MBA for Executives Class of 2016 Begins Studies

The 2016 Berkeley MBA for Executives Class arrived on campus for orientation May 13, an experienced and global group including five pilots, four doctors, and senior execs from top companies in the Bay Area and beyond.

Dean Rich Lyons, Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction Jay Stowsky, and entrepreneurship Professor Toby Stuart, welcomed the 69 students, who spent time with senior staff to learn about academic and resource opportunities. Following that, current and former students shared inside advice on juggling work demands, family obligations, and the intense studies demanded of Executive MBA students.

A “Best of Berkeley” welcome dinner followed at Memorial Stadium, hosted by Dean Lyons. The dinner, during which Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Oliver Williamson was honored, featured food inspired by Berkeley-based Chez Panisse restaurant.

The group tasted water sourced in the Sierras by Stewart Wells, EMBA 15, founder of startup California Artesian; and sipped wines from Cannonball Wine Co., founded by Yoav Gilat, MBA 2005. The dinner also honored other Berkeley culinary pioneers, including John Scharffenberger of Scharffen Berger Chocolate.

“These students are off to a phenomenal start to their 19 months together, inside and outside of the classroom,” says Mike Rielly, assistant dean and director of the MBA for Executives Program. “Soon, they will be immersed in the unique brand of Haas education, including rigorous academics built around a significant commitment to experiential learning; a student experience that forges life-long personal and professional networks; and access to the world-class resources of Berkeley-Haas.”

“Incredible spirit from day one.”

With deep international roots, 51 percent of the class was born outside of the U.S., in 22 different countries including Thailand, Norway, Ireland, Russia, India, Mexico, and Liberia. About a third of the students are commuting from outside of the Bay Area, including one student who will commute from China.

The group has an average of 12 years work experience in industries ranging from high tech and retail to energy and consulting. They work at a total of 67 companies, including Schwab, Amazon, Treasury Wine Estates, Genentech, PG&E, Microsoft, Twitter, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and Deloitte. The class also includes a pediatric surgeon, an anesthesiologist, a radiologist, and a pediatrician. A third of the group is women (pictured below) and the average age is 36.

“With this class, we’ve assembled a very diverse group of experienced professionals,” says Marjorie DeGraca, assistant dean and director of admissions for the MBA for Executives Program. “More than that, they embody our Haas values and fit perfectly in our culture. You could feel their energy and incredible spirit from day one of orientation.”

Anita Ratnathicam, an area manager with Noodles & Company, said she chose Haas because of the warmth she experienced during the admissions process—and for the school’s cross-campus commitment to sustainability in business. Ratnathicam plans to build a food service consultancy after graduation, focused on sustainable practices, helping restaurants conserve water, reduce waste, and source locally.  “Having access to a world-class business education, coupled with other aspects of the university, such as the Berkeley Food Institute, made it the only program I wanted to be a part of,” she says.

Michael Boos, a pilot with Southwest Airlines, was drawn to Haas for its emphasis on culture, which is the hallmark of the Southwest brand. (An interesting fact about Boos is that he was part of the mission in Afghanistan that helped rescue Marcus Luttrell, a former United States Navy SEAL, a mission that the movie Lone Survivor is based upon.)

“I was incredibly excited to have found a business program that dovetailed so perfectly with my career,” says Boos, who intends to use his MBA to move into a management role at Southwest. “There isn’t a school on the planet that more closely resembles the very aspects of my company that I admire most.”

“I’ve felt super welcome.”

Over the coming months, this new class will participate in experiential learning, which comprises 25 percent of the curriculum. At the center of this EMBA format are five field immersion weeks, led by Haas faculty on location, including leadership communication in Napa Valley, entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, applied innovation in San Francisco, innovative pricing in Singapore, and an end-of-program domestic immersion to be announced soon.

Students dove into accounting and economics classes Thursday and Friday, attending an inspiring lunch Friday with Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, who built Ashesi University in his native Ghana in 2002 to help educate the country’s next generation of leaders.

After a boat tour from the Berkeley Marina to San Francisco’s AT&T Park and dinner at the Ferry Building, class resumed Saturday for the last day of academics for this session.

Ratnathicam says the week was both overwhelming and amazing. “From the first time I came to Haas I’ve felt super welcome.… People are connecting here,” she says. “During all of my visits, everyone I met here from students to the admissions team to the faculty, people weren’t just talking the talk with the Defining Principles (Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself ). They were walking the walk.”

Related: Berkeley MBA for Executives Class Dives into Applied Innovation