The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA class came together for a virtual orientation Monday, participating in networking sessions, meeting study team members, as well as joining academic and diversity, equity and inclusion workshops designed to prepare them for a successful two years at Haas.
With 331 students, the largest-ever FTMBA Class of 2022 attended the Week Zero orientation held from Aug. 17 to 21.
In her welcome, Dean Harrison commended students for attending business school at this unprecedented time of uncertainty. “This couldn’t be a better time to go to business school, especially at a place like Berkeley, as this school has always been at the forefront of massive changes and movement,” she said. “This crazy time also requires you to be leaders yourselves. One of the most difficult things to learn is how to live with this uncertainty.”
The incoming MBA class is comprised of 39% women, an increase of two percentage points compared to last year. Underrepresented minorities represent 17% of the class, up from 14%. International students make up 21% and hail from 37 countries. Students have an average of five years work experience and majored in economics, engineering, business commerce, and the social sciences.
Each day of orientation features a surprise guest speaker. So far, that’s included rapper Ace “Call Me Ace” Patterson, MBA 16, and Aubrey Blanche, director of equitable design and impact at Culture Amp.
Patterson shared his story of humble beginnings in Bridgeport, Conn., getting accepted to Columbia University, and later to Haas. “My family wasn’t poor, we were just broke,” said Patterson. “So what I lacked in resources, I had to gain in creativity and ingenuity.” Patterson also talked about experiencing so-called “imposter syndrome” as one of the youngest students in his FTMBA program, but eventually he convinced himself that he belonged.
Blanche led Tuesday’s discussion on shifting focus away from terms like “diversity and inclusion” and instead embracing “equity and belonging” to activate allies and build equity in the world. “By focusing on equity and belonging, we can actually get to the goals—diversity and equality—that I think we probably all share.”
Students said they’ve enjoyed the week so far.
“It’s been super exciting to meet all of my classmates for the first time,” said Torrey Mayes, a former manager of financial planning and analysis for Palm Casino Resort. Mayes said his favorite part of orientation has been the networking sessions. “We’ve had the opportunity to meet every single person in our class since everyone is online.”
Week Zero Co-Chair Dominic Masuda, MBA 21, agreed. “I’m amazed and thrilled to see how creative and flexible the new class has been with engaging and meeting each other,” he said. “I think we’ve proven that virtual events can be incredibly engaging when structured and built thoughtfully.”
Many students said they’re getting an MBA to build their business acumen, develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, or transition to a completely new field.
Christine Yee, a student in the new MBA/Master of Engineering (MBA/MEng) program, said she wants to learn how to “democratize technology” to help entrepreneurs with little to no financial means access the digital economy. Yee, who co-founded Paysa, a startup that allows people in rural India make mobile payments using fingerprint authentication, said she is looking forward to taking courses that will take her skills to the next level.
Members of the Class of 2022 have gone above and beyond to connect with each other.
Each day culminates with a trivia game night or Zoom happy hour organized by second-year students.
Amanda Wonnell, a former project manager at Shell, said her classmates have created Slack channels based on interests and organized Zoom happy hours. She added that classmate Chris Quaidoo has organized virtual coffee chats, randomly pairing two students for weekly chats.
As for Mayes, he’s thankful to be living with three classmates with whom he can experience the FTMBA program and weather the pandemic.
Mayes said he’s been doing a mix of online and physically-distanced gatherings with classmates. On Monday night, he and five other students set up a TV outside and watched cohort members battle each other in Family Feud. “The Gold cohort won, but we were a close second,” said Mayes, a member of the Oski cohort.
The fall semester officially begins Aug. 24.