Speaking with Dean Ann Harrison, Nichols gave a first-person account of “Dieselgate,” the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal, and her role working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold Volkswagen accountable for violating the Clean Air Act. (Volkswagen had equipped 590,000 vehicles with “defeat devices” or computer software designed to cheat on federal emissions tests.)
Nichols said the problem was first uncovered in Europe, where regulators measuring air quality weren’t seeing the benefits from Volkswagen’s new clean vehicles.
“California started testing….then we actually went and bought cars and put them on dynamometers with equipment, and saw how they were operating during the test, and figured out what was going on.”
Then, she said, a mid-level engineer working on the government affairs team at Volkswagen confessed to one of Nichols’ staff members about what was happening with the vehicles.
Enforcement action followed, after they brought the information to the federal government. “This one was ours to begin with, but then they took it up, and together we pursued the court actions, which eventually resulted in a settlement.” Watch the complete DSS talk here:
The show asks 30 single people to spend 10 days inside “pods,” where they interview potential love matches from behind a wall that separates them. Couples who agree to get engaged during the experiment exit the pods to see each other for the first time.
In this interview, Alagbada, who plans to work in early-stage venture capital investing after graduating, discusses his Netflix adventure, life before Haas, and juggling the demands of the show with the MBA program. The first episodes of the new season—which features Alagbada—airs October 19.
Haas News: The Season 3 “Love is Blind” cast promo came out yesterday. How do you feel?
SK Alagbada: It’s a mixture of excitement and feeling anxious because this remains the craziest, most out-of-place thing I’ve ever done—crazier than moving to Poland from Nigeria by myself when I was 19. I’m a little worried about how the show will be edited. We filmed so many hours and you don’t know what will make it to the final cut.
Do your classmates know yet? I kept this secret from my classmates even though so many of them watch the show. I haven’t stepped into a class since the announcement so I am just preparing myself for the 21 questions. I kept this from them because of the confidentiality agreement, and also to try to have as normal a first-year MBA experience as possible.
Watch the “Love is Blind” cast announcement.
Had you watched “Love is Blind” before you were on the show?
No, but my mom had. She loves the show.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I left Nigeria as an international exchange student to study in Poland. I still speak some Polish and three other languages. I lived all over Europe for a few years before moving to the U.S. 13 years ago by myself, and settled in Texas, attending Baylor University as an undergraduate. My brothers and mom are in the U.S. now. I am from the Yoruba tribe in southwest Nigeria, so I take my African culture, food, and Afrobeat music with me everywhere.
So how did Netflix find you?
Every season is scouted in a certain city. This one was in Dallas, where I lived. Someone reached out after they saw my Instagram account. I initially thought it was a scam and didn’t respond for several weeks. One day, I responded. From Instagram we did FaceTime auditions and interviews during COVID. They’re looking for responsible, emotionally stable people in their 20s to mid-30s. They look at your interests, your career, your lifestyle, and whether you are an eligible bachelor.
Why did the reality show idea of finding a wife appeal to you?
I was at the point in my life when I wanted to settle down. I didn’t want to hear my mom’s constant reminder anymore about getting married. Also, in the past couple of years I’ve lived in different places where I haven’t had stability in my life. I tried the conventional ways of finding partners, through friends and family introductions and dating apps, but nothing seemed to stick. But a lot of things in my life happen in unusual ways, most unexpected ways, so this was not foreign to me. It’s the story of my life.
I was at the point in my life when I wanted to settle down. I didn’t want to hear my mom’s constant reminder anymore about getting married.
How did you juggle filming “Love is Blind” with your MBA program schedule?
We finished filming the season before I started my first year of class, but I was still working at JP Morgan as a senior data engineer during my first year to cover the higher Bay Area costs and occasionally support my family back in Nigeria. Juggling that first year was tough. I’m so grateful for my classmates at Haas. They’re very gracious and were especially understanding when I had so much going on, willingly volunteering their time to help me understand unclear concepts in class. As a community, we are always there for each other.
I’m so grateful for my classmates at Haas. They’re very gracious and were especially understanding when I had so much going on, willingly volunteering their time to help me understand unclear concepts in class. As a community, we’re always there for each other.
In the show promo they asked about your most annoying habit and you said “snacking.” Snacking doesn’t seem so bad!
I work from home and study a lot and I always have a snack with me. My favorite snacks right now are Smartfood popcorn and Walkers shortbread cookies. My girlfriends in the past learned to accommodate it—or they picked up snacks for me when they went shopping.
You are very involved with the LAUNCH accelerator program. How does the student-led startup accelerator program align with your career goals in venture capital?
Prior to Berkeley, I worked at large companies like General Motors and JP Morgan, but I wanted an immersive startup experience and to learn the business of technology, grow my network, and boost my startup pipeline. Serving as LAUNCH co-chair of strategy and partnerships helps me to achieve this goal. I’m responsible for shaping the vision by managing and growing our relationships with investors, raising funds for our startups, and developing initiatives to strengthen our program experience. To date, LAUNCH startups have raised over $700 million and LAUNCH remains completely student run.
You are also president of the Africa Business Club. Can you talk a bit about investing in African startups?
This is very personal. I left Nigeria at the onset of a tech revolution that’s led to one of the fastest growing ecosystems in the world. I’ve stayed connected to home, but still have major FOMO from leaving the country at such a pivotal time. That’s why I’ve been dedicated to helping connect startups on the continent to capital, mentorship, and resources in Silicon Valley. In April, my team and I hosted the first in-person Africa Business Forum at Haas since COVID. This event laid groundwork for new connections and startup investment in Nigeria.
What’s your favorite thing about Haas?
Haas does a very good job of assembling a class of genuinely good people. In addition to being so accomplished and having done such interesting things in their lives and careers, they are genuinely good people.
What do you like to do outside of school?
I love soccer, tennis, and Scrabble. I also like to cook. There is a dearth of African food in the Bay Area, so I usually find myself cooking a lot. My mom also ships me food sometimes.
Have you picked up anything new since moving to California? Recycling! I came from Texas. It’s a huge shift for me.
As globalization began to give American businesses a run for their money in the early 1970s, international business expert and then-Dean Richard Holton began working with faculty on ideas for how to train new leaders to compete.
“Strong competition from Japanese companies started to wake people up,” said Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean of instruction at Haas from 2008 to 2021. “American business leaders and business school leaders understood the need to take a different approach to training people coming into American companies.”
That realization led to the creation of a new kind of MBA program that would provide the flexibility business leaders needed to earn the degree outside of their daily work schedules. In 1972, the business school launched its first part-time program called the San Francisco Evening Program (SFMBA) at the Wells Fargo Training Center in downtown San Francisco.
“We’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the decades,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs at Berkeley Haas. “The part-time program has changed so many lives by opening doors for working professionals who couldn’t afford to take two years off to go back to school. It has truly fulfilled a mission to increase access to an MBA.”
A pioneering program
The part-time MBA program, one of the first of its kind in the country and the first within the University of California system, was aimed at students in their mid-20s to late 30s who had been in the workforce for an average of five years.
“The part-time program has changed so many lives by opening doors for working professionals,” Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs.
The first-ever cohort of 88 students hailed from local companies like Wells Fargo and Levi Strauss & Co, many of them commuting from Silicon Valley. By fall 1975, the program swelled to 229 students taking 17 courses. And by the early 1980s, the program’s success ensured that it would remain a core offering, with courses modernized and aligned tightly with the full-time MBA program to address corporate needs, Stowsky said.
“The MBA by then had shifted from a more academic degree to what was called management science, a kind of mathematical approach to decision making focused on finance and the bottom line, in addition to marketing and other key things students learn today in business school,” he said.
Boosting career success
The program, consistently ranked in the top two in the U.S. News ranking of part-time MBA programs, has trained business leaders worldwide. Among the more than 6,000 living graduates of the program are Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93; Apple’s Managing Director of Greater China, Isabel Mahe, MBA 08; Poshmark CEO Manish Chandra, MBA 95; Sega Sammy CEO Haruki Satomi, MBA 12; Meituan Dianping founder and CFO Shuhong Ye, MBA 05; and Dilbert creator Scott Adams, MBA 86.
Constance Moore, who graduated from the SF MBA evening program in 1980, recalled attending classes in downtown San Francisco, near her office at BRE Properties. “I wanted to go to the evening program because I had recently started at BRE as an asset manager and knew I would likely learn as much at work as I would in school,” she said. “I could apply what I learned at work to my school work, and what I learned at Haas I could apply to my work. It was perfect.”
Attending class on Monday and Thursday evenings allowed her to travel for work in between and then study all weekend, she said. “It didn’t leave much time for anything else but it was so worth it,” said Moore, who became CEO of BRE after getting an MBA. “Haas made me fearless.”
While relatively few women enrolled during the part-time MBA program’s earliest days, that changed over the years as women were recruited or encouraged by their employers and each other.
Lesley Keffer Russell enrolled in the program in 1999, at the encouragement of her boss at St. Supéry Winery, Michaela Rodeno, who graduated from the part-time program in 1980.
“She became a great mentor for me. She asked me one day during lunch, after I had done a three-month work stint in France for St. Supéry, ‘So, when are you going to go to biz school?'” she said. “I had mentioned that it was on my mind for a while and there was nobody else who was going to push me to apply, so she did. I got right on it.”
Russell said classes she took that help her today in her job as general manager of Saint Helena Winery include microeconomics, negotiations, and real estate development, for which she completed a final group project on assessing two Napa Valley vineyard purchases. “This led to understanding about aspects of the wine industry that have been critical to my career advancement,” she said.
A name change, and even more flexibility
While San Francisco served as the part-time program’s hub for years, student demand to be closer to UC Berkeley led the school to move the program to campus in 1995. In 2002, then-Dean Laura Tyson added a weekend option for students.
The expanded program, renamed the evening & weekend program, split students into evening or weekend cohorts, depending on their schedules. It now attracts a wide breadth of students from around the world— engineers, general managers, sales and marketing managers working in high tech, computer services, banking, fintech, and biotechnology, among other industries.
This year, about 36% of the entering class is from outside the Bay Area, and 59% of them were born outside of the U.S. Nearly 40% of the students are women.
“We’ve always had a fairly rich body of applicants to draw upon given our geography, Berkeley’s name, and the Haas reputation,” Breen said. “Those factors have served us well.”
The flexibility of the program has also increased. Spurred by the success of virtual learning, Haas developed the Flex option, a hybrid online/in-person MBA, which was in the works for three years. Flex is popular with working professionals who can take core courses online and opt to come to Haas for electives. The first cohort of 69 students began in August.
“With the launch of Flex, we’re looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring for the program and our students,” Breen said. “It’s an exciting time to be offering innovative business program options to working professionals.”
After Berkeley Haas professional faculty member Alex Budak created and launched his course “Becoming a Changemaker” in 2019, it quickly grew to be one of the most popular electives for both undergraduate and MBA students.
Erika Walker, senior assistant dean of instruction, introduced Budak and described the book as “very Haas.” It also connects closely with the school’s Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself.
“Students will share that the Becoming a Changemaker class was life-changing, even transformational, and that they were surprised that such a course as this was offered in business education,” she said. “It ultimately reframed the way students approached their own leadership journeys.”
Before Budak began teaching the class, he had to undergo his own changemaker journey. He recounted a “single, serendipitous” meeting with Jay Stowsky, then the senior assistant dean of instruction, about career advice.
“He said, ‘Alex what do you really want to do?'” Budak recalled. “I said, ‘Well, what I really want to do is teach,’ and then made some excuses for why I couldn’t possibly teach. But to my shock and delight he said, ‘All right, what do you want to teach?’ And in that moment, it became crystal clear. I said, ‘I want to teach ‘Becoming a Changemaker.'”
Stowsky told Budak to put together a syllabus. “I remember literally leaping out of my seat, so elated that someone else saw this potential in this class and this vision,” he said.
Budak then welcomed alumni Shannon Eliot, MBA 20, Angelica Song, BS 20, and Alicia Wilson, BS 23, (Ibrahim Baldé, BS 20, participated via video), for a panel discussion on their journeys to becoming changemakers.
Three new books written by Haas professional faculty members share one thing in common: deep learning from the successes of people making innovative change in business today. Here’s more on each new book:
By Jerome Engel, founding executive director emeritus of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship (now the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program)
Much has changed since Engel’s 2014 publication of Global Clusters of Innovation: Entrepreneurial Engines of Economic Growth around the World, a book that explored the explosion of entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems globally, a movement that spread Silicon Valley business practices around the world. By 2022, economic disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, global warming, and environmental degradation led Engel to ask how innovation ecosystems can support the evolution of more robust, agile, and sustainable societies. Those questions led to this book about innovation ecosystems, clusters of innovation, and the global networks of clusters of innovation that naturally form. He argues that entrepreneurs, collaborating with venture investors and major corporations, can create clusters of innovation that help build the resiliency required to quickly adapt and rebound from economic shocks. The process is helped along by supportive government, universities, and other elements of the ecosystem.
By Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, lecturer with the Berkeley Haas professional faculty, and Klaus Wehage
Aaron McDaniel, who teaches entrepreneurship to undergraduates at Berkeley Haas, and Klaus Wehage are co-founders of 10X Innovation Lab, which helps build innovation ecosystems worldwide. During the pandemic, the authors said they realized there was no book published on innovation in international business expansion that matched the success of Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. So over 1 1/2 years, they interviewed more than 300 executives from the world’s fastest-growing companies across 50 countries to understand what made them successful in reaching global scale. The list included CEOs and founders of Apple, Zoom, Slack, and Airbnb. The authors suggest that applying agile principles will enables global-class companies to more easily pivot their business and successfully localize in overseas markets with different cultural contexts. McDaniel said he hopes that Global Class will provide a tool kit and framework for companies of all sizes and stages to help build global, distributed teams; manage a diverse footprint; and balance cultural differences.
Balance (Grand Central Publishing), published September 2022
By Alex Budak, Haas lecturer and creator of the Changemaker course
Stepping into a leadership role doesn’t require people to be at the top of a group or organization. Anyone—regardless of title, personality, race, gender, age, or class—can be a changemaker and effect powerful, positive change from where they sit in a workplace or community, Haas Lecturer Alex Budak argues in his new book. Based on Budak’s popular Berkeley Haas course of the same name, the book is anchored by the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Budak introduces concepts and tools aimed at helping readers develop the confidence, courage, and commitment to lead change from wherever they are—and includes examples across industries, age levels, and abilities. The book includes a longitudinal study of how people develop key changemaker skills over time and provides access to some of the same exercises he uses in his class.
Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.
Joe Obeto, MBA 21, co-founded startup Bird to help solve a vexing roadblock he and other African immigrants face when they arrive in the U.S.: trying to open a bank account. We recently interviewed Obeto about what led him to become an entrepreneur and his big plans for Bird.
Describe your startup in 30 words or less.
We’re building a platform to enable non-US residents to open a bank account, a checking account, and do easy and frictionless cross-border transfers.
What was your background before coming to Haas?
My undergrad degree was in computer information science. When I graduated, I had several options: to pursue the traditional technology route as a software developer or maybe go into finance. What really shifted for me was during a summer that I went to Wall Street to intern for Credit Suisse. My experience that year was very incredible, and that really pushed me toward finance. I came to realize that not only do I like finance, I really wanted to become an entrepreneur.
What was the problem that you are solving with Bird?
When I first came to the U.S., I learned that I had to be a resident of the country for about six months minimum before I could open a bank account. With most major banks, this is the policy. In addition, sending money back to Nigeria is very expensive or it takes several days for the money to get to the final destination because there are so many intermediaries. It also costs 10 times more to send $100 to Nigeria than what it would cost you to send to a place like the U.K. or Poland because they have stable currencies.
So you decided to address these challenges as an entrepreneur?
I thought we could build a solution to solve this. So we decided to build a platform to do two things: enable non-U.S. residents to open a checking account and also enable a frictionless, low-cost way for you to be able to transfer money cross-border. There are some regulatory processes that we need to complete before we can actually go live with the banking solution, but the cross-border solution is going to be ready soon.
How does a Bird service work?
We don’t have a banking charter, so we cannot actually hold your funds. What we’ll do is partner with a local bank so when you open an account on the Bird platform and deposit money, it will be held at the bank, so it’s FDIC insured, meaning your money is going to be safe. You can do a wire transfer and have a debit card from the Visa network or the Mastercard network. You can use the card globally, anywhere that Visa or Mastercard is accepted. In addition to that, you can also transfer money.
How will transferring money work?
Right now, we’re establishing a payment corridor between Nigeria and the U.S. We want to test this corridor out. Eventually, we’re going to expand to other corridors in Africa. We’re looking into Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya, as well as Rwanda.
Right now, we’re establishing a payment corridor between Nigeria and the U.S. We want to test this corridor out.
Will transferring money using Bird be cheaper than other methods?
Yes, it is cheaper because rather than having multiple intermediaries moving money from one end to the other, we will use a stablecoin on the blockchain to move money cross-border. Essentially, we convert dollars to USDC stablecoins (a cryptocurrency). When it gets to Nigeria, that USDC stablecoin is on-ramped to Nigerian currency. The same thing will happen when somebody’s trying to send money to the US. We’re able to cut out a lot of middlemen and drastically reduce the cost of sending money internationally, especially to Africa.
Have any Haas courses helped you build the company?
New Venture Finance with Professor Maura O’Neill. She’s incredible. I learned a lot from that course, and even today when I’m talking to investors or negotiating a term sheet, the learnings from that course have been helpful; the entrepreneurship course taught by Kurt Beyer was helpful as well, and an operations course taught by Professor Terry Taylor showed me how to run operations of any firm. We went through lots of cases, analyzing different companies and what led to their successes, what led to their failures. As somebody building a company, you need to be able to learn from failures so you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
You also placed second last spring at UC Berkeley LAUNCH after going through the accelerator program. How did that help?
LAUNCH gives you a framework for you to validate your idea. It uses the lean startup methodology to develop a very strong value proposition. You go out to talk to customers to challenge your initial hypothesis, test it, validate it. Ultimately, when you come out of LAUNCH, you realize that you have a stronger position for your customers and that you are building something that people actually want and need.
Did you always plan to get an MBA?
That has always been part of my strategy. An MBA is not going to necessarily make you a successful person or a successful entrepreneur. But it does reduce your chance of failure and increases the odds of your success. Building on that knowledge of having a structured approach to entrepreneurship, to starting a business, is what the MBA equips you with. Besides that, I think the network that I’ve been able to build here in the Bay Area has afforded me the opportunity to build something that I think will be a success.
The Berkeley Haas courtyard has sprung back to life. Over the past week, new undergraduate, full-time MBA, and PhD students arrived for orientations, getting a first glimpse of life in the classroom. Students in the Berkeley Haas Executive MBA and the evening & weekend MBA program, including the first Flex MBA class, came to campus for orientation last month.
Full-time MBA Program
(Photos by Jim Block)
Spirits were high among the entering full-time MBA students who gathered for the traditional Week Zero orientation Aug. 15-17. School and student leaders (including Week Zero Co-Chair Dingmi Gong, MBA 23) and Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs, welcomed the group, who throughout the two days participated in sessions on diversity, equity and inclusion at Haas, productivity and time management, and an introduction to the case study method. They also met their study groups for [email protected], a program that’s celebrating its 10th year in the MBA curriculum with lessons on collaborative leadership.
MBA Association (MBAA) President Jude Watson, a former chef and community organizer from Seattle, introduced Dean Ann Harrison, who emphasized how important it is for students to lead on critical issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as climate change. She noted that both innovation and collaboration that will be required to solve the world’s toughest problems.
“The issue of climate change has become visibly real, and despite the important climate bill that Joe Biden has put in place, we have a very long way to go. It’s just a down payment on the change we need,” she said. “I believe that you, as business leaders, will lead the change.”
“I believe that you, as business leaders, will lead the change.” Dean Ann Harrison.
Orientation speaker Lo Toney, MBA 97, urged students to explore, celebrate, and focus during their journeys. Toney, founding managing partner of Plexo Capital, told students that they will learn the most from their peers–not just about the diversity of where people are from, but what they have done. “Look around you,” he said. “These are people who are going to be in extremely senior positions,” who will help you along your journey.
In welcoming the new class, Dean Ann Harrison noted the sweeping changes coming for the undergraduate program, anchored by the recent $30 million gift from alumnus Warren “Ned” Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BA 66, (political science), that will be used to create the new four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program.
In her welcome message, Emma Hayes Daftary, the new assistant dean of undergraduate admissions, expanded on the changes and the importance of enhancing collaboration among the students in the competitive program. “This program and our Defining Leadership Principles will challenge you to shift from what you, as an individual, can achieve, to what we, as a community, can accomplish,’ she said. “It’s for this reason that we’re focusing on culture this year, and we’re working to create a more collaborative, inclusive, and equitable culture in the undergraduate program.”
Hayes Daftary said the first order of business is to eliminate the “Haas Curve” grading policy—which drew cheers from the students.
She said the policy of grading on a curve was adopted in 2011 across the MBA and undergraduate programs for ease and consistency. But in May 2021, the Undergraduate Program Committee voted to recommend that the policy be eliminated. Policies such as grade caps and grading on a curve are often criticized because they lead students to compete against each other, but in this case it was also deemed to be ineffective, she said.
“I’m not a competitive person, so I think it’s good…It will definitely help.” said Gloria Gonzalez-Serrano, a continuing undergraduate student who plans to pursue a career in digital marketing.
Other program changes include the hiring of more staff to focus on the academic and student experience, funding the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) at historic levels, renovating the undergraduate program lounge, and upgrading the Cheit Hall classrooms.
Browse more highlights (photos by Noah Berger):
Evening & Weekend MBA
The new class of evening & weekend MBA students arrived on campus in July for a jam-packed “WE Launch” orientation weekend of work sessions, team-building exercises, and an introduction to the Haas Defining Leadership Principles.
A few details about the Class of 2025: More than 40% of the new students have at least one advanced degree, including 21 PhDs. More than 40% of the class was born outside of the U.S. Nearly half—47%— are married or partnered, with 22% raising kids (altogether they have 80 children.)
Browse highlights from EWMBA orientation here. (Photos by Jim Block)
Also, some fun facts:
The class includes a violinist who performed at Carnegie Hall, a former professional ballet dancer, and three published authors, including the author of the “Silicon Valley Dictionary.”
The class boasts the youngest elected city council member of a Bay Area City, the lead singer in a band that raises money for domestic violence victims, and a volunteer for the Yellowstone Wolf Project who helps with tracking wolves. There’s also a flight controller for NASA Mission Control, a pilot instructor for the Air Force, and a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.
A total of 14 students joined the PhD program this fall, with an equal split between men and women. The group hails from around the world, including the U.S., Brazil, China, Colombia, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, and Singapore.
The students’ area of study is equally diverse, including accounting, business and public policy, finance, marketing science, management of organizations, and real estate.
Fede Pacheco, MBA 21, woke up one day with an idea for a fun way to connect his classmates for a lifetime. He decided to design a non-fungible token (NFT), which would be as unique as the class’ pandemic experience—and the first of its kind to be given as an MBA class graduation gift.
The Haas 2021 NFT, a short GIF featuring a young and older bear reflecting at sunset, is a nod to the students’ journey, which Pacheco said was full of MBA traditions that went virtual during the pandemic. (An NFT is a digital asset connected to unique physical or digital items, such as art, video, or music.)
So far, 102 alumni have signed up to claim the NFT, which Pacheco worked on with another 2021 classmate, who did the coding.
Pacheco, who is now living in Seattle and working for Microsoft, was chosen as student speaker at 2021 commencement. He urged students, virtually, to savor the good times and reflect on the moments when they found creative ways to lean on each other, in spite of the unprecedented year they all endured.
He said the Haas 2021 NFT, a short GIF that runs on a Gameboy-style screen, is available to everyone in the class and will last forever. “You will have ownership of it and it’s something we will all share through the community it creates. I want the Berkeley and Haas community to see that we’re doing this, that we’re celebrating the digital experience.”
The Class of 2021 NFT opens with two bears watching the sunset.
“The bigger bear is the graduating you,” Pacheco said, narrating the YouTube video that introduces the NFT collection. “You are hugging your younger self before you started that journey. There are so many things that you wish that you could tell yourself but there’s nothing like actually living it.”
Together, the bears let go of a celebratory balloon.
As the balloon approaches the horizon, one of four Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles, Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, or Beyond Yourself, (a different one for each NFT) slowly appears. Then a “press start” button appears, representing the beginning of the next chapter of your life.
Caitrin Hall, MBA 21, said the NFT represents the innovation, creativity and generosity of their class: “Innovation, since we’re likely the only MBA class to own an NFT from our school; creativity, as it is a cutting edge art form; and the generosity of Fede Pacheco to gift it to us all.”
“I’d learned about blockchain in school, but this brings it alive—and into my wallet—in a whole new way,” she said.
This year’s efforts bring the total raised for the past two fiscal years to a record $116 million, the most ever raised in two consecutive years.
“So many alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends went beyond themselves this year, providing unbelievable support for Haas,” Dean Ann Harrison said. “Their generous gifts will be used to do important work within our community, work that will help Haas build the next generation of Berkeley leaders, stay connected to and support our alumni community, and remain a top business school. We are truly grateful.”
Fundraising highlights from the past year:
$69 million raised from donations by 4,339 alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends.
A $30 million gift, the largest single donation in the school’s history, from Ned Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BS 66 (political science). Their gift will be used to launch the four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program in Fall of 2024.
The addition of seven new Builders of Berkeley—donors who given at least $1 million to Berkeley—including Haruki, MBA 12, and Mikiko Satomi, Kevin, BS 82 JD/MBA 85 and Eileen Shields, John Hokom, BS 59, MBA 60, Steve Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, Roshni and Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90, Joanne and Jon Goldstein, BS 82; and the Liang-Kuo Family.
The 2022 one-day Big Give campaign, which raised $2.475 million from a record 911 gifts.
A record number of gifts of $2,500, the new gift level for the Haas Leadership Society.
A record $4.86 million raised for the Haas Fund, the most raised in one year. Gifts to the Haas Fund are used for scholarships and program enhancements, as well as our Alumni Network podcasts, lifelong learning, and alumni programming.
Alumni engagement highlights from the past year:
Alumni engagement also thrived in 2022, with a record-breaking group of nearly 1,700 alumni returning to campus for their makeup and in-person MBA reunion weekend celebrations. Together, the MBA reunion classes of 2020 and 2021 donated $2.2 million and gave 11 lead gifts. At the annual Alumni Conference, the combined virtual and in-person events allowed alumni from all over the world to tap into Haas thought leadership. In-person events fostered community-building and connections.
More alumni engagement highlights:
Alumni affinity groups increased programming for women graduates as well as programming in real estate and growth industries like cryptocurrency and blockchain.
Alumni sourced and shared 474 jobs with the school as part of the Hire Haas campaign.
More than 3,700 alumni accepted a call to action, volunteering for Haas by assisting with admissions, meeting with students for career conversations, serving as guest speakers or panelists, or leading and arranging events and programs for fellow alumni.
The OneHaas Alumni Podcast produced 42 podcasts featuring alumni in conversation about their Haas experience and career trajectories.
Three new mentoring programs were launched to support student career planning and help build greater alumni connections.
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 2023, along with a diverse group of students from 17 different countries. This fall, Chen will intern as an associate at Morgan Stanley.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Haas Voices is a series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
Jude Watson, MBA 23, never intended to become a social entrepreneur. But that was before the former chef founded Seattle-based Cooks for Black Lives Matter, and raised $100,000 by selling CSA (community-supported agriculture) boxes of gourmet treats donated by cooks, restaurants, and farmers to support Black-led community organizers. We interviewed Watson about the power of community organizing, and their experiences as MBA Association student body president and as a transgender student at Haas. (Jude uses the pronouns they/them/theirs)
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Seattle on Capitol Hill, which is the gayborhood of Seattle. My mom’s a hair stylist and my dad does a lot of climate justice work. I had a very socially motivated family and that shaped a lot of how I grew up. I felt very connected to the community in a lot of ways because both my parents are firmly rooted in Seattle and very present in our community.
Did you become politically active at a young age?
Yes, at age 16. When I realized I was queer, and especially when I realized I was gender expansive, I got very involved with local queer youth organizing. There was this amazing group of queer young people who were trying to start a community center for ourselves. A lot of LGBTQ spaces tend to be bars, so there aren’t many inclusive places for young queer people. We founded the first youth-led LGBTQ community center in Seattle with large grants from the City of Seattle and the Point Foundation. That period of my life was a mind-blowing crash course in community organizing. I also met and was mentored by trans adults for the first time, which was very meaningful and helped me imagine a future for myself.
Sounds like that was a very open and formative environment.
Definitely. I learned so much about social justice issues, especially around race, class, and disability. We were a diverse crew and it was a very energizing organizing community to be a part of. While doing that organizing, I graduated from high school when I was 16, and did an early entrance program at the University of Washington, where I made my own major in the History of Social Movements by pulling together classes in history, ethnic studies, women and gender studies. It was a great way to learn how social changes happens over time in different social contexts, and informed my work with Queer Youth Space.
What did you see yourself doing after graduation?
I saw myself doing social work and community organizing with young people, which I pursued for a couple years after I graduated. But I also craved more creative work, so at age 22 I took a very abrupt left turn to pursue a career as a chef. I left my job working with young people and got a job as a restaurant prep cook, and then worked my way up to a chef-level position for the next seven years. I even spent a summer learning traditional butchery in Italy from a third-generation pig farmer, which was mind blowing.
What made you leave cooking?
Although I loved my career in kitchens in many ways, it was also an incredibly intense experience that I have a lot of ambivalence about. There are parts of my job that were life affirming and beautiful, and there were parts about it that were horrifying: toxic people, sexual harassment, gnarly injuries, constant violations of labor laws. At some point I was deeply burned out and knew, “It is not healthy for me to keep doing this.” But I still deeply love cooking. I’ve done some elaborate dinner parties for fellow Haasies.
So how did you end up in business school?
Seattle was the first city that got COVID in the U.S., so we shut down our restaurants before everyone else did. At that point, I turned back into community organizing and founded the social enterprise Cooks for Black Lives Matter, which has raised over $100,000 for local Black-led community organizing. Although at the time I just felt like I was doing something to be useful during such a dark time, I eventually realized, “Oh, I’m an entrepreneur now. I’m genuinely good at this,” and I wanted to build up those skills more. I contemplated a master’s in social work or public policy, but I thought it would be a bigger stretch for me to learn more about business.
Are you happy with that choice?
I’m so glad to be at Haas. It’s unbelievable the amount of opportunities that exist in business school. You have access to so much, which is often unbelievable to me coming from the service industry where you’re always given the bare minimum. One of my best experiences at Haas was in Lean LaunchPad last semester, where I was on the team with MBA student Carlson Giddings, helping her start a sweet potato flour company. I did all the recipe development for our team, and learned so much about the entrepreneurship side of the food CPG industry from entrepreneurship experts with decades of experience. During that class, I got to make a short video about our project and get editing help from Ralph Guggenheim, one of the co-producers of Toy Story and a mentor in the class. That’s one of those opportunities that, if I wasn’t at Haas, I would never in a million years have had access to.
You’re an active student leader at Haas. What’s that been like?
Although I would love to find out that I’m wrong about this, I believe I’m the first ever out transgender person to be the student president of an MBA program. It’s been a huge priority for me to have more conversations about trans identity at Haas. Via Abolencia, MBA/MPH 23, is one of my best friends, a fellow non-binary student here, and a co-president of [email protected] Together, we ran an event called Trans Futures, featuring a panel of trans advocates from public health, consulting, and community organizing, which was such a moving experience. The vast majority of the time, I’m the only trans person in the room at school and at work, which is a fairly exhausting experience. To create a trans-led space at Haas was good for my heart. It’s powerful for my classmates, most of whom have never seen eight trans people together before in their lives, to get to listen to these incredible activists reflect together on their work and their lives. That is by far the event I’m most proud of running at Haas.
Any suggestions for how our community members can be better allies to the trans community?
Overall, I would say read trans authors and watch media made by trans people, because I think what many people are lacking is empathy for our life experience. Follow some trans people on social media, and in general gain a more casual familiarity with the language we use and the struggles and successes a lot of us share. We’re not a huge percentage of the population, (although the number of people that identify as gender expansive is growing as more people feel comfortable coming out), so cis people need to put in more effort themselves to build their familiarity and comfort with trans people.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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
Earlier this month, seven Phd candidates participated in a hooding ceremony.
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.
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.”
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.
McDanielurged 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.”
“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.”
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
“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.
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.
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.
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, 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 theThe 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.”
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.
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 andas 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.”
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.