EMBA Students Meet Janet Yellen, Members of Congress During D.C. Immersion

Meeting Federal Reserve Chairman and Haas Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen in Washington D.C. last month with fellow classmates in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program was an unforgettable experience for David Dieterich.

“That level of access to one of the world’s most powerful people was incredible,” says Dieterich, EMBA 15, one of 68 Berkeley-Haas EMBA students attending Immersion Week Nov. 30 to Dec. 4. “To go to the boardroom of the Fed and meet Chair Yellen—and to know that she had reviewed our bios in advance of meeting us, that she clearly had an understanding of our backgrounds, and had tailored her presentation to our audience—created such a lasting impression.”

Prof. Laura Tyson (right) in conversation with journalists David Wessel and Andrea Mitchell

The hour-long session with Yellen was one of 33 meetings, panels, and presentations scheduled during a busy Immersion Week that yielded insights from business leaders, White House policy makers, senior staffers, lobbyists, and journalists.

Haas Prof. Laura Tyson, who has served as an economic advisor to Presidents Clinton and Obama, reached out to her personal and professional colleagues to organize the meetings. Yellen, who taught macroeconomics and international business to undergraduates and MBA students at Haas for 24 of her 26 years on campus, generously agreed to take time from her schedule to meet with the class, Tyson said. In addition to being the first female head of the Fed, Yellen also has the distinction of being the second woman at the business school to earn tenure in 1982, as well as the title of full professor in 1985.

The meetings with Chairman Yellen and other top business and government leaders focused on policies that affect the business community and on the role of business in shaping these policies.

“Most of our EMBA students are well into their careers and public policy has played a critical role in their professions and has dictated how their companies make many of their business decisions,” Tyson said. “The D.C. Immersion provided a rich opportunity to go behind the scenes and allowed them to ask questions about how these policies are developed.”

With each day highlighting a different theme, the overall focus was on how Washington works for business in areas including corporate tax policy, financial market reform, healthcare reform, and climate change.

After visiting the Fed, students headed to the National Press Club for a panel on the role of the press in politics with NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell and Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal correspondent David Wessel. They also attended a reception and dinner at the Embassy of Italy focused on culture and commerce.

During the week, the students met with top administration officials, U.S. Senate policy staff,  lobbyists, and executives responsible for governmental affairs at Cisco, Boeing, and GE to learn about the policy-making process on high-priority issues including health care, trade, financial market regulation, corporate taxation, and climate.

Left to right: Ryan Evans, Spencer Brasfield, Stewart Wells, Ryan Blood, with Congressman Doug LaMalfa.

Noelle Huskins, EMBA 15, who works in healthcare commercialization and delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said hearing from senior leaders at organizations ranging from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the Federation of American Hospitals was invaluable. Their insights “showed me how healthcare policy reform is changing the way private sector health and pharmaceutical companies will have to think about their business models—and that’s where I see an overlap within my world,” she said.

The trip is one of five field immersions that emphasize experiential learning, collaboration with elite companies, and networking with high-level business and policy experts. This was the final immersion for the EMBA class that graduated this past weekend.

“Our deep commitment to experiential learning is at the heart of our field immersions, where we organize a unique blend of curriculum, speakers, corporate and government visits, and high-level networking,” said Mike Rielly, executive director of the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.

Tyson, who also developed the course curriculum, was a member of the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Policy Board and a member of President Obama’s Council of Jobs and Competitiveness and the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. During President Clinton’s Administration, she was the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and the President’s National Economic Adviser.

She is currently the director of the Haas School’s Institute for Business and Social Impact.

The Washington trip was followed by an immersion week Dec. 7-11 for the EMBA Class of 2016 in Silicon Valley. The trip, led by Prof. Toby Stuart, was held in classrooms at Google, Zynga, and Airbnb, and included small group meetings with founders and other C-level executives at 28 of the region’s hottest startups.