Inaugural class of M.E.T. students prepare to study business and engineering

Students in the inaugural M.E.T. class.
The inaugural M.E.T. class (Photo: copyright Noah Berger)

Growing up in the Silicon Valley, Arvind Sridhar says he always had the feeling that he could change the world. In high school, he pursued research in biomedical engineering and worked on tissue regeneration projects for organ replacement, using high-level computer code and programs to analyze his tissue data.

On top of that, Sridhar founded a nonprofit organization that promotes geographic literacy in schools. “I really enjoyed the experience of leading an organization from its inception and making the tough decisions,” said Sridhar, who graduated from Bellarmine Preparatory in San Jose in May 2017.

When it came time to apply to college, Sridhar feared he’d have to choose between tech or pursuing his entrepreneurial bent in a business program. But his timing was right: Sridhar will study both fields as one of 40 students welcomed this week into the new Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) program at UC Berkeley.

Arvind Sridhar, a first year in the new M.E.T. program at Haas.
Arvind Sridhar, incoming M.E.T. student

“M.E.T. will lay the groundwork for the next generation of entrepreneurs, CEOs, and Silicon Valley leaders,” said Marjorie DeGraca, executive director of the M.E.T. program.  “These students will study together in a tight-knit cohort, learning from each other and from close mentoring relationships from top faculty in both schools.”

The program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, grants graduates two degrees—in business and in engineering—in four years, with the goal of providing deep leadership and technology skills.

A less than 3 percent acceptance rate

The M.E.T. program is highly competitive, drawing about 2,500 applications for just 40 slots in the inaugural class—an acceptance rate of less than 3 percent. The class is 30 percent women, with students enrolling from 12 states across all regions of the US and from four other countries.

Undergrads who are admitted to M.E.T. combine business courses with one of three engineering tracks: electrical engineering & computer sciences; industrial engineering & operations research; or mechanical engineering. They spend time in class at both schools throughout the four years.

During a Haas welcome session and tour this week, students discussed the meaning of the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles (Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, Beyond Yourself) with Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Haas undergraduate program.

Female M.E.T. students raise hands at orientation.
The M.E.T. program acceptance rate is less than 3 percent.

Walker explained what the students needed to know to thrive as undergraduate business majors, while other staff members highlighted the many resources available to them—including study-abroad programs, case competitions, the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program, and the Dean’s Seed Fund for startups.  When asked whether they planned to get involved with a startup, most students raised their hands.

“We’re all motivated”

Helen Tang, who worked throughout high school at nonprofit Givology that connects online donors to students and grassroots projects worldwide, said she’s been impressed by the diversity and enthusiasm of the M.E.T. cohort.  There are people from all experiences and all walks of life here. And we’re all motivated,” she said.

M.E.T. student Helen Tang
Helen Tang

That’s surely true for Abhi Samantapudi, who served as state president of Michigan’s DECA business club for high school students, worked as a business analyst at startup Hindsight, and started a nonprofit, recruiting 14 volunteers who tutor kids in Detroit’s public schools. In M.E.T., he will focus on electrical engineering & computer science.

“This week has really been extraordinary,” he said. “Almost no other school provides an opportunity to bond with such a smart group of kids and provide the personalized attention we’ve had from the staff. It feels like a really tight-knit community.”

A donor-funded program with an influential champion

The M.E.T. program is funded entirely by donors, with more than $15 million raised for the program through contributions from a variety of individuals, including alumni of the two programs and members of the tech community. Michael Grimes, electrical engineering/computer sciences (EECS) 87, who is head of Global Technology Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley and the founder of the M.E.T. Program, welcomed the students during several orientation sessions.

M.E.T. is designed to fast-track technology careers, Grimes said. The program is already gaining attention among Grimes’ Silicon Valley brethren: Kleiner Perkins announced it will give an interview to every incoming M.E.T. student for its prestigious fellowship.

“Typically students seeking an advanced career in technology management first focus on earning an engineering undergraduate degree, get hired, then return to school for an MBA,” Grimes said. “M.E.T. speeds up the process by turning nine years into four.”

Michael Grimes, M.E.T. program founder, chats with students
Michael Grimes, M.E.T. program founder, chats with students. (with program director Marjorie DeGraca)

Ryan Scholes, who joins the program from Virginia and is enrolled in the industrial engineering track, said he was planning to go to graduate school, but says now there’s an option to do just four years.

And while UC Berkeley students in the past have managed to complete dual degrees in both business and engineering as undergraduates, they’ve done it independently, taking on an intense course load with little coordination between the business and engineering programs. “With M.E.T., we’ve brought together a community of like-minded peers, and will provide them with hands-on opportunities that connect everything they’re learning in a unified experience,” DeGraca said.

Sridhar said he’s found the experience incredible so far. “I feel like this program was created just for me,” he said.

Undergrads embrace Defining Principles

As the cohort of M.E.T. students acclimated to campus, a total of 356 new Berkeley-Haas undergraduates continued their orientation this week, gathering at Andersen Auditorium this week for a welcome from Dean Rich Lyons and to learn more about life at Haas.

The acceptance rate for the incoming undergrad class was 14% and the class includes 259 continuing and 97 transfer students. The Berkeley students have an average GPA of 3.7, while the average among transfers is 3.9. The class is 46 percent women.

“These students are clearly engaged and super motivated and excited to learn,” Walker said. “We’re so excited for what they will achieve over the next two years.”

Following the session, the entire auditorium stood, raised their right hands, and pledged: As a member of the Haas community, I pledge to be a Student Always, think Beyond Myself, Question the Status Quo, have Confidence without Attitude, and be Invested in Integrity. 

Walker then asked students to share their reflections of the day. “They all spoke about how engaging in the conversation (about the Defining Principles) made them feel a part of the community—and that it was a real community that cared,” she said.