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Q&A: Yue Chen, BS 20, MFE 23, pioneering Division 1 women’s basketball player aims to be a Triple Bear

photo of Yue Chen
Undergraduate alum Yue Chen, BS 20, is currently studying in the Berkeley Haas MFE program and plans to enter the MBA program in 2025.

Yue Chen, BS 20, MFE 23, is the first-ever Chinese national to play on a NCAA Division 1 Women’s basketball team. At 6’6” and the daughter of professional basketball players, Chen played center for the women’s team at Cal for five years before returning to China to play professionally for 18 months.

Now, the pioneering athlete is back at Berkeley with sights on becoming a Triple Bear. Chen is studying in the Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) program, among a record 32% women in the Class of 2022, along with a diverse group of students from 17 different countries. This fall, Chen will intern as an associate at

After Chen finishes the MFE degree, she plans to begin the full-time MBA program in 2025, accepted under Accelerated Access, which allows students to apply as seniors and defer for several years. We talked to Chen recently about her basketball career and why she chose to do three degrees at Haas.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?

Yue Chen: I was born in Beijing and spent my first 18 years there. Both my parents met in college. They used to be professional basketball players in China so I was born into a basketball family. I started playing basketball when I was a little kid and it was a big part of my life. During high school, I was facing the decision of either going to play pro or going to college. It was always a dream for me to come to the States and to play ball and also pursue academics simultaneously.

When was the first time that you visited the U.S. ?

I was fortunate to attend a Junior NBA camp when I was 12. Three teams played each other from Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. The winning team got the opportunity to come to the States and watch the All Star Games. I played for Beijing, the winning team, and we came to the States to watch the All Star Games in Dallas. That was my first time in the US. Kobe Bryant was there and people were truly enjoying basketball with others and celebrating. That was really a culture shock, and I was like, “Oh, I want to stand on this course one day, and also play here.” So that’s always been a dream, a goal, from then on.

How did that experience lead you to Cal?

In high school, I needed to choose a college. I looked at places like Berkeley, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and did official visits as an athlete. Of these three schools, Berkeley was my first choice. While the others are definitely great universities, I felt like the culture, the people here are just awesome. The coaches and players were warm and welcoming. I said, “Oh, I’m coming here.” I still keep in touch with a lot of the staff and coaches.

Yue Chen playing center for Cal Women's basketball
Yue Chen played center for the Cal Women’s Basketball team for five years as an undergraduate before playing professionally in China.

You were among the first group of students to apply for the Accelerated Access Program at Haas in 2020. Then you decided to do an MFE degree before the MBA. What led to that decision?

Berkeley has one of the top MFE programs in the world. As an undergrad, I was a double major in statistics and business administration and those subjects have been a passion for me. I’ve loved math since middle school and I’m really good at it.  The MFE is a really interesting intersection of mathematics, statistics, and finance. So that’s how I came to the program. It’s a perfect combination of my interests.

Yue Chen with Cal Basketball teammates
Yue Chen (right) with Cal Women’s Basketball teammates at senior night.

How are you finding the MFE program so far?

The class material is really hard. The professors are great and you are surrounded by talented, smart students. So it’s just awesome to be with them, to learn with them, and to learn from them. Every day I’m improving at something and that feels really great.  This semester, I am taking a class on Fixed Income with Professor Richard Stanton, who has won Haas’ Cheit Outstanding Teaching award three times. He is enthusiastic and engaging, sharing not only his knowledge about knowledge but his experience in the financial industry. 

Yue Chen with Alibaba's CEO
Yue Chen meeting a role model, Alibaba CEO Joseph Tsai. “He’s someone I really look up to when I envision my future.”

A great mentor for me at Haas is Stephen Etter, a finance lecturer for 10 years. He respects the potential of all students from diverse backgrounds.I met him when I was 17 when I first visited Cal and he’s been a great support both on and off the court—with my professional career, my Haas application, and career development.

Why did you choose to combine the MFE with the MBA degree?

It’s really hard for undergrad students to say what they want to do in the future. We’re really young. So the deferred MBA program gives us time to try out different things, and to gain different experiences to be sure about what I really want to do for the future. This gives an option to come back to Haas and make more connections and improve my skills and see how business is run from a leader’s perspective.

What kind of career are you thinking about?

After just finishing my basketball career, I’m trying different things right now and the MFE is preparing me to enter the finance career path. I’m looking forward to gaining more experience in the finance world and eventually, maybe, doing some business involving sports. Someone I really look up to is Joe Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, who owns the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Liberty basketball teams. He was a student athlete at Yale and played lacrosse, and he’s a really successful businessman. So he’s someone I really look up to when I envision my future.

Do you still play basketball?

Although I’m not playing sports anymore I am still close to Cal Athletics. I hope I can help out and offer support to young student athletes. I want to use what I’ve learned on my journey, and what I’ve gained here at Berkeley, to help young people who are facing challenges—so that they will be able to celebrate their journey at Cal long after they graduate.

Faculty, Graduate Student Instructors honored with 2022 Cheit Awards

Collage of the Cheit Award winners from 2022 commencement
Clockwise from top left: Cheit Award winners Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Panos Patatoukas, Veselina Dinova, Richard Huntsinger, Eric Reiner, Ned Augenblick, Max Auffhammer

Seven faculty members and five Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) were honored at 2022 commencements for excellence in teaching.

Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the Cheit Award, named after Dean Emeritus Earl F. Cheit, who made teaching excellence one of his top priorities.

This year’s winners include:

  • Evening & Weekend MBA program: Max Auffhammer (evening cohort), for Data and Decisions, and Ricardo Perez-Truglia (weekend cohort), for Macroeconomics
  • Full-time MBA program: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick, for Strategic Leadership
  • Undergraduate program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Richard Huntsinger 
  • PhD program: Accounting Professor Panos Patatoukas 
  • Master of Financial Engineering (MFE): Finance Lecturer Eric Reiner
  • Executive MBA program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Veselina Dinova
  • Graduate student instructors (GSIs): Paige Wahoff (undergraduate)  Griffin Grail-Binghman (FTMBA), Kimberlyn George (EWMBA), Nicolas Corthorn (MFE), Jonathan Wong (EMBA)

Solve the world’s seemingly insurmountable problems, Berkeley Haas MBA grads told at 2022 commencement

MBA grads at the Greek Theatre
MBA students gather behind stage at the Greek Saturday before commencement. (Photo: Natasha Payes)

Exuberant grads tossed beach balls and danced salsa in the aisles of the Greek Theatre at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening and Weekend MBA Class of 2022.

It was a moment of unfettered joy, as speakers rallied the graduates for the challenges ahead.

“The world right now has lots of  huge unsolved problems—from political polarization to climate change to artificial general intelligence to augmented humanity to disease to inequality—so you have lots of big problems to choose from,” commencement speaker Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, told about 600 graduates, who gathered under blue skies and sunshine. “Pick one that you have passion for, that you can’t help but want to spend all your time day and night on even if others think it’s too idealistic, too big, or too unsolvable. You’re Berkeley MBAs now. You don’t need to settle.”

Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90, speaks at MBA commencement at podium
Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, speaks at MBA commencement. Photo: Jim Block

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed Singh, an entrepreneur who in 2010 co-founded battery technology company QuantumScape. She acknowledged how special it was to be together for the first in-person MBA commencement in two years. 

“This felt like the best closure for a two-year process that has been life changing,” said Ignacio Solis, MBA 22, an international student from Chile.

Harrison praised the students for their resilience during their program, noting that those experiences will serve them well throughout their careers. “Because of who you are—your fierce intelligence and your deep understanding of the forces that drive business– you will have power,” she said. “Power is not always about how many people report to you or whether you have the CEO’s ear or whether you are the CEO. Power is the ability to make a difference—one day at a time; one project at a time; one function at a time.”

Evening & Weekend grads: “Pause and savor”

Noting how many life events happened for the EWMBA class during the program, Harrison said that 32% of the class was promoted, 41% of the students changed jobs, 13% got married, and 30 babies were born.  

MBA students behind stage in cap and gowns at the Greek Theatre
MBA students at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Natasha Payes

Evening & Weekend program student speaker Paulina Lee, a marketing director at Procter & Gamble, told graduates to stop and consider how much they’ve changed at Haas.

“What Haas has afforded us is the opportunity to redefine ourselves, to explore the edges of our comfort zone, and that’s why as we end this chapter and start our new paths to our own definitions of success we are faced with so many different emotions,” she said. “Joy, anxiety relief, excitement to move on to the next thing, get on with it, but perhaps we shouldn’t. At least not right away.”

Lee asked students to pause for a moment and savor, after spending the last three years on a sprint. “The first ask (from me) is to pause, really pause, and see the space that school used to take up and protect it,” she said. “Now that you have become the person you are today, reevaluate, sit down with yourself and honestly seek to understand who you have become.”

Full-time MBA: The opportunity to “fail and learn”

The 2022 full-time MBA class is the most diverse ever,  Harrison told the graduates, including 39% women, 50% U.S. minorities,  8% veterans, and 10% first-generation college students. 

Kokei Otosi, MBA 22, student speaker at MBA commencement speaks
“For two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try,” Kokei Otosi, MBA 22. Photo: Jim Block

Full-time MBA student speaker Kokei Otosi, who will join IBM as a senior consultant in August, opened her speech by thanking her classmates. She also expressed thanks for the time that the MBA program gave her to explore. 

“What I know now is that the MBA is a sandbox,” said Otosi, a Bay Area native-turned-New Yorker whose parents are Nigerian immigrants. “When you leave you may still not know what you want to do, but for two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try. We may not get that kind of freedom again.”

Throughout the ceremony, speakers paid tribute to classmate Nadeem Farooqi, who died in fall 2020.

Otosi said the shock and grief the class experienced over his death was palpable. “Nadeem, we cannot believe you aren’t here with us celebrating today, but we haven’t forgotten you,” she said. “We miss you.”

Honors for both MBA programs

Dean Ann Harrison hands a student an MBA diploma
Dean Ann Harrison congratulates an MBA student. Photo: Jim Block

Harrison asked all students with GPAs in the top 10% of their classes to stand and be honored for their achievements. 

Here are the EWMBA program honors:

Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Laura Jacobson

Defining Leadership Principles awards:

Question the Status Quo: Eleanor Boli   

Confidence Without Attitude: Cheick Diarra   

Students Always: Steve Odell

Beyond Yourself: Nana Lei 

The Berkeley Leader Award: Nana Lei  and Frances Ho

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, weekend MBA program: Ricardo Perez-Truglia, for macroeconomics

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, evening MBA program: Professor Max Aufhammer, for data and decisions

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Kimberlyn George

MBA grads sitting in the Greek Theatre during commencement
Photo: Jim Block

FTMBA program honors:

Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Jon Christopher Thompson

Question the Status Quo: Aliza Gazek  

Confidence Without Attitude: Casey Dunajick-DeKnight  

Students Always: Mathilde De La Calle  

Beyond Yourself: Kevin Hu

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Griffin Grail-Binghman

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick for Strategic Leadership

PhD commencement

Earlier this month, seven Phd candidates participated in a hooding ceremony. 

2022 Berkeley Haas PhD graduates
PhD graduates, left to right: Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, Shoshana Jarvis, Kristin Donnelly, Łukasz Langer, Young Yoon, Petr Martynov

The PhD program at Haas stands out among all six academic programs, Harrison told the graduates. “It is our smallest, but it’s also the program nearest and dearest to the hearts of our faculty, all of whom are PhDs and are deeply committed to training the researchers and professors of the future,” she said. “This is a core part of my mission, and of all of our faculty’s mission.” 

Graduating students included Kristin Donnelly, Shoshana Jarvis, Łukasz Langer, Petr Martynov, Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, and Young Yoon. The Cheit award for excellence in teaching in the PhD program went to Professor Panos Patatoukas of the Haas Accounting Group. 

Watch the MBA commencement video here:

‘We did it!’ Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Class of 2022 shines at commencement

undergraduate woman in cap and gown cheering
Photo: Noah Berger

As the sun pushed through the morning fog today, the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Class of 2022 was more than ready to celebrate four years of hard work, persistence, and overcoming unprecedented challenges.

“Class of 2022, congratulations, we did it,”  student commencement speaker Saahil Shangle, BS 22, said as students, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of family and friends, cheered. “We just completed one of the best undergraduate business programs in the country.”

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the graduates and wished them well on their new lives and careers. “The great skills you have mastered during your time at Berkeley go beyond those of a bachelor in business,” Harrison said. “In addition to accounting, marketing, strategy, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, you have learned how to persevere against the strongest headwinds, how to keep your spirits high when the world around you was struggling, and how to achieve your goals during a global pandemic.”

A group of students stand in front of balloons that say GMP
The Berkeley Haas Global Management Program graduated its first cohort this year. Photo: Jim Block

Most of the 475 undergraduate students who were eligible to graduate this year attended Monday’s ceremony. The 2022 class included several firsts: the first Global Management Program (GMP) cohort included 33 students, 10 who graduated a year or semester early. And the inaugural Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program (LSBE), a partnership with the Molecular Cell and Biology Major, graduated its first cohort of 10.Harrison also pointed out that more than half the class (51%) are women; 47% of the students earned a simultaneous degree in another college and major; and 17% of the students are first in their families to graduate from college.

Josue Vallecillo, BS 22, said his degree means everything to him. “My parents have worked so hard to make sure that I get to where I am and I know that I’ve had to sacrifice so much,” he said. “This degree is not just a culmination of four years but a lifetime of hard work and dedication.” 

“How can I help others succeed?”

Commencement speaker Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, an entrepreneur, corporate leader, speaker, and author, recalled his days as a Haas student—with highlights including the $1 noodle deal on campus and the “coolest device that everyone wanted”: the Motorola Razr. “YouTube was a few months from being invented, and you folks were still in pre-school,” he said.

 Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, undergraduate commencement speaker holding up a Motorola Razr
Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, undergraduate commencement speaker holding up a Motorola Razr. Photo: Noah Berger

McDaniel urged students to be flexible in life, to never quit before considering every option, and to help others always. “Don’t ask yourself ‘How can I advance my career?’” said McDaniel, who teaches entrepreneurship at Haas. “Ask ‘How can I help others succeed?’”

A founding partner at Grow Scale, a commercial real estate private equity firm, McDaniel praised Barbara Felkins, director of academic affairs, Sojourner Blair, admissions director, and Dresden John, student experience manager, who are retiring from the Haas Undergraduate Office this year, for helping students succeed and for working together to keep Haas a top business school. 

McDaniel told students to try to avoid choosing one thing or the other in life. “There’s a way to have or be both,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be nature or nurture, Coke or Pepsi….Failing and succeeding, profiting and positively impacting society. We don’t live in an either or world. We live in an “and” world.”

Two women and two male student athletes dressed in academic regalia.
Berkeley Haas student athletes gather backstage before the commencement ceremony begins. Photo: Natasha Payes

“Do not delay happiness”

Shifting to a more serious tone, Anna Shim, BS 22,  president of the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA), spoke poignantly of losing her 25-year-old brother, who died three months ago in his sleep. She shared what she learned while working through her grief.

“Do not delay happiness,” she said. “Life is short, so live every day like it’s your last.”

Chosen by his peers as the student speaker, Shangle reflected on how the people at Haas made his time special—from courtyard conversations they shared to Taco Tuesdays.We are transfer (students), veterans, underrepresented minorities, international, first generation, athletes. We are leaders, creators, social media celebrities and everything in between,” he said. “Best of all, we’re a team.”

Shangle, who said his younger brother will be a UC Berkeley freshman this fall, also thanked the Haas faculty and staff. “We deeply appreciate all the time, passion, and knowledge you all share with us every single day.”

Woman shakes hands with a young man.
Dean Ann Harrison  congratulates a Berkeley Haas undergraduate on stage at the Greek. Photo: Kim Girard

Honors at commencement

Those honored at undergraduate commencement include:

Department Citation (for most outstanding academic achievements): Josh Greenberg

Question the Status Quo: Vanshika Sapra

Confidence without Attitude: Jeena Chong

Students Always: Anna Katharina Giebel

Beyond Yourself: Anna Shim (GMP program)

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching for the Undergraduate Program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Richard Huntsinger

Outstanding Graduate School Instructor (GSI): Paige Wahoff

two students hugging at undergraduate commencement
Photo: Noah Berger

MBA students travel abroad again on consulting projects as IBD celebrates 30th year

portrait of David Richardson standing in front of a taxi in Asia
“We’re so happy to be up and running again.” – IBD’s executive director David Richardson

For the first time in three years, MBA students are traveling abroad this month to work on consulting projects through the International Business Development (IBD) program at Berkeley Haas.

“We’re so happy to be up and running again,” said IBD’s executive director David Richardson, who runs the marquee Haas global management consulting program that is celebrating its 30th year. “This is one of the most popular electives for our students, and we were crushed when we got hit by COVID restrictions and our students could no longer travel. But we want everyone to know that we’re back.”

Lecturer Whitney Hischier, who teaches the IBD course, added that the hiatus “made us all appreciate the value of experiential classes more than ever.”

Thirteen students assigned to four teams will head to Singapore, Finland, and Guatemala in mid May. To prepare, the students began the IBD consulting course last January, which included the much-anticipated “big reveal” when the students learn where they’ll go.

Group of IBD students holding country signs
The 2022 class of IBD students will travel for the first time in three years.

In Singapore, one project team will work with a global food company. Two teams are heading to Finland. One will work with a software company that offers consumer electronics service management solutions, and another is assigned to a company that built a digital food safety and operations system for hotels, restaurants, and catering businesses. In Guatemala, students will collaborate with a social service organization that operates hospitals and vision centers that aim to eradicate treatable blindness.

portrait of Monica Shavers, MBA 23
Monica Shavers, MBA 23, will work in Singapore.

Monica Shavers, MBA 23, said she is looking forward to experiencing the culture and the food of Singapore, while working for the global food company.

“We’ve had lots of (virtual) client meetings, talking to our sponsor every week to figure out our itinerary and the ways in which we’ll learn about Singaporean food culture,” she said. “We’ve been talking through all of our ideas, and laying out what we will validate while we are in-country.”

When applying to Haas, IBD was one of the key attractions, she said. “I didn’t get to study abroad as an undergraduate,” she said. “I saw this as a great opportunity for me to get that global experience while I’m in school again.”

Kylie Gemmell, MBA 23, is heading to Joensuu, a small town in Finland, in mid-May to work with a client that makes hardware and software used to control food temperature safety.

Portrait of Kylie Gemmell
Kylie Gemmell, MBA 23, will work in Finland.

Gemmell, who worked in real estate investing before coming to Haas, said IBD has helped her explore a career change. “I’ve never had a consulting job and I wanted to experience what that would feel like—and here I am, 12 weeks into food safety regulation, an area I never knew existed,” she said. Gemmell added that her IBD consulting project has helped her learn more about herself, as the work differs from the independent nature of real estate.

“What I’ve realized is that I really love working on a team and that I get my energy from people and from working collaboratively.”

IBD has grown since JoAnn Dunaway, MBA 92, started the program after she graduated from Haas. “She saw a need for a challenging experiential learning program for MBA students to solve business problems,” Richardson said.  “JoAnn had an international background and interest and she brought that in—and the school ran with it.”

During the recent Alumni Weekend at Haas, six IBD alumni joined students for a combined virtual/in-person panel during the April 28 IBD class. The alumni shared insights on their projects and the impact the program has had on their careers. (Read more from IBD’s Associate Director Danner Doud-Martin on the IBD blog)

To prepare for the return to project work overseas, Richardson, a former Peace Corps volunteer, headed abroad last November to meet with potential IBD project clients. In recent months, he worked with UC Berkeley Study Abroad Office and Risk Services  to make sure Haas met UC Berkeley’s standards for mitigating the risk of Covid during student travel and at client sites. Over time, he said he’s updated the list of countries where IBD students were able to safely work.

Richardson said he feels great about the program’s future.

“We’re hopeful that we’re getting back into the business of sending more students overseas,” Richardson said. 

 

Norman Y. Mineta, BS 53, first Asian-American federal cabinet secretary, dies at 90

Photo of Norman Mineta at the Capitol
Norm Mineta, BS 53, former U.S. Transportation Secretary, speaks during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., on March 31, 2005. Mineta died Tuesday, May 3, 2022. He was 90. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Norman Y. Mineta, BS 53, a 10-term Democratic congressman from California and the first Asian American to become a federal cabinet secretary under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, died Tuesday at home in Edgewater, Md., at 90.

Mineta, who as a child was interned with his family and thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II, died of a heart ailment, according to the The New York Times.  

After graduating from Haas in 1953 with an undergraduate degree in business administration, Mineta joined the U.S. Army and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea.

Mineta broke racial barriers for Asian Americans in becoming mayor of San Jose, Calif. in 1971, according to his AP obituary. Elected to Congress in 1974, he became popular with voters by supporting transportation projects and fostering public-private partnerships that created explosive growth in Silicon Valley.

After 9/11, Mineta guided the creation of the Transportation Security Administration.

In an interview about the aftermath of 9/11, recorded by The Japanese American National Museum, Mineta discussed concerns over some public calls for “putting Arab Americans and Muslims in camps.” Recalling a Sept. 12 cabinet meeting, he said a Michigan congressman shared that his Arab American constituents were concerned about fallout from the attacks. President Bush responded that he was also concerned. “We want to make sure what happened to Norm in 1942 doesn’t happen today,” Mineta recalled in the interview, adding that after the meeting he told his staff that “one of things we have to make sure we do is no racial profiling.”

After leaving public service, Mineta became vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton. San Jose’s airport was renamed Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in 2001; in 2007, Mineta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a statement, President Bush called Mineta “a wonderful American story about someone who overcame hardship and prejudice to serve in the United States Army, Congress, and the Cabinet of two Presidents.”

Read Mineta’s New York Times obituary.

Listen to a 2008  NPR interview with Mineta, who talked about his road to White House leadership and leading the nation through acts of terror on Sept. 11.

 

Q&A with Sheeraz Haji, new Cleantech to Market (C2M) co-director

Sheeraz Haji standing in front of digital screen in Cafe Think
Sheeraz Haji is the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) program. Photo: Jim Block

A passion to protect the environment began as a child for Sheeraz Haji, the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) Program at Berkeley Haas. 

“My dad was working in Africa for the World Bank, and we got to see how water pollution impacts peoples’ lives,” said Haji, who directs C2M with Brian Steel. “I ended up going back to Africa in college, and the environment just emerged as something that I became interested in.”

We talked to Haji, who began his career as an environmental engineer, about his varied career and his plans for C2M, a program that matches graduate student teams with entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize their climate tech solutions. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?

All over the world, actually. My dad worked for the World Bank, so we lived in Washington DC, then in Algeria and then Kenya when I was between eight and 12. Africa was amazing; Nairobi was a peaceful, amazing city surrounded by stunning parks. My dad was born and raised in East Africa so it felt like discovering our roots. One of my big memories was kicking and screaming when my parents told my brother and I we had to return to DC, where I went to high school. We didn’t want to go.

How did living in Africa as a kid impact your world view?

Africa played a big role in shaping my world view. My dad’s work gave me exposure to development and sustainability projects. It hit me as a young person. I was like, ‘Oh, this is something to hold onto.’ It was a pretty strong focus coming out of college. Later I got interested in a lot of other things, including business and software.

 You’ve had an interesting career. What are some of the highlights?

There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues. I’ve had some twists and turns in my career, working at McKinsey in strategy and at startups, running software startup GetActive, which helped nonprofits raise money online. But certainly the environment and energy have been big themes. Recently, I ran a company called Cleantech Group which helps corporations and investors across the globe invest in sustainable innovation. I now focus on climate tech investing and corporate consulting through my own firm, zipdragon ventures.

There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues.

What interested you in C2M and this role in particular?

First and foremost, I’ve known Brian (Steel) for a while. We met back in 2013 when I became involved in the program as a guest speaker, a coach, and then as a judge last year. What interested me was just observing and admiring what Brian and (former C2M co-director) Beverly Alexander had built and the impact it had on the students and the entrepreneurs. They put a lot of passion into this program. When I talked to students last year it was clear that C2M was a transformative experience for many of them. Brian, Beverly and co-faculty Bill (Shelander) have also done a really nice job of also keeping other folks from Haas, from the Berkeley ecosystem, and from the industry involved. Also, I have always dreamed of teaching at a world-class institution such as Haas, which happens to be very close to my home in Berkeley.

What are some of the trends that you’re seeing as an investor in clean tech markets?

Investors have poured more money into climate tech in recent years than at any other stage in my career. Global enterprises are driving sustainability goals, and governments are seeking to adopt policies to accelerate transitions to a low-carbon economy. We have observed some big financial outcomes for climate tech startups – something we had not seen for a long time. For example, quite a few EV charging companies have been able to access public markets and provide big returns for founders and investors. In the larger picture, I see sustainability serving as a huge driver across every industry and every company. There’s a massive amount of investment and adoption of climate technologies like the ones we work on at C2M. It feels like a unique time across the globe to focus on clean tech. 

 Can you share immediate/long-term plans for C2M?

I think job number one is for me to learn the program. Job number two is to try to not to mess up a good thing. We’ve got amazing students and a great cohort of startups. We must execute. We’re definitely looking at the curriculum, trying to figure out if and where to adjust. We’ve had some interesting conversations around, ‘Okay, where could we go? Is it another cohort, perhaps? Doing a class in the spring versus just in the fall?’ Also, we’re trying to be creative, as in, ‘Okay, there’s a great set of relationships, both within and outside the university community, creating a wonderful foundation. What else could we do?’ We are very open to ideas, and would love to hear from the Haas community.

 

There’s a spider robot in the attic! MBA students help win national E-ROBOT competition

 

(L-R) Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, worked on a business plan for the U.S. Department of Energy's American-Made E-ROBOT competition as a capstone project in their program.
(L-R) Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, worked on a business plan for the U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made E-ROBOT competition as a capstone project in their program.

A group of Berkeley Haas MBA students helped build the business plan for an attic-retrofit system based around heat sensing drones and foam-spraying spider robots that took the top prize in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2022 American-Made E-ROBOT competition.

Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, built the business plan for team RoboAttic/Thermadrone, along with Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23, and Vincent Chang, MBA 22. The robotics project was led by Dr. Avideh Zakhor

Dr. Zakhor led the team of about 35 people, including UC Berkeley students, professionals, and consultants, who developed the RoboAttic/Thermadrone technology.  The three top winners in the multi-stage competition were announced April 7 by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).  (Watch the robot in action in the video below)

Homes lose up to 20% of their heat and air conditioning due to poorly insulated roofs. Yet just 1% of building floorspace in the U.S. undergoes a meaningful retrofit each year due to the high cost and invasive nature of construction and renovation, according to Ram Narayanamurthy, a Program Manager in the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office.

Thermadrone’s software uses thermal drone camera images to diagnose and identify opportunities for attic insulation retrofits. Once attics in need of insulation are identified, Roboattic robots clean, air seal, and apply spray foam insulation to the building envelope. This enables construction workers to retrofit previously inaccessible attics with a PS4 controller. Finally, Thermadrone software provides quality assurance by measuring and verifying the retrofit was done properly.

An earlier round of the E-ROBOT Competition challenged participants to design and build robot prototypes that could be used to retrofit buildings to improve energy efficiency. For the second and final phase of the competition, 10 finalists were tasked with building viable business models for their respective startups.

Sergian, Aharon, and Aquino worked on the business plan for RoboAttic/Thermadrone for both the competition and as their capstone project, a required component of the MBA/MEng Program. 

Their work included estimating the total market size, sales, marketing, channel partners, and go-to-market strategy. “As MBA/MEng students, we were brought on as folks who were not only technical enough to understand the technology, but also strategic enough to put together a compelling business vision,” Aharon said. “It’s an example of the sort of cross-disciplinary collaboration that we constantly see around UC Berkeley.”

To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential. 

To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential.

“We were presented with an exciting technology,” said Sergian. “It was our challenge to figure out how to commercialize the product and make it a market success.”

Photo of Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23
Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23, worked on the business plan with UC Berkeley Professor Avideh Zakhor.

The students said they applied lessons from their MBA coursework in research and development and finance to the project. They calculated a total market size for building envelope retrofits in the US at about $1.25 billion, estimating that contractors would be willing to invest about $10,000 per robot. The value of the robot is that it can access places in attics that are hazardous and foul for construction workers to crawl through, Aharon said. 

Chen, who also worked on the project while in the evening & weekend MBA program, helped with marketing research, identifying potential user groups and conducting interviews with facility managers, utility companies, and government agencies.

“In the business plan stage, I worked with Avideh to identify critical cost components and revenue sources,” she said. She also developed profit and loss statements, cost performance models, and a manufacturing and scalability analysis.

The other  competition winners included a semi-autonomous flying quadcopter air duct inspection drone and a robotic retrofit tool used for caulking, aerosol sealing, and foam insulating buildings.

Consulting job acceptances rise for Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2022

More Berkeley Haas students in the Class of 2022 accepted jobs at top consulting firms this year, a trend fueled by a need for more corporate help with everything from staffing challenges to brand positioning.

About 28% of graduating full-time MBA students in the Class of 2022 have taken consulting jobs this year, an uptick from 25% for the last several years. Students also accepted more job offers earlier in the cycle, and acceptances are up at top firms including McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), said Chris Gavin, a relationship manager in consulting for the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group“Consulting firms have been going all out with hires,” Gavin said.

Kim Ayers
Kim Ayers, MBA 18, worked at McKinsey for two years before moving to DocuSign.

Consulting is a top industry for MBA grads—second only to tech—for many reasons. Beyond the prestige of working at a top firm, the pay is excellent, with starting salaries averaging $158,000 plus sign-on bonuses that averaged $31,331 last year. Consulting firms also interview and hire on a predictable schedule—taking some of the stress and uncertainty out of the job search. They offer challenging assignments in great locations around the globe, and often serve as a springboard to careers in strategy and operations at big firms. 

“Consulting is a great way to get high-level experience across a number of industries, be connected to the company at the C-level, and continue the MBA learning journey,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management and Corporate Partnerships. “You are thrown a lot of high-level, challenging assignments early in your career, there is a lot of variety in the work, and the compensation is fabulous.”

Kim Ayers, MBA 18, was recently promoted to strategy director at DocuSign, a position she said she would never have been offered if she hadn’t worked at McKinsey & Company first.

“My time at McKinsey gave me the external validation that was needed: People could see McKinsey (on my resume) and see that I had the right business skills and knowledge. It also gave me internal validation,” said Ayers, who came to Haas after working for nonprofit organizations.

“Going all out with hires”

The consulting industry is also unique in that it’s open to people from so many different career backgrounds, Scott said. “They love people who come from non-traditional fields, from the military to not-for-profit organizations to banking,” she said.

Brandon Ehlert, MBA 22
Brandon Ehlert, MBNA 22, will go to Deloitte.

Brandon Ehlert, MBA 22, arrived at Haas thinking that he’d pursue real estate and perhaps return to the Four Seasons, where he worked before the MBA program, for a corporate job scouting new real estate prospects for the hotel chain.

But during his first year, he participated in Kearney, Deloitte, and Microsoft case competitions, which led to an interest in consulting and a career pivot. In those competitions, students tackle “a case that’s like a distilled version of a consulting project and provides a taste of what I would do in consulting.”

While interviewing for jobs during the pandemic felt uncertain, Ehlert said consulting, which schedules interviews and hires on a predictable schedule, offered a way to “minimize the uncertainty.” For Ehlert, the case competitions led to recruiting efforts, and an internship at Deloitte, where he accepted a job as a senior consultant in New York City.

“The hotel industry was narrow,” he said. “I thought consulting would open doors to other industries.”

Broadening a career

The appeal of a broader career also drew Shane Wilkinson, MBA 22, toward consulting. 

Shane Wilkinson
Shane Wilkinson, MBA 22, will work at BCG Digital.

Before coming to Haas, Wilkinson, who also holds a master’s degree in data science and predictive analytics, was a “Moneyball-style quant” who worked for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff. “My draw towards getting an MBA was to get a broader business foundation because I was so focused in my career on the technical aspects,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t see that as my future.” 

Meeting fellow MBA students who worked in consulting sold him on the industry. “They have a certain level of professionalism,” he said. ”I admired their willingness to get things done.”

During the interview process, Wilkinson connected with a Haas alumnus who worked at BCG and helped him land an internship last April. “He passed my name along to the San Francisco office, which had a digital branch that aligned with my background,” he said. That led to a job at BCG Digital starting in January. 

International appeal

For international students, consulting holds global appeal—whether they plan to stay in the U.S. after graduating or return home.

Crystal Ang, MBA 22, who accepted a consulting job with McKinsey after interning there, worked for the Singapore government before coming to Haas. For an international student, the visa sponsorship of a consulting firm is appealing, Ang said.

Crystal Ang
Crystal Ang, MBA 22, will join McKinsey in San Francisco.

While attending coffee chats and case preparation workshops offered by the Haas Career Management Group and the student-run consulting club, she met Ehlert. The two began case prepping for interviews together during fall semester, and Ang ultimately received two offers from top firms.

She will join McKinsey’s San Francisco office as a generalist, apprenticing in different practice areas.  “I’m so excited about this job and that I will be able to stay near the Haas community.  I know my Berkeley MBA has prepared me for this next phase, and I’m excited to tackle whatever is next.”

Berkeley undergrad student team wins global venture capital final; EWMBAs take 3rd

Undergrads holding check at VCIC finals.
The UC Berkeley Undergraduate student team took first place at Global VCIC: Victor Li, David Wang. Carol Xie, Allen Wang, and Blair Wu.

A group of UC Berkeley undergraduate students’ stellar startup-vetting skills netted them first place against a field of 120 teams at the Global Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) finals.

Members of the winning team that competed at University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School on April 8-9 included Berkeley Haas student David Wang, BS 22, (Business & Chemical Engineering); Victor Li, BS 22, (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science), Carol Xie,  BA 22, (Computer Science & Statistics); Allen Wang, BA 23, (Economics & Data Science);  and Blair Wu, BA 24, (Economics & Biology).

A team of Berkeley Haas evening & weekend MBA students took third place, including Andrew Celin, John Eastman, Shenshen Hu, Terrence Tse, and Georgia Wright-Simmons, all EWMBA 22.  

Photo of EWMBA team
The Berkeley Haas EWMBA team, left to right: Georgia Wright-Simmons, John Eastman, Terrence Tse, Andrew Celin, and Shenshen Hu, all EWMBA 22.

“I’m blown away by these wins,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). Shrader, who accompanied the students, said she was pleased that VCIC returned as an in-person event this year. 

More than 120 university and graduate school teams compete at VCIC. The competition has a two-fold mission: to make students VCs for the day and allow startups to jumpstart their fundraising. Since the competition’s inception in 1998, more than 800 founders have received 1,500 practice term sheets from student investment teams.

At the finals, the Berkeley undergraduates performed due diligence on three startups. After writing up term sheets, the team recommended a $5.25 million investment in agriculture technology startup Atira. Atira is developing an indoor system that promises to grow vegetables 40 percent faster without energy waste or pesticides. 

“The business has a lot of potential,” said Wu, who took a gap semester off to work at a venture capital firm last year and met her teammates through Berkeley’s Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs (ACE). “They’d already acquired patents and had a strong team. Their product was solid and there’s strong market demand.”

Photo of the undergrad team at worka
The UC Berkeley undergraduate team at work during the competition.

David Wang, BS 22, said he believes that two key factors helped with the win: team dynamics and mentorship. “We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship,” he said. 

“We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship.” —David Wang.

Wang also credited Haas MBA alumnus Elan Tye, a principal at JAZZ Venture Partners, and Matt Kirmayer, a partner at law firm Perkins Coie, for spending “countless hours preparing us for the competition…We could not have done it without them,” he said.

Shrader said the team “crushed” its partner meeting round, nailing both the startup valuation and the Q&A session.

“Everybody had a role and everybody spoke at the finals and you could see that their emphasis was on team work,” she said.”This team definitely had confidence without attitude.”

Three student-led conferences to check out at Haas in April

Three student-led conferences scheduled at Berkeley Haas in April kick off Friday with the 10th annual MBA Chile conference, followed by the BERC Energy Summit Conference and the Africa Business Forum.

MBA Chile Conference 2022

Chile’s former President Ricardo Lagos will kick off the MBA Chile Conference, on April 1-2.

Lagos will join virtually, but the event will be held in person at Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum starting Friday. MBA Chile, an association that unites Chilean MBA students worldwide, encourages networking and generates a call to action around Chile’s social, economic, political, and environmental conditions. About 120 people are expected to attend the conference.

The event is hosted by different top business schools each year; Northwestern’s Kellogg and MIT’s Sloan School hosted the conference virtually during the pandemic. Tomás Jiménez, MBA 22, head of the 2022 MBA Chile conference and vp of careers with the Latin American and Hispanic Business Association (LAHBA), said it’s been a pleasure planning this year’s event and an honor to host at Haas.

Photo of Tomas Jimenez
Tomás Jiménez, MBA 22, is head of the 2022 MBA Chile conference

“Working with our talented Chilean Haasies to organize this conference has been a great management experience,” said Jiménez, who worked in private equity before coming to Haas and will work at Snap after graduation.

Each year, former Chilean presidents are invited, along with heads of executive departments and ministers, CEOs and C-level executives of Chilean and Latin

American firms, Chilean business group leaders, and successful entrepreneurs. A total of 25 speakers are signed on to participate this year.

Part of MBA Chile’s mission is to encourage more Chilean women to apply to MBA programs. Currently, about 13% of Chilean applicants to MBA programs are women, the group estimates.

Four sessions will be held on Friday on Sustainability and CSR; Doing Business in Chile and Latin America; The Fintech Revolution; and Chile: Challenges and Opportunities.

A happy hour will follow at Tupper & Reed on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley.

Saturday’s agenda includes sessions on Unconscious Bias, presented by Woman MBA Chile and VC & Entrepreneurship in Latin America, followed by lunch at the Faculty Club, and a social event at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.

The event organizing committee at Haas includes: Felipe Covarrubias, Martin Pavez, and Tomás Campos, all MBA 22, and Nicolás Mora, Felipe Bosselin, Matias Pavez, Santiago Recabarren, all MBA 23.

BERC Energy Summit Conference

Carla Peterman
Carla Peterman, PhD 17

Carla Peterman, PhD 17 (Energy & Resources), executive vice president of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer at PG&E, will kick off the upcoming annual Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC) Energy Summit.

The conference will be held Monday, April 11, at UC Berkeley’s Pauley Ballroom from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. followed by networking until 7 p.m. 

Sessions include Empowering the Energy Transition through DEI;, Women in Energy; Carbon Pricing: Does it work?; Venture Capital: Investing for Impact; Solutions for a Nuclear Future; What’s Next for Rooftop Solar; and EV Charging: Powering Electric Mobility. 

On Wednesday, April 13, the BERC Innovation Expo will be held at Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum from 9 a.m. to noon, including research poster presentations and innovation expo awards, followed by a UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate career forum. The expo connects energy and cleantech companies to students pursuing a career in energy. Tickets available here.

Africa Business Forum

Martha Saavedra, PhD 91
Martha Saavedra, PhD 91

The 7th Annual Africa Business Forum will explore the innovation landscape in Africa, challenges and opportunities the continent faces, and how talent development in Africa will contribute to a changing world.

The event will be held Friday, April 15, from noon to 5 p.m. at Spieker Forum in Chou Hall at Berkeley Haas. 

Martha Saavedra, PhD 91, (Political Science) and associate director of the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley, will kick off the event with welcome remarks, followed by a keynote talk by Chukwuemeka Afigbo, director and developer of experience at Okta and a former manager of developer programs at Meta. During his time at Meta, he worked on partnerships in both Africa and the Middle East.

Speakers will address the future of fintech in Africa, the rise of AI technology, and how entrepreneurs and investment are shaping the future of Africa and the world.

A panel on Innovation in Healthcare in Africa will be moderated by Bioengineering Professor Delphine Dean of Clemson University. 

Speakers include: 

  • Adegoke Olubusi, founder & CEO at Helium Health
  • Anu Parvatiyar, founder & CEO at Ananya Health
  • Emilian Popa, CEO & co-founder at Ilara Health
  • Dr. Murisiku (Muri) Raifu, CEO & founder at Talamus Health
  • Kevin Doxzen, researcher at the World Economic Forum

Forum organizers include Ismail Aberki, Sk Alabagda, Nuvi Njinimbam, Candy Jiawen Xiao, John Bolaji, Konso Mbakire, Nebo Iwenofu, all MBA 23. 

U.S. News ranks all three Berkeley Haas MBA programs in Top 10

All three Berkeley Haas MBA programs ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. News & World Report 2023 Best Business Schools rankings, published today.

U.S. News ranked the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #8, tied with Columbia Business School. The Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program ranked #2 for the fourth year in a row. And the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program rose one spot to #7 among exec MBA programs. 

Here is how Haas fared in the Business School Specialty Rankings:

#3 in Real Estate

#5 in Entrepreneurship

#4 in Nonprofit

#6 in Business Analytics

#8 in Finance 

#7 in Executive MBA

#9 in International (tie)

#9 in Management (tie)

#11 in Marketing

#15 in Information Systems

#16 in Production / Operations (tie)

The full-time MBA rankings are based on data provided by participating U.S. schools and on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs, as well as surveys of corporate recruiters and company contacts. The peer and employer polls account for 40% of the score. The other 60% consist of placement success and starting salary (35%) and student selectivity (25%).

The score for the part-time MBA rankings is calculated from the peer polls (50%), student selectivity (27.5%), work experience (10%), and percent of MBA students who are enrolled part-time (12.5%). The specialty and the executive MBA rankings are based entirely on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs.

Boba dreams: Undergrad student to open Aura Tea in downtown San Francisco

Photo of Kashish Juneja, BS 22
Kashish Juneja, BS 22, is opening Aura Tea shop in downtown San Francisco at the end of March.

Kashish Juneja, BS 22, is learning about running a business in real-time as she prepares to open startup Aura Tea’s first shop in downtown San Francisco on March 27. In between juggling a mid-term and going to class she’s taking calls from her contractor and interviewing for counter help at the shop that will serve boba tea with a twist: It’s sugar free, made with plant-based milks, and under 100 calories. 

“It’s insane from the operational side,” said Juneja, whose first shop is strategically located on Spear Street across from Google and Databricks offices, where employees are starting to trickle back. “We need to make sure there’s a demand and that we’re making sure the product is good enough so that people will continue showing up.”

In many ways, Aura Tea has been a team effort from the start. Juneja recruited 22 interns from the UC Berkeley community who help with marketing, TikTok, and Instagram, where she’s drawn support from NFL players to local musicians. Students and Cal athlete ambassadors helped her host on-campus events that offer “boba for de-stressing”—and she recently held a pop-up on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, giving away Cal-themed boba tea drinks.

Aura Tea space on Spear
Aura’s new shop will open March 27 on Spear Street in San Francisco. Photo: Kashish Juneja.

Kaitlin Dang, BS 24, an intern who serves as business growth lead at Aura Tea, said her favorite Aura flavor is mango pineapple.

“Before I started working here I was an avid milk tea connoisseur, trying new places,” said Dang, who is in  her second year of the Berkeley Haas Global Management Program. “My taste has changed from sweeter teas and now I drink a lot of fruit teas. Most fruit teas are very sweet and not refreshing. Aura tea has a refreshing taste.”

Solving her own problem

Juneja, who grew up in Cupertino, has always loved boba. “Our high school was boba central, with a boba shop across the street that was open during lunch every day,” she said. “I played tennis every day so it balanced out.”

Photo of Kaitlin Dang drinking boba
Kaitlin Dang, a sophomore in the undergraduate Global Management Program at Haas, is Aura’s business growth lead.

Her boba addiction continued at Berkeley, but drinking those 500 extra boba calories without her usual tennis playing led to an unwanted 30-pound weight gain. Aura Tea, she said, was founded in part to solve her own problem.

The idea to start making healthier boba tea emerged during a Plant Futures course that she took with Will Rosenzweig, the faculty chair of the Center for Responsible Business at Haas who co-founded the Republic of Tea.

She’d already taken an entrepreneurship bootcamp and was interested in starting a company. Plant Futures, a collaboration between Berkeley Haas, Public Health, Engineering, Public Policy, and the Berkeley Food Institute, pushed her idea forward.

Throughout the pandemic, Juneja could be found crafting tea in her apartment, testing different oat, almond, and pea milks, which make her tea drinks vegan, and sweeteners, using fresh loose leaf green and black teas from the grocery store. (Boba pearls are naturally vegan, as they’re made of tapioca starch, which comes from cassava root.)

Juneja tested her teas on friends and classmates. In the early recipe days, she conducted a blind taste test: her milk tea against the Boba Guys’ tea and others. (Boba Guys was co-founded by Andrew Chau, MBA 11.)  “We didn’t win but it was a good start,” she said. “Our taste was nowhere that it is now.” 

It took time to get Berkeley-based impact investor David Jiang to take a chance on her venture, she said. Jiang’s wife’s father was a tea farmer in China, and they all shared an interest in tea. “There was a lot of making it and taking it back to them,” Juneja said. “I was taking what I learned in class and bringing them my tea and my pitch deck.” 

I was taking what I learned in class and bringing them my tea and my pitch deck.

Valuable startup experience

The shop, which will take to-go orders online, will offer a combination of grab-and-go and fresh-brewed drinks with boba tea in flavors including strawberry, matcha, pineapple, and mango. Aura will offer coffee drinks, too, and a masala chai with infused with spices and CBD for relaxation. (Aura’s boba pearls are made by US Boba Company in nearby Hayward, Calif. Her tea is sweetened with Purecane, which she says she chose for its lack of an aftertaste.) 

Students drinking boba at an Aura Tea rooftop party.
Students sample the tea on a campus rooftop last week during Aura Tea’s launch party.

Dang said she’s getting valuable experience working for Aura. “There’s a lot of creativity involved,” she said. “I have the space to try the things I want to try. We’re appealing to a certain wide demographic: corporate employees, health influencers, healthcare professionals, and foodies. I like to try things I’ve seen work in other industries, casting a wide net.”

Juneja, who will work in the shop part-time until graduation, said she’s grateful to her entire community of classmates, professors, and advisors for all of their help with Aura’s creation.

 “When I wrote my essay to get into Haas I said I wanted to solve a problem,” she said. “My dream came true.”

‘We’re just getting started.’ Saikat Chaudhuri on what’s next for the M.E.T. Program

Saikat with MET students
“Our mission is to create leaders who can combine engineering and business to solve the world’s most pressing challenges” —Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director for the Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) Program at Haas.

Saikat Chaudhuri recently celebrated his first year as faculty director for the Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) Program at Berkeley Haas—and says he’s just getting started. 

Chaudhuri came to Haas from Wharton, where he was on the faculty for 16 years. He quickly became an enthusiastic champion of both UC Berkeley and M.E.T., the highly competitive dual-degree program jointly founded by Berkeley Haas and Berkeley Engineering in 2016. Along with overseeing M.E.T., he now teaches the two connected courses in the program, which enrolls about 55 students each year. In addition to serving as faculty director, Chaudhuri also holds the Grimes M.E.T. Chancellor’s Chair.

What are you the most proud of accomplishing during your first year?

I think what I’m most proud about—and what I hadn’t expected—is how much traction we’ve been able to get as such a young program. Academically, it’s very hard to build a reputation for a new program. Whether it’s our huge application numbers or even the press coverage, it’s really exciting for us to be noticed out there. And we are giving the finest peer institutions a run for their money, if I may add.

I’m also grateful for the fact that we have so much support everywhere: The two deans, the chancellor, the provost, our principal donor, are all behind us and they’re available, offering their counsel and backing whenever we need. And without the extraordinarily talented and dedicated program staff — Executive Director Chris Dito, Associate Director Dawn Kramer, and Marketing & Data Analytics Manager Althea Escalante – we would not be where we are. 

We’ve come a long way. M.E.T. is attracting the best and brightest students for these two degrees, and they are pursuing them seamlessly, then embarking on accelerated careers that will make a mark! 

Founding class of MET students
The founding class of M.E.T. (Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology Program) students at orientation week in 2017.
(Photo: Noah Berger)

M.E.T. is a unique program. Few schools offer degrees in business and engineering from two top-ranked undergrad programs. How do you explain the mission of M.E.T. ?

Our mission is to create leaders who can combine engineering and business in order to solve the world’s most pressing challenges in a scalable and sustainable way. And when I say leaders, I mean a diverse set of leaders: We want people from all kinds of backgrounds, industries, and locations, from Silicon Valley to the rest of the world. We want to be in a place where we can attract the most diverse, best, and brightest talent who also have the sense of that mission. Then we want to be able to give them the tools they need to go and transform industries, to disrupt healthcare, revolutionize  transportation, solve climate change, do all of that. This is all driven by Berkeley’s core strength and innate culture: a desire to have a positive impact on society. And that is what I believe will be our competitive advantage!

Our mission is to create leaders who can combine engineering and business in order to solve the world’s most pressing challenges in a scalable and sustainable way.

Photo of Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director for the Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) Program at Haas.
Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director for the Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) Program at Haas.

So what’s already in the works?

We’ve been working on a number of different areas. One is on the curricular side, where I redesigned the two dedicated linking courses all M.E.T.s take as cohorts. We had a freshman course and we had a senior course around leadership, but it was general and there was very little on management, entrepreneurship or technology, so I revamped these. I turned them into courses on technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and disruption. We introduced capstone projects as part of these classes. The freshmen last semester worked with aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin on commercial space applications. And the seniors worked on a project to help Indian communications company Tata Communications think about new technologies that are coming down the pipeline to  create a new billion-dollar business.

On the co-curricular side, we have an incubator/accelerator that we’re working on which  will have different components including an educational piece that we’ve started, a peer advising service that we’re launching this spring, and eventually small seed grants to allow students to pursue ventures. We don’t want to replicate everything at UC Berkeley, but there are a few things where we know that we could augment the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and where M.E.T. students can offer support to the rest of campus.

In addition, since we just graduated our first class last May, we’ve launched an alumni program which we refer to as  “M.E.T. for Life.” The idea is to build a strong community that begins on campus and benefits M.E.T.s throughout one’s career and life no matter what stage they’re in, current student, recent alumni, or established alumni. We’re starting  regional chapters, events, and online forums, along with a database that includes everybody so they can connect.

What’s next for M.E.T.?

We call our next phase M.E.T. 2.0.  I see four big  opportunities. One is more integration, rather than just parallel studies, among technology and management, engineering and business in the experience we offer. The second is a much deeper and broader set of connections to the real world  in terms of expanding to  more geographies and more industries in our curriculum, extracurriculars, and job recruiting. A third area is doing more with diversity, equity, and inclusion. And the fourth is the tremendous chance to do more marketing, getting more visibility for the program nationally and also globally. We’re sort of at the IPO moment: Now we can really spread our wings, we can have true impact. 

How does diversity and inclusivity fit into the program?

Attracting, nurturing, and sending to the world a diverse and inclusive talent pool in all its forms is a goal we are embracing not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because innovation and entrepreneurship benefit from different perspectives. So we want to be at the forefront of dismantling barriers, removing biases, and creating opportunities. This is very personal for me; being of Indian background, growing up in Germany attending an international school, and studying and working in the U.S. allowed me to work with people from all over the world from childhood, so I’ve experienced the power a multicultural, multifaceted group of friends and colleagues can bring.

Being of Indian background, growing up in Germany attending an international school, and studying and working in the U.S. allowed me to work with people from all over the world from childhood, so I’ve experienced the power a multicultural, multifaceted group of friends and colleagues can bring.

In that spirit, we’re doing a number of things in M.E.T. to further diversity, equity, and inclusion, beyond scholarships, which are one enabler. In our curriculum, because we believe it is a critical workplace skill to have, we’re building in workshops on managing diverse teams and points of view into the freshman and upper level  program courses that I teach. 

Another project we’re working on right now is a high school summer program launching in 2023 that we hope will serve as a great pipeline for diversity for us. It’s important to find these prospective applicants, high school students who might not necessarily have found the opportunity to apply directly to our program or who haven’t been exposed to these kinds of areas. 

All in all, I can’t wait for what the future holds for M.E.T. I think we’re just getting started. I can reveal that we’ve got a few more initiatives up our sleeves to take our program to the next level over the next few years. I want us to play a part in letting UC Berkeley shine as a whole. The university is among the top five worldwide in my opinion, and we’ll try to help showcase why I truly believe these students are going to be at the forefront of solving the world’s most pressing challenges. I think they’re going to disrupt every industry that you can imagine for the better.

Haas MBA students win UNC Real Estate Development Challenge

Winning MBA students in the UNC real estate competition.
Winners of the UNC Real Estate Competition: (left to right) Alijah Talley and Vicky Li, both MBA 23, Timothy Werby, MBA/JD 22; and Santiago Recabarren, MBA 23.

A team of Berkeley Haas MBA students won the 2022 University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School Real Estate Development Challenge for a plan to transform part of an historic Washington D.C. neighborhood.  

“It’s great to bring this home for Haas and for Berkeley,” said Timothy Werby, MBA/JD 22, whose teammates included Vicky Li, Alijah Talley, and Santiago Recabarren, all MBA 23. Haas last won the competition in 2011.

The UNC Real Estate Development Challenge,hosted annually by the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies at Kenan-Flagler, convened 12 teams from the country’s top MBA programs on February 18.

This year, the teams had to plan, design, model financials, and create an investor presentation for development of a 9.25-acre site in Washington D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood, south of the U.S. Capitol Building. To be successful, plans had to incorporate  “the highest level of sustainability, embrace the surrounding neighborhoods, and deliver attractive risk-adjusted returns to investors.”

Focused on the community

Split across four presentation rooms, each team presented to a group of local real estate experts in 20-minute rounds, followed by five minutes of questions from the judges. Four finalists were then selected to present again in front of all of the judges, UNC students, and other competitors.

The Haas team’s presentation was designed thematically around the Nacotchtank, or Anacostans, an Algonquian-speaking, indigenous people who lived along the southeast side of the Anacostia River. Their design included a circular plaza to host pop-up farmer’s markets, an outdoor event space to be called the Frederick Douglass Pavilion, a new neighborhood grocery store, renovated school space, and a jazz stage that could be used for outdoor block parties and community events. 

The team also pushed to include new multi-family housing and additional community spaces in future phases, including 43% more affordable housing units than was required. 

“We all had our superpower”

Recabarren said the team excelled in part because it covered the project’s central issues comprehensively.

“We decided to pay more attention to the conceptual aspects of the project, which we defined as the four core values of our development: honoring local culture, health and wellness,  sustainability, equity and inclusion,” he said.

The team had just four days to develop the whole project. “We were very fortunate to have Tim, who had a lot of experience in these competitions,” Recabarren said.  “He convinced us on where and how we should use our resources.”

Talley said the team’s power was in its diversity, which enabled team members to tap into each of their strengths.

“Each of my teammates have different professional backgrounds, varied levels of real estate experience, and different lived experiences,” he said. “I think that we all had our own superpower and something tangible to bring to the table.”

Finally, Li said that the team was highly motivated to “do what it takes to take home the grand prize.

Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management took second place while Rice University’s Business School and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business tied for third place.

Haas community turns unity into action in support of Ukraine

The shock and disbelief that rippled through the Haas community after Russia attacked Ukraine last week is turning into unity and action by the many students, faculty, staff, and alumni with deep connections to the region.

Fiodor Otero holding a sign at a rally for Ukraine in San Francisco City Hall.
Fiodor Otero, MBA 23, shows his support for Ukraine at a rally at San Francisco’s City Hall last Thursday.

Today, the student-led European Business Club held a “Haas for Ukraine” forum for Ukrainian and Russian students to share their perspectives on the conflict. Others are launching fundraisers, and a faculty member has begun organizing a collective of fellow Ukrainian economists to brainstorm how to help the country both short- and long-term.

“We hope we can be of help, because the feeling of helplessness watching the situation unfold from afar has been among the worst parts of the emotional rollercoaster,” said Assistant Professor Anastassia Fedyk, who was born in the Ukraine and immigrated at age 10 when her mother Tatiana Fedyk, PhD 08, began her doctoral studies accounting at Berkeley Haas.

The violence is taking a huge emotional toll. Like many Ukrainians, Fedyk’s family has been preoccupied with checking in on their close family back home, some of whom are now leaving for Romania. Dima Okrimchuk, MBA 17, calls his parents in Kyiv every few hours to make sure they are okay, anxiously waiting to hear their voices. 

“Watching live reports of my country torn apart by the Russians is just devastating,” he said in an interview from Lisbon. “This is something I will never forget.”

“We hope we can be of help, because the feeling of helplessness watching the situation unfold from afar has been among the worst parts of the emotional rollercoaster.”  -Anastassia Fedyk, assistant professor of finance

A startup disrupted

Okrimchuk said he feels some guilt for leaving family and friends in Kyiv two weeks ago, relocating to Lisbon with his wife. But he said he’s now focused on raising funds for the Ukrainian army and spreading awareness of the conflict, while he continues work on his online game startup Organization.GG. He started the company while at Haas before moving back to Kyiv, where he recently received seed funding. 

Dima Okrimchuk, MBA 17 with his startup team at Organization.GG
Dima Okrimchuk, MBA 17, (fourth from left) with his team of Organization.GG employees who left their Kyiv headquarters after the invasion.

Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, worked with Okrimchuk when his company placed third in the fall 2020 LAUNCH accelerator competition at Haas. Last year, Okrimchuk served as a mentor in a class that Shrader taught online for Ukranian entrepreneurs as part of GIST Innovates Ukraine, a U.S. State Department-sponsored program. Shrader taught students the Lean Startup methodology. 

Having developed relationships with so many of the country’s entrepreneurs, Shrader says she is devastated by the Russian invasion. “I loved working with these students,” she said. “I’m in tears.”

Before deciding to leave Ukraine, Okrimchuk asked his Organization.GG team whether they planned to leave Kyiv as well. “Everyone else had their own plan on what to do,” he said. “Out of the five of us, one remained in Kyiv, and four headed for different parts of Ukraine. They took their cars or found cars and left. A lot of people were running out of gas and there were huge traffic jams.”

Okrimchuk said he’s unsure when or if he will be able to return. “I can only hope that this won’t last long and we find a diplomatic solution,” he said. “There can’t be winners in the war. At the end of the day Ukraine is not only fighting for its own independence, but for peace and stability globally. I urge everyone to put pressure on their governments to help Ukraine with financial, military and political support before it is not too late. We are fighting for you, too.”

“There can’t be winners in the war.” -Dima Okrimchuk, MBA 17

Lives left behind

Fiodor Otero wears a "Stand for Ukraine" mask
Fiodor Otero, MBA 23, shows his support at the Haas for Ukraine event Monday. (Photo: Mary O’Connell)

Fiodor Otero joined a rally for Ukraine in San Francisco’s City Hall Plaza Thursday, which left his throat sore from shouting. A Russian classmate who supports Ukraine came along with him, moved to tears by the speeches.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Otero, MBA 23, whose mother is Ukrainian. He has an aunt and cousin living in Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, where conflict between Russian separatists and Ukrainian government has continued since 2014. His voice cracks as he discusses the past week of worrying about his family as the Russian forces advance. 

“For them, war has been a normal part of life for eight years,” he said. But now, on her way to the market, she’s noticing the bombing is getting closer and louder. At 68, she is now considering leaving the same apartment complex where she’s lived her entire life.

“I was talking to my cousin last night, asking what it was like for them,” said Otero, who grew up in his father’s native Panama. His aunt and 33-year-old cousin are now talking about fleeing to Panama, where his mother is living. “It’s just so hard. My aunt is saying she will be a refugee for the rest of her life. She’s going to leave their entire life behind.” 

She now talks about giving away her things before she leaves, including her fine china and her nice glasses.“My cousin said something that struck my heart: ‘We’ve been saving these nice glasses and china to celebrate the good things in life, but those good things will never come,’ he said. ‘It’s time to start drinking from these every day before we leave.’ It’s so hard for me to emotionally process that.”

Global fears

Dimitry Livdan (Photo: Jim Block)

Dmitry Livdan, a Berkeley Haas associate professor of finance, grew up in Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine before immigrating to the U.S. at age 24. He lost his mother to COVID last year, and wasn’t able to return to say goodbye. She was the last of his close family there.

He takes a dim view of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s prospects for success​ and hopes he will fail quickly.​ “I hope this is just for show, and he gets slapped in the face in two weeks,” he said of Putin. 

With Russia’s wealthy elite losing billions already, he believes any support for Putin will erode quickly as the economic sanctions hit hard.​ ​Livdan says his big worry is that Putin’s invasion will embolden China to make a similar move. “I worry most about what this means for Taiwan,” he said.

‘The unimaginable’ has happened

Photo of Anastassia Fedyk
Anastassia Fedyk
(Photo: Copyright Noah Berger / 2019)

Fedyk, a Berkeley Haas assistant professor of finance whose research focuses on behavioral biases and in individual and group decision-making, said her reaction on Wednesday night and Thursday morning was anger, panic, and “the understanding that the unimaginable had happened, and that things will never be quite the same again. I taught on autopilot while inwardly feeling like my world was coming apart and could not say a word about the situation in class lest I start crying.”

By the end of the week, Fedyk said, her emotions shifted to a mix of “pain, hope, determination, and of course pride in my compatriots. Like the entire world, I am inspired by the resistance of the Ukrainian people—but I am worried whether the newly mobilized global support will be enough.” 

The stakes are high, she says, eight years into the conflict that has been simmering since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. If Ukraine falls, “Putin would very likely not stop there, and there is a security risk to other parts of Europe; by contrast, if Ukraine succeeds in pushing off the aggression, it might have positive spillovers in Belarus and perhaps even in Russia.” 

As an economist, she believes that “letting Putin win would effectively plunge Ukraine into the economic dark ages together with Russia. And if we succeed in fighting off the invasion, there will still be much work to do on reconstruction, but at least there will be something to reconstruct, and we will have global support.”

That’s why she is organizing with other Ukrainian economists at U.S. schools to brainstorm solutions both for the immediate term and in the months and years to come. At the same time, she is glued to the news alongside her parents and her grandmother, who has been visiting from Ukraine since September. She is also trying to parent her three-year-old son, who refers to Putin as “the bad guy,” and talks about throwing him into a prickly cactus bush.

“We have been trying to teach him to use his words rather than fighting, but it’s very hard when we are watching this unfold,” she said. 

Classified: A simulated electricity market auction lights up Energy Markets course

Four students in Energy Markets class working on a simulated auction project.
Grace Brittan, (middle) MBA 22, works with classmates Rosa Huang, Jamie Daudon, and Lily Peng during a recent simulated auction in the Energy and Environmental Markets class. Photo: Jim Block.

“Classified” is an occasional series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons being taught in classrooms around Haas.

On a recent Thursday morning in Chou Hall, Grace Brittan, MBA 22, paired off with three other graduate students in the Energy and Environmental Markets course to prepare for a simulated electricity market auction.

“We all worked together in advance of the auction to model how much we valued each of the portfolios and what our bidding strategy would be,” said Brittan, one of 71 students in the class.”Bidding went great for us.”

A student in Lucas Davis' class bids during an simulated energy auction.
Team Krugman bids during the electricity market auction. Each year, the student teams are named for prize-winning economists. Photo: Jim Block

The Electricity Strategy Game (ESG) and auction are highlights of the Energy Markets course that Berkeley Haas Professor Lucas Davis teaches each spring. He names the student auction teams in honor of prize-winning economists. “The ESG is a fun opportunity to put into practice the work we do in the class,” Davis said. “We start with a simple cost structure, and then later introduce transmission constraints, different auction formats, and even a carbon tax.”

Combining economics and energy markets

At its heart, the course teaches microeconomic analysis tools that are useful across multiple energy industries. Throughout the semester, Davis covers topics including what drives supply and demand in competitive energy markets, alternative regulatory structures for energy utilities, environmental policy, emerging markets for green energy, market power and antitrust, and the transportation and storage of energy commodities.

“Teaching this class is important to me because I’m passionate about economics, and about energy markets, and this class combines both,” said Davis, The Jeffrey A. Jacobs Distinguished Professor.  “I want class participants to walk away understanding how to think about energy and environmental challenges from an economic perspective.”

The class moves quickly. It’s lively and interactive, switching from student presentations to group sessions and analysis, all the while pushing students to apply what they learn in class to real-world energy and environmental questions.

Professor Lucas Davis teaching his Energy Markets class.
Professor Lucas Davis teaches the Energy and Environmental Markets class to 71 graduate students in Chou Hall. Photo: Jim Block

Most days, class kicks off with a so-called daily indicator, which calls on students to present a piece of data or data visualization related to energy and environmental markets. Sam Moskal, MBA 23, recently used data points to explain why the cost of converting algae to fuel might not make environmental or economic sense.

“It takes 1,500 liters of water to make one liter of product,” Moskal said, noting that Exxon, Shell, and Chevron have largely scuttled the idea.

“Should we cut our losses?” Davis asked. Moskal agreed.

After the daily indicator, students broke into teams to analyze the details of a typical residential electricity bill. Afterwards, they discuss how the utility charges for electricity. The group also considered Davis’ recent Energy Institute blog post, Why am I paying $65 a year for your solar panels?, which examined why solar panels benefit the wealthy at the expense of those who cannot afford to install them. One student shared that his parents’ electricity bill dropped to $2 after installing solar panels.Davis has taught the class for the past three years to full-time MBA students and, starting this year, to evening & weekend MBA students.

The big picture

The class is also open to graduate students in the College of Engineering, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the College of Natural Resources, and other departments. The course was previously taught by Severin Borenstein, professor of the graduate school, for two decades. “I’ve benefited enormously from the course he built,” said Davis, an affiliate with the Energy Institute at Haas who, like Borenstein, is among its well-known and respected industry bloggers.“When I first arrived at Haas, I sat in on Severin’s class and I learned a ton.”

For Brittan, who plans to work in the renewable energy industry after graduating, the class helped her to understand the markets.

“I never took a step back to think about the broader picture of global energy markets,” she said. “This class will allow me to think bigger picture and be more successful in my career moving forward.”

Photo of students in the Energy Markets course participating in an auction.
Students high five each other during the energy markets auction. Photo: Jim Block