From a Master: The Art of Deal Making and Creating Value

This article is part of a series called Classified, in which we spotlight some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.

Peter Goodson entered Cheit 110 on a recent drizzly Wednesday morning, ready to teach students the good, the bad, and the ugly of how mergers and acquisitions really get done. More importantly, he offered lessons in creating value, instead of destroying it, as many deals do.

“Any fool with money can buy a business,” says Goodson, a mergers & acquisitions veteran and Berkeley-Haas finance lecturer for over a decade. “This course is more about enhancing strategy and executing operational improvements to create value than teaching lessons in how to squander your own capital.”

The two topics that day included “Takeover Tussle,” which involved a hypothetical hostile bid by Oracle for Salesforce, and a case on buyer due diligence, which forced students to dig behind the scenes, questioning former disgruntled employees to find the truth about a seller.

The takeover scene is a meeting of Oracle directors, with some students taking on the role of company advisers presenting their case to the board. The rest of the class acted as directors. The first student to address the fictitious board didn’t get very far into his presentation before Goodson jumped in with a critique.

“Never go into a board meeting where you don’t intelligently compliment your audience in some way at the opening,” he said. “Realize that you have already met each director and have the total vote count in your pocket. Don’t read the (PowerPoint) slides. Synthesize what is important to the decision at hand. You must kindle an interchange with the audience that forces you to think on your feet.”

One presenter after another was challenged. “You’re role-playing as the board of directors— you don’t raise your hand. It’s demeaning,” Goodson insisted when the opportunity came to ask audience questions. Get to your point faster, he urged another student. “Insightful economy of words matters in leadership.”

Goodson’s bona fides run deep. He founded the M&A group at Kidder, Peabody at age 26 and later negotiated the investment bank’s $600 million sale to General Electric. Goodson’s perspective is shaped from his experience as lead advisor to hundreds of big M&A deals, but also as an owner/acquirer of many companies.  He was an early-stage partner at the influential private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, which acquired more than 65 companies valued at a combined $100 billion over 40 years. The firm is most noted for value creation, with famous CEO partners including GE’s Jack Welch.

Goodson, now retired, teaches an elective M&A value creation course for Full-Time MBA’s and Evening & Weekend MBAs and a summer block turnaround leadership course for EWMBA and EMBA students aimed to show aspiring management consultants, investment bankers, top executive candidates, and CEOs the art of “change agency.”

He also co-teaches a course in private equity centered on investing, ownership, and value creation.

An insider’s approach

Few students show up to Goodson’s classes short on caffeine. Nor do they arrive expecting to dissect spreadsheets or textbook theories.

They come instead to get a glimpse of the real world—no matter how uncomfortable the view or how challenging the required deliverable may be. “Peter’s not one for a lot of unnecessary fluff,” says Aleksey Lakhchakov, MBA 16, and the class graduate school instructor. “He tells it like it is.”

This approach is just one reason why Goodson is so highly valued by Berkeley-Haas and its students, who have awarded him the Cheit Outstanding Teaching award multiple times. “There’s this idea that most business classes are management by spreadsheets,” says Travis Dziubla, MBA 16. “Peter’s class is a refreshing example of managing by working with people.”

William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs in the Haas Finance Group, calls Goodson “institutionally important” to the school. “Peter is a walking M&A history.”

Berkeley-Haas Dean Rich Lyons has introduced Goodson as “the master of tough love and real-world decision-making.” “What students soon realize is that he has a passion for their improvement. Somehow he seems to reach each student, every term, providing inspiration and an invaluable tool kit for their career advancement.”

Asking the right questions

Goodson’s tone, at times sharp, will quickly turn supportive. Highly animated, he gleefully fist-bumps students and peppers his lesson with anecdotes from his own experiences.

His lectures include references to “The Big Short” and other Hollywood movies that eviscerate Wall Street—and he pleads with students to challenge him. “He loves that level of engagement,” says Jen Fischer, MBA 16, who openly questioned a strategy Goodson suggested during the “Takeover Tussle” class.

Fischer (pictured) and another classmate, Zara Khan, MBA 16, decided at the start of the course that they would work together to challenge Goodson whenever they felt the urge. He worships push-back and often says “don’t come to class unless you have a solution or a decision viewpoint. We all read the case and don’t agree with me out of pity if I am wrong.”

Says Khan: “You don’t take Goodson’s class if you want to find answers. You take it if you want to learn how to identify and ask the right questions.”

The Oracle/Salesforce “Takeover Tussle” exercise was a case in point: on the topic of gathering information on what any other potential bidders might do and whether top Salesforce performers were likely to bolt after a takeover, Goodson was unequivocal: covert intelligence- gathering is a must, even if it means pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable by hanging out at coffee shops near Salesforce or the headquarters of other potential bidders.

And so it went for three hours. Goodson made clear his disdain for today’s acquisition prices (“We live in a bubble.”), key players (“Sellers lie. Their advisers lie.”), and the buzzwords used to justify deals (“What does ‘synergy’ mean, anyway?”). Then he urged students to find value anomalies using judgment, leadership, operating improvement understanding, and creative negotiating skills to seek out deals where “you see potential others cannot envision.”

“Doing deals is easy, but it is a fool’s game,” he said. “Your job is to get to the truth.  Discover, if you can, how to strategically and operationally make a business you acquire substantially better and more valuable before you blow a fortune buying it.  Otherwise you are the definition of the ‘winner’s curse.'”


Berkeley-Haas Building on the Success of Philanthropy University

The second session of Philanthropy University kicks off today, building on last year’s strong debut of the free, online course program designed for those working in the social sector.

After launching six months ago, more than 200,000 people worldwide have enrolled in free online courses offered through Philanthropy University.

“Everybody was floored by the overwhelming response,” says Ben Mangan, executive director of the Center for Social Sector Leadership, which oversees the Berkeley-Haas partnership with Philanthropy University.  “There is an unbelievable unmet demand for this kind of resource in the social sector.”

Over the next eight weeks, enrollees can choose from seven classes that together provide top-notch professional training in leadership skills, organizational management, financing, and the scaling up of social impact organizations. Students who complete all seven courses earn a certificate in social sector leadership from Berkeley-Haas.

Philanthropy University classes, known as massive open online courses or MOOCs, are taught by renowned experts in the field of social impact, among them Paul Brest, former president of the Hewlett Foundation; Jessica Jackley, co-founder of peer-to-peer micro-lending site Kiva; and Shashi Buluswar, (pictured) an international consultant and instructor at Berkeley-Haas.

The Philanthropy University initiative was envisioned by His Excellency Amr Al-Dabbagh, chairman and CEO of Al-Dabbagh Group, a global business based in Saudi Arabia.  He founded  Philanthropy U as part of the company’s giving activities. Prof. Laura Tyson, director of the Haas Institute for Business & Social Impact, is a member of Philanthropy University’s advisory board.

Philanthropy University is a non-degree, diploma, or credit granting non-profit initiative sponsored by Philanthropy U, Inc. Learners do not receive college or other academic credit.

Prof. Williamson Receives Global Economy Prize


Nobel Prize Laureate and Berkeley-Haas Prof. Emeritus Oliver Williamson received the Global Economy Prize Feb. 2 from the Kiel Institute for World Affairs in Germany.

The Kiel Institute, one of Europe’s top think tanks devoted to economics, recognized Williamson for his lifelong work in economics.

The institute noted that Williamson opted out of a secure career as an engineer to study economics.

His groundbreaking work in the field led to a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009.

“With his insights into transaction costs and business mergers, [Williamson] made a significant contribution to the emergence of new competition policy,” said Dennis Snower, president of the Kiel Institute, in a statement. “Thanks to him, we now have much more effective regulation, which benefits society as a whole.”

“Oliver Williamson’s work is both pioneering and profound,” Dean Rich Lyons said. “He’s created a lifelong body of work that continues to carry influence in economics, law, and government. And as if that weren’t enough, he’s one of the best all-around people I know. We’re lucky to have him as a colleague and a friend.”

Since 2005, the Kiel Institute has hailed three global leaders annually in the categories of business, politics, and science for their creativity and daring in coming up with solutions to many of the world’s biggest problems. The two other honorees this year were Italy’s former Prime Minister Mario Monti for politics and German publisher Friede Springer for business.

Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and Harvard President Emeritus Lawrence Summers are among past honorees.

“I am very honored to receive this prize in global economics. It was unexpected,” Williamson said. “I am especially pleased that my students and other researchers have found so many empirical applications of my framework of transaction cost economics.”

Williamson, 83, is credited with coining the term “new institutional economics” in 1975, when he was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He later taught at Yale University before moving in 1988 to Berkeley, where he has held professorships in business administration, economics, and law. Williamson, who earned his MBA from Stanford University in 1960 and a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 1963, is now the Edgar F. Kaiser Professor Emeritus at Haas.

The Global Economy Prize is just the latest in a long string of accolades for Williamson.

On top of his Nobel Prize, Williamson has been awarded 13 honorary degrees. He’s served as a Fulbright Professor, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Distinguished Senior U.S. Scientist, among other notable positions. He’s also received numerous prizes and written six books, including “The Economic Institutions of Capitalism: Firms, Markets, Relational Contracting.”

A ceremony honoring the Global Economy Prize winners will be held in June in Kiel, Germany.

Peering Inside the Mind of a Football Fanatic

Of the 54,000 people who packed the Oakland Coliseum Dec. 6 to watch the Raiders play the Kansas City Chiefs, eight had an experience unlike any other.

Bri Treece, MBA 14, dons a skullcap which will monitor her brain activity during the Raider’s game.

Sitting in a suite and surrounded by a coterie of researchers— including Berkeley-Haas professors Ming Hsu and Leif Nelson, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management’s Moran Cerf and Samuel Barnett—the eight volunteers donned white skullcaps sprouting small electrodes that monitored their brain activity as they watched the football game.

The EEG tests, as they’re known, were a field trial of sorts that is pushing the boundaries of a new field of neuromarketing.

Hsu, an assistant professor of marketing, and Nelson, the Ewald T. Grether Professor in Business Administration & Marketing, are pioneering the application of neuroscience to understand how consumers think and feel about companies and their product offerings.

This study originated last summer, when Brandon Doll, MBA 14, the director of strategic projects for the Oakland Raiders, read about Hsu and Nelson’s groundbreaking research.

A good chunk of Doll’s job involves figuring out how to make the experience of attending a football game so enjoyable that existing ticket holders stay happy and novices are converted into loyal fans.

The team often relies on marketing research tools like focus groups and social media monitoring, but a lot happens during a three-hour course of a football game. The research results can sometimes be inconsistent and statistically insignificant.

“We do a lot of surveying of our season ticket members,” says Doll, “and yet, people can have such varying degrees of experiences and can struggle to describe those experiences. It can be frustrating.”

Doll reached out to Hsu and Nelson— who had been his professor at Haas—to see if their research might be able to help delve into the minds of football fans. The professors immediately recognized a whole new avenue for their research and began planning the experiment.

Of the volunteers who agreed to suit up with the skullcaps at the Raiders game, (several who happened to be Berkeley-Haas alumni), four described themselves as diehard Raiders fans, while the other four had either never been to a live NFL game or had not attended one in at least five years.

“We wanted to create a benchmark of brain activity for loyal fans and then see if we could get casual fans’ brain activity to move closer to that of the loyal fans during the game,” Doll explained. The subjects also watched a handful of videos before the game that tested various Raiders marketing messages.

Ton Chookhare, MBA 14, suits up for the experiment

Hsu and Doll agree that the study is just a first step in exploring the vast potential of these new methods.

For example, even seemingly minor issues, such as the inevitable waving or jumping up and down in excitement by fans, can stretch the limitations of existing recording equipment. But as these technological challenges get resolved, neuromarketing might one day help sports marketers understand the experiences that can turn a casual fan into a loyal one.

“This could one day allow us to reverse-engineer customer loyalty,” says Doll.

Hsu says that sporting events provide a great window into how experiences shape our preferences and behavior. “We see from our data that for casual fans, attendance resulted in long-lasting positive memories— not only of the event but also of the Raiders brand,” he said. Traditionally marketers have had very few ways to track and measure these experiences, he adds. “We are hoping to change that with these new neuroscientific tools.”

Berkeley Haas Launches Human Rights & Business Initiative

Companies are taking more responsibility for combatting human rights violations worldwide and Berkeley-Haas is taking bold steps to help businesses achieve their goals.

Late last year the Berkeley-Haas Center for Responsible Business launched the Human Rights & Business Initiative. The initiative combines existing and new courses with cutting-edge research and outreach programs to help companies devise their own human rights strategies.

The new initiative reflects a worldwide shift in responsibility for human rights, traditionally viewed as solely a government’s responsibility, said Robert Strand, the executive director of the Center for Responsible Business.

Today, there’s a broad consensus among leading companies that they have a responsibility and opportunity to respect human rights — from ensuring safe and fair working conditions in factories worldwide to grappling with government surveillance of Internet communications to balancing workers’ rights in the new “gig economy,” Strand says.

“Human rights have really risen to the top of the corporate responsibility agenda in recent years,” adds Faris Natour, a business and human rights expert who joined Berkeley-Haas last year and is directing the Human Rights & Business Initiative. The challenge, he adds, is that many companies don’t yet have the tools they need to build awareness of human rights issues into their DNA. That’s an opportunity for Berkeley-Haas, he says.

Robert Strand, (left) executive director of the Center for Responsible Business & Faris Natour, director of the Human Rights & Business Initiative
Robert Strand, (left) executive director of the Center for Responsible Business & Faris Natour, director of the Human Rights & Business Initiative

The initiative will play a key role within the Center for Responsible Business. This includes engaging with the student-run Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund (HSRIF), which holds more than $2 million in investments.

The initiative has three key components:

Teaching: Berkeley-Haas already offers a course on business and human rights. The goal now is to integrate a human rights component into more mainstream business courses, such as supply chain management and finance. Conversely, the hope is that human rights courses taught throughout UC-Berkeley will also incorporate business management lessons.

Research: The initiative plans to tap the resources of the Sustainable Products & Solutions program at the Center for Responsible Business to develop proven strategies that companies can use to integrate human rights issues into their decision-making. For example, the initiative will study the link between human rights and financial performance, the role of investors in funding sustainable businesses, and how companies in the “gig economy” can thrive while also guaranteeing workers wrights, Natour says.

Collaboration: Bringing companies, governments, investors, and other stakeholders together to devise strategies for handling human rights issues is difficult, but necessary, Strand says. Haas is well-positioned to foster collaboration through conferences, workshops and other avenues, he says.

The decision to create the initiative furthers a long tradition at UC Berkeley of advancing human rights. It’s also a reflection of the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles. “We are constantly encouraging — even demanding — our students to go ‘Beyond Yourself’ and to ‘Question the Status Quo.’ That’s ultimately what we’re doing,” Natour says.

Prof. Malmendier Honored with Prestigious Grant

For Ulrike Malmendier, the accolades are piling up. The Haas finance professor’s groundbreaking insights into how ego and other personality traits of business leaders influence corporate strategies have catapulted her to the forefront of modern economics.
Her work also caught the attention of the German government, which has awarded Malmendier a prestigious research grant through a foundation it set up to promote academic cooperation among top scholars and scientists from around the world. Malmendier, the Edward J. and Mollie Arnold Professor of Finance, is one of about 20 top researchers to be honored this year with the grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

As part of the grant, which is officially known as the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award and comes with a cash award of 45,000 euros, Malmendier is spending the current academic year with other grant recipients at the University of Bonn.

She is working closely with Hendrik Hakenes, the director of the University of Bonn’s Institute for Financial Economics and Statistics. Hakenes described Malmendier, whom he nominated for the award, as a “leading researcher” in the field of corporate finance and behavioral economics.

In nearly 14 years of teaching and research, Malmendier has emerged as a pioneer in the field of behavioral economics, which is the study of how emotional biases and character traits affect economic decision-making. While behavioral economics has mostly focused on how personality influences everyday investors and consumers, Malmendier has zeroed in on how these biases affect corporate decisions, stock prices, and markets in general.

Dean Rich Lyons offered high praise for Malmendier’s unique contributions to behavioral economics. “Ulrike has brought psychology to corporate finance and nobody had really done that before,” he says. He noted, too, that Malmendier joins a long list of Berkeley scholars who have influenced what is known about the role of personality in economics. They include Nobel laureates George Akerlof and Daniel Kahneman, and Haas Prof. Terry Odean.

Studies of CEOs, entrepreneurship

In her work on human behavior in corporate finance, Malmendier has made a number of key discoveries. For example, she has studied the role hubris in the C-suite plays when it comes to corporate strategy. Working with other researchers, Malmendier discovered that CEOs who build up big personal stakes in their companies (by not diversifying) are more likely to involve their companies in an unsuccessful merger or acquisition – an expression of their overly optimistic beliefs in the returns they will generate in their companies. She’s also shown that the job performance of celebrated CEOs tends to deteriorate when they’re in the spotlight — even as their compensation spikes.

Malmendier has also studied the characteristics of entrepreneurs. A study she co-authored with Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School found that having close acquaintances with entrepreneurs does not spur people to become entrepreneurs themselves. Why? Because experienced entrepreneurs are better able to steer would-be startup founders away from bad ideas.

Her contributions to behavioral economics have extended to consumers as well. Malmendier often collaborates with her husband, Stefano DellaVigna, a professor in Berkeley’s Department of Economics and, jointly, at the Haas School of Business. Together they have analyzed how fitness centers lure people into overpaying for gym memberships. They’ve also studied the motives behind generosity and found, among other things, that people in door-to-door fundraisers are influenced more by social pressure than they are by the desire to give.

These and other innovative insights have garnered Malmendier worldwide acclaim. In 2013, the American Finance Association honored her with its Fischer Black Prize. The biennial award honors the top finance scholar under the age of 40.

In addition to her growing body of research, Malmendier is a frequent speaker; she’s participated at the World Economic Forum in Davos and, just this year, has given a dozen keynote addresses, including one at the Economic Science Association’s meeting in Europe earlier this year. She’s also received numerous grants.

Infectious enthusiasm

In the fall, Malmendier will return to Haas. She’ll also resume her position as a professor in Berkeley’s Department of Economics and will teach her corporate finance classes in the EWMBA and PhD programs, for which she was honored with the campus-wide Distinguished Teaching Award last year.

For Malmendier, the Bessel award marks a coming home of sorts. She was born in Cologne and earned a double degree in law and economics from the University of Bonn. Faced with a choice between the two disciplines, Malmendier chose economics. After her PhD in law from Bonn in 2000, she graduated a PhD from Harvard University in 2002.  After stints at Stanford, Princeton,  and the University of Chicago, she started teaching in Berkeley’s Department of Economics in 2006. She accepted a joint appointment with Haas in 2010.

Dean Lyons said Malmendier stands out for reasons other than her research. Specifically, he cited her passion for ideas and the way her enthusiasm infects everyone around her. “She has a very high cognitive clock speed, and you feel empowered when you’re around her,” he says. “I think of this metaphor of ‘drinking from the fire hose.’ She’s one of those people whose ideas make you think, ‘Wow, this is really fun!’”

Faculty Bring Top Execs to Class

Paul Crandell had them at “Go Bears!” The room erupted into cheers as the senior vice president for global marketing at GoPro began his nearly two-hour presentation this month on the rapid rise of the company behind the wildly popular mountable cameras.Businesses succeed when there’s passion behind them, Crandell told the 60 or so Berkeley-Haas MBA students. GoPro, which started in 2004 and is based in San Mateo, taps into not just the passion of its founders and 1,000-plus employees, but also the enthusiasm and sense of adventure felt by its customers.

Millions of people have bought GoPros, he said, “because they wanted to share their story.” And in return for giving them the means to express themselves, GoPro gets a marketing team of millions. “We’ve got users building our brand every day,” continued Crandell. For Lynn Upshaw, Crandell’s message was exactly what he wanted his students to hear. Upshaw, an author and founder of Upshaw Marketing, has taught the core first-year MBA course Marketing Management at Haas for five years. Guest lecturers like Crandell, he says, have always been an important component of his teaching.

He’s not alone. Every semester, Haas faculty members bring in dozens of guest speakers as a way of complementing their course instruction with real-world examples.

This fall, for example, a wide range of outside experts, including Haas alumni, passed through the lecture halls, including:

  • Peter Boland, senior vice president of brand and advertising at Charles Schwab & Co.
  • Angela Loeffler, chief people officer at the Lending Club
  • Curren Krishnan, chief of staff to Stacy Smith, Intel’s chief financial officer
  • Scott Kucirek, MBA 99 and CEO of Five Star Organics
  • Jennifer Sey, global chief marketing officer of the Levi’s Brand at Levi Strauss

Guest speakers aren’t limited to the Haas classroom. The Dean’s Speaker Series, for example, regularly hosts high-profile speakers, which recently featured guests ranging from former Vice President Al Gore to Alice Waters, the famous food activist and chef behind Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. The school’s various centers also spotlight outside speakers. For example, the Clausen Center earlier this year brought in John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

In Upshaw’s marketing class, Paul Crandell of GoPro helped drive home one of the course’s key takeaways: that marketing in the digital age is built on word of mouth. GoPro is an outstanding example of a company that has convinced its customers to market to each other, Upshaw says. (Its users have uploaded more than 3.9 years’ worth of GoPro videos to YouTube.)

John Moore, MBA 17, and one of Upshaw’s students this semester, says that the 25-plus guest speakers he’s been exposed to in his first semester at Haas have helped give him a “360-degree perspective” on the business world. What’s more, students know to arrive early to class when there’s a guest speaker they want to network with (Some of Upshaw’s students have landed internships through these interactions).

For Moore, what stood out from the GoPro presentation wasn’t so much what Crandell had to say about the company, but how clear it was that Crandell and GoPro were right for each other. “It can seem a bit abstract at times to hear business school career advisers talk about the importance of finding the right cultural fit with a future employer,” says Moore, an avid outdoorsman who exudes GoPro-like passion and enthusiasm.

Guest speakers get something out of their time at Haas, too, says Upshaw. “Because Haas is a prestigious business school, a lot of people want to come and speak,” he says. “They like to give back and they enjoy the conversation.”

Classified: Game Theory Class Turns to “Survivor” for Life Lessons

In our ongoing series of “Classified” articles we spotlight some of the powerful lessons being taught in classrooms around Haas. 

The soulful sounds of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” reverberated through Cheit 125 as second-year MBA students filed in on a recent Monday for Prof. John Morgan’s Game Theory class.

For nine weeks now, the 65 students enrolled in the elective course have been participating in a game modeled after the CBS reality show “Survivor.” Of the 14 original teams, only six were still in the running.

Just as on TV, Morgan’s contest features a series of teams competing weekly to win a game—minus the sleep and food deprivation and exotic locales. In Morgan’s version, each game mirrors a real-world business challenge, including basketball free agency, radio spectrum auctions, online retailing, and legislative lobbying.

The team with the highest score each week gets immunity, while losing teams duke it out in “tribal council” to see which one would get voted out of the competition in a secret ballot.

Morgan, who has taught Game Theory, or the science of strategy, at Haas for 11 years, has long relied on team competitions within his class. But it wasn’t until last year that, at the suggestion of his then-11-year-old son, he combined the games into a semester-long contest modeled after “Survivor.”

His goal, he says, is to teach students to be “outward thinkers.” By that, he means to show them that they need to be able to relate to others to succeed in business. “You don’t really learn how to empathize by having some professor tell you about the need to empathize. It’s like a reading a self-help book. It doesn’t work. You actually have to do it.”

Fragile vs resilient

On this day, Morgan’s game was about to take a dramatic turn. The theme of this late October class was “Redemption Island.” As the name suggests, one team that had previously been given the boot would be given a second chance.

That team—called WITS Going Down! (WITS stands for “Walk in Their Shoes,” an acronym Morgan uses to promote the use of outward thinking)—had excelled at the weekly challenges, but stumbled badly when it came to the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, where personality often trumps performance.

The team recovered quickly, and spent the intervening weeks when it was officially out of the competition building the kind of alliances that led to its redemption.

WITS Going Down seemed to have figured out that, to win, its strategy didn’t need to be perfect. “Perfect-but-fragile strategies,” says Morgan, “are less good than mediocre-but-resilient strategies.”

Getting to the final round

Here’s how “Survivor: Game Theory” has worked during the course: 14 teams started the semester split evenly into two camps, named after Nobel Prize winners in economics: House Harsanyi (the Haas School’s own Nobelist) and House Vickrey.

After each competition, all members of the house with the best-performing team were guaranteed to make it to the next round. The teams in the losing house then convened in an end-of-the-week “Tribal Council,” run by Morgan’s assistant Sibo Lu, to talk through which one of their own to vote off.

Through a process of elimination, three teams will make it to the final round in December. At that point, all 14 teams will get to decide which of the three wins the entire game. Each member of the winning team gets $100 (out of Morgan’s pocket) with the team captain collecting $150.

The incentives are an important aspect of the game: “People play differently when money is on the line,” says Morgan. But because he wants the incentives to mirror closely the business world, he won’t grade students on their performance in the game.

At first, the votes were straightforward. The first team to be eliminated, for example, didn’t show up to Tribal Council. Soon, however, the balloting became much less predictable. And that’s when WITS Going Down! ran into big trouble.

Emanuele Rusina, MBA 16 and a member of WITS Going Down!, says the teams in his house had all agreed to vote off members who had acted ruthlessly in trying to win weekly competitions. Yet, when votes were tallied, the “nice” teams in his house were being picked off. “It was clear early on that someone was playing a different kind of game,” says Rusina.

Learning from mistakes

To get back into the competition, WITS Going Down! embraced the kind of behind-the-scenes lobbying that it had originally avoided. The result: a second shot and an alliance that Rusina says — at least as of press time — will determine the team’s votes going forward.

Rusina, for one, is taking Morgan’s message to heart. “The game has been a great reality check for me, for my team, and for a lot of people who pride themselves on defining principles,” he says. “It’s teaching us how to learn from our mistakes, get back on track, and to keep friends close but your enemies just as close.”

Travis Dziubla, MBA 16, was surprised by his takeaway. He signed up for Game Theory in the hopes of learning more about mathematical approaches to complex business situations. He didn’t expect to get a heavy dose of life lessons, too. “We have this tendency as humans to attribute the worst possible intentions to any outcome,” says Dziubla, whose team, Russians v. Germans, was eliminated. But when dealing with human beings, “there can be lots of misinterpretation or different interpretations of the rules of a game.”

Hannah Davidoff, MBA 16, agrees: “If you think about it, ‘Survivor: Game Theory’ recreates the game of life.”

Twelve Finance Fellowships Awarded to MBA Students

As an undergraduate student at the University of New South Wales, Eddie Gandevia started and sold a tech company that developed learning tools for high school students in Australia.

Intrigued by the social impact the company made on the lives of students, teachers and parents, Gandevia, MBA 17, hopes one day to run an investment firm that helps build businesses in developing nations to accelerate development and alleviate poverty.

Gandevia’s conviction that businesses have a key role in helping emerging countries to build a strong middle class helped land him a Fellowship in Entrepreneurial Finance at Haas.

He was one of nine first-year full-time MBA students to receive fellowships earlier this month, including:

  • Ricky Tan and Leah Staub-DeLong, who were also awarded Entrepreneurial Finance Fellowships.
  • Mike Fagan, Nathan Feltz, and Rohan Reddy, who received the Investment Banking Fellowship.
  • Julia MacDonald, Claudia Silva, and Jason Van Thiel, who received Investment Management Fellowships.

Standing L-R:  Michael Fagan, Jason Van Thiel, Eddie Gandevia, Rohan Reddy, Julia MacDonald, Nathan Feltz
Sitting: Peter Stilwell, Claudia Silva, Ricky Tan, Leah Staub-DeLong
Missing: Lizzie Faust and Hajime Shimazu

The recipients join three other first-year Full-time MBA students who were named CJ White Fellows in Finance earlier this year: Lizzie Faust, Hajime Shimazu, and Peter Thomas Stilwell.

Together, the fellowships recognize aspiring business leaders who demonstrate strong career goals and symbolize Berkeley-Haas values. In addition to a cash award, recipients are also matched with mentors who work in their chosen field and are given priority when signing up for finance electives.

Reddy says the most exciting aspect of his fellowship is the connection he’s already made with his mentor, Landon Mizuguchi, MBA 14, a 2012 fellow who is now an associate with an investment bank in San Francisco.

“The program connects you to a person who’s living the life you aspire to, who can offer you insight from the inside, and who understands what Haas is all about,” he says.

Gandevia has high hopes for his mentorship, too. “I’m looking forward to sitting at the feet of someone who is trying not just to be successful within the system, but is trying to shift the system to the benefit of the rest of the world,” he says.

For Gandevia, the fellowship reaffirms why he chose Haas. “The school is a leader at the intersection of profit and purpose,” he says. “Haas really is re-shaping the role of business in society.