocks, contributing significant social and economic value to society.
How do they do this?
Through innovation, which I define as the positive response to change. Trends are obvious, especially technology trends which tend to be of relatively long duration. While a tech trend is not in itself innovation, its adoption into a valuable good or service is. Commercialization of such tech trends is often pursued by venture-capital backed entrepreneurial firms. Their initial market entry strategy is often to approach niche markets that provide a beachhead opportunity because incumbent firms are not serving their needs exactly. So smaller firms gain traction by providing these niche markets with products and services that provide a tight product market fit. Many entrepreneurial firms that blossomed in the midst of the pandemic were prepared for years before the pandemic. Their work in refining their technology and products put them in a position to provide solutions of huge impact quickly when the pandemic hit. This agility enhanced the resiliency, as they were already in the market with a limited but proven track record—so their businesses were positioned to explode into an “overnight success” when the shock occurred.
Can you provide examples of this?
Two clear, and very different, examples are Zoom in telecommunications and mRNA vaccine development in health care. Zoom had an innovative business model and mRNA developers embraced deep technology innovation. Zoom displaced slower- moving Cisco (WebEx), Microsoft (Skype/Teams), and other incumbents in revolutionizing business, personal, and education communication. Zoom became a verb, a place, a way of conducting much of our daily life. Zoom’s quick mass adoption revolved around a subtle business model innovation: Product-Led-Growth [PLG]. PLG is an evolution of the freemium model, where ease of user adoption is emphasized (just click the link, no log-ins, no hassle) and is often free. Traditional marketing is initially de-emphasized and that investment pored back into product development and viral marketing. Revenue evolves eventually from upselling to universities and larger businesses with value-added full-featured SaaS subscriptions. This ease of adoption drove the rapid behavior change that enabled a greater collective agility and a greater resilience.
A different type of innovation-driven agility is demonstrated in mRNA technology, which enabled the creation of vaccines in months rather than many years. Startups commercialized the novel mRNA vaccine technology, based on university research, before the pandemic. While the fundamental technology was revolutionary, its impact on the health of the general population was minimal. But during the pandemic, the benefits of this novel approach and the urgent need for a vaccine made its advantages clear, gaining the full attention major pharmaceutical firms. The rapid development and deployment of the various Covid-19 vaccines often depended on partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies, providing a perfect combination of speed and scale. The smaller firms’ product development speed combined with the larger firms’ capacity to scale trials, manufacture, and distribute.
What’s the takeaway from the book?
Economic regions such as Silicon Valley and other Clusters of Innovation around the world have proven to have enhanced resiliency to economic and environmental shocks. At the heart of such Clusters of Innovation are entrepreneurs, collaborating with venture investors and major corporations. Their constructive interactions build the resiliency required to quickly adapt and rebound from shocks. The process is helped by supportive government, universities, service firms, and other supporting actors in the community.
Employment rates and average base salaries jumped for the full-time Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2022, with the consulting, technology, and financial services industries again drawing about 75% of the graduates.
“What made this year so exciting is the extraordinary demand for our MBA graduates and the appetite for their skills, including an ability to lead and innovate in a changing, diverse world,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management and Corporate Partnerships.
Salaries reached new heights, hitting an average base salary of $152,831, nearly $10,000 more than $143,696 in 2021. About 74% of the class received an average signing bonus of $33,418 and 43% of our graduates received stock grants or options as part of their compensation packages. Consulting pays the highest average salary at $166,637.
Within three months of graduation, 93% of the class of 320 students accepted job offers. With these results, Haas returned to some of our highest pre-pandemic levels of job acceptances.
Amazon, Bain Consulting, and McKinsey & Co. were the top three hiring firms, followed closely by Adobe, BCG, Deloitte, and Google. 15% of the graduates joined startups and 16 students (or 5% of the graduating class) started their own company at graduation. And 18% of the graduates who accepted jobs reported that their position had a “social impact component,” commonly in industries including healthcare, cleantech, sustainable real estate and investing.
“As our graduates enter the workforce, we look forward to seeing what they do next,” Dean Ann Harrison said. “We know they are well equipped to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. We see our graduates innovating to create inclusive and sustainable businesses.”
Finding the right fit
There were small shifts in industries where students accepted jobs this year. Thirty three percent of the class joined the tech industry; 28% accepted jobs in the consulting industry, and 13.7% went into financial services. There were also small increases in the number of students taking jobs in real estate and the transportation/mobility sectors.
Chase Thompson, MBA 22, a global strategist with Samsung, said he came to Haas knowing that he wanted to work in the tech industry, but unsure about what role would best suit him.
After interning at Adobe, he discovered an interest in global business, which led him to recruit with Samsung. “Fortunately, Samsung’s global strategy group fit squarely in the criteria I was targeting, so it made logical sense as the best next step for me post-MBA,” he said.
Thompson said his job provides incredible exposure to high-level Samsung management, travel opportunities for company research at subsidiaries in Korea, Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America, and a clear leadership pipeline.
“I am working directly with EVPs on projects, and the output of our work is leveraged for long-term decision making within the organization, oftentimes informing multi-billion dollar decisions,” he said.
Tess Krasne, MBA 22, said an interest in the intersection of business and climate brought her to Haas, and ultimately to become a senior associate at Alante Capital, a women-led firm that invests in technologies that enable a resilient, sustainable future for apparel production and retail.
Krasne interned at Alante after she was introduced to its founder through Haas’ Strategic and Sustainable Business Solutions class. After completing multiple internships with different companies during her MBA program, she accepted a full-time position after graduation with Alante,
“I came to Haas wanting to be part of a new wave of change,” she said. “I love that I get to work with such great co-workers and mentors and that I get to meet with 10 entrepreneurs a week to see what they’re building as I think about what the future might look like in the apparel space.”
Speaking with Dean Ann Harrison, Nichols gave a first-person account of “Dieselgate,” the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal, and her role working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold Volkswagen accountable for violating the Clean Air Act. (Volkswagen had equipped 590,000 vehicles with “defeat devices” or computer software designed to cheat on federal emissions tests.)
Nichols said the problem was first uncovered in Europe, where regulators measuring air quality weren’t seeing the benefits from Volkswagen’s new clean vehicles.
“California started testing….then we actually went and bought cars and put them on dynamometers with equipment, and saw how they were operating during the test, and figured out what was going on.”
Then, she said, a mid-level engineer working on the government affairs team at Volkswagen confessed to one of Nichols’ staff members about what was happening with the vehicles.
Enforcement action followed, after they brought the information to the federal government. “This one was ours to begin with, but then they took it up, and together we pursued the court actions, which eventually resulted in a settlement.” Watch the complete DSS talk here:
The show asks 30 single people to spend 10 days inside “pods,” where they interview potential love matches from behind a wall that separates them. Couples who agree to get engaged during the experiment exit the pods to see each other for the first time.
In this interview, Alagbada, who plans to work in early-stage venture capital investing after graduating, discusses his Netflix adventure, life before Haas, and juggling the demands of the show with the MBA program. The first episodes of the new season—which features Alagbada—airs October 19.
Haas News: The Season 3 “Love is Blind” cast promo came out yesterday. How do you feel?
SK Alagbada: It’s a mixture of excitement and feeling anxious because this remains the craziest, most out-of-place thing I’ve ever done—crazier than moving to Poland from Nigeria by myself when I was 19. I’m a little worried about how the show will be edited. We filmed so many hours and you don’t know what will make it to the final cut.
Do your classmates know yet? I kept this secret from my classmates even though so many of them watch the show. I haven’t stepped into a class since the announcement so I am just preparing myself for the 21 questions. I kept this from them because of the confidentiality agreement, and also to try to have as normal a first-year MBA experience as possible.
Watch the “Love is Blind” cast announcement.
Had you watched “Love is Blind” before you were on the show?
No, but my mom had. She loves the show.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I left Nigeria as an international exchange student to study in Poland. I still speak some Polish and three other languages. I lived all over Europe for a few years before moving to the U.S. 13 years ago by myself, and settled in Texas, attending Baylor University as an undergraduate. My brothers and mom are in the U.S. now. I am from the Yoruba tribe in southwest Nigeria, so I take my African culture, food, and Afrobeat music with me everywhere.
So how did Netflix find you?
Every season is scouted in a certain city. This one was in Dallas, where I lived. Someone reached out after they saw my Instagram account. I initially thought it was a scam and didn’t respond for several weeks. One day, I responded. From Instagram we did FaceTime auditions and interviews during COVID. They’re looking for responsible, emotionally stable people in their 20s to mid-30s. They look at your interests, your career, your lifestyle, and whether you are an eligible bachelor.
Why did the reality show idea of finding a wife appeal to you?
I was at the point in my life when I wanted to settle down. I didn’t want to hear my mom’s constant reminder anymore about getting married. Also, in the past couple of years I’ve lived in different places where I haven’t had stability in my life. I tried the conventional ways of finding partners, through friends and family introductions and dating apps, but nothing seemed to stick. But a lot of things in my life happen in unusual ways, most unexpected ways, so this was not foreign to me. It’s the story of my life.
I was at the point in my life when I wanted to settle down. I didn’t want to hear my mom’s constant reminder anymore about getting married.
How did you juggle filming “Love is Blind” with your MBA program schedule?
We finished filming the season before I started my first year of class, but I was still working at JP Morgan as a senior data engineer during my first year to cover the higher Bay Area costs and occasionally support my family back in Nigeria. Juggling that first year was tough. I’m so grateful for my classmates at Haas. They’re very gracious and were especially understanding when I had so much going on, willingly volunteering their time to help me understand unclear concepts in class. As a community, we are always there for each other.
I’m so grateful for my classmates at Haas. They’re very gracious and were especially understanding when I had so much going on, willingly volunteering their time to help me understand unclear concepts in class. As a community, we’re always there for each other.
In the show promo they asked about your most annoying habit and you said “snacking.” Snacking doesn’t seem so bad!
I work from home and study a lot and I always have a snack with me. My favorite snacks right now are Smartfood popcorn and Walkers shortbread cookies. My girlfriends in the past learned to accommodate it—or they picked up snacks for me when they went shopping.
You are very involved with the LAUNCH accelerator program. How does the student-led startup accelerator program align with your career goals in venture capital?
Prior to Berkeley, I worked at large companies like General Motors and JP Morgan, but I wanted an immersive startup experience and to learn the business of technology, grow my network, and boost my startup pipeline. Serving as LAUNCH co-chair of strategy and partnerships helps me to achieve this goal. I’m responsible for shaping the vision by managing and growing our relationships with investors, raising funds for our startups, and developing initiatives to strengthen our program experience. To date, LAUNCH startups have raised over $700 million and LAUNCH remains completely student run.
You are also president of the Africa Business Club. Can you talk a bit about investing in African startups?
This is very personal. I left Nigeria at the onset of a tech revolution that’s led to one of the fastest growing ecosystems in the world. I’ve stayed connected to home, but still have major FOMO from leaving the country at such a pivotal time. That’s why I’ve been dedicated to helping connect startups on the continent to capital, mentorship, and resources in Silicon Valley. In April, my team and I hosted the first in-person Africa Business Forum at Haas since COVID. This event laid groundwork for new connections and startup investment in Nigeria.
What’s your favorite thing about Haas?
Haas does a very good job of assembling a class of genuinely good people. In addition to being so accomplished and having done such interesting things in their lives and careers, they are genuinely good people.
What do you like to do outside of school?
I love soccer, tennis, and Scrabble. I also like to cook. There is a dearth of African food in the Bay Area, so I usually find myself cooking a lot. My mom also ships me food sometimes.
Have you picked up anything new since moving to California? Recycling! I came from Texas. It’s a huge shift for me.
As globalization began to give American businesses a run for their money in the early 1970s, international business expert and then-Dean Richard Holton began working with faculty on ideas for how to train new leaders to compete.
“Strong competition from Japanese companies started to wake people up,” said Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean of instruction at Haas from 2008 to 2021. “American business leaders and business school leaders understood the need to take a different approach to training people coming into American companies.”
That realization led to the creation of a new kind of MBA program that would provide the flexibility business leaders needed to earn the degree outside of their daily work schedules. In 1972, the business school launched its first part-time program called the San Francisco Evening Program (SFMBA) at the Wells Fargo Training Center in downtown San Francisco.
“We’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the decades,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs at Berkeley Haas. “The part-time program has changed so many lives by opening doors for working professionals who couldn’t afford to take two years off to go back to school. It has truly fulfilled a mission to increase access to an MBA.”
A pioneering program
The part-time MBA program, one of the first of its kind in the country and the first within the University of California system, was aimed at students in their mid-20s to late 30s who had been in the workforce for an average of five years.
“The part-time program has changed so many lives by opening doors for working professionals,” Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs.
The first-ever cohort of 88 students hailed from local companies like Wells Fargo and Levi Strauss & Co, many of them commuting from Silicon Valley. By fall 1975, the program swelled to 229 students taking 17 courses. And by the early 1980s, the program’s success ensured that it would remain a core offering, with courses modernized and aligned tightly with the full-time MBA program to address corporate needs, Stowsky said.
“The MBA by then had shifted from a more academic degree to what was called management science, a kind of mathematical approach to decision making focused on finance and the bottom line, in addition to marketing and other key things students learn today in business school,” he said.
Boosting career success
The program, consistently ranked in the top two in the U.S. News ranking of part-time MBA programs, has trained business leaders worldwide. Among the more than 6,000 living graduates of the program are Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93; Apple’s Managing Director of Greater China, Isabel Mahe, MBA 08; Poshmark CEO Manish Chandra, MBA 95; Sega Sammy CEO Haruki Satomi, MBA 12; Meituan Dianping founder and CFO Shuhong Ye, MBA 05; and Dilbert creator Scott Adams, MBA 86.
Constance Moore, who graduated from the SF MBA evening program in 1980, recalled attending classes in downtown San Francisco, near her office at BRE Properties. “I wanted to go to the evening program because I had recently started at BRE as an asset manager and knew I would likely learn as much at work as I would in school,” she said. “I could apply what I learned at work to my school work, and what I learned at Haas I could apply to my work. It was perfect.”
Attending class on Monday and Thursday evenings allowed her to travel for work in between and then study all weekend, she said. “It didn’t leave much time for anything else but it was so worth it,” said Moore, who became CEO of BRE after getting an MBA. “Haas made me fearless.”
While relatively few women enrolled during the part-time MBA program’s earliest days, that changed over the years as women were recruited or encouraged by their employers and each other.
Lesley Keffer Russell enrolled in the program in 1999, at the encouragement of her boss at St. Supéry Winery, Michaela Rodeno, who graduated from the part-time program in 1980.
“She became a great mentor for me. She asked me one day during lunch, after I had done a three-month work stint in France for St. Supéry, ‘So, when are you going to go to biz school?'” she said. “I had mentioned that it was on my mind for a while and there was nobody else who was going to push me to apply, so she did. I got right on it.”
Russell said classes she took that help her today in her job as general manager of Saint Helena Winery include microeconomics, negotiations, and real estate development, for which she completed a final group project on assessing two Napa Valley vineyard purchases. “This led to understanding about aspects of the wine industry that have been critical to my career advancement,” she said.
A name change, and even more flexibility
While San Francisco served as the part-time program’s hub for years, student demand to be closer to UC Berkeley led the school to move the program to campus in 1995. In 2002, then-Dean Laura Tyson added a weekend option for students.
The expanded program, renamed the evening & weekend program, split students into evening or weekend cohorts, depending on their schedules. It now attracts a wide breadth of students from around the world— engineers, general managers, sales and marketing managers working in high tech, computer services, banking, fintech, and biotechnology, among other industries.
This year, about 36% of the entering class is from outside the Bay Area, and 59% of them were born outside of the U.S. Nearly 40% of the students are women.
“We’ve always had a fairly rich body of applicants to draw upon given our geography, Berkeley’s name, and the Haas reputation,” Breen said. “Those factors have served us well.”
The flexibility of the program has also increased. Spurred by the success of virtual learning, Haas developed the Flex option, a hybrid online/in-person MBA, which was in the works for three years. Flex is popular with working professionals who can take core courses online and opt to come to Haas for electives. The first cohort of 69 students began in August.
“With the launch of Flex, we’re looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring for the program and our students,” Breen said. “It’s an exciting time to be offering innovative business program options to working professionals.”
After Berkeley Haas professional faculty member Alex Budak created and launched his course “Becoming a Changemaker” in 2019, it quickly grew to be one of the most popular electives for both undergraduate and MBA students.
Erika Walker, senior assistant dean of instruction, introduced Budak and described the book as “very Haas.” It also connects closely with the school’s Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself.
“Students will share that the Becoming a Changemaker class was life-changing, even transformational, and that they were surprised that such a course as this was offered in business education,” she said. “It ultimately reframed the way students approached their own leadership journeys.”
Before Budak began teaching the class, he had to undergo his own changemaker journey. He recounted a “single, serendipitous” meeting with Jay Stowsky, then the senior assistant dean of instruction, about career advice.
“He said, ‘Alex what do you really want to do?'” Budak recalled. “I said, ‘Well, what I really want to do is teach,’ and then made some excuses for why I couldn’t possibly teach. But to my shock and delight he said, ‘All right, what do you want to teach?’ And in that moment, it became crystal clear. I said, ‘I want to teach ‘Becoming a Changemaker.'”
Stowsky told Budak to put together a syllabus. “I remember literally leaping out of my seat, so elated that someone else saw this potential in this class and this vision,” he said.
Budak then welcomed alumni Shannon Eliot, MBA 20, Angelica Song, BS 20, and Alicia Wilson, BS 23, (Ibrahim Baldé, BS 20, participated via video), for a panel discussion on their journeys to becoming changemakers.