Evening & Weekend MBA Program Innovates for Students

The Berkeley Evening & Weekend MBA Program has created innovative course formats and career services to give students even greater exposure to a variety of topics and career opportunities during their time at Haas.

Through these new formats, evening and weekend students this year have been able to take several courses that never have been offered or that only occasionally have been offered in the past. At the same time, new career services, including a Career Night, are allowing part-time students to investigate their career options more than ever.

“Our goal is to balance providing the fundamental business disciplines and giving students an opportunity to explore some topics of interest," says Dave Gent, executive director of the Evening & Weekend MBA Program. "What is truly exciting about the Evening & Weekend Program is that students are able to take what they learn and apply it the next day in their workplaces."

New Courses

To expose students to a broader variety of topics, the program created a more flexible format this year for electives. For example, one offering this fall grouped three topics into a series of one-unit electives for weekend students: Corporate Financial Decision Making; Game Theory, and Behavioral Finance.

Visiting Associate Professor Raghavedra Rau taught Corporate Financial Decision Making. "I enjoy teaching working students since they are able to directly bring relevant work examples into class when I discuss an issue," Rau says. "Several times students have told me how they are applying the material I have just taught them in a project they are working on, which is a very satisfying part of being a finance professor.

A marketing course that combined marketing research, customer behavior, and brand advertising was another new elective launched in the fall for weekend students. The course covered each marketing subject in a five-week segment, taught by Lecturers Michele Medanski, Allen Olivo, and Lynn Upshaw, respectively.

Olivo believes that delivering discrete modules from experts in each field gave students a better in-class experience.

As students progressed through each module, they gained real-world experience working on the various phases of an advertising and brand positioning project for clients that included the Gap, Kaiser Permanente, and Huffington Post. The course culminates with group presentations to all three instructors and marketing executives from the client companies on Dec. 11.

Exec Ed-style Courses

In another first, the Evening & Weekend Program is offering intensive classes modeled on executive education courses. Next year, students will be able to spend one week delving into Healthcare in the 21st Century with Kristi Raube, executive director of the Graduate Program in Health Management, and Competitive Strategy with visiting Harvard Business School Professor Toby Stuart. The Competitive Strategy course will be cross-listed with the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program in another first for the school.

“These courses enable us to provide more opportunities for faculty to teach in the Evening & Weekend Program and give our students the opportunity to network with Berkeley-Columbia students,” says Gent.

This past fall, meanwhile, Gent and Lecturer Frank Schultz created a new advanced leadership course designed specifically for the Evening & Weekend Program's population of working professionals. “Students were able to share ideas on how leadership could be enhanced based upon personal experiences in the workplace,” observes Schultz. “We encouraged them not only to explore existing perspectives, but also to develop new perspectives, especially on leading management innovations.”

To do this, students heard from a number of guest speakers, including Dean Rich Lyons, management guru Gary Hamel, and Michael Gallagher, BS 67, MBA 68, chairman of the Haas Board and former CEO of Playtex Products.

Students were required to join and contribute posts and comments to Hamel’s Management Innovation Exchange website, known as The MIX, a forum for challenging accepted management practices. They were also encouraged to submit stories (real-world case studies) or “hacks” (proposals) to the MIX’s M-Prize, a management innovation contest. Schultz notes that several students were contenders for the prize, including Brendan McComb, MBA 12, whose story, “The Tea House: Leaving Swords at the Door,” illustrated Applied Materials' effort to consider all opinions put forth in meetings.

Similar to those in the Full-time MBA Program, first-year evening and weekend students also began their studies within the context of the school's new Berkeley Innovative Leader Development (BILD) initiative. Elements of BILD were incorporated into the core curriculum this fall, and the evening and weekend class of 2013 will take the new Problem Finding, Problem Solving course as a requirement next fall, followed by an experiential learning requirement. The Problem Finding, Problem Solving course will be available this spring to second- and third-year evening and weekend students as an elective.

New Career Services

The Career Services Office, meanwhile, has been responding to the changing needs of working students, who are showing greater interest in making career moves than they did during the worst of the down economy. In October, the Evening & Weekend MBA Association, Evening & Weekend Program Office, and Career Services Department partnered to organize a Career Night. Through panels and a highly interactive Q & A session, students and alumni shared real-life experiences in such fields as venture capital, high-tech marketing, investment banking, and management consulting.

“Each of the panelists had a different story to tell,” observes Terry Padden, MBA 11, who spoke on his career change from mechanical engineering to investment banking. “There is no one recipe for success for career changers, but there was one 'best practice' that held true for all of the panelists: Leverage the Haas network.”

Other expanded career services include a larger pool of peer coaches on CareerNet to give students more access to first-hand knowledge about industries and job functions; a new experienced-hire email, which highlights just-in-time open positions; and new two-minute YouTube videos with quick overviews of such topics as writing cover letters and networking.

The aim, says Gent, is to build skills and expose students to real-life examples of how their colleagues have used their MBA studies to advance their careers.

Padden, who will join Simmons & Company in March as an investment banking associate, says, “Through the program I moved from engineering to finance with my previous employer and took on a managerial position. Then I used the Career Center and on-campus recruiting to make my career change. The Berkeley MBA Program has been a tremendous help.”