Haas Teams Earn High Marks in Education Leadership Competition

Education Leadership Competition Winners: Alma Rico, Vishal Shah, Sheila Bharucha, and Eddie Medina, all MBA 14.

An interdisciplinary team proved to be a “secret weapon” for the second-place Berkeley winner in the Education Leadership Case Competition at Haas Feb. 15-16.

The team included full-time MBA students Eddie Medina, Alma Rico, and Vishal Shah, all MBA 14. Sheila Bharucha, MPP 13, a student at Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy, rounded out the team and, according to Rico, was the aforementioned ace in the hole.

“She offered a number of valuable insights and helped our MBA team think beyond business frameworks,” says Rico. “I felt our success was rooted in Haas collaborative culture. We brainstormed together, listened and built on each other’s points, and eventually came together to structure our final recommendations.”

Ten teams from top business schools competed in the challenge to help High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego that uses project-based learning methods, structure its services and market itself to new segments. Chicago Booth placed first. Another Haas team took third: Alex Justice, Fanzi Mao, Tom Pryor, and Skyler Soto, all full-time MBA 14.

High Tech High specifically reached out to the Education Leadership Competition for help with marketing a new graduate school of education aimed at spreading the reach of the organization by training new teachers and school leaders.

 “We recommended that they focus on the San Diego area for their two master's degree programs but cast a broader net when thinking about their Leading Schools Program (a professional development product for teachers and principals),” says Shah. “This program is more financially viable and had the potential to scale much more quickly."

The team pulled an all-nighter to make their strong showing (“worth it and lots of fun,” says Shah) and impressed judges with a structured approach that clarified points of confusion. “They really liked the social media approach to marketing that we developed—something they didn’t really understand how to use before,” says Shah. “They also appreciated our suggestion that they separate themselves from the High Tech High brand in order to appeal to a broader segment of teachers and school leaders.”

Shah credits two courses from the Berkeley Innovative Leadership Development (BILD) curriculum–Leadership Communications and Problem Finding Problem Solving—for helping the team's presentation come alive. "Our presentation came off as stories that the judges could see themselves in, rather than just a typical PowerPoint,” Shah says.

Rico came to Haas to transition into a role in education management and appreciated the opportunity to apply business learning to a complex education issue. "I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with a high-performing innovative school like High Tech High,” she says, “as I hope to use my MBA to create innovate solutions for education reform.”

This was the seventh year for the student-run Education Leadership Competition at Haas, the country’s oldest MBA case challenge focused on education management.