Hundreds to Toss Mortar Boards in Undergrad, MBA, and PhD Commencements

More than 900 students will graduate from the Haas School in three separate ceremonies this month, celebrating the end of one chapter in their educations and the beginning of another as Students Always.

PhD Commencement

The first graduation ceremony, the Berkeley-Haas PhD Program, will take place Saturday, May 12, at 10:30 a.m. in the Wells Fargo Room. Sixteen PhD students are expected to graduate in 2012, moving on to teach in such universities as MIT and NYU Stern as well as work at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA Commencement

On Saturday, May 19, 500 students in the Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA programs will celebrate their graduation at 9 a.m. at the Greek Theatre.  The number of graduates is evenly split between the two programs. (The 68 graduates of the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program held their ceremony in early February.)

Commencement speaker Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, CEO of Adobe Systems, will share business insights that he has gained during nearly 15 years working for the tech giant, where he began as vice president of engineering. As CEO, Narayen has lead the company in acquisitions of web development software company Macromedia and online marketing and web analytics firm Omniture.

During the ceremony, outstanding MBA students will receive awards for excellence in three areas: academic achievement for the student with the highest GPA from each program; community service, given to those community fellows who contributed the most volunteer hours; and service and leadership awards for full-time MBA students who are considered to have made the greatest lasting impact in improving the community and the school.

Haas also will announce the winners of the Cheit teaching awards for faculty and graduate student instructors, , as well as the results from the class fundraising campaigns, during the MBA and undergraduate commencement ceremonies.

Undergraduate Commencement

Four hundred and fifty undergraduate students will receive their diplomas in a ceremony that will begin at 9 a.m. on May 18 in the Greek Theatre. Margo Alexander, BS 68, will deliver the commencement address, inspiring the crowd with her accomplishments during her dramatic rise from stock analyst through several positions at PaineWebber to become chair and CEO of UBS Global Asset Management (after it acquired PaineWebber).

In a fun twist this year, Haas Undergraduate Program Manager Dinko Lakic is using “crowdsourcing” to allow students to choose their graduation ceremony music playlist.  Students can nominate and “like” songs on their class Facebook page, and the selections with the most “likes” will be chosen for the list of music that will be played during the hour before the ceremony begins.

Three undergraduates will be recognized with awards. The Department Citation in Business, given to the student with the best academic record, will go to Richard Berwick. Berwick and three other Berkeley students are in the process of launching One Billion Watts, a supplier of energy-efficient products.

Alicia Salmeron is the winner of this year’s Haas Community Fellow Award, which recognizes the student who has excelled in volunteerism. During her years at Haas, she mentored non-English-speaking students in local elementary schools and spent the spring of 2011 at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, where she visited American prisoners to ensure their well-being, facilitated extradition cases, assisted travelers in distress, and processed emergency passports. She will relocate to Washington, D.C., this summer to begin work in Microsoft’s public sector division.

Christopher Severn has been selected by his classmates to be the commencement speaker. He was active in the student Jericho! improv and sketch comedy group, serving as president his senior year. He also coached golf to children in Oakland. Severn will begin his career as an analyst with health-care consulting firm Triage.

Job Outlook

In looking ahead to their employment futures, this year’s graduates can be a bit more optimistic than those in recent years. “The MBA market continues to improve as we see strong hiring in typical industries such as consulting and technology. Silicon Valley hiring is strong, and we continue to see activity in the technology sector,” says Jenn Bridge, director of recruiting, MBA Career Management. 

Bridge says she has seen a larger number of students interested in and securing jobs in the consumer packaged goods sector as well as an uptick in venture capital and asset management postings.

Companies that had a major presence on campus this year include McKinsey & Co., Amazon, Samsung Global Strategy, Microsoft, Zynga, The Boston Consulting Group, and J.P. Morgan.

Undergraduates can also be hopeful for better times ahead. A recent national survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges & Employers revealed that employers plan to hire 10 percent more recent college graduates than they did in 2011. This trend was evident in Berkeley’s Just in Time job fair in mid-April, which attracted more than 160 employers, including tech giants, engineering firms, digital media companies, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.

“We believe the large turnout is indicative of employers feeling more confident about their hiring plans, no longer holding off on them, and wanting to reach Cal students before they disperse and find opportunities elsewhere,” says Paul Savage, Haas employer relations specialist.