Strategies to build organizational culture in a world fundamentally changed by the pandemic were the focus as academics and executives came together at this year’s Berkeley Culture Conference.
The fifth annual conference, back in person after two years of virtual gatherings, was launched by Professors Jennifer Chatman and Sameer Srivastava in 2019. It is the flagship event of their new initiative to build a center of gravity for a new generation of organizational culture research—and ultimately, to help organizations function more effectively. Since then, the initiative has offered research partnerships and grants, forums and speaker events, and evolved to become the Berkeley Culture Center (BCC).
“Looking back at our start in 2019, we couldn’t have known that we were about to experience a global pandemic, widespread social upheaval, and massive changes in the world of work,” said Chatman, who is the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management and serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “With these rapid changes, it is more important than ever to understand how to help organizations build the most inclusive and effective cultures that will not only provide strategic clarity about ‘how we do things around here,’ but also help people stay connected to the mission and values of the company.”
“Looking back at our start in 2019, we couldn’t have known that we were about to experience a global pandemic, widespread social upheaval, and massive changes in the world of work.” —Jennifer Chatman
“Our goal from the start has been not only to advance scientific understanding, with new data sources and methods, but also to make this work relevant to leaders at organizations around the nation and world,” added Srivastava, who co-directs the center with Chatman and is the Ewald T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy. “As workplaces grow ever more diverse, and people work together in new ways, senior executives need to understand how to address the challenges that arise and how to lead change—particularly as they navigate the rapid technological and structural changes to workplaces that we expect in the next five years.”
To support these objectives, Srivastava said BCC is in the process of launching two “megastudies”—randomized controlled trials of different culture-change interventions that are simultaneously implemented across multiple organizations. These will “yield rigorous insights into how leaders can proactively shape culture in the context of a rapidly evolving workplace.”
The 2023 conference included more than 25 presentations, with the first day focused on scholars from the fields of economics, psychology, sociology, and strategy. Day two brought together industry leaders with presentations on managing cultural change in hybrid environments, coaching leaders to be change agents, and the most effective approaches to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Speakers included Scott Uzell, CEO of Converse; Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana; and Pixar Animation Studios Co-founder, Ed Catmull.
Chatman and Srivastava also introduced the Berkeley Culture Center’s first Executive Director, Kristen Barbarics. “I’m excited to see the center grow into its potential and, ultimately, create positive and powerful shifts in company culture across the nation and the world,” Barbarics said.
Conference organizers received a record 75 paper submissions this year, reflecting its reputation as a “go to” place for academics to share their latest research. They awarded the Edgar Schein Best Student Paper Prize to two doctoral students: 1st place went to Victoria Yiluan Zhang of MIT Sloan for “The Class Gap in Organizational Culture;” Laura Fritsch and Alan D. Morrison of the University of Oxford won second place for their paper “Organizational Culture, Vocabularies, and Attention: An Experimental Approach.”
Check out more photos of the conference. (All photos by Brittany Hosea-Small.)
Victoria Yiluan Zhang of MIT Sloan presents her award-winning paper.
Converse CEO & President Scott Uzell shared stories about building culture at the company.
Professor Juliana Schroeder shares her research on reducing polarization.
Assistant Professor Sa-Kiera Hudson chats with other attendees during a breakout session.
Haas Lecturer Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, asks a question.
Monica Stevens, MBA 96, of Spencer Stuart, discusses new DEI strategies.
Chatman and Srivastava with student paper winner Victoria Yiluan Zhang.
Chatman and Srivastava with 2nd place student paper winner Laura Fritsch.
Harvard College Dean and Professor Rakesh Khurana presents on elite colleges and social class.
Harvard College Dean and Professor Rakesh Khurana chats with Haas COO Courtney Chandler, who presented her research on university culture and faculty governance.
Srivastava and Chatman interviewing Pixar Co-founder and Former President Ed Catmull
Ed Catmull, co-founder and former president of Pixar Animation
While tech employment remains strong, a wave of layoffs is shaking up the industry. According to the tracking site layoffs.fyi, about 137,000 people have lost their jobs since layoffs started ticking up in May.
To find out more about what is driving this shakeup, we spoke with Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director of the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (MET) Program and of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. Chaudhuri, an expert on corporate growth and innovation, mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing, and technological disruption, says the upheaval offers the opportunity for a reset and a chance to pursue growth in emerging areas.
The economy and labor markets are going strong. So why are so many tech companies laying off workers?
Many people are confounding two different things. We should not mix up the events specific to the tech industry with all the other issues that are going on in the broader economy due to the challenges of macroeconomic shocks, like Russia’s war on Ukraine, the aftereffects of the pandemic including supply chain problems, and the general inflationary pressures. The technology industry is also affected by those events, but there are additionally more fundamental factors at play.
“I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas.”
What’s happening in the tech industry is really a natural shakeout after over a decade of phenomenal growth. It is not unlike when the dotcom bubble burst in 2001. The sector was overheated and it could not continue as it had. The same is true now, as many startup and unicorn valuations skyrocketed over the last years, especially because the pandemic accelerated the growth to record levels as the deployment of technology and digital transformation became necessary everywhere. On the bright side, it’s actually not all bad. While I recognize that layoffs are painful for many people right now, the industry as a whole needs this adjustment to bring us to a path of more sustainable economic growth in tech. Because what was happening, especially with hiring over the last few years, was just completely unrealistic.
How did we get here?
During the pandemic, we went more digital. People worked remotely and they could work from anywhere—Hawaii, the countryside, anywhere. Tech became a big factor as the economy shifted entirely online: online retail, online banking, online instruction, online meetings, online therapy. It brought significant disruption to all industries.
We need to keep in mind that the pandemic was a different kind of economic crisis. Usually in an economic crisis, everybody loses, but that didn’t happen here. Some industries actually gained significantly, especially most of the technology sectors. The growth rate that they experienced, whether hardware, software, e-commerce, healthcare apps, fintech, crypto—you name it—was completely unsustainable. Just take a look at tech hiring last year: Tech job postings hit their peak in March 2022 and have been declining sharply since. We hit the point where the trend reverses. It was going to happen, either now or a year or two from now. It coincides with what’s going on in the overall economy and world politics, leading to a perfect storm.
“Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.”
This situation also poses a great excuse for employers. They say: A recession is coming. I will have to let people go.” Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.
Are you saying there was an inflation of the workforce inside the tech industry?
Yes. The reason for this is very simple: You don’t get penalized for growing your workforce while the sector is growing so fast. Everybody knows it will have to stop at some point, but there’s no penalty for riding the wave.
In fact, there’s a loss for your firm if you don’t ride the growth. If you said, “We should be more prudent because some sort of adjustment is going to happen,” there’d be no gain and you’d be losing out on the potential benefits—profits, funding, talent. Because when the correction happens, you can simply lay people off by the thousands. Two years later, the same people who got laid off will come back to the industry (whether at the same kinds of firms or new areas that emerge), and the same VCs will invest. There are no consequences for these actions. That’s just the way of Silicon Valley and the tech world, as they go through cycles.
Is this correction just a tightening of the belt, or is the industry reorganizing itself to make room for a new wave of technologies that require new skills or a reallocation of resources?
There will be some reorganization happening, because some areas are growing faster than others. For example, Amazon decided that not all of its devices are doing so well. Companies have been carrying losses in some areas for a while. But it didn’t matter because there was so much growth overall, and they didn’t want to miss out on that wave. It is not unlike the dotcom bubble, where for instance network equipment companies were investing in an array of optical networking products that never properly worked, because regular routers and switches were minting money.
“A re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role.”
Moreover, re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role. I’ve been puzzled for a while about all the anxiety surrounding the shortage of software developers, and the salaries they were being offered in the mad scramble to secure such talent. So much basic programming work has become well-defined, codified, and routine that those skills can be learned at scale by a wider base of employees. If you think about it, thousands of software developers, even at companies like Microsoft and Google, are engaged to implement enhancements to products such as adjusting fonts or updating visuals or adding simple features—not product design or creation of new functionality. Those jobs don’t require computer science graduates, as IBM realized five years ago, when they began hiring non-college graduates with programming experience, at that time out of necessity.
In fact, there are tools now that can automate basic code writing, which are already being deployed. It won’t stop there, because we now also have algorithms which can do many sophisticated tasks; just look at Open AI’s ChatGPT, which is writing essays, poems, lecture notes, speeches, and other creative pieces at the click of a button!
Why now? Is there anything in particular that started this domino effect this year?
Now, with increased scrutiny from investors and others who look at a firm’s financial viability, this overstaffing approach is getting reined in. There have been excesses in view of rosy projections and seemingly limitless valuations. Now the bubble has popped, as it does in every tech cycle, and it’s been a great opportunity (and excuse) for firms to make adjustments, tighten their belts, and reduce their workforce.
Where do you see opportunities?
The next wave of growth will come from emerging sectors, like cleantech and green tech, new materials, breakthroughs in the life sciences, and novel products and services resulting from the maturation of general purpose technologies like AI. Just like the dotcom era was about the internet and all that it spawned—cloud services, big data, the internet of things, and other advances in information technology—there will be a wave of new technologies that will disrupt a lot of different sectors.
In many industries, the disruption has just begun and exciting new transformations are taking place that’ll unfold over the next decade—whether in education, healthcare, finance, automobiles, or aerospace, just to name a few. I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas.
“If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches.”
What does that mean for the students at Haas, and those considering an MBA?
For our own graduates, it would be healthy to see this as an opportunity. The most entrepreneurial people are the ones who look at these situations and say, “Change is good, and uncertainty has two sides. It’s what creates the opportunity for new things.”
Instead of defining your career in terms of a particular job at a particular company, you could think about which problem you want to solve. That is where you will find the opportunity to lead and to make a real impact.
It’s great to aspire to work your way up to an executive job at a large firm, and many of our graduates will do that and be very successful. Others will go against the grain. They will be the ones we hear about, because they actually change how Goldman Sachs works or McKinsey works or Google works for the next era. And of course there will be the entrepreneurs who will pursue startups that will redefine entire industries.
Take Stuart Bernstein, BS 86, former Goldman Sachs managing director and partner who shook up investment banking with his passion for clean energy and the environment. A true leader by definition changes things. That’s why we pay attention to them and learn from them.
A lot of our students come in wanting to make an impact early in their careers. What does it take to get there?
If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches. Leaders have confidence, without attitude—confidence in their vision and in their ability to make it happen, and the humility to learn and acknowledge challenges and risks.
The good news is, you don’t have to be born with it. An MBA program like Berkeley’s gives you the opportunity to develop that kind of confidence. You can train yourself to see the opportunity in ambiguity, embrace serendipity, and take intelligent risks.
Along the way you also learn key the business skills—finance, marketing, management, operations, and so forth—that you will need as a leader. All that will help you develop this vision for your path to make an impact, and the confidence and network to make it happen.
What opportunities are there at Haas and Berkeley to get ahead of the next wave?
As part of our strategic priorities, we are building a new entrepreneurship hub at Haas that will be a game changer for our students and students across Berkeley. It will draw people from all over the campus. The great thing about Berkeley is that it has so many top-rated departments, and we will be able to bring them to one place to talk to each other and collaborate. So many of our Haas signature programs are about this kind of cross-pollination. Take Cleantech to Market’s partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, or the Berkeley Skydeck accelerator, or the dual degree programs we have with Public Health, Engineering, Law, and that we are developing with the Rausser College of Natural Resources.
The most pressing problems of global society today require interdisciplinary perspectives. The hub we are developing will not only allow diverse people to connect, but it will provide them with the space and resources to create community, build their ventures, and be discovered by investors. What is novel is that we will not only support those who have a good sense of the entrepreneurial path, but also those who simply would like to be exposed to what it’s all about—the “entrepre-curious,” as we call them. And anyone from around the university will be able to drop in to simply ask an expert for guidance on how to navigate the vast innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Berkeley based on what they need.
“While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well.”
What’s your big-picture advice?
Silicon Valley is our backyard. While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well. Beef up your skills, develop your leadership potential, build your network, and embrace your inner entrepreneur.
The Haas Fintech Club is gearing up to host its first conference this Saturday, reaching out through the event to educate students, provide networking opportunities, and attract more diverse voices to the industry.
The conference, called Breaking into Fintech, will be held Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum.
The event includes speakers from Stripe, Chime, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi Impact Fund. Peggy Mangot, managing director of fintech partnerships and commercial banking at JPMorgan Chase, is the keynote speaker.
The Fintech Club, founded in 2016, now has more than 250 members, including 182 students in the full-time and evening & weekend classes. Each year, the club hosts the popular Fintech Speaker Series, treks to fintech companies, industry primers, and networking events. But this is the first year they decided to host a full conference to explore fintech’s range—from mobile banking and automated portfolio managers to peer-to-peer payment services such as PayPal and Venmo to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
“Fintech has such a wide spectrum, which is why we want to break it down,” said Jennifer Tran, MBA 23, vice president of the club. “MBA students are always looking for what’s next, and fintech has had a huge buzz in the last five to 10 years, in particular.” Tran, who interned last summer at Apple in worldwide product marketing, said fintech holds incredible possibilities for financial inclusion and empowerment.
“As a child of refugees to the U.S., I saw firsthand how my family struggled to navigate the financial system and how that impacted their livelihoods and opportunities,” she said. “I want to make this space more accessible and responsive to the needs of those who have been historically excluded from it.”
Petra Nelson MBA 23, vice-president of the Fintech Club, said that while the industry dates back to the invention of the credit card in the 1950s, the Great Recession of 2007 helped push fintech into new territory. Nelson, who interned at PayPal in partnerships and development, said fintech is making the movement of money cheaper and faster for consumers and businesses alike.
“Before Haas, I worked in nonprofit fundraising and microlending, and saw how difficult it can be for some to gain access to affordable financial services and build intergenerational wealth. I’d like to be a part of changing that.”
“After the financial crisis is when we saw that there were problems with the way that our financial system was working,” Nelson said. “A lot of startups were born in that era, trying to fill in gaps and figure out how they could innovate upon the sector.”
Conference panelists will discuss payment infrastructure, as well as the crucial role of fintech startups, founders, and investors in the industry.
“We’re seeing a lot more players in spaces that hadn’t existed before,” Tran said.
There have been calls inside and outside the fintech industry to diversify leadership. Conference organizers are hoping to reach more underrepresented students and women, and provide plenty of opportunities for networking with Haas alumni and industry leaders.
KathrynHall is the Founder and Co-Chair of one of the largest woman-led investment companies in the world, Hall Capital Partners. In 2021, Hall launched Galvanize Climate Solutions, a climate tech investment platform that will back companies from the seed-stage through private equity and project finance. The new fund will invest in companies and organizations around the world working to curb carbon emissions.
In a fireside chat, Hall discussed her experience as a female leader, the role of the private sector financial institutions in climate solutions, and advice for students who are interested in impact investing.
This is a Sustainable Futures event. Developing a sustainable, climate-resilient economy covers every aspect of business—agriculture, real estate, energy, finance, and corporations. All these aspects of business will need to be reimagined and redesigned to address the current environmental, social and economic crises. This event is co-sponsored by the Sustainable and Impact Finance Initiative.
Professor Emeritus John G. Myers, a faculty leader whose warm personality, scholarship and mentoring, and expertise in the science of consumer behavior made him invaluable at the Haas School of Business for decades, passed away on October 14, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. He was 89.
Myers, who first arrived in Berkeley and joined the business school in 1964, was one of the early trained behavioral scientists in marketing studies. His fascination with the factors that affect people’s choices—and how to use evolving technologies to define, measure, and analyze those factors—drove his many scholarly pursuits and advisory activities, and ultimately his leadership at Haas.
Myers personified the concept of belonging in the Haas School community and UC Berkeley, said former Haas Dean Rich Lyons, professor and chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer for UC Berkeley.
“John understood belonging so deeply and what it meant to belong to this place, to have an identity that was fundamentally connected to this place,” Lyons said.
Myers was born on July 22, 1933, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and began his education in a one-room schoolhouse in the town of Penny, where his father owned a lumber mill. At a young age, he went to boarding school in Victoria. Despite being two years younger than his classmates and the smallest boy on the teams, he was a versatile athlete who played rugby, cricket, and soccer. He graduated with a bachelor’s in forestry and commerce from the University of British Columbia, where he was involved in campus journalism and athletics. He went on to earn an MBA in 1958 from the University of Western Ontario, where he discovered his love of teaching. In 1966, he received his PhD in business administration and marketing as well as a master’s in sociology from Northwestern University.
Myers was unreserved in his dedication both to Haas students and administration. In the 1980s, he served as associate dean of academic affairs, associate dean of curriculum, and associate dean of the graduate school. He chaired the Marketing and International Business Group from 1974 to 1977 and was director of the PhD Program from 1982 to 1985. He also served as a member of the ASUC Store Operations Board.
His Haas colleagues remember him as a calming force. Despite his imposing frame and intellect, Myers put people at ease with his easygoing personality and sense of humor. “He was just like a big teddy bear. He was warm and safe and friendly. He got along with everybody,” said David Aaker, the E.T. Grether Professor Emeritus of Marketing and Public Policy.
Through his love of evolving technologies, Myers worked to establish the first Haas computer lab in the basement of Barrows Hall and designed and developed the school’s mainframe and PC-based computer information system.
Research on consumer behavior
Among Myers’ areas of research were promotional incentives, e-commerce consumer behavior, and consumer indecision, as well as the management of brands and trademarks in Russia. In an article published in the Journal of Consumer Research in March 1998, Myers and Michal Strahilevitz, PhD 93, examined how a company’s promise to donate to charity could drive consumers to purchase certain products.
Myers co-authored with Aaker, and later Rajeev Batra, “Advertising Management,” an influential textbook widely-used in graduate business schools internationally and now in its fifth edition. He also taught advertising management in Russia and France and served as vice president of the Education Division of the American Marketing Association and president of the Association of Directors of Doctoral Programs in Business.
Myers served as a consultant to a wide variety of public and private organizations on marketing and advertising issues, and as expert witness on numerous public policy cases. He was proud of his work on the board for the National Junior Tennis League of San Francisco and Oakland for under-resourced youth.
Dedicated mentor and community builder
Myers was passionate about creating a sense of community at Haas, hosting parties for PhD students and serving on numerous student thesis committees. His devotion to Haas marketing students continued after his retirement in 1994 with the report “Four Decades of Berkeley Marketing PhDs.”
Kay Lemon, PhD 94, recalled how welcoming Myers and his wife were in the early 1990s when Lemon and her husband first arrived at UC Berkeley. Her first teaching experience was as Myers’ graduate student instructor.
“John was a great mentor to me. He provided strong support, insights and encouragement throughout my career,” said Lemon, who now holds the Accenture Professorship at the Boston College School of Management “He was one of the kindest and most generous individuals I’ve known.”
In 2010, Myers spoke about his teaching career in an interview with St. Michaels University School in Canada, which he graduated from in 1947. “One of my teaching styles was to constantly challenge students to think. This was not very popular with some students. It was easier to spend time in lecture dreaming about other things or just automatically taking notes without much thinking,” he said.
While his classroom could prove rigorous, Myers had kind words for struggling students. “If any doctoral student was discouraged about their coursework, or dissertation, they knew John would be encouraging,” said Strahilevitz, now a professor of marketing at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Always the consummate host, Myers and Arlyn, his wife of close to 60 years and a UC Berkeley College of Chemistry emeritus lecturer who also earned her PhD from Northwestern, hosted generations of Haas students, faculty, and their families. They started traditions of hosting PhD students in the early 1980s and Haas emeriti faculty in the late 1990s. Their house, with its view of the Bay, was “the go-to place,” said Prof. J. Miguel Villas-Boas, the J. Gary Shansby Professor of Marketing Strategy.
The late Haas Dean Raymond Miles, in comments prepared for Myers’ retirement, highlighted Myers’ love of bringing happiness to others by playing Santa at Haas holiday parties.
Myers’ son Shawn D. Myers earned his MBA at Haas in 1999. “My father was an immeasurable influence on all those who were lucky enough to spend time with him. As a father and grandfather, he was quick with a joke, able to captivate with a story, and always there to support us through difficult times. He helped to shape so many people in his personal and professional lives, and we will endeavor to carry his spirit of generosity and joy with us forever.”
Myers is survived by his wife, Arlyn; their children Karlyne M. Reilly (husband Jay G. Reilly) of Potomac, MD, Shawn D. Myers (wife Jennifer B. Myers) of Redwood City, Calif., and Amanda J. Myers of Coconut Grove, FL; and grandchildren Jordan A. Reilly, Megan B. Reilly, John (Jack) R. Myers, and Katherine C. Myers.
John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award
The family suggests that those wishing to honor Myers may do so by donating to the John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award at the Haas School of Business established by the family in his honor: https://haas.berkeley.edu/giving/. To make a gift online, please note “In Memory of Professor John Myers” on the donation form (choose any fund). Donations may be made by check to “UC Berkeley,” with a note “Myers Fund/Haas,” and mailed to UC Berkeley Gift Services, 1995 University Ave, Suite 400, Berkeley, CA 94704-1070.
Growing up as a shy introvert, Reddit COO Jen Wong said she never saw herself as a leader.
“I think I assumed a leader was a person who told other people what to do,” Wong said.
It was her fascination with companies and the people who lead them, as well as a drive to solve new problems, that led her to pursue a career that has included leadership positions at Time, Inc.; PopSugar; AOL, and now Reddit.
“I’m a puzzler at heart, and when my mind starts searching for a new problem to solve, and there’s something I can learn, that propels me forward,” Wong said. “I always want to move into something that has a clear lane for me to have an impact.”
Wong, who topped Reddit’s Queer 50 list this year, shared her leadership journey with MBA students and the Haas community at a Dean’s Speaker Series talk on Sept. 21. The talk was co-sponsored by Q@Haas as part of Coming Out Week, September 18-22.
As Reddit’s Chief Operation Officer, Wong oversees business strategy and related teams. Only four years into her tenure as COO, she has helped lead the growth of Reddit into a profitable business by scaling ad revenue to well over $100 million. Her leadership goes beyond growing the business; she is also passionate about Reddit’s company goal that’s just as important as revenue: diversity and inclusion. In addition, Jen is viewed as an expert in the digital landscape.
A new academic fellowship program funded by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and the Department of Economics will help Ukrainian scholars persevere with their work through the hardships of the war.
Scholars located in Ukraine and affiliated with a university, college, or research institute can apply for $5,000 grants to continue with their research and teaching. The $140,000 fund, granted equally by Berkeley Haas and Berkeley Economics, will help sustain up to 28 Ukrainian academics.
“This is going to be a tough year for many Ukrainian scholars in terms of security, housing, and budgets. Many have lost their homes, offices, labs, and classrooms,” said Yuriy Gorodnichenko, the Quantedge Presidential Professor of Economics and a member of the fellowship committee. “This fellowship not only gives people the means to survive and to have some time to do research, but also serves as an important sign of solidarity against Russian aggression.”
“The barbarism of Russia’s war aims to destroy Ukraine’s people, institutions, and civil society,” added Anastassia Fedyk, an assistant professor of finance at Berkeley Haas, who is also on the fund committee. “Bolstering Ukraine’s education system at this critical time will help increase Ukraine’s resilience.”
“The barbarism of Russia’s war aims to destroy Ukraine’s people, institutions, and civil society. Bolstering Ukraine’s education system at this critical time will help increase Ukraine’s resilience.” —Assistant Professor Anastassia Fedyk
Since Russia’s invasion of the country last February, Fedyk, Gorodnichenko, and other economists with close ties to the region have been using their expertise support Ukraine—giving media interviews, writing op-eds, raising funds, and joining with others in the U.S. and globally to form the group Economists for Ukraine. The group has now partnered with Universities for Ukraine, raising funds from several universities for fellowships and providing a central clearinghouse for nonresidential fellowship programs.
“We are very pleased to join with Berkeley Economics to support this effort to preserve academic scholarship in Ukraine during this extremely difficult period,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison.
Many Ukrainian academics are unable or unwilling to leave the country—including all men between 18 and 60, who are prohibited from leaving. Yet many find themselves displaced and underfunded, without the means to continue with their work. The fellowship program aims to bridge some of the gap to keep scholarship moving forward and to minimize brain drain, preserving some capacity to rebuild the country, Gorodnichenko said.
In addition to Gorodnichenko and Fedyk, the UC Berkeley Ukrainian fellowship committee includes Berkeley Haas Associate Professor Dmitry Livdan and Berkeley Economics Assistant Professor Vira Semenova.
“We believe that developing a sustainable, climate-resilient economy goes into every aspect of business—whether it’s agriculture, real estate, energy, finance, anything and everything will need to be reimagined and redesigned to address the current environmental, social, and economic crises,” said Harrison. “We really believe here at Haas that addressing our climate crisis and transitioning to a carbon free energy source is an integral component of the world’s sustainable future.”
Breber, a “double Bear” who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UC Berkeley in 1986 and 1987 along with an MBA from Cornell in 1989, discussed the changes he’s seen over more than 30 years in the energy industry. He talked about Chevron’s ESG strategy, its goal of lowering carbon emissions in its traditional oil and gas business, as well as its investments in renewable fuels, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage.
“Our primary objective is to safely deliver higher returns and lower carbon,” he said. “It’s clear and simple, and it’s something that our employees have rallied around.”
Breber faced pointed questions from Harrison and students on how an oil and gas company can be part of a sustainable future. He said the company plans to continue its traditional oil and gas business—which holds 2% of the market—with a lower carbon output, while also building its faster-growing new energy business.
“Right now, demand for our products is growing, not shrinking,” Breber said, pointing out that if supplies are cut while demand is still there, heating homes and driving to work will be unaffordable. “It’s an energy transition, it’s not a light switch… We’re going to be a really strong, responsible traditional energy provider, and we intend to be a leading a new energy provider.”
Harrison thanked Breber for volunteering his time to speak at an especially dynamic Dean’s Speaker Series.
“Students, we look forward to a sustainable future. We need to think big,” she told the audience. “Working on the biggest challenges, with the biggest companies, creating the biggest transformations. We need your courage to engage in this kind of transformational change that will save our planet.”
This month Haas welcomed 76 new Berkeley Executive MBA students—a highly-accomplished cohort that includes a pediatric cardiologist, a Green Beret, and an Emmy-award winning animator.
The EMBA Class of 2024 gathered on campus July 15-17 for an orientation that included workshops focused on academics and career management, a “life hacks” panel session with continuing EMBA students, a scavenger hunt, and a happy hour with alumni.
“We are thrilled that you have selected Haas,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs, in her welcome address to students. “The people in this room are going to be your life-long friends. You are going to share personal ups and downs, professional ups and downs. You will hire each other. You will invest in each other. And all together, this will become an incredibly important part of your life.”
The class represents a diverse range of backgrounds, industries, job functions, and countries of origin. The new students have an average of 14 years of work experience in industries ranging from tech to retail to consulting. All together, they work at 74 different companies, including IBM, Google, Amazon, Chevron, Salesforce, Intel, Walmart, and Ford.
Forty-six percent live outside of the Bay Area, hailing from around the country and world—including Nevada, Arkansas, Utah, New Mexico, Georgia, Hawaii, and Ukraine. And more than 60% were born outside of the U.S., including Bangladesh, Ghana, Germany, Italy, Japan, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.
More than half of the new students hold at least one advanced degree, including eight PhDs, three MDs, and one JD. Their average age is 38, and women make up 41% of the class—a record for the EMBA program.
Students said they’ve returned to Haas for an MBA for many reasons: to change their career path, gain new skills, or move up in their existing jobs.
Los Angeles native Richard Golfin III, head of legal and chief compliance officer at Alameda Alliance for Health, said he had been deciding between Yale and Haas, but ultimately chose Haas for its rigor and its Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.
Golfin, who’s also a board member of local nonprofit The Bread Project, said he’s always looking for ways to grow. “As a young executive, I want to continue to improve and build myself as a leader and getting an MBA will do just that,” he said.
Nina D’Amato, an associate chief information officer for Santa Clara County, said she was also drawn to the school’s distinctive culture and the people it attracts. “It’s all about finding the right fit,” D’Amato said. “I came to Haas because I wanted to surround myself with highly-intelligent and talented people who believe in and reflect those principles every day, just as I do.”
Rob Bajohr, a tech marketing executive, said getting an MBA would give him the quant and leadership skills that he needs to lead in the tech and automotive industries.
“I went to school for design and that has been good in many ways,” Bajohr said. “But I didn’t learn about financial accounting or macroeconomics. The Haas MBA will increase my credibility and bridge the gap between my marketing background and my aspirations.”
Nine new assistant professors have joined the Haas School of Business faculty this year, with cutting-edge research interests that range from illicit supply chains to unequal social hierarchies; from financial crises to the incentives that shape innovation; and from health care management to decentralized finance to marketing and the demand for firearms.
The nine tenure-track hires are the result of a concerted effort by Dean Ann E. Harrison and other Haas leaders to expand and diversify the faculty.
“We are thrilled to welcome this wonderful, diverse new group of academic superstars to Berkeley Haas,” says Dean Ann E. Harrison. “We clearly are bringing the best to Haas, increasing the depth and breadth of our world-renowned faculty, and reinforcing our place among the world’s best business schools.”
The new faculty members have hometowns throughout the U.S. and around the world, including Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois; Iran, the Dominican Republic, China, and the Netherlands. Seven of them are women; one is Black, and one is Latinx.
“This is our most diverse cohort of new faculty ever, each one a rock star in their own right,” says Jennifer Chatman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management. “We are very proud that we were able to lure them to Berkeley Haas.”
The new faculty members start on July 1, with most beginning to teach in spring 2023. They bring the total size of the ladder faculty to 88, up from 78 in 2020-2021.
Meet the faculty
Assistant Professor Matthew Backus, Economic Analysis & Policy
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
PhD, Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BA, Economics and Philosophy, American University
Research focus: Industrial organization
Introduction: I’m an economist with broad interests. Most recently, I’m interested in how we can use the tools developed by the industrial organization community to understand inequality and the distributional effects of policy.
Teaching: Microeconomics and Antitrust Economics (MBA)
Most excited about: After spending a year visiting, I’m most excited about the economics community at Berkeley.
Fun fact: I have a border collie, who is in training as a herding dog.
Assistant Professor Sa-kiera (Kiera) Tiarra Jolynn Hudson, Management of Organizations
Hometown: Albany, NY
PhD/MA, Social Psychology, Harvard University
BA, Psychology and Biology, Williams College
Research focus: I study the psychological processes involved in the formation, maintenance, and intersections of unequal social hierarchies, with a focus on empathic/spiteful emotions, stereotypes, and legitimizing myths.
Introduction: I am a social psychologist by training, focusing on the nature of intergroup relations as dominance and power hierarchies. I have studied several psychological processes, including the role of legitimizing myths in justifying unequal societal conditions, the role of group stereotypes in the experience and perception of prejudice, and the role of empathic and spiteful emotions in supporting intergroup harm. My work is multidisciplinary, incorporating quantitative as well as qualitative methods from various disciplines such as political science, sociology, and public policy.
I am a fierce advocate for building community, providing mentorship, and supporting authentic inclusion for everyone. I believe it is a moral imperative to be present as a vocal, queer-identified Black women in academe, given the lack of representation, and I’m excited to see how I can contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Haas.
Teaching: Core Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (MBA)
Most excited about: I identify UC Berkeley as my intellectual birthplace. It was during a summer internship program through the psychology department in 2010 where I first became interested in studying power structures and intergroup relations simultaneously. My overall research interests haven’t changed since that fateful summer. Being a faculty member here is truly a dream come true!
Fun fact: I love organizing and planning, so much so I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign to create my own planner. I am also an avid foodie and cannot wait to check out the Bay’s food and wine scenes.
Assistant Professor Ali Kakhbod, Finance
Hometown: Isfahan, Iran
PhD, Economics, MIT
PhD, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS), University of Michigan
Research focus: Information frictions; liquidity; market microstructure; big data; and contracts
Introduction: I am a financial economist with research interests in financial intermediation, liquidity, contracts, big (alternative) data, banking and financial crises. A common theme of my research agenda is to study various informational settings and their financial and economic implications. For example: When does securitization lead to a financial crisis? Why is there heterogeneity in the means of providing advice in corporate governance? How does information disclosure in OTC (over-the-count) markets affect market efficiency? My research has both theory and empirical components with policy implications.
Teaching: Deep Learning in Finance (MFE)
Most excited about: Berkeley Haas is the heart of what’s next with world-class faculty working on exciting and innovative research. Given that my interdisciplinary research interests span finance, economics and big data issues, I could not ask for a better fit.
Fun fact: In my free time, I like to ski, sail, hike, and enjoy the outdoors.
Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia, Management of Organizations
Hometown: I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but I grew up in Washington, DC and São Paulo, Brazil.
PhD, Applied Economics and Managerial Science, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BA, Economics and Mathematics, Swarthmore College
Research focus: Health care management; mergers and acquisitions; firm performance
Introduction: My research studies the relationship between organizational and managerial strategies and performance outcomes in the health care sector. In particular, I use quantitative methods to study how the strategic decisions of corporations to merge, acquire, or partner with other organizations can change managerial processes in ways that impact both financial and clinical performance. A secondary research strand studies how health care organizations adapt their service delivery and prices following changes in state and federal legislation.
Before joining UC Berkeley, I was an assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. I am excited to continue to explore issues of healthcare quality, equity, and cost, while digging deeper into the management practices and organizational structures that could influence these outcomes.
Teaching: Leading People (EWMBA)
Most excited about: It is an honor to join the world-class faculty at Haas, and I am so excited to learn from and collaborate with my MORs colleagues on both the macro and micro side. Since my research is interdisciplinary, I also look forward to connecting with scholars in the School of Public Health.
As a self-proclaimed “city girl,” I am excited to get out of my comfort zone and explore the natural beauty of Northern California.
Fun fact: My hobbies include yoga, urban gardening, adopting animals and stand-up comedy.
Assistant Professor Sarah Moshary, Marketing
Hometown: New York City, NY
Phd, Economics, MIT
AB, Economics, Harvard College
Research focus: Marketing and industrial organization
Introduction: My research interests span quantitative marketing, industrial organization, and political economy. I am currently working on projects related to paid search advertising, the pink tax (price gap in products targeted to women), and the demand for firearms. Before joining Haas, I worked at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and at the University of Pennsylvania.
Teaching: Pricing (MBA)
Most excited about: I am excited to get to know my future colleagues!
Fun fact: My two hobbies are running and pottery—though I am more enthusiastic than talented at either :).
Assistant Professor Tanya Paul, Accounting
Hometown: Murphy, Texas
PhD, Accounting, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BS, Economics, Statistics and Finance, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Research focus: Standard-setting and financial reporting; the determinants and consequences of voluntary disclosures
Introduction: After getting my PhD, I spent a year at the Financial Accounting Standards Board learning about contemporary accounting issues and understanding the types of questions that standard setters are grappling with. I hope to continue working on research that is helpful to standard setters in coming up with standards that ultimately improve financial reporting.
Teaching: Corporate Financial Reporting (MBA)
Most excited about: I love how interconnected the area groups are within Haas. There are so many potential learning opportunities, especially for a newly minted researcher like me.
Fun fact: In my free time, I love to read and play the piano—I had learned it as a child and am trying to relearn it now as an adult.
Assistant Professor Carolyn Stein, Economic Analysis & Policy
Hometown: Lexington, Mass.
PhD, Economics, MIT
AB, Applied Mathematics and Economics, Harvard College
Research focus: Economics of science, innovation, and applied microeconomics
Introduction: I study the economics of science and innovation. My research combines data and economic theory to understand the incentives that scientists face and decisions that they make, and how this in turn shapes the production of new knowledge.
One thing I love about economics is that it’s less of a narrow subject area, and more a set of tools and principles that apply to a stunningly wide array of topics. I’m excited to work with Haas students to help them understand how economic principles can improve their decision-making, both in their careers and in other areas of their lives—maybe even in ways that surprise them!
Teaching: Microeconomics (EWMBA)
Most excited about: I’m excited to be part of a large and superb applied microeconomics community—at Haas, and more broadly at Berkeley as a whole.
Fun fact: I am an avid cyclist and skier, and I was on the cycling team at MIT. Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve loved the hills and mountains in the area. I’m working on taking my riding off road (gravel and mountain biking) and skiing off-piste (backcountry).
Assistant Professor Sytkse Wijnsma, Operations and IT Management
Hometown: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
PhD, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
MPhil, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
BSc & MSc, Economics and Finance, VU University, Amsterdam
Research focus: My primary research interest is designing supply chain and policy interventions that help solve real-world challenges with social and environmental impact.
Introduction: I am very excited about my projects on illicit supply chains and how they undermine social and environmental goals. The context of these projects spans a wide range of areas, from illicit waste management to illegal deforestation. I am also excited to deepen and expand ongoing research collaborations with governments and industry to investigate these issues.
Teaching: Sustainability in Business (Undergraduate)
Most excited about: Many things! Berkeley Haas, being at the forefront of sustainability, has a unique position that combines the same ideals that drive my research with opportunities for collaborative research with serious impact. The amazing colleagues and close connections to industry make it even more exciting to join this community!
Fun fact: My first and last name originate from Fryslân, a northern province in the Netherlands, where it is still tradition to name your children after family members. So although my name is quite rare in the rest of the world, in our family it crops up in every generation!
Assistant Professor Valerie Zhang, Accounting
Hometown: Shanghai, China
PhD, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BCom, Finance and Economics, University of Toronto
Research focus: Information dissemination; information cascades on social media; retail investor behavior; decentralized finance
Introduction: I am passionate about doing research or working on personal projects that can express my creativity. I enjoy merging disjointed ideas and working on interdisciplinary research. My dissertation combines two literatures: one in computer science on information cascades on social media, and another in finance and accounting on the effects of disseminating financial news. I am also very curious about emerging technologies that are reshaping the financial industry. Since I work on areas that are new to the research community, I sometimes feel like a lone traveler exploring completely new territories. It is terrifying but also extremely rewarding!
Teaching: Financial Accounting (Undergraduate)
Most excited about: I look forward to inspiring my students to be entrepreneurial and to come up with creative business ideas or projects.
Fun fact/hobby: I write short stories. The one I am working on has an alien and a squirrel in it.
As regulators wrestle with disclosure standards for the burgeoning $35 trillion ESG investing industry—named for its focus on corporations’ environmental, social, and governance activities—a group of influential thought leaders is gathering at Berkeley Haas to share their expertise.
“The timing and the content of the conference are unique,” says Panos Patatoukas, associate professor of accounting at Berkeley Haas and faculty director of the Center for Financial Reporting and Management (CFRM), which organized the event. “Our set of panelists and moderators are at the cutting edge of the ESG investing world and represent a wide range of perspectives, including ESG strategies, scoring and indexing, investing, regulation, and sustainability reporting standards.”
The importance of measurement, standardization, and verification is becoming more urgent as ESG investing grows, and the amount of capital allocated in ESG indices and financial products has exploded. For example, the SEC recently fined Bank of New York Mellon over misleading claims about funds that use environmental and social criteria to pick stocks. A transparent standard setting process can play a crucial role in advancing the clarity that investors and businesses are asking for in the area of ESG disclosures, Patatoukas says.
ESG from four angles
The conference will approach ESG accounting from four main angles, Patatoukas says: disclosure, assurance, standardization, and valuation and investing. After an introduction from Dean Ann Harrison, the first panel will focus on measurement and disclosure, and will be moderated by James Webb, executive director of the CFRM.
Next, Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, a nonprofit that uses shareholder advocacy to “create lasting change by protecting human rights, reducing toxic waste, and aligning investments with values,” will lead a discussion on ESG advisory and auditing, with partners from PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, and Moss Adams.
Berkeley Law Professor Stavros Gadinis will moderate two keynote addresses: SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce will speak on ESG reporting regulations, and Janine Guillot, CEO of the Value Reporting Foundation, will speak on reporting standards.
The afternoon discussion of ESG valuation and investing will feature AJ Lindeman, Bloomberg’s head of Index and ESG Research; Wall Street Journal Senior Columnist James Mackintosh, and Karen Wong, head of ESG & Sustainable Investing for State Street Global Advisors. Patatoukas will moderate.
The event, which is the 26th annual Conference on Financial Reporting, will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum on the Haas campus.Registration is open to all. Attendees can receive CPA Continuing Education credits.
The unthinkable is happening. Putin started an aggressive war against the people of Ukraine, a fellow Slav country in the middle of Europe. Babi Yar, a place where many thousands of people were shot by Hitler’s army to prove an insane racial theory, is where people are killed again by Putin’s army.
Putin rattles nuclear weapons to scare the world. And yet money from Russian oil and gas exports are flowing to Putin’s coffers to pay for death and destruction.
History will judge harshly those who have enabled Putin’s regime. Gerhard Schröder will not be remembered as a chancellor of proud Germany. He will be remembered as somebody who corrupted Germany and contributed to the rise of Putin.
The “reasons” for Nord Stream 2, a Germany-Russia gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine and thus lowering the cost of Russian invasion into Ukraine, look ludicrous in retrospect and it will stain everybody who was involved in it.
This is not the first moral error and it almost surely will not be the last.
It was morally wrong to buy anything from IG Farben that produced Cyclone B, a gas used to exterminate Jews in concentration camps. It was morally wrong to buy anything from the apartheid regime in South Africa. It was morally wrong to buy oil from Saddam Hussein who used chemical weapons to kill civilians.
But humanity makes progress by learning from mistakes. And the moral compass gives a clear bearing here: the civilized world must impose sanctions on Russian energy exports to raise the cost of war for Putin.
The economic calculus is clear too. Yes, energy prices will increase. They have increased already as private corporations shied away from Russian oil to avoid running afoul of potential sanctions. And while higher energy prices can seem inconvenient, they may not be that costly in the end. Indeed, the marvel of a market economy is that it always finds ways around scarce resources. Supply will increase.
Energy will be used more efficiently, thus reducing pollution and emissions. Alternative energy sources will be pursued more intensively. Transportation networks will adjust. Reserves may be used to attenuate price increases. The global economy is much more resilient than many people think. For example, sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer, resulted in only short-lived increases in the price of oil.
On the other hand, think about the cost of a new arms race that will be triggered if Putin succeeds in conquering Ukraine because no country will feel safe. This arms race has already begun as Germany (!) increased its military spending and committed to more increases in the future. And this will get worse.
At the height of the Cold War, military spending in the U.S. accounted for almost 10 percent of the gross domestic product. This would correspond to 2 trillion dollars today. Think about it: 2 trillion dollars per year. In the U.S. alone.
This is the money that could be spent on education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. The “peace dividend” after the end of the Cold War allowed the world to have a new era of prosperity. This dividend should be protected.
The balance is clear: sanctions on Russian energy will cripple the Russian economy, and they will carry a small price to pay for preserving the global security.
We can only ask ourselves now whether a credible promise to impose massive economic sanctions on Russia could have deterred Putin from the invasion. He certainly did not believe that whatever he was warned about was credible.
But every day of the Russian war in Ukraine—with bombings of cities and shelling of a nuclear power plant—makes these questions come back, just like we ask ourselves decades later whether Hitler could have been stopped earlier. The free world can prevent unspeakable tragedies. Energy sanctions are a moral step in that direction.
Congratulations to our four Haas bears competing in the Tokyo Olympics. You make us proud!
Champion backstroker Ryan Murphy, BS 17, and his teammates captured gold in the men’s 4x100m medley relay on Sunday, breaking the 12-year-old world record for the event by half a second. It was the 4th gold medal for Murphy, who served as this year’s team captain for USA swimming. Murphy also won silver in the men’s 200m backstroke, and bronze in the men’s 100m backstroke.
Golfer Collin Morikawa, BS 19, narrowly missed the bronze medal (by one stroke) and came in 4th in the men’s golf tournament.
Rising senior Alicia Wilson, BS 22, came in 8th in the women’s 200m individual medley, swimming for Great Britain.
Berkeley, Calif. — UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced a new flexible online option for its top-ranked, part-time Evening & Weekend MBA Program. The new Flex option offers the same curriculum and faculty and the same Berkeley Haas MBA degree in a highly customized and flexible online and on-campus format.
Students enrolled in the Flex option will take their core MBA courses online. After completing their first three semesters of the core curriculum, students can take their elective courses either in person on the Berkeley Haas campus or online.
Applications for the Flex option will open on August 17 through the Evening & Weekend MBA Program (EWMBA). The first group of about 60 Flex students will enroll in July of 2022.
The Flex option will be part of the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program, which is ranked #2 among part-time MBA programs by U.S. News. The program typically takes three years to complete, with some students completing their degree in just 2.5 years.
“Students in the Flex cohort can get a top-ranked Berkeley Haas MBA from anywhere, without the commute to campus every week,” said Dean Ann E. Harrison. “They will have flexibility in how they complete their MBA program. Yet they can also enjoy the in-person and campus experience, giving them the ability to access the extracurricular experiences Berkeley and Haas have to offer.”
The Flex option is designed for high-achieving and ambitious professionals with five or more years of professional work experience who seek additional skills to advance in their careers or to change jobs. They will join a network of 41,000 Haas alumni around the world.
In the Flex option, 40% to 60% of the online core courses will be delivered synchronously to create a robust, cohort-based learning experience. The significant percentage of synchronous content ensures that Flex students have the same opportunity for discussion and feedback as students in on-campus courses. Students will be assigned to study teams that are carefully selected for diverse skills and backgrounds, ensuring that students learn as much from each other as they do in the classroom.
Given the importance of community in our EWMBA program, the Flex option also includes five in-person events:
WE Launch, the required orientation over a long weekend (Friday through Sunday) in late July on the Berkeley Haas campus.
Leadership Communication, a required course taught on the Berkeley Haas campus as a weekend immersion (Friday through Sunday) in the second half of the second semester.
RE Launch, an optional weekend immersion on the Berkeley Haas campus in October of the third semester.
Business Communications in Diverse Environments, a required weekend immersion (Friday through Sunday), taught typically at a resort site in Napa Valley on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in January of the fourth semester.
WE Lead, an optional weekend celebration and reflection on the MBA experience held in May of the graduation year.
“In this fast-changing environment, our MBA experience provides professionals not only with a rigorous management education but also with an understanding of how innovation, inclusion, and sustainability will shape the future of business,” said Dean Harrison. “Our innovative courses will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions.”
In 2022, Haas will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its part-time MBA program. “We think the creation of this new Flex cohort reflects our commitment to innovation and UC Berkeley’s mission,” said Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean, MBA Programs for Working Professionals, who oversees the new Flex option.
As the second-oldest business school in the United States, Berkeley Haas has been questioning the status quo since its founding in 1898. It provides research, thought leadership, and talent development to lead the way to a more inclusive and sustainable future.
The award was created by the Academic Senate’s Committee on Teaching to honor faculty, staff, and student instructors who embraced the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and engaged in or supported excellent teaching.
“These instructors and staff used innovative methods and worked beyond their traditional roles to ensure that students remained engaged and supported, and were challenged to do meaningful work under extraordinary circumstances,” wrote the award committee.
Stowsky has served as senior assistant dean for instruction for 14 years, and at Haas for 24 years. He played a critical role in overseeing the transition from live to remote classes.
“Working to match the engagement level of a live, physical classroom has involved hours of brainstorming, planning, workshop training, and investments in a host of new technologies,” wrote Stowsky, who is retiring at the end of the semester. “It has been fascinating, and challenging, to conceptualize, organize and operationalize this goal with the faculty, graduate student instructors, and technology teams at Haas.”
Remote learning innovations at Haas included the installation of four state-of-the-art virtual classrooms, technical upgrades to regular classrooms for virtual teaching, regularly scheduled faculty-student engagement sessions, improvements in production quality of digitized asynchronous content, a remote instruction workshop series for faculty, and tech training.
Goodson is a distinguished teaching fellow and continuing lecturer who has taught popular courses on mergers & acquisitions, private equity, and turnarounds to MBA students since 2004. After the pandemic forced all courses online, he invested “hundreds of hours repurposing content and delivery” to transform his courses.
“Our lofty goal was to deliver a ‘value proposition’ that was as good as or better than the in-person model,” he wrote of the experience. “Our team designed an online classroom experience that is optimized for student engagement; altered curricula to showcase students’ company’s pandemic strategies; published COVID MBA cases (including the first at Berkeley Haas); established rigorous and equitable inclusion; and created a feedback system to continuously improve the course.”
The result was courses where students were highly engaged and rated among the very best experiences they’d had with online learning.
When Santiago Pezzoni isn’t in his Berkeley Haas MBA classes, he’s running his fintech startup, Digiventures.
And when he’s not running Digiventures, he’s helping other UC Berkeley students start their own companies as co-founder and program manager of StEP (Student Entrepreneurship Program), a 10-week campus-wide incubator that has so far assisted 120 startups.
“There are so many people on campus—PhDs, postdocs, engineers—who have fantastic ideas and technologies, but you ask them ‘how will you make that a business?’ and they say, ‘I’m not sure,’” said Pezzoni, MBA 21, who co-founded StEP with Santiago Freyria and Francesco Dipierro, both MBA 20. “We’re figuring out how to get them involved and help them take their fantastic ideas into the world.”
Launched in 2019, StEP is a cross-collaboration among Berkeley student clubs, faculty, entrepreneurship organizations, and VCs. It aims to fill a gap the founders discovered in the campus startup ecosystem.
“Our research found that while more than 80% of Haas students we interviewed took entrepreneurship classes or had startup ideas, less than 5% were able to access accelerators or pre-seed funding,” Pezzoni said.
“Our research found that while more than 80% of Haas students we interviewed took entrepreneurship classes or had startup ideas, less than 5% were able to access accelerators or pre-seed funding.” — Santiago Pezzoni.
Berkeley students, faculty or alumni can apply to StEP as teams or individuals, and opt to be matched with others. All of the teams meet on Zoom weekly, using skills they learn in StEP to take their ideas forward. They also meet separately each week with mentors to review goals and achievements. At the end of the program, teams pitch their startup plans to investors.
StEP applicants choose one of two paths, depending on whether they are looking for help with an idea or want to be matched with others who already have an idea. The program’s founders reach across programs and schools to find people with the right skill sets needed by the new teams. Later, the founders work to connect the teams with investors who can provide early-stage capital.
“You only do it if you really love this”
So far, 120 startups have completed the StEP program, and 30% of them still exist. About a quarter of participants are from Haas, including Dispatch Goods, founded by Lindsey Hoell, who was last year’s StEP showcase winner and is now growing her company at UC Berkeley SkyDeck, a partnership among Haas, Berkeley Engineering, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.
Pezzoni, who won the LAUNCH program last year with Digiventures, said StEP helps students to clarify whether the startup life is for them. “Being an entrepreneur is not a sexy life,” he said. “It’s tough, and you only do it if you really love this. You have to decide why you want to be a founder.”
“Being an entrepreneur is not a sexy life,” he said. “It’s tough, and you only do it if you really love this. You have to decide why you want to be a founder.”
StEP’s founders say they work about 20 hours a week apiece on the program, chatting often with startup stakeholders across campus including Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP), Caroline Winnett, executive director of Berkeley SkyDeck, and former Haas Dean Rich Lyons, now UC Berkeley’s Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer, who supported StEP from its inception.
Moving through the startup ecosystem
The typical trajectory for new startup teams is to start with a program like StEP and continue with a Berkeley program like NSF I-Corps , CITRIS Foundry, Form+Fund, and then, with that experience under their belts, apply to the LAUNCH incubator program. María del Mar Londoño, MBA 21, founder of SuperPetfoods, won the StEP finals two years ago and continued on to the LAUNCH finals. StEP co-founder Freyria also went through LAUNCH as a co-founder of Callisto Spirits, a botanical rum maker that raised $650,000.
Bernardo Magnani, MBA 21, who is part of the StEP leadership team, left a consulting career to co-found Lastbit, and was accepted to the prestigious Y Combinator startup accelerator program. Magnani just raised $2 million for the company, which allows customers to make instant low-cost global Bitcoin payments.
“I’m such a fan of StEP,” Shrader said. “Sometimes the hardest part of entrepreneurship is just finding a teammate or asking a bunch of questions with people who are all learning together. StEP is just a beautiful resource for the campus—designed and delivered by students.”
The passion to keep building the program unites the StEP team, Dipierro said.
“We’re working to build something that will continue, that can be sustainable at UC Berkeley for the next 10 years,” he said.