Chou Hall earns third in trifecta of green building credentials

Photo of the front of Chou Hall
Chou Hall is the country’s greenest academic building. Photo: Dan Williams

Connie & Kevin Chou Hall has earned the third in a trifecta of green building credentials: a WELL Certification recognizing its “strong commitment to supporting human health, well-being, and comfort.”

The certification comes on the heels of two others the building has received over the past year from Green Business Certification Inc. (GBSI). It achieved TRUE Zero Waste Certification at the highest possible level and LEED Platinum Certification for its architectural design, construction, and energy efficiency.

“From the start of the Chou Hall construction project, we focused on building a student-centric academic space that reflected our school’s unique culture and how we value sustainable impact,” said Courtney Chandler, senior assistant dean and chief operating & strategy officer of the Haas School. “Being the first academic building to be WELL Certified, and the greenest academic building in the country, exemplifies our Defining Leadership Principles in action.”

Photo of Cafe Think in Chou Hall
Cafe Think’s floor-to-ceiling windows connect the indoors to the outdoors. Photo: Jim Block

“It’s particularly rewarding to cap off the building certification journey with the last of these three certifications,” said Walter Hallanan, BS 72, who has managed the Chou Hall project as well as the school’s Master Plan Project. “We’re breaking new ground with Chou Hall. It’s a significant achievement that sets an example for the Berkeley campus, particularly with regard to the LEED and WELL certification.”

Attention to many details

WELL Certified spaces are designed to improve the overall health of the people who use the building, by addressing areas such as nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of the building occupants. Design details include everything from the solar panels that provide energy to the building to the fact that as much outside air as possible is funneled into the building’s interior.

Photo of students on the shairs in Chou Hall
Students descending stairs in Chou Hall get exercise and a view of the trees. Photo: Jim Block

The WELL Certified credential is the culmination of literally years of detailed planning and design. “There are hundreds of requirements you have to comply with,” Hallanan said.

Certification officials toured Chou Hall for performance verification site visits in December 2018 and June 2019 to get a sense of the building’s environment.

“The level of detail and thought that went into the design and construction of the space and flow throughout Chou Hall contribute to the overall feeling,” Chandler said. “It’s not an accident that when people come to Spieker Forum—our top floor event space with huge windows and amazing views—they often say it feels like they’re in a tree house.”

An innovative funding model

Another novel aspect of the building was its funding model that enabled greater efficiency and cost savings. A private nonprofit fund, the Partnership for Haas Preeminence, chaired by Ned Spieker, BS 66; Walter Hallanan, BS 72; and former Dean Rich Lyons, BS 82, raised the donations and managed design and construction in tandem before donating the completed building back to the university last year.

Photo of Chou Hall classroom.
The new Chou Hall classrooms and meeting spaces were part of the Haas Master Plan Project, led by Walter Hallanan, BS 72. Photo: Blake Marvin

Chou Hall is the core of the Haas Master Plan Project, which also included the new courtyard and the addition of cooling to Cheit Hall. The student-centered building includes classroom and meeting spaces, the state-of-the-art Spieker Forum event space, and a cafe at the courtyard level.

Chou Hall provided much-needed space at Haas, where enrollment has nearly doubled over the past 20 years.

It is named for Kevin Chou, BS 02, and his wife, Dr. Connie Chen, in recognition of their donation: the largest personal gift by an alum under the age of 40 in UC Berkeley’s history.

“I am proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Chandler said. “What I love hearing most is how the building makes people feel. That’s what people are going to remember.”

Photo of the interior of Chou Hall.
“What I love hearing most is how the building makes people feel. That’s what people are going to remember.” – Haas COO Courtney Chandler. Photo: Blake Marvin

Four Haas women awarded finance scholarships

Four Haas students—with career goals ranging from starting an investment fund to helping to grow immigrant-run businesses—have been awarded scholarships by The Financial Women of San Francisco.

A total of 13 undergraduate and graduate students were honored at a June 7 gathering at the City Club in San Francisco. The 30-year-old scholarship program was created to honor women leaders who are pursuing careers in finance, and the scholarships all include a pairing with a mentor

Jie Wang, MBA 20
Jie Wang, MBA 20

Jie Wang, MBA 20, a native of China who received a $15,000 scholarship, holds both an English literature degree from Nanjing Normal University and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Notre Dame. She previously worked as an international tax consultant at Deloitte. At Haas, she is the vice president of communications for the Asia Business Club and teaches federal income tax as a graduate student instructor.

Having lived mostly in the South and Midwest, she said she was drawn to the Bay Area for its job opportunities and the chance to make an impact. “Lots of exciting things are happening here,” said Wang, who is interning as an investment banking associate for Deutsche Bank in San Francisco this summer and is interested in the long-term in working on educational development for underprivileged women.

Three undergraduates, Sally Liang, Deeksha Chaturvedi, and Kyung Hee Egoian, all BS 20, were each awarded $10,000 scholarships.

Sally Liang, BS 20
Sally Liang, BS 20

Liang has worked as a finance coordinator for the UC Berkeley student-run Basic Needs Center. She said she’s dedicated to continuing her work in food security and holistic wellness in a nonprofit field.

“Investing my skillsets in a nonprofit would be a good way to put my business education to use and help the next generation resolve their basic needs insecurities so they can become more well-equipped during and after college,” she said.

Last summer, Liang was a finance operations intern at Tesla. This summer, she’s interning with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in corporate tax and plans to get her CPA license after graduation.

Deeksha Chaturvedi, BS 20
Deeksha Chaturvedi, BS 20

Chaturvedi, president of the Berkeley Women in Business club, will be interning this summer in San Francisco at Goldman Sachs’ investment banking division and aspires to run her own investment fund.

She said she is interested in gender equity and helping domestic violence victims gain financial independence. “I started volunteering with human trafficking victims and this opened my eyes to the injustices many women in our community face,” Chaturvedi said.

Kyung Hee Egoian, BS 20
Kyung Hee Egoian, BS 20

For Egoian, pursuing higher education has been a life-long dream. Formal education wasn’t an option in the small town in Korea where she grew up, she said.  Studying finance became her passion and focus when she moved to the US.

While raising her two children, Egoian worked for 13 years as a finance and administration manager at Save the Bay, a nonprofit aiming to restore and protect SF Bay for wildlife and people. After graduating from Haas, she plans to continue using her business and finance knowledge to help immigrant-run small businesses grow and succeed.

“I enjoyed my work so much that I never once looked at the clock to see if it was time to go home,” said Egoian. “I loved helping people, my staff, and working for a cause to improve our community.”

Profs. Konchitchki and Patatoukas receive prestigious accounting literature award

Associate professors Yaniv Konchitchki and Panos Patatoukas have won the 2019 Notable Contributions to Accounting Literature Award from the the American Accounting Association.

The award was granted for two co-written papers: “Accounting Earnings and Gross Domestic Product,” featured in the Journal of Accounting and Economics, and “Taking the Pulse of the Real Economy Using Financial Statement Analysis: Implications for Macro Forecasting and Stock Valuation,” featured in The Accounting Review. Both were published in 2014.

The AAA award is given annually to work published within five years that has been evaluated for its uniqueness and potential magnitude of contribution to accounting education, practice and/or future accounting research; breadth of potential interest; originality and innovation, clarity and organization of exposition; and soundness and appropriateness of methodology.

The award, which is sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), will be presented at the AAA Annual Meeting in San Francisco on August 14.

Yaniv Konchitchki
Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki

Konchitchki is a tenured associate professor Haas Accounting Group. His expertise is in the interdisciplinary links between financial reporting and analysis, capital markets, and macroeconomics. His work focuses on the modeling and resolution of real-world problems aimed at enhancing decision making, dealing with topics such as inflation, economic fluctuations/growth, monetary policy, real estate, inequality, and national accounting. He is a founder of the new research field of Macro-Accounting. Konchitchki has been recognized for his research and teaching as a Bakar Faculty Fellow, a Hellman Fellow, and a Schwabacher Fellow for distinguished research excellence; two Cheit Awards for Distinguished Teaching Excellence; Poets & Quants’ “World’s Top 40 Under 40”; and the American Accounting Association’s Financial Accounting and Reporting Section Best Paper Award.

Panos Patatoukas
Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas

Patatoukas is also a tenured associate professor in the Haas Accounting Group, and the L.H. Penney Chair in Accounting. His work focuses on interdisciplinary capital markets research and informs “micro-to-macro” and “macro-to-micro” questions bridging the gap between academics and practitioners. He was honored with the 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award, which is the highest teaching award bestowed by the University of California, Berkeley; the 2017 AAA/AICPA Notable Contributions to Accounting Literature Award; and the 2011 American Accounting Association Competitive Manuscript Award. He was also selected as a “Top-10 Business School Professor Under 40” by Fortune. He is the founding faculty director of the Berkeley executive education program on Financial Data Analysis.

More information about the AAA award can be found here.

Teaming up with quants: MBA students dive into data science

L-R: William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs in the Haas Finance Group, Daniel Clayton, MBA 19, Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE Program, and Michael Bausback , MBA 19, at the Berkeley MFE commencement. Photo: Noah Berger / 2019
L-R: William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs in the Haas Finance Group; Daniel Clayton, MBA 19; Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE Program; and Michael Bausback , MBA 19, at the Berkeley MFE commencement, where the students were honored for completing MFE courses. Photo: Noah Berger

During his MBA orientation two years ago, Daniel Clayton heard something that grabbed his attention: if space was available, MBA students could enroll in data-intensive Master of Financial Engineering program classes like Financial Innovation, Dynamic Asset Management, Investments & Derivatives, and Behavioral Finance.

Clayton, MBA 19, jumped at the chance. “It was an awesome opportunity,” said Clayton, who is a CFA charterholder, and had worked in finance for six years before heading to Berkeley for his MBA. “I set the goal early that I should try to graduate with three or more of these courses to add more quantitative skills to my strong finance base. It’s the ‘quants’ who will be key to the future of the investment field by driving markets, developing new and innovative investment strategies, and disrupting decades-old industries.”

The top-ranked MFE program trains an elite group of students in financial engineering and data science, many who go on to work at top banks, tech companies, and startups. Since 2001, when the MFE program launched, a select number of its courses have opened up to MBA students to provide an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of quantitative finance and data analytics, preparing them for a job market that increasingly demands these skills, said Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program. On average, five MBA students take one or more courses each year.

“I saw this coming years ago and, in the future, the MBAs will need to be more data science savvy,” Kreitzman said. “It’s a critical need in the very near future; why we don’t have more MBA students taking our courses is quite surprising to me.”

Students, family, and friends attend the 2019 Berkeley MFE Graduation
Students, family, and friends attend the 2019 Berkeley MFE Graduation. Photo: Noah Berger

For taking at least three MFE courses, Clayton was recognized along with Michael Bausback, also MBA 19, at the March 2019 MFE commencement.

The start of “a more studied experiment”

While the typical MBA student does not take the most quantitative and programming-intensive MFE classes such as Stochastic Calculus and Asset Backed Security Markets, they are able to enroll in the more qualitative courses.

In 2013, MBA student Benjamin Cooper fully capitalized on that opportunity. As a CJ White Finance Fellow, Cooper was matched with an alumnus as his mentor in his area of focus within finance, global asset allocation. “This was the start of a more studied experiment for MBAs taking MFE courses,” said William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs in the Haas Finance Group. “The mentor’s first bit of advice was to take as many MFE courses as possible.  Ben wound up taking five MFE courses over his two years, and really kicked off this idea of MBAs leveraging the MFE program—literally under the same roof—to expand their training and set of opportunities in the more quantitative ends of finance.”

Cooper, MBA 15, now works as a multi-asset strategist at Wellington Management in London.

Exploring machine learning and quantitative finance

Bausback and Clayton shared similar goals in taking MFE courses: to challenge themselves in the quantitative side of finance.

Bausback, who worked in economic consulting before he came to Haas at a job that required financial modeling and knowledge of trading derivatives, took courses that would prepare him with a deeper, most up-to-date set of finance skills. “I now have the confidence to explore and interact with the fields of machine learning and quantitative finance, both of which seemed inaccessible prior to the program,” said Bausback, who will work at Morgan Stanley as an associate in its Tech Investment Banking office after graduating. “Coming out of the program I realize I had never fully appreciated how financial markets actually work, how prices are driven on a day-to-day basis—and how human biases affect that more than a math model will ever tell you.”

Clayton said he added the most value as a member of the MFE student teams by developing qualitative analysis based on data the MFE students crunched. “Once they coded everything I could interpret the results, articulate the findings clearly, and suggest additional analysis,” he said. “The MBA and MFE skill sets actually complement one another nicely.”

One of the biggest takeaways of taking MFE courses was learning to work with engineers, he said. “I still can’t code in Python or do Stochastic calculus but I do now know how to communicate with financial engineers and understand the kind of analysis they are capable of producing. In the future, I will have a better appreciation for what goes into this kind of work and what is possible, which will make me much more valuable in the finance world.”

Berkeley team wins Kellogg Real Estate Competition

Winning Berkeley team at Kellogg real estate competitionKellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition winners: (l-r) Stefan “Steve” Jeitler, LL.M 19; Kyle Raines MBA 21; Esmond Ai, MBA 20; Nithya Rathinam, MBA 21; Hind Katkhuda, MBA 20; and Julia McElhinney, MRED+D 19. Photo: Kellogg School of Management.

A team of six Berkeley students won the sixth annual Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition for their plan to fill vacant ground-floor retail spaces in cities with package pick-up centers and e-commerce pop-up shops.

The competition, hosted April 10 at Northwestern University at the Kellogg School’s Guthrie Center for Real Estate Research, aims to encourage entrepreneurial real estate ventures.

Nine international semi-finalist teams were asked to create a scalable, profitable real estate business—complete with supporting financials and profit projections—that would transcend traditional real estate and help solve urban and social issues.

The Berkeley team included Esmond Ai, MBA 20, Kyle Raines, MBA 21, and Nithya Rathinam, MBA 21, all students in the Evening and Weekend MBA Program. They were joined by teammates Hind Katkhuda, FT-MBA 20; Julia McElhinney, MRED+D 19, who is earning a master’s degree in real estate development and design from Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design; and Stefan “Steve” Jeitler, LL.M 19, a master of laws candidate at Berkeley School of Law.

Raines said their proposed real estate venture, named Click + Mortar, would provide secure delivery options through package pick-up centers—and help businesses that sell mostly online to benefit from small, short-term brick-and-mortar presences in key urban centers.

“We see the social and economic challenges of empty Bay Area retail spaces every day,” McElhinney said. “So we wanted to create a viable and scalable business that would address this issue locally, drive profits, and offer opportunities to expand to other urban areas facing the same challenges.”

“An incredibly creative solution”

The team spent four months researching the concept, talking to developers, property managers, e-tailers like Sugarfina and Ministry of Supply, and package locker providers. The idea includes signing discounted, long-term master leases in large, vacant retail spaces; adding package lockers to part of the space; and filling the remaining area with small, short-term retail lots.

“Our students found an incredibly creative solution to an intractable problem,” said their faculty adviser, real estate Professor Nancy Wallace, co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics. “Their idea is so compelling that they’ve already found real property owners and clients who are willing to sign on if Click + Mortar launches.”

The team members are currently considering how best to bring this business idea to fruition. They have seed capital from the competition’s $25,000 cash prize and an additional $75,000 to apply toward co-working space and legal and accounting professional services. In addition, several investors who attended the event have already requested pitch decks.

Before the competition, Rathinam said she believed that real estate offered a limited range of traditional career paths. “With Click + Mortar, I now have an opportunity to start off on my own and build something that is very unique and that solves an important urban issue all at once,” she said.

This is the latest in a string of Haas real estate wins. This week, another Haas team won the NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area Real Estate Challenge, dubbed the “Golden Shovel” competition, for the second year in a row. In December, a Haas team took the top prize at the University of Texas McCombs’ National Real Estate Case Challenge.

Prof. Nancy Wallace wins prestigious Berkeley service award

Prof. Nancy Wallace has been honored with UC Berkeley’s prestigious 2019 Berkeley Faculty Service Award for making a lasting and significant impact—particularly by helping the campus navigate complex financial and real estate issues.

The award is bestowed by the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate on faculty whose “outstanding and dedicated service to the campus, and whose activities as a faculty member have significantly enhanced the quality of the campus as an educational institution and community of scholars.”

Berkeley Haas Prof. Nancy Wallace
Prof. Nancy Wallace

Wallace, the Lisle and Roslyn Payne Chair in Real Estate Capital Markets and chair of the Haas Real Estate Group, shares the honor this year with Spanish Prof. Ignacio Navarrete of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

“During the past 10 years, Nancy has devoted extraordinary time and energy to the campus’s day-to-day well-being,” wrote Anthony Long, chair of the Academic Senate’s Committee on Faculty Awards and an emeritus professor of classics and literature.

Wallace, a prominent expert on the residential mortgage market, mortgage-related securities, and pricing models, helped the campus with a “series of onerous financial issues,” including the budget for intercollegiate athletics, advising on strategic banking relationships, and a sustainable funding model for the Lower Sproul Plaza redevelopment project.

In 2008, she was recruited by the UC Office of the President to serve on the Systemwide Committee on UC Faculty Mortgage Programs. She was also drafted to play a major role in the financial planning for Memorial Stadium, helping to deliver a blueprint for expanding the stadium’s uses.

Prof. Candi Yano, Haas Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Chair of the Faculty, along with Prof. Richard Stanton wrote in a letter of support that in addition to her campus service, Wallace goes far beyond herself at Haas.

“Very few faculty are so committed to the campus that they are willing to invest long hours and their intellectual prowess in improving the financial stability of the campus. We note that Nancy is equally dedicated in her service to the Haas School, where she has served as Chair of the Real Estate group essentially ‘forever’,” they wrote.

In addition to her service on campus, Wallace has served on the Federal Reserve’s Model Validation Council and the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Research Advisory Committee.


Haas team wins national real estate case challenge

 National Real Estate Case Competition winning team: (left to right) Joe Dembesky 19, Mike Wiedman 20, Mark Trainer, MCP 19, Claire Collery 19, Matthew Hines 19, and Robert Kelly 20.
National Real Estate Case Competition winning team: (left to right) Joe Dembesky 19, Mike Wiedman 20, Mark Trainer, MCP 19, Robert Kelly 20, Matthew Hines 19, and Claire Collery 19.

A team of Berkeley MBA students took first place at the 16th annual National Real Estate Case Challenge for their creative investment strategy surrounding a new commercial property.

The prestigious finance-based competition, hosted by the University of Texas McCombs School of Business last month, charged 20 teams from the top MBA programs with analyzing a real estate investment case and presenting a recommendation before a panel of industry leaders.

For three of the six Haas team members—Matthew Hines, MBA 19; Robert Kelly, MBA 20; and Mark Trainer, Master of City Planning (MCP) 19—the win comes just months after participating on a team of students that took back the Golden Shovel real estate award from Stanford. The other National Real Estate Case Challenge team members—Claire Collery, MBA 19, Joe Dembesky, MBA 19, and Mike Wiedman, MBA 20— participated in their first competition. The team took home $10,000 in Haas’ first win since 2009.

Case sponsor Invesco asked teams of six to figure out the best way to use money generated from a new commercial real estate construction project. The options given were to keep the building in the portfolio with no change to existing financing; keep the building in the portfolio but refinance the loan on it; sell the building and return the profits to investors; or sell the building and invest the profits in building a new property.

Questioning the status quo, the Haas team came up with a different option.

“We questioned why there were only four options given, and we began to suspect there was a hidden fifth option,” Hines said. The team proposed refinancing the existing building and combining the savings with additional money in the private equity fund to invest in building a new property.

The Berkeley Haas team spent nearly three months preparing for the competition during an independent study course taught by Lecturer Bill Falik, a managing partner with Westpark Community Builders, and Abigail Franklin, an investment banking and real estate student adviser. Students in the class practiced solving sample cases each week and presented to guest judges, including former competition participants and local finance and real estate professionals. The format helped build competence, cohesion and confidence, Dembesky said.

Judges said they were impressed with Berkeley’s presentation, which called for role playing, creativity and financial acumen.

“I was playing the role of the fund manager, and Matthew [Hines] burst onto the scene from the development team and pushed for funding the second building,” Collery said. One of the judges told the team that the performance felt like being in a real investment committee meeting, Dembesky said.

Haas team tops at Tech Challenge

Cori Land, Max Kubicki, Bryan Chiang, and Catherine Hsieh, all MBA 19s. Photos: Benny Johnson, MBA 20
(Left to right)  Cori Land, Max Kubicki, Bryan Chiang, and Catherine Hsieh, all MBA 19s. Photos: Benny Johnson, MBA 20.

A team of Berkeley MBA students bested groups from seven schools to win the annual Berkeley Haas Tech Challenge for their plan to educate city government officials on how new technologies can support initiatives that improve quality of life and efficiency.

The 2018 Berkeley Haas Tech Challenge, called “Big Data and the City of Tomorrow,” was held Nov. 8-10.

The winning Haas team included Bryan Chiang, Catherine Hsieh, Max Kubicki, and Cori Land, all MBA 19s. Haas took home the $5,000 first-place award for the second year in a row.

The challenge called on students to come up with a plan to entice city government officials to adopt Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create smart cities. Smart cities use data and communications technologies to increase efficiency, share information with the public, and improve the quality of government services and public safety. Example projects include monitoring and managing traffic signals remotely, using a software platform that tracks the real-time availability of spaces in parking lots, and implementing a lighting-management system that allows cities to monitor energy efficiency and maintenance needs.

The Haas team began the Tech Challenge case by asking: Who are the customers, what do they care about, and how can AWS meet them where they are?

“We tested each of our ideas against whether or not it ultimately solved a problem for people,” Land said. “If not, we rejected the idea, and it helped us focus our recommendations.”

The Haas team made recommendations for a website redesign that would provide easy-to-understand smart cities information to non-technical city planners, as well as new certification programs to educate government officials on how they could use AWS.Max Kubicki, Bryan Chiang, Cori Land, and Catherine Hsieh prepare their presentation. Photos: Benny Johnson

(Left to right)  Max Kubicki, Bryan Chiang, Cori Land, and Catherine Hsieh prepare their presentation. Photos: Benny Johnson.

The team also proposed a dashboard tool to help city officials compare their city services to others that have adopted smart cities technology—and measure the potential return-on-investment for their proposed projects.

Confidence without attitude may have been what set the Haas team apart from competitors. “One judge kept thanking us for admitting we still had some work to do when we better understood some gaps in our plan,” Hsieh said. Another Haas strength was leveraging broader perspectives by assembling a team with different areas of expertise, ranging from finance and energy to design thinking and change management.

Evan Cory and Charlie Cubeta, Tech Challenge co-chairs who organized the competition for the Haas Tech Club, said they received 108 team applications from 15 schools for the competition, a 25 percent increase over last year.

Competing teams included Yale, Kellogg, Columbia, Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, UCLA, and Wharton. Eight Amazon executives served as coaches and judges.

Undergraduate program staff honored with two campus “Excellence in Advising” awards

<em>The undergraduate office team, clockwise from left: Erika Walker, Renee Camarena, Elinor Gregorio, Mary Ballingit, Karren Bautista Tanisaki, Dresden John, Barbara Felkins, and Sojourner Blair. Missing from photo: Dinko Lakic and Alessandra Fadeff.<br />
The undergraduate office team, clockwise from left: Erika Walker, Renee Camarena, Elinor Gregorio, Mary Ballingit, Karren Bautista Tanisaki, Dresden John, Barbara Felkins, and Sojourner Blair. Missing from photo: Dinko Lakic and Alessandra Fadeff.

The Haas Undergraduate Office will be honored with two “Excellence in Advising” awards this week by UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Education.

Barbara Felkins, director of academic affairs for the Haas Undergraduate Program, will receive the Mary Slakey Howell Excellence in Advising Award,  while Felkins and her undergraduate team will be separately honored for “Excellence in Advising.”

Both awards will be given during a Dec. 12 ceremony at the Banatao Auditorium in Sutardja Dai Hall from 4-6pm.

“It was a total surprise for me,” said Felkins, who has worked at Haas for 32 years. “It’s just amazing to receive an award for doing something that I love. Working with our students and helping them with their academics as well as their personal problems can be very challenging, but when I see them walk across the stage at our commencement ceremony it’s all worth it.”

“Excellent service and positive energy”

The award, named for the late Mary Slakey Howell, former director of advising and policy at the College of Engineering, is UC Berkeley’s highest for advising excellence. The awards are given annually across campus by the office of the Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Education, Catherine P. Koshland. They recognize “the positive impact the office has had on student learning, performance, engagement, and progress and the many ways it contributes to a culture of advising excellence on campus.”

Dinko Lakic and Erika Walker at 2018 undergraduate commencement.
Dinko Lakic and Erika Walker (with student) at 2018 undergraduate commencement

The honored undergraduate team includes Felkins, Sojourner Blair, director of admissions; Karren Bautista Tanisaki, assistant director of academic & student services; Renee Camarena, assistant director of student services; Dresden John, student experience manager; Alessandra Fadeff, program manager, admissions; Mary Balingit, assistant director of admissions and outreach; Dinko Lakic, associate director of student services; and Elinor Gregorio, assistant director of academic affairs.

In her nomination form, Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Haas undergraduate program, said the team has “delivered excellent service with positive energy and passion” on a regular basis during a very busy year.

“The team’s applied leadership methods are geared toward helping students become independent learners and effective leaders,” Walker wrote. “I am proud to have a team that supports and advocates for students, and provides equitable service.”

She noted that the office has recently launched and supported multiple new programs, including the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) program, a simultaneous degree between business and engineering; the BioBusiness simultaneous degree program with molecular and cellular biology; and a new Global Management Program (GMP) for freshmen that embeds global education into the undergraduate experience.

Barbara Felkins
Barbara Felkins, recipient of the Mary Slakey Howell Excellence in Advising Award.

“We always put the student experience first,” Blair said. “I’m honored that the office is being recognized.”

A stellar graduation rate

Walker also nominated Felkins, who began her tenure at Haas as an assistant in Associate Dean David Alhadeff’s office, under former Dean Ray Miles.

“From the smallest innovations to crisis care management, it is because of Barbara that we have a 99 percent graduation rate of business majors,” Walker wrote in her recommendation letter.

In her current role, Felkins oversees student degree progress from admission until graduation, assisting students with class planning, academic, and personal issues. Felkins also works with the faculty, tracking student grades and advising on academic policies. Additionally, she oversees undergraduate commencement and the graduation reception and serves on campus-wide committees, including the Colleges and Schools Committee, Student Systems Policy Committee, and the Advising Operations and Advising Council.

In his nomination letter for Felkins, Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean of instruction, called her the “longest serving and most deeply knowledgeable student affairs officer at Haas.”

“Her long tenure has been characterized by a unique ability to connect meaningfully and compassionately with individual undergraduate students while simultaneously enforcing fairness in a competitive and complex enrollment system,” Stowsky wrote.

(Left to right) Lecturer Steve Etter with Sojourner Blair and Karren Bautista Tanisaki of the undergraduate program office
(Left to right) Lecturer Steve Etter with Sojourner Blair and Karren Bautista Tanisaki of the undergraduate program office

Haas finance Lecturer Steve Etter commended Felkins for her attention to detail, knowledge of the university, and positive disposition with students.

“With ever-changing work and personal schedules, students often turn to Barbara for advice on choosing faculty, classes, and breadth requirements,” Etter wrote in his nomination letter. “I’ve heard so many times from students that Barbara was a life saver when it came to selecting classes and getting through the process.”

Adena Ishii, BS 14, recalled how Felkins helped her when her father was dying during her senior year at Haas, taking the time to sit and listen, and to make recommendations for resources she could access. “She wasn’t afraid to ask about my mental health and make sure that I was getting the help I needed,” she wrote in a recommendation for Felkins. “I wouldn’t have made it to graduation if it wasn’t for her.”

Haas Lecturer Krystal Thomas praised the office’s shift toward helping students with life preparation and management. As an example, she noted Walker’s support for Women’s Empowerment Day over the past six years, an event that brings 100 faculty-nominated students together annually to spend the day with more than a dozen senior business executives. The program evolved out of questions female students were asking about how to handle themselves in professional environments, Thomas said.

Support for the event represents a core tenant of the undergraduate office, Thomas noted: “If you see a problem, solve it.”

Haas honors Wall Street pioneer Margo Alexander for lifetime achievement

Margo Alexander
Margo Alexander, BS 68, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo: Amy Sussman/AP Images for Berkeley Haas.

Margo Alexander, BS 68, the retired CEO and chairman of UBS Global Asset Management who blazed a trail for women in the financial services industry, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th annual Haas Gala November 2.

The award recognizes members of the Berkeley Haas community who have achieved prominence in their fields. Alexander is the seventh person to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award from Haas, and its first female recipient.

During her career, Alexander was one of the first women to head a large asset management business. She was also the first woman to head a top-ranked research department and to oversee a major trading floor—doing it all while raising two sons with her late husband, Robert.

Haas Interim Dean Laura Tyson underscored the tenacity required to break those glass ceilings. “When Margo began her career, the behavior toward women in the financial services industry was appalling,” Tyson said. “She was able to handle difficult situations, successfully working with men and always trying to mitigate inequities by hiring and supporting women. As she moved through the ranks, she was able to influence how organizations behaved in those arenas.”

“Margo is the best!”

Her influence on employees was profound. “She changed the DNA of the firm,” said Mary C. Farrell, whom Alexander recruited and who retired in 2005 as chief investment strategist for UBS Wealth Management, USA, and co-head of the Wealth Management Research department. “She ran a trading desk full of young guys who said, ‘I’ll never work for a woman.’ Within a year they were saying, ‘Margo is the best!’ She had an extraordinary ability to connect with anyone.”

After retiring from UBS in 2003, Alexander joined Acumen, a global nonprofit changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in sustainable businesses, leaders, and ideas. Alexander served as board chair for nine years of Acumen’s first decade, and, as chair emeritus, continues as a board member.

Alexander’s traditional financial services expertise complemented Acumen’s social impact mission, said Tyson. “She played a pivotal role in building Acumen’s model.”

To date, Acumen has invested $110 million to build more than 102 social enterprises in countries including Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan, India, Colombia, and the U.S. These companies have created and supported 60,000 jobs and brought basic services like affordable education, health care, clean water, energy, and sanitation to more than 200 million people.

Brett Wilson. Photo: Karl Nielsen Photography
TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson. Photo: Karl Nielsen Photography

Alexander also extends her wisdom and support to Berkeley Haas. She has helped to boost the number of female students at Haas and to create Haas’ Institute for Business & Social Impact. She is on the senior advisory board for the Center for Responsible Business and has served on the Haas School Board since 2001.

Other alumni honored

Three other alumni also received awards at the Gala. Brett Wilson, MBA 07, received the Leading Through Innovation Award. Wilson revolutionized digital advertising by making it more simple, accountable, and transparent as co-founder and CEO of TubeMogul.

Wilson began the company with fellow student John Hughes, MBA 07, in an entrepreneurship class at Haas. The two grew the company into a tour de force, named one of the fastest-growing companies by Inc. and Deloitte and among the best places to work by Fortune, the San Francisco Business Times, and Glassdoor. They finally sold two years ago to Adobe for $540 million. Wilson now serves as Adobe’s VP of advertising and joined Adobe’s board of directors this year.

Also at the Gala, the annual Raymond E. Miles Alumni Service Award was presented to Abbey Breshears, MBA 15, and Brandon Doll, MBA 14, for their outstanding service to the MBA Worldwide Admissions Volunteer Effort (MBA WAVE) at Berkeley Haas.

MFE team advances to national data competition

Pierre Foret, Li Cao ,Teddy Legros and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19
Pierre Foret, Li Cao, Teddy Legros and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19

A team of Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students took first place in “The Data Open” this month, besting 25 teams who competed across UC Berkeley in the regional data science competition.

The winning team—Li Cao, Pierre Foret, Teddy Legros, and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19—won $20,000 in the competition semi-final, sponsored by Citadel LLC, a global asset management firm, and operated by data scientist recruiting firm Correlation One.

The Berkeley Haas semi-finalists will travel to the New York Stock Exchange later this fall to compete against top universities for a $100,000 grand prize.

The Sept. 8 competition asked teams to solve a complex problem by analyzing complex data sets.

More than 400 students across UC Berkeley applied to participate, and 100 were accepted. Event organizers grouped the contestants into teams, many of whom—including the winners—had not worked together before.

Choosing a question

<em>Teddy Legros, Pierre Foret, Li Cao, and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19</em>
Teddy Legros, Pierre Foret, Li Cao, and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19

The night before the event, the teams were given a description of data sets—data that applied to everything from 311 calls in New York state to restaurant inspection data. The teams were challenged choosing a question and finding the answer in the data.

“Most data science competitions focus on achieving the best possible score for a predefined metric,” Foret said. “In contrast, we had to come up with our own question, which is a lot closer to the type of problems a data scientist has to tackle in the industry.”

The team outlined two goals: identifying the top factors that influence public health in New York state and providing local government officials with policy recommendations based on their analysis.

Working through the night, they prepared code that allowed them to test their hypotheses quickly, so they were able to spend most of the competition time running experiments, analyzing the data, and choosing the most relevant problem to solve.

Legros said their data analysis tracked factors that affect residents’ health, including both traditional socioeconomic ones and several lifestyle considerations—such as smoking habits, eating habits and living conditions—that evolve over time. “Next, we identified clusters of regions where some of these determining lifestyle factors are more dominant. This can help policymakers develop regional proposals to improve the health of residents.”

“It was one of the most intense 24 hours I have spent,” Yoon said. “While the competition itself was short, I really learned a lot from our preparation.”

The judges, announcing the winner, said they impressed by the originality of the team’s question and the strategy to focus on comprehensive view of the factors involved.

Five transfer students shine at Zendesk Case Competition

<em>Haas juniors—all transfer students—Alec Li, Beta Jui, Nyquist Avilla, Andrada Metz, and Adriana Vanegas, won first prize at last week's Zendesk Case Competition.</em>
Haas juniors—all transfer students—Alec Li, Beta Jui, Nyquist Avilla, Andrada Metz, and Adriana Vanegas, won first prize at last week’s Zendesk Case Competition.

A group of five Haas junior transfer students bested 26 other undergraduate teams charged with revamping a pilot mentorship program for women in the Zendesk Case Competition last Friday.

Andrada Metz, Alec Li, Nyquist Avilla, Adriana Vanegas, and Beta Jui, took first place for their year-long program called “Azend.”

The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) and Berkeley Women in Business (BWiB) co-sponsored the one-day event, held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum.

The case competition, which was open to all UC Berkeley undergrads, grew out of EGAL’s alliance with customer service software company Zendesk, which recently provided a $1 million gift to the center.

The students were charged with helping Zendesk solve problems with its existing pilot mentorship program, including an imbalance of mentors and mentees, a program that was too short, and inadequate engagement. They were also asked to design the mentorship program to operate on a global scale.

The Azend home page for mentors and mentees.
The Azend home page for mentors and mentees.

Team Azend’s secret sauce may have been a standout app they developed for the company’s mentoring program. The app, developed around a curriculum and targeted content, allowed both mentors and mentees log in to a home page, check events, connect with each other outside of mentoring sessions, watch videos, and collect data to assess progress. During each quarter, the women participating in the Azend mentoring program would focus on one area, such as “growth and development,” and follow a self-assessment, working toward a goal that included sessions on developing self-confidence through skills such as public speaking.

The project was a true team effort that required many hours of intense work during the week they had to work on the case, said Metz, who is from Romania and transferred to Haas from Diablo Valley College. “Last night Alec, Beta, and Adriana were up until 3 am polishing the slides and making sure the app was working,” she said. “This week was hard. I had interviews (for internships), exams, and working on the case. But everyone did a great job.”

Li, who developed the app using prototyping software he’d used before in class, said everyone on the team had different strengths that made their project come to life.”

Nyquist agreed. “We all brought something to the table,” she said. “I brought the idea for the app and Alec was the brainpower behind putting it together.”

Kate McMahon, a senior director of sales and one of three Zendesk employees judging the case, praised the winning team’s work, noting that it was clear how serious they were about the challenge. “What we loved was the simplicity and how you pulled the challenges into one place,” she said. “We loved the engagement piece. That was a challenge. How do we keep people engaged when they’re not in one-on-one sessions?”

The winning students hug the Zendesk judges.
The winning team hugs the Zendesk judges.

After the winner was announced, the Azend team cheered and hugged.

Vanegas, a transfer student from Irvine Valley College, said she never expected to win. “As transfer students we really didn’t think that we’d be able to live up to the other continuing students so we didn’t believe we’d be here,” she said, adding, “I think one of the best experiences was being up all night and working together and making mistakes.”

Don’t blame the machines: New business analytics summit focuses on people

Berkeley-Fisher Center Summit for Business AnalyticsWhile developing a sophisticated algorithm requires technical expertise, leading a successful business analytics project can’t be done without paying attention to people. That’s the theme of the inaugural Berkeley-Fisher Center Summit for Business Analytics, to be held at the California Memorial Stadium on Sept. 27.

The new event, which is free and open to the Haas community, will explore how data-driven technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) affect people in the workforce, and how organizations can align people with processes to drive the success of analytics initiatives.

“Many business analytics initiatives fail, and our research shows it is due to misalignment with people in the workforce, rather than issues with the technology,” says Gauthier Vasseur, executive director of the Fisher Center for Business Analytics, which is part of Berkeley Haas’ Institute for Business Innovation. “Part of our mission is to educate management, finance and operations leaders on how to help their people become supporters of business analytics projects.”

The event, which kicks off with a dinner gala and awards ceremony on the evening of Sept. 26, is expected to attract an audience of about 100 students, industry leaders, alumni, and faculty to share experiences, learn from the latest research and real-world case studies, and network among peers.

“This summit is Berkeley Haas’ first big event around business analytics, and it matches thought leaders from the private sector with academic researchers and talented students who can join together to solve the biggest business challenges,” Vasseur says.

Why people affect the success of business analytics initiatives

Gauthier Vasseur is executive director of the Fisher Center for Business Analytics, which is part of Berkeley Haas’ Institute for Business Innovation.
Gauthier Vasseur

Vasseur shared an example of what happens when an organization overlooks the importance of people. A manufacturing company wanted to use AI and ML technology to solve a very expensive problem: the lost time and productivity that occurs when a machine stops working due to a broken or worn-out part.

The company built a highly sophisticated predictive-analytics platform to assess when parts needed to be replaced. The technology worked very well, but the maintenance workers didn’t trust the predictions and opted against replacing the recommended parts. The problem was that no one had considered their expertise and input, and the company had not shared enough information to earn their confidence in the new technology.

“In the end, the platform provided no benefit to the manufacturer, despite the significant investment and the accuracy of the technology,” adds Vasseur. “Our goal is to give businesses the research findings and tools to avoid these situations.”

Business analytics evolves beyond IT

Launched this year, the new summit reflects how Berkeley Haas has evolved its focus, research and curricula to address one of today’s most urgent business needs: analytics expertise. Formerly known as the Fisher Center for IT and relaunched last February, the center has held conferences for the past six years, focusing on the changing role of the chief information officer (CIO) and recognizing innovative CIOs with an award. This year’s event continues the tradition of presenting the Fisher-Hopper CIO Lifetime Achievement Award and introduces two new award categories: Excellence in Driving Transformation Award and Business Analytics Woman of the Year.

Awards recognize business analytics achievements

David E. Smoley is the chief information officer at AstraZeneca.
David E. Smoley
Ted Colbert is chief information officer at The Boeing Company.
Ted Colbert
Beena Ammanath, Global Vice President for Big data, AI, and Innovation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Beena Ammanath








This year’s Fisher-Hopper CIO Lifetime Achievement Award goes to David E. Smoley, CIO of AstraZeneca, a global, science-led biopharmaceutical business. At the summit, he will share how he led a performance turnaround that reduced drug development cycle times while reducing IT spending by more than $800 million (48 percent) over three years.

Other awards include the Excellence in Driving Transformation Award, which recognizes The Boeing Company’s CIO and Senior Vice President Ted Colbert, and the Business Analytics Woman of the Year Award, which honors Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s  Global Vice President for Big Data, AI, and Innovation Beena Ammanath.

Demystifying business analytics through research and case studies

Vasseur says the goal of the summit is to put data analytics into an actionable context that comprises data, people and processes for business success. Speakers will help unpack what AI and ML are, and how these technologies can be most effectively applied when including people’s support in their design.

Speakers include Haas faculty members Thomas Lee, associate adjunct professor and director of data science at the center; Andreea Gorbatai, assistant professor in the Management of Organizations Group; and Gregory La Blanc, distinguished teaching fellow with the Finance Group. Additional presentations by industry leaders include:

  • Sabrina Menasria, Chanel’s head of business intelligence and master data governance
  • Todd Wilson, Clif Bar’s senior vice president of IT
  • Robert Brown, Cognizant Technology Solutions’ associate vice president for the Center for the Future of Work
  • Alexandre Robicquet, Crossing Minds’ co-founder and CEO
  • Matteo Melani, Ellipsis Company’s CEO
  • Maik Henkel, Global Foundries’ senior manager and deputy director of finance

Tickets for the Sept. 26 dinner gala are still available here for a donation of $250 or more. The Sept. 27 summit is free to all who register at the bottom of this page.

Dean Lyons receives The Consortium’s Sterling H. Schoen Award

Dean Rich LyonsDean Rich Lyons has been honored by The Consortium for the Graduate Study in Management for his commitment to advancing opportunity and access to higher education for underrepresented minorities.

The annual Sterling H. Schoen Achievement Award, created in 2001 in honor of Consortium founder Sterling H. Schoen, a professor at Washington University, was presented at a reception held yesterday in Orlando, Florida.

The award acknowledges Lyons’ leadership in working with The Consortium, an alliance of top U.S. business schools and corporations aimed at fostering diversity among graduate business students and corporate leaders.

“We are so appreciative of The Consortium as a partner in helping us to create a more diverse student body and mindset at Haas,” Lyons said. “There are a great many people at Haas who have helped in our work with The Consortium and deserve to share in this award—especially our students, who have gone beyond themselves in taking on leadership roles that have had profound impact on our community.”

Lyons led Berkeley Haas to rejoin the consortium in 2010 after a seven-year hiatus following the passage of California Proposition 209, which prohibits public institutions from engaging in affirmative action programs. The school had withdrawn from the organization in 2003.

After The Consortium expanded its mission to support students who demonstrate a commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion, regardless of their race or national origin, Lyons worked closely with others at Haas to help bring the school back in.

In the first year after returning to the consortium, applications from underrepresented minorities jumped 44 percent, and the number of underrepresented minority students enrolled has increased.

The school continues to sharpen its commitment to being more representative and inclusive—one very recent example being the stronger diversity statement posted in multiple places on the Haas website.

Chancellor Christ Honors Dean Lyons with Berkeley Citation

Dean Rich Lyons accepts the Berkeley Citation award from Chancellor Carol Christ.
Dean Rich Lyons accepts the Berkeley Citation award from Chancellor Carol Christ.

Dean Rich Lyons was awarded the Berkeley Citation, among the highest honors the campus bestows on its community, in a surprise announcement at the Alumni Reunion Conference on Saturday.

Chancellor Carol Christ, who had just opened the conference with a joint keynote with Lyons about culture and leadership styles, paused the program to bestow the award. “It is my distinct privilege to present to Rich a Berkeley Citation for his distinguished achievements and notable service to the university,” said Christ, who was herself honored with the Citation in 2002.

“A set of core values and a sense of purpose”

The dean was visibly moved by the honor, as 600+ alumni gave a standing ovation.

Christ read from the Citation: “Rich Lyons believed business schools had both the responsibility and opportunity to instill a set of core values and a sense of purpose. The first step to realizing their mission was to create a new kind of business school culture.”

Haas colleagues nominated the dean with letters that paid homage to his authentic style as “a servant, leader, and a role model.” The letters cited his caring support for his direct team, active engagement with students, and his rock-star musical talents.

When Lyons became dean, it marked the beginning of one of the most transformative periods in Haas’ 120-year history—including an 18-month soul-searching exercise to determine the true values of the school. The exercise culminated in the codification of four Defining Leadership Principles, which rolled out in February 2010: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

Over the years, students and alumni have rallied around the principles as guiding leadership values.

About 1,400 alumni flocked to Haas last weekend for the largest-ever annual conference and reunion for MBA classes ending in the numbers 3 and 9, as well as the Class of 2017. The weekend featured career education “booster shots” from faculty on topics including fintech, design thinking, and equity and inclusion, as well as “HaasX” talks by alumni and plenty of social events.

Lyons also didn’t disappoint in the rock-star department, treating the audience to an acoustic guitar and vocal version of a favorite song: Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”

Assoc. Prof. Kolstad honored as top health economics researcher under 40

Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad_Berkeley Haas
Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad

Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad has received the top award from the American Society of Health Economists for researchers under age 40 who have made the most significant contributions to the field of health economics.

He shares the 2018 ASHEcon Medal with his collaborator, Assoc. Prof. Benjamin Handel of Berkeley’s Economics Department.

Kolstad said he’s honored to be recognized, relatively early in his career, for a larger contribution than just one paper, and for an ongoing collaboration.

“The fact that this was given jointly to Ben Handel and myself reflects an appreciation for some of the new avenues we’ve taken in health economics,” he said. “Much of our joint work has brought new data to bear on old problems that have really different implications when you get into how people actually behave, not just how we assume they behave. ”

Drawing on big data and behavioral economics

Kolstad’s research focuses on the intersection of health economics and public economics, and his work with Handel has also combined approaches from industrial organizations as well as behavioral economics. Their interdisciplinary, cross-departmental collaboration reflects the strength of health economics at UC Berkeley.

“We are very happy to have (Kolstad) at Haas, and we’re pleased by how he is helping to build interest in healthcare economics at Haas and across the Berkeley campus,” said Prof. Candi Yano, associate dean for academic affairs and chair of the faculty.

Recently, Kolstad and Handel have been working with a massive trove of health data on the entire population of the State of Utah over a long time period. The richness of the data has allowed them to analyze the different outcomes from different health insurers and health plans.

“We’re finding very large effects and big differences,” Kolstad said. “Simply changing insurers at the same employer—something most people encounter with some frequency—has huge effects not only on how much is spent on your health care, but also on how your healthcare is delivered.”

The researchers are now looking at what employers look for in choosing insurers and health plans, to answer the question of whether competition actually leads to “productive innovation”—i.e, improving care and lowering costs.

Data partnerships

Assoc. Prof. Benjamin Handel, Berkeley Economics
Assoc. Prof. Benjamin Handel, Berkeley Economics

Kolstad and Handel are also working on partnerships with a number of private companies, from digital health to employers and health care providers, to leverage their data for new research. “This is a particularly exciting area,” he says. “Collaboration between academics and private firms, particularly technology companies, is driving a lot of new findings. We hope to make similar strides on big health care questions.”

Since arriving at Haas from Wharton in 2015, Kolstad has brought his expertise with big data into the MBA curriculum, including developing a new “Big Data and Better Decisions” course that he co-taught with Prof. Paul Gertler this spring. Earlier this year, he was honored as a “40 Under 40” business leader by the San Francisco Business Times for his work as a cutting edge researcher, teacher, and entrepreneur. He founded a startup, Picwell, which now provides more than 1 million personalized insurance recommendations per year.

He said he’s excited by the practical applications of his academic work. “We all deal with our health, and the policies and products in the industry affect our everyday lives. The recognition for this work and its importance to the field will hopefully continue to push health economics more in this direction.”

Assoc. Prof. Patatoukas wins UC Berkeley’s most prestigious teaching award

Teaching award for Panos Patatoukas
Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas laughs with students during one of his evening & weekend MBA classes.

Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas has helped students find unexpected career paths in finance, launch companies, and open their eyes to the “intrigue, mischief, and opportunity boiling just below the surface of financial statements.”

For Patatoukas, it’s all in the service a larger purpose: democratizing access to financial information in the interest of a more equal society.

His passion, dedication, and instructional inventiveness have now earned Patatoukas UC Berkeley’s highest teaching honor. He is one of four professors across campus to receive a 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award, to be bestowed at a ceremony April 18.

Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas wins Distinguished Teaching Award“This is a very significant event for me, and I feel very honored,” says Patatoukas, who joined the Haas Accounting Group eight years ago just after earning his PhD from Yale University. “My mom did not get to come to any of my graduations, but I’m bringing her over from Greece for this one.”

The award is given annually to recognize sustained excellence in teaching that “incites intellectual curiosity in students, engages them thoroughly in the enterprise of learning, and has a lifelong impact.”

Patatoukas teaches interdisciplinary capital markets courses to students in the Berkeley Haas PhD and Evening & Weekend MBA programs, including the elective Financial Information Analysis, which has become one of the most in-demand courses in the program since he took it over. Far from dry number crunching, the class wins high praise from students who come in with a wide range of financial literacy—from investment bankers to computer science or humanities majors.

“Panos has a particular genius for teaching financial information analysis to those of us unaccustomed to finance,” wrote Walker Frost, EWMBA 16, an undergraduate philosophy major who now manages finances for a 50-person company. “Panos is so successful because his goal is not just to teach finance—it is to use financial analysis tools to teach us about things we already intuit but can’t yet explain.”

Talent for teaching all levels

Patatoukas’ work spans all academic levels. He serves as PhD field advisor for the accounting group, overseeing student recruiting, curriculum, and comprehensive exams while also teaching seminars and participating in dissertation committees. He also serves as faculty director of Berkeley Executive Education’s Financial Analysis for Leaders program, which he completely overhauled; he mentors undergraduate Regent Fellows; and he has introduced high school students to the idea of saving and compounding through the Berkeley Business Academy for Youth.

“The driving force of my teaching is to mitigate the problem of access inequality to financial information, to promote individual investor protection, and improve the allocation of capital in society,” he wrote in his teaching reflection for the award. “My goal is to democratize the power of financial analysis, and to bring this power to our students across various programs at UC Berkeley.”

A native of Greece, Patatoukas was valedictorian at Athens University of Business and Economics, where he earned his bachelor’s in accounting and finance. He went on to earn a master’s at the London School of Economics before moving to the US to attend Yale. His research focuses on corporate valuation and financial statement analysis; the properties of financial accounting data and reporting practices; cross-industry economic links and value creation along the supply chain; and forecasting, “nowcasting,” and measuring economic activity using financial accounting data.

Making finance “a living, breathing landscape”

In his teaching, Patatoukas draws widely from accounting, finance, economics, and operations management, writing many of his own real-life, real-time cases and adeptly translating theory to practice. Teaching does not compete with his research, but rather his research informs his teaching and rewards him with new ideas—a few of which have grown into research papers, wrote Assoc. Dean Candi Yano and Sr. Asst. Dean Jay Stowsky in their nomination.

“I wish I had the opportunity to be a student at Berkeley, even though I do feel like a student of my students,” Patatoukas said. “I learn every day from them.”

One former MBA student wrote that with four years of experience investment banking, she had been initially skeptical that she would learn anything from an MBA course in financial information analysis. But from the very first day, she was hooked. She came away from the course with insights that have benefited her career but also impacted how she evaluates her personal financial decisions.

Students also praised Patatoukas for helping them develop in new careers. Patrick Rivers, EWMBA 16, said he took the course soon after​ switching tracks from 10 years as a research scientist to a​ dream job at a hedge fund, evaluating biotechnology investments. He said the course not only gave him a concrete way to evaluate investment opportunities and practical skills that made him “100% better” at his job, but he became genuinely excited about the world of finance.

“There was an entire world of intrigue, mischief, and opportunity boiling just below the surface of these financial statements, and I wanted to be as immersed as possible in that financial milieu. Panos made this a living, breathing landscape and not just a bunch of numbers on a page,” he wrote in his recommendation letter.


Patatoukas high-fives an MBA student.

Approachable mentor

Last fall, Patatoukas also took on the mentoring of three undergraduate Regent Fellows, including freshman David Lu, who wrote that he had felt overwhelmed and uncertain after changing his life-long dream of becoming a doctor and deciding to pursue business. Patatoukas is “the most approachable, kindhearted, charismatic and welcoming professor I have ever met,” and has been patient in describing career paths in business and the fundamentals of investing as well as the broader social implications of his work, he said.

“His goal of democratizing the power of financial information analysis and giving power to all people truly embodies the defining principles of Berkeley Haas,” Lu wrote. “He has proven to me, through his actions, that it is possible to have such altruistic and benevolent goals in the business field.”

Prof. Sunil Dutta, the Joan & Egon von Kaschnitz Distinguished Professor of Accounting and International Business and former chair of the accounting group, attributes Patatoukas’ exceptional teaching skills to his passion for his students and for his research, his ability to translate academic material to non-specialists, and his constant focus on improvement. “He studies each student’s feedback after the course and makes all the necessary changes to the content and teaching material based on this feedback. He is not satisfied even if there is a single student who has difficulty in following the material.”

He also makes himself available to students, guiding MBA independent study projects and mentoring graduate student instructors, noted Mike Rielly, CEO of Berkeley Executive Education and former assistant dean for the Berkeley MBA for Executives program. Rielly also called out Patatoukas’ “commitment to developing independent thinkers.”

Highly lauded teacher

The award comes on top of several other recognitions for Patatoukas’ teaching and research. He is a three-time winner of Berkeley Haas’ highest teaching honor, the Earl F. Cheit Award; he also won the school’s Schwabacher Award for Distinction in Teaching and Research and was the recipient of the 2017 AAA/AICPA Notable Contributions to Accounting Literature Award. He was also selected by Poets & Quants among the “2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors“; by the San Francisco Business Times as part of the “40 under 40 Class of 2017,” and as a “Top 10 Business School Professor Under 40 by Fortune.

Past Berkeley Haas faculty winners of the Distinguished Teaching Award include:

  • Ulrike Malmendier (2015)
  • Teck-Hua Ho (2010)
  • Sara Beckman (2001)
  • Rich Lyons (1998)
  • David Modest (1992)
  • Earl Cheit (1989)
  • Frances Van Loo (1985);
  • Andrew Shogan (1979)
  • Richard Bagozzi (1978)

Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman honored with graduate student mentoring award

Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman
Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman is honored for her work mentoring graduate students.

When Rachel Dzombak’s PhD advisor, beloved engineering Professor David Dornfeld, died unexpectedly in 2016, she was not sure what would happen next.

“That morning was a nightmare,” said Dzombak, now a postdoctoral researcher at Haas and at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. “I came back to the lab after receiving a text from a peer to see Sara sitting on the couch, comforting students.”

“Sara” is Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman, who co-taught a course with Dornfeld, the founding faculty director of the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation. After his passing, Beckman served as Dzombak’s advisor until she graduated with a PhD in civil and environmental engineering in August 2017. Dzombak credits Beckman with not only comforting her through her grief, but helping her unite the disparate parts of her research.

Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman with Rachel Dzombak, PhD 17.
Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman (left) with Rachel Dzombak, PhD 17

“She digs into the details,” Dzombak said. “She provides constructive ideas and, if she doesn’t know how to navigate a problem, she’ll connect you with three people who might. She never settles.”

That experience led Dzombak to nominate Beckman for the 2018 Carol D. Soc Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award for senior faculty. Beckman, who teaches innovation and design at both Haas and UC Berkeley’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, will receive the campus-wide award at a ceremony April 12.

Fiona M. Doyle, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate division of the Donald H. McLaughlin Professor of Mineral Engineering, said Beckman’s nomination stood out from the pool of numerous nominees.

Solving complicated problems

Beckman, who joined Haas in 1988 and is the Earl F. Cheit Faculty Fellow, is perhaps best known among MBA students for Problem Finding, Problem Solving, a pioneering course that has been part of  the core curriculum since 2010 to teach students how to recognize and solve complicated problems using design-thinking, systems-thinking, and critical-thinking techniques. Students often cite the course as making the difference for them in competition wins and consulting projects.

Beckman also teaches Applied Innovation Immersion Week, Advanced Innovation, Creativity & Leadership, and Collaborative Innovation.

Much of Beckman’s work has included years of hands-on research-based mentoring and coaching of PhD students, getting into the thick of highly interdisciplinary work. Beckman said she’s thrilled to receive the award.

“I know that the way that I’ve crafted my research work at the university, reaching across disciplinary boundaries to work on interesting problems in the design and innovation space, is a bit outside of the norm,” she said. “It’s gratifying for me and for many of the PhD students I’ve worked with over the years to know that kind of work can be honored.”

Many people wanted to contribute to her nomination and tell stories of how Beckman played a definitive role in their Berkeley experience. Dzombak, the lead nominator, spoke with current and former students, as well as faculty, from Haas, the College of Engineering, the College of Environmental Design, the College of Letters and Sciences, and the College of Natural Resources, for Beckman’s recommendation.

“The message told to me was consistent: Sara changes students’ lives,” Dzombak wrote.

“Sara electrifies students with possibilities”

Haas lecturers Marymoore Patterson, MBA 09, and Barbara Waugh, an executive in residence at both Haas and the College of Engineering, praised Beckman’s commitment to interdisciplinary teaching. Working across departments, as Beckman has done over the years, has posed challenges. But gradually Beckman’s choices made her a “hero to students and faculty who want to partner across the boundaries,” they wrote in their nomination letter.

Sara Beckman teaching Problem Finding, Problem Solving
Sara Beckman teaching Problem Finding, Problem Solving

“Sara electrifies her students with possibility,” they wrote. “She fearlessly tackles wicked problems, constantly modeling how. She begins each day herself with the ‘beginner’s mind’ that she aims to instill in her students.”

Engineering Prof. Alice Agogino called Beckman “a mentoring artist” who steers students with “insightful framings of their research.”

Doctoral students mentored by Beckman include Assoc. Prof. Eric Masanet of Northwestern University, PhD 04, whom Beckman helped evaluate data from case studies in sustainable design; Corie Cobb, PhD 08, now an associate professor at the University of Washington, whom Beckman assisted with a number of papers dedicated to understanding the impact of her course in New Product Development; and Kimberly Lau, who researched the role that diversity plays in effective product development team performance.

Lau, who also wrote a nomination letter for Beckman, recalls how she pulled her back into the PhD program, even after she quit to take her dream job at Disney. “Dr. Beckman refused to give up on me,” she said. “She continually encouraged me to finish and she always made time whenever I had questions… She persisted with me for three years beyond my expected completion date, with no hesitations, and I finally graduated.”

Dzombak and Beckman continue to work together today, conducting research on the future of higher education and the innovation processes of Nobel Laureates. Together, they launched a one-unit course for graduate students called Designing a Life. The goal is  to help other students navigate career and personal challenges.

Beckman’s award, which includes a $2,500 prize, will be presented at a ceremony on Thursday, April 12, from 4-6 pm, at Anna Head Alumnae Hall.  Not surprisingly, she says she will apply the award toward supporting her graduate students.

Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad honored as “40 Under 40” business leader

Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Kolstad, who uses big data and behavioral economics to investigate the complexities of the health care system, has been named a “40 Under 40” business leader by the San Francisco Business Times.

The award honors 40 young leaders who “exemplify the creativity, passion and perseverance that have come to characterize the Bay Area,” according to the publication. The awards were published March 5.

Since joining the Haas Economics & Policy Group in 2015, Kolstad has become known as both a cutting-edge researcher and a popular teacher. His MBA courses include “Health Economics and Policy” and “Big Data and Better Decisions”—a new class that gives students advanced training in how to analyze and use large-scale data.

As a researcher, Kolstad employs machine learning and economic analysis through a behavioral lens. His studies demonstrate that conventional wisdom can lead businesses and policy makers astray when it comes to health care.

For example, he has studied the mistakes people make when they choose health insurance plans that lead to large financial losses and worse health coverage. He found that high deductible health plans—often thought to be a silver bullet to improve efficiency—actually lead to large reductions in high value and low value care, particularly for the sickest enrollees.

Kolstad is particularly interested in finding new models and unique data that account for the complexity of health care markets, including how health reform impacts hospital care, the labor market, and insurance premiums. In one study, he looked at what motivates doctors, and found that feedback can be more important than pay.

He has also combined his passion for solving thorny academic problems with developing real-world tools that help people avoid costly mistakes when choosing health insurance. He founded a startup, Picwell, to provide personalized recommendations for insurance. The tool now provides more than 1 million recommendations per year from Medicare to state exchanges and employer-based insurance.

In addition to his teaching and research, Kolstad serves as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and co-leads a health care initiative at the UC Berkeley Opportunity Lab that uses data from private firms and government to understand population health and its role in inequality. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and a BA from Stanford University.

Prof. Andrew Rose receives Williamson Award—highest faculty honor

Prof. Andrew Rose, Williamson Award winnerProf. Andrew Rose, an international finance scholar who has taught macroeconomics to three decades of Berkeley Haas students, has received the Haas School’s highest faculty honor: the Williamson Award.

The award is named after Nobel Laureate and Haas Prof. Emeritus Oliver Williamson, and honors Haas faculty members who exemplify the attitudes and behaviors that differentiate our school. Rose is the fourth recipient of the award.

“Andy is not only a groundbreaking scholar whose economic insights have guided countries around the world; he is also an outstanding teacher and tireless supporter of Haas—both in his formal role as associate dean and chair of the faculty and in his work mentoring rising scholars,” said Dean Rich Lyons. “Indeed, his six years of service as our associate dean are arguably the greatest beyond-yourself service any faculty member has given the school in the last ten years.”

Rose, the Bernard T. Rocca, Jr. Chair in International Business & Trade, has taught and conducted research at Haas since 1986. He served as associate dean of academic affairs and chair of the faculty from 2010 to 2016, and previously as chair of the Economic Analysis & Policy Group and founding director of the Clausen Center for International Business & Policy.

“Only three Haas faculty have received this reward and each, in my opinion, is among the very highest caliber faculty at Haas; the elite of the elite,” said Rose. “Truly, I am both honored and humbled to join their ranks.”

Prolific scholar & frequent advisor

Rose is a prolific and highly cited scholar whose research addresses international trade, finance, currency and exchange rates, and economic crises. Over the course of his career, he has published more than 150 papers, including 90 articles in refereed economics journals; organized over 50 conferences on four continents; edited 15 books and symposia; and served as a visiting scholar at 12 universities.

A native of Canada who holds triple citizenship in his home country, the US, and the UK, Rose has worked as an advisor to a multitude of economic agencies, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, as well as central banks in a dozen countries, including the US.

Berkeley Haas Prof. Andrew Rose teaching

Mentor and teacher

Yet amid all that activity, Rose has gone beyond himself to mentor colleagues and give back to the school, according to the award nomination. Rose, who won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1999 and 2011, has been generous in sharing teaching tips through the former Haas Center for Teaching Excellence (now the Compendium for Teaching Excellence). He has also used his research expertise to provide detailed feedback to more junior faculty members, a nominator wrote: “In the way he approaches research, he questions the status quo. I recall every single comment and suggestion that he gave me.”

Award honors Oliver Williamson

Prior winners of the Williamson award are Prof. John Morgan, Prof. Teck Ho, and Prof. Toby Stuart. Winners are selected annually by a committee made up of Williamson, prior winners, and the dean. Rose was named the winner for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Williamson is the winner of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and a beloved teacher and leader at Berkeley Haas. Williamson embodies the spirit of the Haas School articulated in the Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude; Beyond Yourself; and Students Always.