Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison, a renowned economist lauded for keeping Berkeley Haas’ six business programs ranked among the world’s best and significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the faculty, has been named Dean of the Year by Poets & Quants.
Poets & Quants Editor-in-Chief John Byrne announced the news to a global audience at a Thinkers50 virtual conference today. Byrne engaged in a sweeping conversation with Harrison that covered the impact of globalization on workers, the responsibilities of government and business in fighting climate change, the critical role of diversity on campus, and the enduring importance of the MBA.
“The MBA is a wonderful degree,” Harrison said. “It combines the rigor of statistics, data analysis, hard-core quant skills with skills like how to work with people, marketing, and how to sell,” she said. “What’s wonderful about an MBA is that it allows you to combine these different skills. Other degrees don’t offer that combination.” Haas MBA students care about making an impact, she added, “not just a great paycheck.”
Harrison has amassed an unimaginable and nearly breathtaking record of achievement. —John Byrne, Poets & Quants
In his Poets & Quants article, published today, Byrne wrote that Harrison has amassed an “unimaginable and nearly breathtaking record of achievement” during her four-and-a-half years as dean. Harrison, who has led Haas since January 2019 and was reappointed to a second term last February, said she was “deeply humbled” by the honor.
“I am so lucky to be surrounded by a tremendous community at Haas—students, staff, faculty, and alumni who are always going beyond themselves,” she said. “It’s only together that we can seek solutions to climate change, build a more inclusive society, and fuel innovation in all its forms. This is a business school that embodies excellence. I feel great pride in our past and am thrilled to have the opportunity to create impact for the future.”
Harrison is the second woman to lead Haas; Professor Laura Tyson served previously. As the former director of development policy at the World Bank and a longtime professor, Harrison has focused her research on international trade and global labor markets.
Since joining Haas from Wharton, Harrison has made big changes, Byrne noted. She has led a major diversity, equity, inclusion, justice & belonging (DEIJB) effort, broadening the profile of the Haas faculty, school board, and the student body. The school’s entering full-time MBA class this year is 41% women, 47% U.S. minorities, and 13% U.S. underrepresented minorities overall.
Harrison has woven sustainability content deep into the curriculum while maintaining the school’s historical focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.
“The challenges of climate change permeate all aspects of business: supply chain, economics, management, and finance,” she said. “In the latter field, we have pioneered new ways of investing. We need to hire in all these dimensions. It is a big agenda and we are making a lot of progress in a lot of different ways.”
Harrison also oversaw the launch of the first Flex online MBA cohort at any top business school. Applying learnings from the pandemic, Haas used new technology to make the MBA available to expanded groups of international students and working parents who require flexible schedules.
Under Harrison’s leadership, Haas also stepped up fundraising, raising a record total of $227 million, including $56.1 million during the last fiscal year. The school also secured the largest single gift in the school’s history—$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BS 66—to turn the undergraduate program into a four-year program.
Figuring it out together
In the Poets & Quants article, Courtney Chandler, Chief Strategy & Operating Officer and Senior Assistant Dean at Haas, noted that Harrison “hasn’t stayed in one lane as dean.”
“She’s ambitious, and she sees the full potential of Haas within UC Berkeley and is driven to realize that potential,” she said. “She has not been that one-dimensional dean and that is incredibly impressive.”
“She’s ambitious, and she sees the full potential of Haas within UC Berkeley and is driven to realize that potential.” —Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler
Harrison’s record as a highly cited scholar has also helped her lead the school’s professors, Byrne said.
“It’s hard to get faculty to buy-in to a dean’s vision, but she has been able to do that effectively,” Erika Walker, senior assistant dean for instruction, who has been at Haas for nearly 20 years, told Byrne. “She relates so well to them…. Ann is very thoughtful about where we should be going. A lot of her success stems from her ability to get the buy-in and then enlist others to figure it out together.”
During her second term, Harrison said she will continue to work with her team to build upon the school’s academic excellence as well as the student experience at Haas. One important goal is to ensure that the school’s degree programs remain the best in the world, she said.
In its 2023 b-school ranking, the Financial Times named the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #7 worldwide and among the top four U.S. programs, a record high. The Evening & Weekend MBA Program ranked #1 among part-time MBA programs in U.S. News & World Report, and the highly-selective Haas Undergraduate Program ranked #2. The Financial Engineer ranked the Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE) Program #1 in the world.
Harrison earned her BA from UC Berkeley in economics and history, and her PhD from Princeton University. She held previous professorships in UC Berkeley’s College of Agricultural and Resource Economics, as well as at Columbia University and the Wharton School, where she was the William H. Wurster Professor of Management.
An avid hiker, Harrison told Poets & Quants that returning to UC Berkeley and California has allowed her to use time off to explore the state’s cliff-lined beaches, redwood forest, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, “a paradise for those who love the outdoors.”
Harrison is the 13th dean and the third woman to be named Dean of the Year by Poets & Quants, which covers business school education.