Haas welcomes hundreds of new undergrad, MBA, PhD students to campus

Berkeley Haas welcomed an accomplished group of nearly 700 new full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD students to campus, kicking off the start of the fall 2023 semester. (The new evening & weekend and executive MBA classes arrived on campus earlier this summer.)

Full-time MBA program

A total of 244 new full-time MBA students kicked off five days of Week Zero orientation last Monday. Orientation included sessions on academic life at Haas, diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and belonging (DEIJB), team building, and career planning.

Wendy Guild, the new assistant dean of MBA programs at Haas, welcomed the class. “I want to celebrate the fact that you are here,” she said, noting that 2023 is a special year for Haas, marking the school’s 125th anniversary. “We have staying power,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere… We’re just getting better.”

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A total of 244 new full-time MBA students in the Class of 2025 arrived last week for Week Zero orientation. Wendy Guild, assistant dean of MBA programs, welcomed the group, noting that Haas is celebrating a special 125th anniversary this year.
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The new MBA class is comprised of 41% women; 20% are first-gen.
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Prof. Don Moore, acting Haas dean, urged students to reach out to each other and take advantage of the resources at Haas, especially when the curriculum gets tough. "All of us want to see you succeed," he said.
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Introducing the Gold Cohort!
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Introducing the Axe cohort!
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Introducing the Oski cohort!
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Introducing the Blue cohort!
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The Haas Undergraduate Program team welcomed 421 new students Monday. A total of 3,306 students applied to the program.
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The undergraduate class includes103 transfer students and 240 continuing UC Berkeley students.
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New students met up in the Haas courtyard throughout orientation.
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All photos by Jim Block and Noah Berger.

New students participated in a whirlwind of orientation activities—from a scavenger hunt to an ice cream social to cleanup work at a local nonprofit that supports people who are homeless.

The MBA students are an accomplished group, with an average of nearly six years of work experience, with 20% coming the tech sector and 24% from consulting.

Remy Freire, MBA 25, was a consultant at Bain & Company in Washington D.C. before coming to Haas.

“I’m interested in climate tech and renewable energy and I thought that the MBA would be a chance to take classes and do an internship in that area, and get some hands-on experience. A lot of folks are interested in this at Haas and I’ll be meeting people with similar interests to mine.”

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Imogen O’Connor, MBA 25

The class boasts 41% women and is richly international, including students from 39 countries.

Imogen O’Connor, MBA 26, worked as an analytical manager with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK before she came to Haas.

“What really prompted me to do an MBA was around change management and leadership because I was coming up against a lot of barriers in the NHS,”  she said. “I really care about health care and just helping people. I think I need to develop certain skills in order to do that properly.”

The class has an average collective GMAT score of 732, and GREs of 163 quant and 161 verbal, and an average GPA of 3.63.

Eric Askins, director of MBA admissions, told the students to expect to learn from peers who come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Notably, 20% of the students in this class are the first generation of college students in their families. Fourteen of the new students are pursuing a dual MPA/MPH (public health) degree; nine are enrolled in the MBA/MEng (engineering) program.

Orientation week alumni speaker Lo Toney, MBA 97, founding managing partner at Plexo Capital, shared his wisdom with the class, encouraging students to explore and take advantage of the breadth and depth of the UC Berkeley and Haas campus resources, focus on academics in the first quarter in particular, and reach out to alumni to build a network.

Undergraduate program

The entering undergraduate class is 421 students strong this year.  The new class includes 103 transfer students and 240 continuing students, as well as new undergraduates students enrolled in special undergrad programs including The Global Management Program (GMP), The Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program (LSBE) (25 students), and the Management Entrepreneurship and Technology (M.E.T).

Acting Dean and Professor Don Moore, whose research covers leadership and confidence in business and beyond, welcomed the students.

“You’re joining a community of innovators, renowned researchers, entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers who have made a profound impacts on business and on society,” he said.

“You’re joining a community of innovators, renowned researchers,  entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers who have made a profound impacts on business and on society.” – Acting Dean Don Moore

Moore said the long list of leaders who embody the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles (Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself) includes professional golfer Collin Morikawa, BS 19, who won the 2020 PGA Championship; Nabeela Syed, BS 21, the first Muslim Indian-American and the youngest woman to serve in the Illinois House of Representatives; and gaming entrepreneur Kevin Chou, BS 02, who with his wife,  Dr. Connie Chen, provided the largest-ever personal gift to UC Berkeley by an alumni under the age of 40 to help fund Chou Hall.

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Undergraduate students mingle in the Haas courtyard. Photo: Noah Berger

Emma Hayes Daftary, assistant dean of the undergraduate program, told the students that “the DLPs will challenge you to shift from what you, as an individual, can achieve, to what we, as a community, can accomplish.”

“We are living in a time of tremendous global transition, and within this time of upheaval and transition comes an urgent call for informed, collaborative, effective leaders,” she said. “There are urgent issues that are facing us—urgent issues that will require extraordinary leadership to develop and execute solutions to solve them.”

PhD program

The PhD program welcomed its largest-ever cohort of 19 new students from around the world—including Russia, China, Ethiopia, India, South Korea, Nigeria, Portugal, Canada, and Germany.

New students include Abdulmuttolib (Abdul) Salako, Ziyi Liu, Sean Chen, Sarah Danner,  Hanna Yu, Sara Shemali, Jordan Mickens, Nikita (Nick) Akimov, Wenxiao Yang, Srikanth Janjirala, Yutao Chen, Maggie Ye, Skyler Chen, David Gravanita , William Zhang, Zi Yang Chen, Nathan Godin, Nick Otis, and Fikremariam (Fikre) Gedefaw.

View PhD student profiles here.

new Phd students at Haas in a group photo in Chou Hall
(From back row left-right) Abdulmuttolib Salako, Ziyi Liu, Sean Chen, Sarah Danner,  Hanna Yu, Sara Shemali, Jordan Mickens, Nikita (Nick) Akimov, Wenxiao Yang, Srikanth Janjirala, Yutao Chen, Maggie Ye, Skyler Chen, David Gravanita , William Zhang, Zi Yang Chen, and Nathan Godin. Missing from photo: Nick Otis, and Fikremariam (Fikre) Gedefaw. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas anniversary marks 125 years of reimagining business 

Haas this year is celebrating 125 years of reimagining business. Our Defining Leadership Principles , including Question the Status Quo, are etched in the stone of the Haas courtyard. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas this month is kicking off its anniversary celebration of 125 years of reimagining business. The festivities commemorate a significant milestone in the school’s history as a leader in advancing management education, corporate responsibility, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Founded in 1898 as the College of Commerce with just three students, Haas has expanded to nearly 3,000 students across six programs, all of which rank in the top 10 and boast a world-renowned global faculty. Haas has 44,000 living alumni worldwide, spanning more than 20,000 organizations in 81 countries.

“A 125th anniversary is a remarkable achievement for any business school, especially given the immense changes that business and business education have gone through,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann E. Harrison. “As the world’s number one mission-driven business school, we take pride in developing innovative business leaders who consider the long-term impact of their actions—and increasingly, that requires a lens for sustainability and inclusion.” 

Cora Jane Flood.
Cora Jane Flood gave the university’s then-largest gift to establish the “College of Commerce” in 1898.

Haas has always been a pioneer. It is the first business school founded at a public university, and the second-oldest in the U.S. It is the only leading business school to be founded by a woman, Cora Jane Flood.

It’s also the first top business school to be led by two female deans, Professor Laura Tyson (1998–2001 and 2018), and Harrison (since 2019).

And from the start, the school has had a distinctive culture

That culture was formally codified in 2010, when the school unveiled its Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs): Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Shepherded by then-Dean Rich Lyons and anchored by the organizational culture research of Professor Jennifer Chatman, the DLPs are a source of pride for the community—and a competitive advantage. 

Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler, Haas’s Chief Strategy and Operating Officer, described the principles as much more than mere aspirations or platitudes. They are, rather, aligned tightly with the school’s strategy. “Powerful leaders think about culture all the time,” Chandler said. “If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.”

“Powerful leaders think about culture all the time. If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.” — Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler, BA 90, MBA 96.

Life-changing Research

The Haas legacy includes generations of researchers and teachers who have changed how industry leaders think and do business. That legacy includes two Nobel laureates. The late John Harsanyi won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994—along with John Nash from Princeton University and Reinhard Selten from Bonn, Germany—for advancing the study of game theory, and in particular, how parties act in negotiations with incomplete information. 

The late Oliver Williamson became the school’s second Nobel laureate—along with Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University—in 2009 for bringing together economics, organization theory, and contract law to invent the field of transaction cost economics, fundamentally reshaping understanding of how firms operate in the marketplace. 

Prof. Oliver Williamson with his Nobel coin.
Prof. Oliver Williamson with his Nobel coin.

Many other Haas faculty members have ushered new ideas into the world, including Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, who created the novel theory of Open Innovation; and David Aaker, the father of modern branding, who defined brand equity and the idea of the brand portfolio. 

Professor David Teece established his groundbreaking theories of dynamic capabilities in 1997; and Ikujiro Nonaka, MBA 68, PhD 72, a knowledge management expert, envisioned knowledge as a living and breathing entity that must be shared among workers to reach its full potential. 

Finance Professor Ulrike Malmendier, who researches how individual biases affect corporate decisions, stock prices, and markets, illuminated many ways in which human psychology and systematic biases influence economic behavior. For her work, Malmendier won the prestigious 2013 Fischer Black Prize

Women at Haas have also made pioneering contributions as visionary leaders—since Mary Dickson became the first woman to get a degree from the school in 1906. Professor and former Dean Laura Tyson served on President Clinton’s cabinet, and was also the first woman to chair the Council of Economic Advisers and direct the National Economic Council.

Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen, who taught macroeconomics at Haas for 25 years, is now the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and was the first to chair the Federal Reserve. 

Accelerating Innovation

Berkeley Haas has also been a hub of innovation and a launching ground for entrepreneurs over the years. In 2022, for the fourth straight year, UC Berkeley was named the nation’s best public university for startup founders, and the second-best university among both private and public schools, according to Pitchbook’s annual ranking.

In 2022, for the fourth straight year, UC Berkeley was named the nation’s best public university for startup founders

In 1970, six years before Apple Computer was founded, Dean Richard Holton taught one of the country’s first entrepreneurship classes at Haas with Leo Helzel, MBA 68. Lecturer Steve Blank took the teaching of entrepreneurship in a cutting-edge new direction in 2011 with his Lean LaunchPad method. Blank taught students to build a company by developing business models rather than traditional business plans, iterating models quickly based on customer feedback. This approach is now accepted practice for entrepreneurs.

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SkyDeck in downtown Berkeley, where many Haas students collaborate with founders from across the campus.

Haas students have been honing startup skills for years in programs like the UC Berkeley LAUNCH accelerator; SkyDeck, a partnership between the Haas School of Business founded in 2012 with the College of Engineering, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research; and The Cleantech to Market accelerator program, which for 15 years has been pairing students with entrepreneurs to help bring promising climate tech innovations to market. 

Visionary entrepreneurs

Over the years, Haas students and alumni have founded hundreds of companies as part of the UC Berkeley startup ecosystem. Among the school’s notable alumni entrepreneurs:

  • John Hanke, MBA 96, CEO of Niantic Labs, was instrumental in creating Google Earth, Maps, and Street View, which brought sophisticated geospatial data visualization to the masses. Hanke then masterminded the wildly popular augmented reality Pokémon Go game.
  • Paul Rice, MBA 96, founded Fair Trade USA, whose Fair Trade Certified seals signify products made according to fair trade standards. 
  • The late Priya Haji, MBA 03, co-founded Free at Last, a national program for substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS intervention; World of Good,a sustainable/fair trade product marketplace acquired by eBay in 2010, and served as CEO at SaveUp, a rewards game for saving money and reducing debt.
  • Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, launched Ashesi University, Ghana’s first liberal arts college, in 2002, which pioneered a multidisciplinary core curriculum that challenged the dominant rote-learning culture in many African schools. 
  • Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, both MBA 08, co-founded Indiegogo with Slava Rubin, building a crowdfunding platform for all creative, cause, and entrepreneurial projects.

    Eric Schell, MBA 08
    Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, MBA 08s, began working on Indiegogo, one of the world’s first crowdfunding platforms, while students at Haas and used their Haas connections to develop the company. Photo by Genevieve Shiffrar.
  • Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, both BS 09, grew mushrooms from used coffee grounds in their Haas class, which led to their startup Back to the Roots—now a national brand with products sold in thousands of stores.
  • Jason Bellet, BS 14, along with engineering alumni Connor Landgraf, BS 13, MEng 14 (bioengineering), and Tyler Crouch, BS 14 (mechanical engineering), founded Eko in 2013 and developed an FDA-cleared platform of AI-powered stethoscopes for early detection of cardiovascular disease. 

Roots of social responsibility

The Haas tradition of educating leaders who prioritize the social impact of business dates back more than 100 years.

 The school is named for Walter A. Haas, Sr., BS 1910, whose family at Levi Strauss & Company outfitted Western miners in a new kind of work pants that evolved into Levi’s iconic blue jeans. Haas Sr.’s views on social welfare and public affairs were influenced by the school’s first female instructor, Jessica Peixotto, and led him to grow this apparel manufacturer into one of the country’s largest socially responsible businesses. Later, as Levi’s CEO, he noted that the company “owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business.” 

The company “owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business.” — Walter A. Haas, Sr., BS 1910

During the late 1950s, Earl F. Cheit, the future dean, ushered in the study of corporate social responsibility through research and teaching. Cheit organized the first national symposium on the subject in 1964, and Berkeley’s coursework became the model for other leading business schools with support from Professors Dow Votaw and Edwin Epstein. 

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Earl F. Cheit ushered in the study of corporate social responsibility  The Haas annual Award for Excellence in Teaching is named for him.

 

Decades later, The Center for Responsible Business in 2002, brought Haas into the modern corporate social responsibility and business sustainability movements. Six years later, The Financial Times named Haas number one in the world in this area. 

Prioritizing inclusion

Socioeconomic mobility is core to both the UC Berkeley and Haas missions. Over the past six years, Haas has made substantive changes to increase diversity and representation, engender lifelong learning around equity and inclusion, and cultivate belonging.

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Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista leads a team building a learning environment where everyone belongs and everyone can thrive.

When Harrison joined as dean, she made Diversity Equity Justice and Belonging (DEIJB) a priority by meeting with student leaders; significantly increasing student support; modifying the core MBA curriculum to require a course on leading diverse teams; and diversifying the Haas faculty and Haas School Board.

Haas also appointed Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista to oversee a six-person team focusing on admissions, community-related DEIJB issues, and, uniquely, faculty support

Building on the Defining Leadership Principles, the school’s DEI Strategic Plan, first drafted in 2018 and updated in 2021, outlines aspirations for a learning environment where everyone belongs and everyone can thrive. The plan aims to equip all members of the Haas community to effectively lead diverse teams. (Research from Haas faculty and the work of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) makes the business case that diversity on teams can drive performance.)

The Heart of What’s Next

Looking forward, Haas continues to build on its academic strength in undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree executive education offerings.

The school also continues to embrace new ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the school’s foray to digital education, inspired by Berkeley Executive Education’s early adoption of virtual classroom teaching.

Students from the top-ranked Berkeley Haas Master of Financial Engineering Program in the classroom. Linda Kreitzman launched the program in 2001 with John O’Brien. Photo: Noah Berger

 

The virtual classrooms now anchor the Flex MBA program,—now in its second year—which combines academic courses in a live online environment with the option to come to campus for electives. At the undergraduate level, the school’s two-year program is expanding  to become the four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program. The first four-year cohort will enroll in August of 2024.  

Stepping up to address the severity of climate change, Haas created the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change to support teaching and research across agriculture, real estate, energy, finance, and corporate sectors. The school’s investment in sustainability includes the greenest academic building in the U.S., Chou Hall, having earned TRUE Zero Waste certification at the highest possible level along with a LEED Platinum certification for its energy efficient design and operation. Plans are now underway to launch a joint MBA/master’s in climate solutions degree with Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources.

Grads at 2022 MBA Commencement at the Greek Theatre.

Many of the school’s advancements have been made possible through the support of its loyal alumni, who continue to make Haas stronger through their engagement as teachers, mentors, employers, partners, and donors to the school.

Harrison said she is looking forward to celebrating the school’s many milestones and to what the future will bring, noting, “We look back with pride, but we move forward to have impact.”

Watch for more details about the anniversary in the forthcoming summer issue of the Berkeley Haas Magazine or read more Haas history on the website.

Finance exec Elena Gomez, BS 91, named new chair of Haas School Board

Elena Gomez, BS 91, a finance executive with more than 30 years of experience in leading global organizations, has been named the new chair of the Haas School Board. She is the first woman to serve in the role.

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Elena Gomez is new chair of the Haas School Board

Gomez, chief financial officer at restaurant technology firm Toast, succeeds Jack Russi, BS 82, a national managing partner of corporate development at Deloitte. Russi, who recently retired after a 40-year career at Deloitte, served as Haas School Board chair for nine years. 

“We are so thankful to Jack for his boundless wisdom and strategic guidance during his tenure,” said Dean Ann Harrison. “We know that Elena will continue Jack’s legacy of leadership excellence and we look forward to working with her to achieve so many of our future goals.”  

The Haas School Board, which meets three times a year, advises the dean and supports the school’s strategic direction. Gomez began her three-year term July 1.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to chair the board, and work alongside Ann and her amazing leadership team to continue to help Haas thrive,” Gomez said. 

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to chair the board, and work alongside Ann and her amazing leadership team to continue to help Haas thrive.” – Elena Gomez  

At Toast, Gomez directs finance and strategy, corporate development, accounting, treasury, and business operations. Prior to Toast, Gomez served as the chief financial officer at Zendesk, where she helped scale the company to over $1 billion in annual revenue. Gomez arrived at Zendesk after serving for six years as senior vice president of finance and strategy at Salesforce. 

A strong advocate for more women and diverse leaders in business, Gomez served on the founding advisory council for the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership at Haas. As a Haas Board member since 2019, Gomez, a first-generation college student, has worked with Harrison on strategies to promote inclusion and recruit and retain diverse students.

 In a recent Haas podcast, Gomez, the daughter of El Salvadoran immigrants, discussed the importance of being a role model throughout her career. She said she wanted others to see that “not only am I Latina and  female, but I want to excel in my role, to show the next generation what is possible. 

Gomez is a member of the board of directors at Smartsheet and PagerDuty, and is on the board of The Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. She was also named to the San Francisco Business Times’ 2017 list of “Most Influential Women in Business.” 

 

Globetrotters, parents, and career boosters: Meet the inaugural Flex MBA class

Group of Haas MBA students in Chou Hall
The inaugural class of 69 Flex students in the evening & weekend MBA program. Photo: Jim Block

Thomas Seidl, a data science manager for Red Bull Soccer in Munich, set a goal to get an MBA from a top American university to future-proof his career in sports analytics. Trouble was, he wanted to stay in Germany with his wife and two young children.

“I wanted to see whether there was an option to do an MBA in the United States at a world class university from home basically,” said Seidl, who holds a PhD in computer science in sports. “I was curious about whether I could get into a top-ranked program. I just wanted to give it my best shot.”

A family of four a boy and a girl
Thomas Seidl, EWMBA 25, with family, attends Flex classes from his home in Munich.

Seidl didn’t have any luck finding an online program in the U.S. that met his requirements. But then, while researching the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend Program, he discovered the new Flex MBA option, which lets students take courses remotely with the option to come to campus for electives. It sounded perfect, so Seidl applied and was accepted, joining 68 other students last year in the inaugural Flex cohort, who hail from the U.S., Canada, Egypt, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates

The Flex cohort, launched last year, does things a bit differently. While the evening and weekend MBA cohorts meet in person during scheduled blocks of time throughout their programs—on either evenings or weekends—Flex students take their core courses remotely, with an option to come to campus for electives. For parents, caregivers, and professionals who move or travel often for their careers or for fun, Flex provides what they say they need most: schedule flexibility. 

“The Flex program allowed me to stay in Los Angeles and stay very close to my family while also getting an MBA,” said Kevin Haroldo Ramirez, who was a philosophy and legal studies major as a UC Berkeley undergraduate. As a senior consultant at Edgility Consulting, Ramirez said he wanted an MBA to sharpen his business skills as his career progresses in the nonprofit sector.

“It worked out perfectly”

Like Ramirez, about 74% of the Flex class is from outside of the Bay Area, joining from nine California counties and 17 U.S. states. Seven students are living abroad, and many have relocated during the program, says Leah Rozeboom, director of Flex Experience.

Some students living in different time zones, like Seidl, log on in the middle of the night twice a week to take classes. “When class is over at 3 a.m., you start to think about the content and you try to get back to sleep,” he said. “But then your brain just starts to get into all of these ideas about ‘how can I apply this stuff in sports?’ Sometimes it’s difficult, but I think that’s a good sign that I am engaged.”

virtual classroom at Haas with teacher standing in front of screens
One of the four Berkeley Haas-based virtual classrooms used for live teaching during Flex.

Kinshuk Verma, a product manager for Electric Hydrogen, who lives in San Jose, Ca., applied to Flex because of her heavy travel schedule. “At my previous job, I was traveling more than 50% of the time, and I knew that the weekend or weekday schedule was not going to work for me,” she said “Once I got into the Flex program, I had a baby, and it worked out perfectly.”

With an equally hectic life, Molly (Hill) Bjorkman, a mom of two who juggles work as a manager for an arts nonprofit and helps run Napa-based GRO wines with her husband, Lars Bjorkman, said she never considered commuting to do an MBA. 

Flex MBA student and her husband
Molly Bjorkman, EWMBA 25, helps run GRO, which makes small lot, single-vineyard wines sourced from Napa Valley, with her husband, Lars.

For Bjorkman, easing back into school during the first semester was difficult but fulfilling. “The core classes are challenging,” she said. “I am an all As” type so I have to be a little forgiving of myself and the first semester was, ‘how do I do school again? There’s so much that was new and there is still not enough time.” Last semester, Bjorkman, mom to an 11-year-old and 13-year-old, rose at 5 a.m. at her Calistoga, Ca., home to do an hour of asynchronous course work before heading to her local office. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. she joined live classes.

Bjorkman said she was impressed by the camaraderie among the many mothers in Flex. Her study group includes moms Erin Mitsuyoshi, who lives in Hawaii, and Sophie Christian, who lives in Portland, Oregon.

Christian, a college piano professor, said the group’s connection on Slack and at in-person weekend have helped make bonds stronger.

Christian said the pandemic and its many restrictions led her to pursue a new career path for herself that she believes will lead to a bigger impact. “I wanted something more flexible in business so I’m exploring,” she said. “I still run my teaching business but I am letting go of that part of my life. I jumped at the chance when Berkeley offered this program.”

Coming together

Last April, the Flex cohort convened in Berkeley for an in-person weekend. Students participated in Leadership Communications course sessions on compelling storytelling and finding your authentic leadership style, completed one-on-one coaching sessions, and enjoyed small group dinners with Haas faculty and coffee with students in the evening MBA cohort. 

professor with students
Maria Carkovic, (middle) who taught the popular Macroeconomics course to the Lux cohort, surprised the students by showing up in-person while they were on campus in April. Photo: Jim Block

Maria Carkovic, who taught their Macroeconomics class, surprised the cohort in person during lunch at Chou Hall, where they met her for the first time. “It was a wonderful surprise,” said Carkovic, who was chosen by the evening MBA class for the 2023 Cheit Award for teaching excellence. “I think that they were very aware that it was special to be together, so they were interacting to the max and connections were being formed. Life gets very complicated at the age that they go to grad school in business and the Flex program works to their advantage.”

Strong bonds have formed within the group, encouraged in part by cohort representative Lisa Dalgliesh, who is described by many classmates as a connector. 

During Flex orientation kickoff, she said she was pleased to meet three other students from Texas sitting at her table. The group now meets for occasional dinners in Texas. Last August, while traveling for work to Washington, D.C., she had dinner and drinks with four classmates, and she hosted classmates when they traveled to Austin for work.

Lokesh Kesavan; Mackenzie O'Holleran, Daniel Mitchell, Rahul Sharan, Lisa Dalgliesh
(Left to right) Lokesh Kesavan, Mackenzie O’Holleran, Daniel Mitchell, Rahul Sharan, Lisa Dalgliesh, all EWMBA 25. Photo: Jim Block

Dalgliesh, who lives in Austin and works as a people strategy and integration leader for Deloitte, said she chose Flex, in part, to stay put in her native Texas and not uproot her life. “I thought there would be a social trade off when you go to a program like this, but that’s not been the case,” she said.“Quite the opposite..It’s fun to visit people in their hubs.”

Flex is “the future of academia,” she added. “This is an equitable approach to ensuring that people from all walks of life and at all different stages of life have an opportunity to tap into an education from a top tier institution from anywhere.” she said.

“This is an equitable approach to ensuring that people from all walks of life and at all different stages of life have an opportunity to tap into an education from a top-tier institution from anywhere.” – Lisa Dalgliesh, EWMBA 25

Class from anywhere

The pandemic, though isolating for many students, proved that both remote work and remote teaching are possible, even preferable for some, which is one reason why Flex applications are rising.

MBA student in class at Haas
Maeve Peterson, EWMBA 25, during an April storytelling session, part of the Leadership Communications course, taught by Jennifer Caleshu, MBA 12, and a continuing lecturer.

“We don’t take a one-size-fits all approach to our part-time programs for working professionals,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of Berkeley Haas MBA programs. “Flex is an inclusive, future-forward program that works for an increasing number of students who want to earn a world-class degree that fits with their schedules and lives.” 

Cairo serves as a perfect base for Scott Diddams to travel all over Europe. “I’ve attended (Haas) MBA lectures from Paris, Athens, London, and Cairo,” said Diddams, a product manager at Microsoft, who logs into class from different time zones. “I feel like I’ve been able to keep up and perform just as well as if I were in person. If anything, as an introvert, it makes it even easier for me to pay attention when I’m in my own space and not worrying about the classroom.” 

“I’ve attended (Haas) MBA lectures from Paris, Athens, London, and Cairo,” – Scott Diddams, a product manager at Microsoft.

After coming to campus in April, Diddams, a former paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, stopped in Seattle to work at Microsoft headquarters before flying home. In a meeting with a senior engineer, Diddams said he tested some concepts he’d learned in his marketing class.

man and a woman standing in front of pyramid in Egypt
Scott Diddams with classmate Mei Kaslik, who visited him in Egypt while she and her husband were on vacation.

The manager gave him excellent feedback, he said. “Having that impact at work is something that I don’t think I would’ve been able to do a year ago before taking these courses,” he said. “I certainly felt much more confident.”

Macroeconomics was a favorite course, he said. “Attending that class from Egypt, which is undergoing a kind of financial inflation crisis, and being able to see that while learning about it,” he said, “that’s the perfect way to learn something.”

Like Diddams, Dalgliesh, who holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in human dimensions of organizations from the University of Texas, Austin, said she believes her MBA will take her to the next step professionally. 

“It was important for me to learn more about the business world so I can have a seat at the table,” she said.

 

2023 Haas Undergraduate, Full-time, and Evening & Weekend MBA classes toss caps

Undergraduate Commencement

Commencement speaker Elena Gomez, BS 91, chief financial officer at Boston-based Toast, told undergrad students to learn “when to take the shot or pass the ball.” Gomez said that some of her observations on teamwork come from coaching a basketball team of 10-year-old girls that had one clear star.

Commencement speaker Elena Gomez, BS 91, at the lectern.
Commencement speaker Elena Gomez, BS 91. Photo: Noah Berger.

“Part of me was excited about winning a lot of games, but what joy would that bring without getting the rest of the team involved?” she said. “As a player or as a teammate in the workplace, and more importantly as a star, because I see a lot of stars out in the audience, learn when your teammates need you to step up and take that last shot.”

As a leader, she continued, “you will have the opportunity to help others, your team, your colleagues, imagine the impossible. As graduates from Haas, you are ready for all of that. You are ready to be a star and you are ready to pass the ball and you are ready to help others see in themselves what they thought was not possible.”

Dean Ann Harrison noted that:

  • 54% of the undergraduates are women.
  • 47% have earned a dual degree.
  • 20% are the first in their families to attend college

“Look next to you–look in front of you–look behind you,” Harrison said. “You are surrounded by some of the smartest, boldest, coolest people you will meet anywhere in the world.”

Undergraduate Award Winners

Departmental Citation to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business: Noah Oppenheimer

Question the Status Quo: Vedika Dayal

Confidence Without Attitude: Charissa Pham

Students Always: Jordan Laredo

Beyond Yourself: Vala Makhfi

Student speaker: Nina Dickens 

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Lecturer Stephen Etter, BS 83, MBA 89

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Khalil Somani, MBA 23 

MBA Commencement (FTMBA + EWMBA)

Commencement speaker Frank Cooper III, BS 86, at the lectern.
Commencement speaker Frank Cooper III, BS 86. Photo: Noah Berger.

Commencement speaker Frank Cooper III, BS 86, chief marketing officer at Visa, told graduates to embrace risk, reflecting on his transition from working in a law firm to the music industry.

“The fact that life is short is precisely the reason we should take risks rather than fear them,” he said. “It turns out there’s no such thing as a no-risk proposition anyway, even along what feels like the safest and surest path. From economic recession, to industry bubbles, to political surprises—we’ve all seen immovable mountains crumble.”

Close-up of a graduate's mirrored sunglasses in which another graduate can be seen.
Photo: Noah Berger.

By taking a risk, Cooper said his varied experiences gave him the opportunity to work with extraordinary people, including Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lionel Messi, Magic Johnson, Eva Longoria, and Forest Whitaker.

What did they share in common? “They had an idea about their purpose in the world and had the courage to push back against uncertainty,” he said.

Students in caps and gowns getting their picture taken.
Photo: Noah Berger.

Award Winners

Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Kewenvoyouma

Confidence Without Attitude: Via Abolencia 

Student Always:  Julia Konso Mbakire

Beyond Yourself: Julian M. Ramirez, Jr.

Berkeley Leader: Afraz Khan

Student Speaker: Ricky Ghoshal

Academic Achievement Award: Math Williams (3.992)

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Professor Lucas Davis
Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Zia Mehmood, MS 20, PhD 24

Five students in caps and gowns getting their picture taken.
Photo: Noah Berger.

EWMBA 2023 Award Winners 

Question the Status Quo: Bob Wang

Confidence Without Attitude: Ana Martinez

Students Always: Krupa Patel

Beyond Yourself: Supriya Golas

Outstanding Academic Performance: Andrew Hurley

Student speaker: Farzad Yousefi

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Evening MBA Program: Lecturer Maria Carkovic
Weekend MBA Program: Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia
Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): Mahek Chheda

A man holding a graduation cap that says Papa with a picture of a bear standing next to a woman holding a cap that says Mama with a picture of a bear.
Photo: Noah Berger.

Startup Spotlight: Download Scribble AI to write content faster than ever

three students and a woman holding a check
Left-right: Dean Ann Harrison with Sahil Mehta, BS 23, (Business & Electrical Engineering/Computer Science); Jayaditya Sethi, BS 24 (double major in business and computer science); and Ethan Jagoda, BS 24. Their startup, Scribble AI, tied for third at LAUNCH.

Jayaditya Sethi, BS 24 (double major in business and computer science), along with Sahil Mehta, BS 23, (Business & Electrical Engineering/Computer Science)  and Ethan Jagoda, BS 24, (computer science), founded Scribble AI, an AI startup that placed third in the recent UC Berkeley LAUNCH accelerator pitch day. The startup is also part of the Batch 16 startup cohort at the UC Berkeley SkyDeck accelerator. We recently asked Sethi, who will be a software engineering intern at PayPal this summer, five questions about Scribble AI. (Download the app here.)

Tell us what ScribbleAI is and how people use it?

Scribble AI is a simple mobile interface people can download that uses AI to effortlessly create customized written content live on iOS and Android phones. It can be used to generate emails, poems, tweets and everything in between across 12 different languages and 20+ style customizations.

What is your favorite way to use ChatGPT (an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI)?

Our favorite use for ChatGPT is for debugging code as this was crucial for us to launch the app within two weeks without any prior mobile development experience.

How did you meet your co-founders Ethan and Sahil?

We have been close friends since starting at UC Berkeley. Sahil and Ethan met through the startup accelerator and consulting club Entrepreneurs@Berkeley. Ethan and I met through a class and are now roommates. We have all collaborated on previous projects, such as being part of Entrepreneurs@Berkeley leadership and co-founding a music club together.

What is the most important takeaway from participating in LAUNCH?

Our biggest takeaway from LAUNCH was to constantly challenge our assumptions about our business. During each workshop, the mentors at LAUNCH questioned our hypotheses about our product and its use cases, helping us find a scalable business model. For example, we learned to find the root causes of a customer’s problem, rather than simply take what a user says at face value. These are lessons we will carry for years as we continue our startup journey!

What are your plans for Scribble AI now?

We plan to scale up traction in international markets, particularly among social media creators who need a tool to write content 10 times faster. We are also developing the premium version of our app, which will be tailored to each user’s specific needs

Pitching with purpose: Students imagine future of mobility for automaker

nine people standing on stage holding a check
Pitch winners with judges (left-right) Nick Triantos; Tafflyn Toy; Henry Chung; Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25; Srivatsa Chakravarthy, EWMBA 25; Oleksandr Krotenko, EMBA 23;  Simeon Ryan, EWMBA 25;  Ju yup Kang; and ChangWoo Kim. Photo: Jim. Block

A student team that imagined a plan for Hyundai Cradle to build an electric-powered mobile medical fleet and market it in North America won the 2023 Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) Challenge.

Hyundai Cradle, Hyundai Motor Group’s Mountain View, Calif.-based open innovation and investment arm, sponsored the challenge, which was held April 23 at Berkeley Haas. 

Cradle challenged students to develop novel business models for the company’s future PBV market launch in North America. Hyundai Motor Group is in the final stages of building a flexible automobile base, called a skateboard, that can be used to produce many kinds of PVBs—vehicles ranging from ambulances to passenger shuttles to delivery fleets for small businesses.

The first-place team took home $15,000 for its pitch. Winning team members included Srivatsa Chakravarthy, EWMBA 25; Oleksandr Krotenko, EMBA 23; Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25; and Simeon Ryan, EWMBA 25.  

The competing teams, composed of graduate students from across all three Haas MBA programs and the UC Berkeley School of Information, participated in a semester-long series of training sessions, focused on the Lean Startup method and customer discovery training. The top three finalist teams were then tasked with finding and validating novel business models for PBVs that they pitched to judges at the end of the program. 

“This was a fantastic way to showcase students from across all three of our MBA programs,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). “The program also provided a perfect opportunity for our MBA students to work with top graduate students from across the campus.”

Solving real problems

The winning group pitched a fix for emergency medical services that they described as “antiquated, expensive, and ripe for technological disruption.” The team suggested that Cradle partner with industry leader AMR (American Medical Response) to capitalize on the company’s market share and need to contract with an outsourced fleet.

two men and one women pointing, wearing suits speaking at a conference
Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25, pitches during the 2023 Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) Challenge. Photo: Jim Block

Marcus, who works in corporate finance, said she was excited to work on solving a real problem experienced by a company outside of her industry.

“Going through the pitching process with judges was the pinnacle business school experience I’ve always wanted to try since I started my EWMBA,” she said. During Lean Launch, she said her group conducted more than 30 interviews with potential clients. “We had to pivot a couple times from our original idea to make sure we were solving problems for them,” she said. “Ultimately this led us to think hard and adapt so we could develop a detailed business plan that would benefit potential clients.”

During the pitch day, Kia’s vice president of new business planning, Ju yup Kang, a judge for the competition, outlined how KIA is transforming from a car company to a “full mobility solution provider.” Henry Chung, senior vice president and head of Hyundai Cradle, said the students had clearly put in a lot of effort to develop creative solutions to difficult problems. 

Chung; Kang; Changwoo Kim, a chief coordinator at Cradle; Tafflyn Toy, an open innovation project manager at Hyundai Cradle; and Nick Triantos, chief architect, automotive system software at Nvidia, served as the final challenge judges.

Team Ingenium took second place ($10,000) with a pitch for all-in-one fleet management. Members included Reggie Draper, EMBA 23; Michael LaFramboise, MBA/MEng 24; Matthew McGoffin, MBA/MEng 23; and Michael Yang, MIMS (master of information management and systems) 23.

Team Mobility Moguls took third place ($5,000) for a strategy that addressed a mobile future for police & security. Team members included Anmol Aggarwal, EWMBA 24; Suveda Dhoot, MBA 24; Hrishikesh Nagaraju, MIMS 24; Nithin Ravindra, EWMBA 23, MIMS 24; and Lutong Yang.

a group of students holding three large checks
The three prizewinning teams in the Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) pitch competition with checks. Photo: Jim Block

 

Pitching for the win: MBA student interest in public markets investing rises

(L-R) Xavier Jefferson, Frank Zhang, and John Graft took second place at the Chicago Booth IM Conference and Stock Competition.

John Graft, MBA 24, admits that he went “a little overboard” competing in four stock competitions during his first year at Haas. But the hours spent paid off. His team’s stock pitch in front of judges at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler led to a coveted summer internship offer at his first-choice firm: Harris Associates in Chicago.

“The person who interviewed me at Harris had listened to me pitch at the UNC competition,” Graft said. For Graft and a group of Berkeley Haas students focused on careers in public markets investing, stock pitch competitions are an integral part of the Haas finance experience, allowing students to synthesize stock research and network with top firms that often judge the competitions.

Public markets investing is on the rise at Haas, said Bill Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs for finance. Six first-year students seeking positions in public markets investing accepted summer internships at top investment firms including Blackrock, TCW, PIMCO, Clearbridge, Harris Associates, and Neuberger Berman. 

“A decade ago we had up to a dozen MBA students going to public markets investing roles in a year,” he said.  “Over time, student interest shifted more to tech investment banking and venture capital. While those interests remain strong, it’s great to see public markets investing bouncing back.”  

Multiple internship offers

In a particularly difficult year for hiring, Haas exceeded expectations this year, with some students receiving multiple offers, said Ryan Tan, MBA 23, a Double Bear and the Berkeley Haas Investment Club president, who has worked closely with undergraduate and MBA peers to create more finance opportunities. That included bringing an impressive array of top industry speakers to Haas like Christina Ma, MBA 01, a partner and head of Greater China Equities at Goldman Sachs; Ben Meng, MFE 03, executive vice president and chairman of Asia Pacific at Franklin Templeton, and Ben Allen, MBA 05, CEO of Parnassus Investments.

In a particularly difficult year for hiring, Haas exceeded expectations this year, with some students receiving multiple offers. — Ryan Tan, MBA 23

Wearing many hats, Tan is also a graduate student instructor for the undergraduate Financial Economics course and a principal with the pioneering Haas Sustainable Investment Fund. (Since 2008, student principals in the Sustainable Investment Fund have more than tripled the initial investment to over $4 million, learning about SRI and ESG investment strategies and practices.)

Students in the public markets investing track agree that their group is collaborative, helping each other both in class and during job searches. They’re also given the chance to participate in a half-dozen stock pitch competitions that the club enters annually.

At competitions, teams develop a thesis around a stock or bond, build a financial model to value the security, evaluate the risks of the investment, and build a Powerpoint after synthesizing the research. “You put this together and pitch the security to a panel of judges, all of whom work at the top investment management firms,” Graft said.

Navigating pitch competitions

MBA students credit Tan for mentoring teams on how to navigate a pitch competition.

“He helped us to understand what the judges were looking for,” said Austin Schoff, MBA 24, a co-president of the Haas Investment Club, who led an MBA student team at the MIT Sloan School Stock Pitch Competition last November. Haas placed second at MIT Sloan, second at Chicago Booth, and third at the UNC Alpha Challenge. 

two male students and one female holding a large check
Austin Schoff,  MBA 24, Ryan Tan, MBA 23, and Meredith Albion, MBA 24, accepting their third-place check at the Kenan-Flagler Alpha Challenge.

Schoff, who came to Haas planning to pivot from private wealth management, landed an internship this summer with the equity research team at TCW. 

“Ryan has done an enormous amount of work,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and is a founding partner at Greyrock Capital Group. “It’s nice to see when a student goes beyond himself for the benefit of all.” 

Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24, competed in a pitch challenge online hosted by Columbia Business School and at the in-person event at Chicago Booth.

“At Haas, we go to as many challenges as we want and that gives you exposure to all the firms and prepares you to pitch a stock or bond,” he said. “That’s a huge part of the interview process, and having the practice of pitching gives you a leg up.” A Toigo Fellow and a Haas Finance Fellow, Jefferson will intern at Clearbridge this summer. 

“At Haas, we go to as many challenges as we want and that gives us exposure to all the firms and prepares you to pitch a stock or bond.” —Xavier Jefferson, MBA 24

After participating in multiple pitch competitions—as usually the only woman or one of two women—on the team, Meredith Albion, MBA 24, noted that the competitions would benefit from having more female members. 

As a Berkeley Haas Finance Fellow in investment management Albion was assigned a female mentor, who helped prepare her to interview for summer internships. (All 12 of the Finance Fellows named each year are assigned a Haas alumni mentor.) Albion credits her mentor with helping her land an internship at PIMCO in Newport Beach this summer. Like other first-year MBA students in the Investment Club, she plans to work on the Haas Sustainable investment Fund next year and integrate sustainable investing into her career.

With Albion, Schoff, and Graft at the helm as co-presidents of the Haas Investment Club —Tan said he’s confident that Haas will continue its success.

“The message we need to get out is that if you come to Haas for investment management and sustainable investing you will be involved and plugged in, you will be given mentorship,” Tan said. “And people get jobs.”

2023 Master of Financial Engineering class tosses caps

Male graduates in a huddle lifting up another male graduate. All are smiling.
Class of 2023 MFE grads celebrate. Photo: Jim Block

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.

Graduating Class of 2023 seated in large auditorium.

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.”

Female MFE graduates smiling while holding bouquets
2023 MFE grads. Photo: Jim Block

Award winners at commencement included: 

Valedictorian: Nathan Sheng

Salutatorian: Wenhao Luan 

Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Professor Johan Walden

Haas Graduate Student Instructor Award: ​​Yao Zhao

Defining Leadership Principles Student & Alumni Awards:

Student: Artem Shuvalov 

Alumni: Sandra Vedadi, MFE 10, Coco Tsai, MFE 22, Mayank Garg, MFE 20

Morgan Stanley Applied Finance Project Prize winner:

Ruchir Sharma
Sandeep Singh
Kaiyuan Tan
Somanshu Dhingra
Ayush Agarwal
Project title: “Compressing Macro-economic Time Series w/ a LSTM Network”
Advisor: Ali Kakhbod

Alum’s documentary ‘Fire on the Hill’ explores lives of South Central LA cowboys

Photo of a man in a baseball hat with a beard
Alum Brett Fallentine, director of the documentary Fire on the Hill.

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. 

a man and a boy riding horses
A scene from Fire on the Hill.

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.

Five men standing in front of a movie theater
Brett Fallentine (middle) with the cast of Fire on the Hill at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

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. 

Ann Harrison reappointed to second term as Berkeley Haas dean

Woman standing with arms crossed in multicolored sweater
Dean Ann Harrison. Photo: Noah Berger

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.

Dean Ann Harrison sitting in a chair in the Haas courtyard
Dean Harrison in the Haas courtyard, where the school’s Defining Leadership Principles (including Confidence without Attitude) are etched in stone. Photo: Noah Berger

“As a public university, our mission is to transform the lives of as many students as possible and lead the world with path-breaking research,” Harrison said. “I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”

“I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Advancing the mission

Harrison is the 15th dean of Haas and the second woman to lead the school. Her new book, “Globalization, Firms, and Workers” (World Scientific Books, 2022), collects her path-breaking work on globalization and international trade. She is now the world’s most highly cited scholar on foreign direct investment.

Harrison earned her BA from UC Berkeley in economics and history, and her PhD from Princeton University. She held previous professorships in UC Berkeley’s College of Agricultural and Resource Economics as well as at Columbia University and the Wharton School, where she was the William H. Wurster Professor of Management.  

At Haas since January 2019, Harrison has advanced the school’s mission in a number of critical areas, including:

  • increasing the size of the faculty, which allowed for diversification and the creation of new faculty groups. Since she arrived in 2019, Harrison has led the hiring of 33 new professors; 52% are women and 52% are people of color.
  • creating the first Flex online MBA cohort at any top business school. Haas applied learnings from the pandemic, using new technology to make the MBA available to expanded groups of international students and working parents who require flexible schedules.
  • raising a record $200 million over the last four years, including a record $69 million last year. Under Harrison, Haas secured the largest single gift in the school’s history$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66to turn the undergraduate program into a four-year program.
  • committing to making Haas a more inclusive school by creating a more diverse Haas Advisory Board; employing extensive resources to diversify the student body; rethinking faculty and staff hiring; and incorporating anti-bias training for senior leaders, staff, and students.

Harrison said she will continue to work with her team to strengthen academics as well as the student experience at Haas. One important goal is to ensure that the school’s six degree programs remain the best in the world. In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record high for the program. US News & World Report ranks both the highly-selective Haas Undergraduate Program and the Evening & Weekend MBA Program #2 in the U.S. The Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE) Program is also ranked #2 globally. 

In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record-high for Haas. 

Three priority areas

She also plans to continue work in her three priority areas: sustainability, DEIJB, and entrepreneurship. 

“Business plays a critical role in mainstreaming everything from fighting climate change to creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces,” Harrison said. “Haas is preparing students to lead in those areas.” The school’s Accounting Group, for example, is assessing SEC proposals to increase financial disclosure requirements for climate risk, she said.

In sustainability, Harrison brought in Michele de Nevers, a top sustainability expert, from the World Bank, whose team has worked to combine the existing sustainability curriculum with new courses. By the end of 2023, all core courses at Haas will be on track to incorporate cases, topics, and assignments that will empower students to address climate change and other sustainability challenges through business. Haas is now set apart as the only school that offers depth and breadth across all of the key sustainability areas aligned with the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education: energy, food, real estate/built environment, corporate social responsibility, and impact finance. 

In diversity and inclusion, Harrison oversaw the building of a team led by Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista, which includes four full-time staff and a part-time diversity expert who is working with faculty on curriculum and teaching. This past spring, the school launched its first-ever core course on leading diverse teams.

Known for its strength in entrepreneurship and innovation, Haas will be breaking ground on a new entrepreneurship hub this spring. In partnership with UC Berkeley, which is the #1 public institution for startup founders (as reported by Pitchbook), the hub will bring together students from across campus to network and innovate. On the faculty side, Harrison oversaw the creation of the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation faculty group in 2020.

Dean Ann Harrison with Kimberly Mendez, Nicole Austin-Thomas, and Almaz Ali, MBA 21s, at the Berkeley Haas Consortium student welcome event in 2019.
Dean Ann Harrison with Kimberly Mendez, Nicole Austin-Thomas, and Almaz Ali, MBA 21s, at the Berkeley Haas Consortium student welcome event in 2019.

Cross-campus collaboration

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.  

 

Startup Spotlight: Alokee wants to be your virtual realtor

Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.

Alokee

Team: Matthew Parker (co-founder and CEO), Hamed Adibnatanzi (co-founder and head of legal), Noman Shaukat (co-founder), Marcus Rossi (COO), and Mandy Kroetsch (CMO), all EMBA 23.

Photo of EMBA student Mandy Kroetsch
Mandy Kroetsch met Matt Parker in the EMBA program while she was bidding on houses.

When Mandy Kroetsch met Matthew Parker last year in the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program, she was juggling classes while bidding on houses in southern California.  

“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.  

Matt Parker in front of brown wall
Matt Parker, CEO of Alokee

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.”

portrait of Homa Bahrami
Senior Lecturer Homa Bahrami coached the Alokee team.

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.”

RockCreek Founder Afsaneh Beschloss on the long-term value of impact investing

photo of Afseneh Beschloss
Afsaneh Beschloss

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.”

Watch the video to learn how Beschloss’ early impact investments shape RockCreek’s investment strategy today. The event was co-sponsored by the Sustainable and Impact Finance Initiative at Haas.


Three teams honored for innovation at Cleantech to Market Summit

students holding large checks on stage at Haas for winning at C2M summit.
Three teams were honored at the annual C2M Summit. Photo: Jim Block

Three teams that included Berkeley Haas MBA students won top awards at the annual Cleantech to Market (C2M) Climate Tech Summit last Friday.

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.

Five students who won top honor at C2M summit
Team Niron Magnetics. Photo: Jim Block

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.

four students standing in Chou Hall
Team GenH: Photo: Jim Block

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.

four students standing in Spieker Forum
Team Quino Energy was the audience favorite. Photo: Jim Block

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.

New Conflict Lab walks MBA students through the toughest workplace conversations

student in Conflict Lab roleplaying with instructor
Pearly Khare, MBA 23, role plays with his ‘boss’ and course instructor Bree Jenkins, MBA 19 during a class session. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Pearly Khare, MBA 23, was in a difficult spot. His ‘boss’ was confronting him about taking off 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 Teams@Haas, 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. 

two students talking during class about having difficult conversations.
The class asks students to address the hardest parts of receiving difficult feedback. Photo: Brittany Hosea Small.

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. 

Student gives feedback during conflict lab
Students practice giving and receiving feedback after role-playing a difficult conversation. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

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.