A record-sized Berkeley Haas undergraduate class came together online this week, attending orientation sessions on everything from the keys to succeeding in the rigorous program to creating a climate of inclusion and belonging to navigating internship recruiting.
Students logged on Monday morning from housing on or off campus, where they were greeted by Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate program.
Dean Ann Harrison, who attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, studying economics and history, welcomed the group to Haas, and congratulated them for getting into the program. Not only is the program one of the most academically rigorous, she said, it’s also defined by its culture, anchored by the four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.
“The culture at Haas lets us develop the kinds of business leaders that we want to see more of in the business world,” she said, pointing to entrepreneur Kevin Chou, BS 02, as an example of Beyond Yourself. Chou’s $15 million pledge to Haas, the largest ever by an alum under age 40, helped build Chou Hall on the Haas campus.
Of the incoming 440 undergraduate students, 236 are continuing UC Berkeley students and 99 transferred into the program as juniors. Continuing students held an average GPA of 3.76 and transfer students’ GPA averages 3.91.
Todd Fitch, a member of the professional faculty who teaches economic analysis and policy, offered students advice for continuing their academic success in the competitive program, touching on in-class Zoom etiquette, the importance of helping fellow students and working collaboratively, and the need to ask for help when needed and accept feedback when it’s given.
“We’re going to push you very hard, we’re going to push you to your limits,” said Fitch, who wore his trademark bow tie. “It’s extremely rigorous so be prepared for a lot of hard work. You are at the best business school in the world and we’re trying to prepare you for the future when things are constantly changing.”
The undergraduate program has expanded in recent years, adding three multidisciplinary programs outside of the core program.
The newly-launched Biology+Business program, a joint venture between the Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Haas, enrolled 13 juniors in its inaugural class. The program allows students to earn a bachelor of science degree in business administration and a bachelor of arts degree in molecular and cell biology in the emphasis of their choice.
Students who enter UC Berkeley as freshmen apply to the program, and complete all prerequisite requirements for Haas and molecular cellular biology before entering as juniors. Saloni Patel, who is among the school’s 13 BioBiz students, said the program combined the two majors she’s always wanted. “It was the perfect combo,” she said. “We’ve had great access to Program Director Sarah (Maslov), who’s an amazing advisor…and it’s a nurturing cohort that’s very specialized. We’re developing as a group and it’s a smaller community of people with specialized interests.”
A love of the mathematics behind medical imaging led Emma Caress to the program. “Medical imaging is used for practically everything in the field of medicine and makes up a vast majority of the information coming out of the healthcare system,” she said. “Today’s hospitals store hundreds of millions of digital images, with their numbers only increasing as MRIs and CTs become better at capturing thinner and thinner slices of the body. After talking to every person I could find involved in healthcare start-ups and the medical device and pharma industries, I realized my real passion lies at the intersection between business and biology.”
Meantime, the Global Management Program, a four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018, enrolled 31 new students. On top of an already demanding undergraduate curriculum, students in the GMP program must fulfill a language requirement, study abroad their first semester, and take specialized global business courses.
The Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (M.E.T.) program, welcomed 59 new students. The program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, grants graduates two degrees—in business and in engineering—in four years, with the goal of providing deep leadership and technology skills.
A diverse new class
The incoming class includes includes artists and world travelers, budding entrepreneurs and financiers, and a group of outstanding student athletes, including a few “future Olympians,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance in the undergraduate program and mentors student athletes. There’s Cal swimmer Alicia Wilson, from the UK, who the gold medal at the 2019 University Games in Naples in the 200 the individual medley. Reece Whitley swims breast stroke for Cal and was named 2019 Pac-12 Men’s Swimming Freshman of the Year. The group also includes Cal gymnast Maya Bordas and Cal Football offensive lineman Matthew Cindric.
Whitley said the mindset necessary for success in sports and business is quite similar. “I’ve always believed that Haas would guide me to successfully translate the team working skills I’ve developed from the swim team into work life,” he said.
Students said they’ve enjoyed meeting their cohort members and beginning to get to know them online, during a school year that has been like no other and has included the staples of masks and social distancing.
Kevin Truong, BS 22, who said he’s wearing a mask in the common areas of his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house, said it’s been a goal to study business at Haas since he entered Berkeley as a freshman.
“I thought I might be a computer science major but my econ class in high school opened me to the business world and the stock market,” he said. “I chose Berkeley because I knew how great Haas was.”
Truong said he found the creating a climate of inclusion and belonging session led by Élida Bautista, Haas’ director of inclusion & diversity, particularly useful during orientation. A breakout session allowed the students to role play, giving people a chance to interact, Truong said.
Unlike Troung, Donna Kharrazi, BS 22, said she had no idea what she wanted to major in when she arrived at Berkeley. She said she was drawn to apply to study business for the different career directions that seemed possible, including marketing and advertising.
Kharrazi, who is considering minoring in data science because she loves to code, said she’s excited to be enrolled in smaller classes at Haas this year, where there are opportunities to connect with teachers. So far, she’s enjoying the breakout rooms during orientation with her cohort. “There was a little awkwardness in the beginning, but the level of conversation was great,” she said.