The 70 students in the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA class of 2012 kicked off their studies last month with a team-building project that was about more than breaking the ice: They built prosthetic hands for victims of the earthquake in Haiti and land-mine accidents worldwide.
Working with a facilitator from Odyssey Teams, a Chico, Calif., company that specializes in philanthropic team building, the students were divided into groups and given the task of assembling the simple prosthetics from a bag of parts—without being told what they were building. They successfully assembled 22 hands, which will be distributed to amputees throughout the world through Odyssey's Helping Hands program.
The students are working through the first term of the 19-month, bi-coastal program, which gives them access to resources at the two top business schools while sustaining their careers. Their intensive coursework is scheduled every three weekends, so they can keep up with work and family demands.
The diverse group of new students includes a Hollywood producer; a real estate developer from Bogota, Colombia; a former assistant to the ambassador to Iraq; and the owner of a shoe factory in Fuzhou, China. About two-thirds of the new students are from the Bay Area and 8 percent are from Southern California, with the rest from throughout the United States.
Their ages span three decades, from 27 to 57, and they have an average of 12 years of work experience under their belts. Sponsoring employers include Apple, Nike, Pacific Gas & Electric, Kaiser Permanente, and Mattel. Nearly half of the students work in marketing, sales, or general management.