Investing in themselves: New Executive MBA class begins semester

Screenshot of EMBA 2021 students on Zoom call
EMBA students in the Class of 2022 gathered for a virtual orientation on Aug. 4, 2020.

Berkeley Haas’ newest MBA for Executives class convened online for a virtual orientation on Aug. 4, kicking off the fall semester with ice breakers and small-group activities to foster camaraderie among cohort members. 

Students in the EMBA program, 70 total, embark on a rigorous 19-month academic journey while working full time and, oftentimes, taking care of family. During orientation, students shared their reasons for coming to Haas, explored the school’s Defining Leadership Principles, and drafted cohort charters to guide their EMBA journey.

Members of the class have an average of 12 years of work experience and hail from more than ten U.S. states and three countries—Guatemala, Thailand, and Belgium. Women make up about a third of the class, and students who are first in their family to graduate from college, or first-generation students, make up 14%. Fifteen percent of the class have served in the military and 11% hold graduate and doctoral degrees in medicine, law, and philosophy (PhD). 

In her welcome remarks, Asst. Dean Jamie Breen commended students for pursuing an MBA during this unprecedented time. “All of you are truly incredible,” said Breen. “Investing in yourself during this time is even more remarkable.” 

She also outlined what the next year and half will look like for the class. “You’re going to go through a number of transitions during your journey, much of which you’ll experience with your classmates,” said Breen. “I encourage you to bring your experiences, your lives, and workplaces into the classroom. It’s going to be a fantastic 19 months.”

John Paul Young, chief technology officer at NOVA Research Company, which conducts public health and scientific research, said he really enjoyed orientation as it gave him the opportunity to get to know his classmates on a deeper level. 

“I found that the small breakout group interactions allowed us to connect with each other and access more of the spontaneous dynamic that would happen naturally if we were able to sit around a table together,” he said. 

Todd Ashline, an investment program manager at Banner Health, agreed. “I really enjoyed getting to know my classmates, hearing their life’s journey, and why they chose Haas,” he said. “I also enjoyed spending time with my study group discussing Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs), and I’m eager to see how we’ll grow in the DLPs individually and as a team.”

Everyone here is showing up 100% to make the best out of these challenging times. It’s been genuinely inspiring to see my peers and colleagues at Haas stepping up with consistent kindness and generosity, and it absolutely calls upon me to give the same in return. —John Paul Young.

Why an MBA? Why Haas?

Many EMBA students said they’re pursuing an MBA to advance their careers within their company, expand their skill set, or switch careers entirely. 

Melissa Sharp, a political consultant and vice president at National Media, said she’s looking to pivot from politics and launch a career in corporate marketing. “I’ve always enjoyed the corporate strategy and organizational side of business,” said Sharp, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Christian University’s M.J. Neeley School of Business. “I’ve helped my husband launch a few different companies and that really pumped me up and pushed me to consider a career pivot.”

Corrine Crockett, vice president of marketing for outdoor furniture company Outer, said she wanted to expand her “breadth of business knowledge outside of marketing and entrepreneurship.” She chose Haas for its connection to Silicon Valley and the school’s value-driven culture. Plus, she has a soft spot for Berkeley since her dad studied at Cal as an undergrad, said Crockett. 

Social life

From Zoom happy hours to fireside chats on Slack to spontaneous phone calls, EMBA students are finding creative ways to bond with each other online during this unprecedented time. 

We’ve made it a point to set time aside to connect with one another,” said Crockett. “We have to get creative!”

Young agreed. “Everyone here is showing up 100% to make the best out of these challenging times,” he said.  “It’s been genuinely inspiring to see my peers and colleagues at Haas stepping up with consistent kindness and generosity, and it absolutely calls upon me to give the same in return.”

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