Largest-ever full-time MBA class welcomed to campus

The largest-ever Full-time Berkeley MBA class got an introduction to Haas life with an orientation week that included a spirited Cohort Olympics, high-profile guest speakers, an exploration of diversity and inclusion, and an impromptu demonstration of support for the MBA students at UVA’s Darden School of Business in Charlottesville.

“It was a really amazing week and a perfect start to getting to know everyone and the spirit of Haas,” said Caroline Schraer, MBA 19, who is from Hamburg, Germany, and worked as a brand manager for Warner Music Germany before coming to Berkeley.

MBA 19s: Strongest ever in academics

The expanded class of 284 has 32 students more than last year, made possible by the opening of Chou Hall, the school’s new academic building. The new class includes 40% women—a slight uptick from last year—and 39% international students from 42 countries. As a whole, the students have exceptional academic credentials and diverse backgrounds: average GMAT scores jumped to 725, while average undergraduate GPAs rose to 3.71.

“Not only is this our largest class ever, but we’re proud to say that it’s one of our strongest groups in terms of academics,” said Pete Johnson, assistant dean for the full-time MBA program and admissions.

Johnson said the class was selected from a growing and increasingly high-achieving applicant pool, with average GMAT scores and GPAs rising over each of the past three years. An increase in applications allowed for an expansion in class size while maintaining selectivity: the acceptance rate was again 12%.

“No one has the culture and community that we do”

Morgan Bernstein, executive director of full-time MBA admissions, also said the school has continued to make improvements to the admissions process, allowing for a more personalized experience for applicants. This also allows the program to continue to select students who show leadership skills that reflect the school’s Defining Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Beyond Yourself, and Students Always.

“Top students from around the world with diverse backgrounds and amazing accomplishments continue to choose us for our distinctive culture,” Bernstein said. “No one else has the culture and community that we do.”

The class includes an investment banker who ran nearly 3,000 miles over the summer from San Francisco to NYC to raise money and awareness for ALS in honor of his grandmother; a student who is leading global teams on the development of Google’s autonomous cars at Intel; a Massachusetts chess champion; the COO of an organic kids’ food company; and a woman who  designed a crowdfunding campaign to provide safe childbirth services to low-income women in Uganda. There are eight military veterans in the class.

Each day of “Week Zero”—which was co-chaired by second-year students Blakey Larsen, Federico Locatelli, and Paul Hewett—centered around one of the Defining Principles.

Standing up against hate

A bonding moment occurred mid-week for students, who gathered on the steps by Fisher Gate with University of Virginia t-shirts and signs reading “Stand Against Hate” and “No Hate at Haas.”

MBA 19s stand against hate Week Zero
In the wake of violence in Charlottesville, new MBA students demonstrated their support for Darden students.

“As a class, they are a thoughtful and conscientious group,” Larsen said. “When some of the students asked to take a class photo to support our MBA colleagues at UVA Darden, the entire class participated. During an open Q&A, this group offered many ways in which they planned to support each other throughout the year.”

The incoming class has a variety of work experience, included about a quarter from consulting, 20 percent from banking/financial services and seven percent each from high tech/electronics, healthcare/pharma/biotech, and nonprofits.

Andrew Briggs, who worked in strategic planning and analysis at Airbnb before coming to Haas, said he hopes to start a club geared toward tech in the travel industry.

Speaking up for your neighbor

For the “Beyond Yourself” theme during Week Zero, Adj. Assoc. Prof. Kellie McElhaney shared research that shows an increasing correlation between diversity at the top of companies and financial success. She urged students to speak out in class and in study groups about inequality and asked them to make a diversity related commitment to their neighbor for the coming year.

Kellie McElhaney Week Zero
Kellie McElhaney urges students to speak out about diversity issues.

The students also heard from a panel of diverse 2nd-years about their experiences, and learned about the Teams@Haas curriculum, which is integrated throughout the program and gives students a skillset to lead in teams. They then spent the afternoon gardening and cleaning up the grounds at the Alameda Point Collaborative program for homeless families.

Finding a middle road

For the “Students Always” theme, Wes Selke, MBA 07, managing director at Better Ventures, joined the class for a debrief on a case about his company. Selke, a former investment banker, described how traveling abroad before he did his MBA awakened a desire for a more socially responsible career path. He urged students to ask whether their work contributes to the good of society. “There’s a middle road where you can do good through business,” he said.

Incoming student América Gonzalez, who worked at Bain as a senior consultant in Houston, said Week Zero helped her get acclimated quickly to campus.

“The different activities really made me open up and be unafraid of sharing exactly who I am,” she said. “It was the same with my classmates. I think everyone opened up genuinely and very authentically. I got a sense of who they are in a very short period of time.”