Haas Welcomes Students with Insights from Business Leaders, Career Counseling

Haas welcomed hundreds of students this month at orientations that included a surprise visit from the CEO of Virgin America, a talk by alumnus and longtime Amazon executive Greg Greeley, and an undergrad career conference.


Evening & Weekend MBA Program

Students in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program were the first to arrive in Berkeley in early August for their orientation, which featured many activities at Haas and on the Berkeley campus. Students participated in a teambuilding exercise at Memorial Glade, building towers from toothpicks and wine corks under the Campanile, and learned their way around campus through a scavenger hunt.

Greeley, MBA 98, vice president of international expansion at Amazon, shared highlights of his experience as an evening MBA student at Haas and working for the Internet retail giant through exponential growth over the past 16 years.

Greeley recalled memories from his International Finance course with now Dean Rich Lyons and noted that he shares Lyons' belief in the important role of guiding principles for an organization. He noted how after going public in 1997, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wrote a letter to shareholders outlining how he would manage the company differently from other companies, with principles such as think long term, make very bold bets, hire great people, and obsess over customers.

"We republish that initial letter every time we issue an annual report," Greeley said.

While Greeley recalled Lyons' receiving many teaching awards while he was at Haas, he also spoke to the incoming students about the value they bring to each other.

"As you embark on this journey, it's going to provide you a great opportunity to immerse yourselves with some of the most diverse, energized, dynamic people you will ever get a chance to work with," Greeley said. "Really what's going to make and break your experience here is your interactions with each other."

Indeed the 251 students in the Evening & Weekend MBA class of 2016 speak 43 languages and represent 26 countries. More than a third of the class already has other graduate degrees.

The class is employed at 182 companies in 35 industries and 16 job functions, with an average eight years of work experience. One student has worked on the political campaigns for Bush and Dole, another was an intern for Jon Stewart.

One student in the class was on her "wings of blue” parachute team at the Air Force Academy, while another student received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal for his service in Iraq. The class also includes a student who grew up in Hawaii on a coffee farm, a student who spent two years in Peru in the Peace Corps, and a student who made the Guiness Book of World Records (in 2006) for organizing 300 students to jump rope at the same time.

Full-time Berkeley MBA Program

Orientation week for the full-time class of 2015 featured some fun and games as well as inspiring talks by alumni Barbara DeSoer, MBA 77, former president of home loans and chief technology and operations officer at Bank of America; Danae Ringelmann, MBA 08, co-founder of crowdfunding site Indiegogo; and Tom Kelley, MBA 83, general manager of design firm IDEO.

One key message that the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program Office sought to convey: "The entire MBA experience is your own innovation journey," says Julia Min Hwang, the program's executive director. "You are taking actions to make yourself a different product."

Similarly, Ringelmann asked the new students, how many of you are here to find the meaning of life? She then shared her own focus on creating a new way to finance creative projects by co-founding Indiegogo during her time as an MBA student.

DeSoer, meanwhile, shared lessons learned from a decades-long career in the banking industry, starting as a commercial lending officer to becoming one of the "25 Most Powerful Women in Banking," according to US Banker. Kelley, meanwhile, talked to the students about design thinking, while Virgin America CEO David Cush made a surprise appearance after students completed a case study of the airline.

"Just when I thought our case discussion was awesome enough, @VirginAmerica CEO David Cush showed up as we were debriefing!" Nikita Mitchell, MBA 13, a self-described marketer and social innovation junkie, quipped on Twitter.

The just over 250 students in the full-time MBA class of 2015 were chosen from a pool of 3,422 applicants. The average class GPA is 3.61 and average GMAT is 714. The class has an average of five years of professional experience. More than a third—37 percent—of the class are international students, representing 40 countries and speaking 42 languages, including Bahasa (the official language of Indonesia), Croatian, Mongolian, Somali, Swahili, and Tajik.

The class includes a student who helped train the U.S. paralympic soccer team for the 2012 London games, a classically trained opera singer, and a number of entrepreneurs, including one who was named among the 100 top tech women in Europe. Several students are accomplished athletes, including a professional rugby player, a professional tennis player, and a member if the U.S. national kendo team.

One member of the class launched Major League Baseball’s first amateur scouting league in the Dominican Republic, another is a founding member and investor in a K-12 school in India. One student founded and owned a 10-acre farm, another founded the first crowd-sourced fashion label in Germany, and another who helped raise the Bank of China’s first institutional private equity fund.

Undergraduate Program

The incoming class of 2015 in the Undergraduate Program was welcomed at orientation by Executive Director Erika Walker and Dean Rich Lyons on Tuesday, Aug. 27, and a talk on "the Haas way" of networking by alumnus Greg Patterson, MBA 00, CEO of a private wealth strategy consulting firm. Haas Alumni Relations treated students to lunch from Top Dog in the Haas Courtyard.

For the first time, student leaders of the Haas Business School Association (HBSA) organized more than an hour of the orientation, with a twist on speed-dating to help students in each of the program's six cohorts get to know each other. First students received business cards to write down their names and contact information. On the back of the cards were four words: embarrassing, high school, siblings, and bears. Then students within each cohort divided into pairs (pictured right) to talk about one or more of those words, rotating every few minutes to meet a new person and exchanging cards along the way so that they could reconnect later.

Also for the first time, undergraduates attended a career conference on Wednesday, the day before classes began, with more than 25 of Berkeley's top business recruiters and breakout sessions organized by industry.

"Undergrad employers have moved up their hiring timeline. They want students to make decisions on internships less than a month into classes," says Walker. "The conference is a chance to jump-start the process and tell students which services and opportunities are available."

The 358 of students in the class of 2015 were selected from a pool of 2,129 applicants. The average GPA of continuing Berkeley students is 3.68, and the average GPA of transfer students is 3.84. The class includes dozens of international students representing such countries as China, New Zealand, and India. The class includes an Olympic medal-winning water polo player who represented Serbia, a student with two children in college, a grandmother, and several military veterans.

PhD Program

The incoming class in the Haas PhD Program numbers 11 and includes more international students than past years. Half of the class hails from outside the U.S., from Singapore, South Korea, Brazil, China, and Australia. Six percent of 500 applicants were accepted into the program this year.

Entering PhD students range in age from 20 to 28, with an average age of 26. Five students already hold advanced degrees.

New MBA students pose with Oski.