Startup Roundup: TomoCredit and SuiteSocial

The startup roundup series spotlights students and recent alumni who are starting a new business or enterprise.

Woman holds green credit card
Kristy Kim, Co-founder of TomoCredit, participates in Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars Program in New York. Photo courtesy: Kristy Kim.

TomoCredit
Co-founders: Kristy Kim, MBA 20 and Dmitry Kashlev, (of MIT/Media Lab)

 All Kristy Kim, MBA 20, wanted to do after she finished her undergraduate program at Berkeley was buy a car to travel for her new job as a mergers and acquisitions analyst.

 But every time she applied for an auto loan, she was denied for the same reason: she had no credit history in the U.S., a common problem for international students and 20-somethings.

She decided to solve it with her new company TomoCredit. Unlike traditional credit card companies that issue credit based on history and FICO scores, which are used to assess credit risk, TomoCredit uses cash flow data to determine an applicant’s creditworthiness. Using a data aggregator called Plaid, Kim and her team can evaluate six-month’s worth of banking data to determine if a person qualifies for the credit card and sets a credit limit.

 “I want TomoCredit to be the go-to credit card for millennials,” Kim said. “We are taking a really bold step by saying no to the industry and the FICO score system and instead relying on cash data to make credit decisions. We think it’s the right way for the new generation.”

 In partnership with Evolve Bank & Trust and Mastercard, TomoCredit launched on October 15. Customers can apply for the card by signing up on the website

Image of TomoCredit website

 TomoCredit, short for Tomorrow’s credit, offers consumer benefits, including up to 20 percent cash back and discounts with select retail stores, Kim said. The company makes a profit through interchange fees, which merchants pay every time a customer uses a credit card.

 TomoCredit was one of nine startups included in this year’s Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars Program. The 13-week program provides access to mentors and investors from the most influential FinTech and startup companies in the U.S.

 “Barclays Accelerator is the top FinTech accelerator in the world, offering resources that we simply don’t have in the Bay Area,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. “Since their inception, I’ve worked with them to propose several UC Berkeley teams, but none were the perfect fit until now. Kim is solving a huge problem in a unique way—that’s an irresistible combination that can best leverage the network and resources in a global financial hub like New York.”

 Kim credits Lecturers Kurt Beyer and Gregory La Blanc for helping her to develop and refine TomoCredit’s business model. 

 “His Entrepreneurship and Innovation course was the best class I took in my undergraduate career because he invited entrepreneurs to campus and that was really cool,” she said. “It was the first time I thought about starting my own startup.”

 Years later, Kim co-lectured Blockchain and Cryptoeconomics with La Blanc and surveyed roughly 200 students about their experiences with accessing credit. Those surveys would serve as market research for her fledgling company.

 Kim has secured seed funding from high profile FinTech investors in New York and Silicon Valley and has collaborated with micro-influencers through SuiteSocial, (see below) an online marketplace for influencers founded by Haas alumni, to get the word out about her credit card.

 “We hope more people will think of us and use TomoCredit as their primary card.” Kim said. “Once you find a credit card that knows how to underwrite you, you’ll never want to go back.”


SuiteSocial
Co-founders: Jennifer DeAngelis, MBA 19 and Lea Yanhui Li, EMBA 19

Woman giving a presentation.
Jennifer DeAngelis presenting at TechCrunch Disrupt. Photo credit: David C. Hill.

When Jennifer DeAngelis worked in digital media, she kept hearing from clients concerned about trust issues: brand owners felt that influencers didn’t do enough for the amount of pay they received. Influencers said brands expected too much for the pay they were willing to give. 

 “On top of that, there was the issue of fraud: influencers buying followers to attract brands,” she said.

DeAngelis thought she could offer something better. She connected with Lea Yanhui Li, EMBA 19, a former Oracle software and technology engineer, and together they created SuiteSocial—an online marketplace that influencers and brands can use to collaborate. Using artificial intelligence, SuiteSocial helps brands find relevant influencers for their online campaigns and empowers influencers to promote their talents and assess a fair payment for their posts.

DeAngelis knows how to think and act as both a social media influencer and brand strategist. When she was 21, she vlogged about her Peace Corps experience in Albania on YouTube. After her video received more than 100,000 views, she realized that she had a knack for creating engaging content. She previously worked creating digital campaigns for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, The Four Seasons, and Bass Pro Shops. Today, she is considered a “micro-influencer,” someone who has 10,000-30,000 followers on her social media platforms.

 At Haas, she took Entrepreneurship 295 and Network Effects with Lecturers Kurt Beyer and Prashant Fuloria, which gave her the confidence and business acumen to develop SuiteSocial. 

Along the way, she sought advice from mentors, including Michael Wilson, eBay’s employee #5, and Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. It was Shrader who encouraged DeAngelis to participate in the LAUNCH Accelerator Program, where she won $10,000 in seed funding. Thereafter, DeAngelis won $5,000 from the Trione Student Venture. Soon, she plans to begin fundraising for more capital.

Two women pose for picture.
Co-founders Lea Yanhui Li and Jennifer DeAngelis at Techstars LaunchPad Propel Day.

Since launching SuiteSocial, DeAngelis and Yanhui Li have acquired five clients, including credit card company TomoCredit, on-demand car rental startup Kyte, and New York-based barbecue restaurant, Smok-Haus. (TomoCredit and Kyte were founded by current and former Haas students.)

TomoCredit’s CEO Kristy Kim said SuiteSocial has been a great platform to promote her credit card. “Thanks to SuiteSocial, TomoCredit was able to find the right Instagram influencers to work with.”

Ultimately, DeAngelis’ wants SuiteSocial to be a one-stop shop for content creators and brands. “We want to be so much more than just matching brands and influencers,” she said. “We want to be the platform destination where brands and influencers can go and fulfill all their business needs, replacing traditional agencies.”

Berkeley Haas receives STEM designation in all three MBA programs

Berkeley Haas is among the first business schools to receive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) designation in all three of its MBA programs. The designation makes all international students who graduate eligible to apply for an additional 24-month visa extension during post-MBA employment.

Haas’ STEM OPT extension is retroactive to December 2018.

All current international students studying on F-1 visas will be eligible to apply for the extension while they are in their first year of work authorization after graduating from the MBA program, said Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions. Approval of the extensions will depend on the individual training plans that employers and MBA graduates submit, Johnson said.

“We anticipate that this will lead to expanded opportunities for our international graduates who pursue jobs incorporating business analytics, modeling, forecasting, and other skills developed through our program,” he said.

The MBA programs received the STEM designation after a campus review of how the programs are categorized by the National Center for Education Statistics under a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code.

The new code defines the Berkeley Haas MBA as “a general program that focuses on the application of statistical modeling, data warehousing, data mining, programming, forecasting and operations research techniques to the analysis of problems of business organization and performance.” After the review, the Haas MBA degree programs were changed from “Business Administration and Management, General,” to “Management Science,” which is considered a STEM program.

The BIO STEM OPT webpage outlines the extension rules and application process for F-1 students, including information about the responsibilities of employers in the process.

Learn more about the Berkeley Haas MBA programs:

Full-time MBA Program
Evening & Weekend MBA Program
Executive MBA Program

 

 

Veterans Day 2019: Why we serve

The Berkeley Haas community thanks our student veterans for their contributions to the greater campus and, more importantly, to their country.

“Every year, our student veteran community grows, enriching our campus with unique insights, wisdom, leadership, and unyielding dedication to helping others,” said Dean Ann Harrison.

This Veterans Day, we asked four student veterans about what it means to serve and how they continue to serve their communities. Students interviewed include:

  • Ami Patel, FTMBA 21, former U.S. Army captain & Black Hawk pilot
  • Andrew Price, EWMBA 20, former U.S. Coast Guard commanding officer
  • Joseph Choi, FTMBA 21, former U.S. Navy Seal officer
  • Adan Garcia Nevarez, BS 21, former U.S. Marine Corps squad leader

Check out what they had to say:

EMBA’s Kirsten Berzon on the hard-won fight for marriage equality

Kirsten Berzon, associate director of events and experiential learning for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program (left), with her wife, Kathy, photographed in 2009 next to their SF Pride poster.

In the summer of 2009, Kirsten Berzon and her wife, Kathy, could be seen embracing everywhere around San Francisco. Larger-than-life pictures of the couple covered the sides of MUNI buses and shelters, reflecting San Francisco Pride’s “To Form A More Perfect Union” theme.

At that time, Berzon was a board member for Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), an organization that advocated for civil marriage equality in every state and at the federal level. For nine years, she fought for the freedom to marry—until the Supreme Court in 2015 struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalizing it in all fifty states, and requiring states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses.

We talked to Berzon, associate director of events and experiential learning for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program, about growing up in Oakland and Berkeley, where her parents owned a well-known local cafe, her history of social justice activism, and weathering turbulent LBGT rights politics.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Ames, Iowa. My mom was a professor in the English Department at Iowa State University. We moved to Oakland when I was four and a half, so I consider myself a California native.

Photo of Kirsten Berzon with her brother Ian and father during the mid-1980s.
Kirsten, (right) who grew up in Oakland and Berkeley, with her father and brother during the mid-1980s.

I actually grew up in Oakland and Berkeley, because my parents are divorced, so I spent half the week in each city.  In Berkeley our family is a little famous because my parents owned the Homemade Café, a breakfast/lunch greasy spoon. They opened in 1979 and it’s still going strong. They sold it in 2011.

Photo of Kirsten Berzon with her mom.
Kirsten (left) with her mom at her 2008 wedding.

You come from a family of social justice advocates. What was that like?

My dad went to Rutgers University in New Jersey  and was the president of the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization that did a lot of work against the Vietnam War in the ’60s. In addition to SDS, my mom was also heavily involved in the civil rights movement. I think that’s where it started. My whole life, my parents, and my aunt and uncle, my dad’s siblings, were very active, so any topic you can think of—the pro-choice movement, or the war in Iraq, LGBT rights—they’re out there. Since Trump got elected, I think they’re sort of reliving their activist days. I’ve heard my dad say things like, “I thought the ’60s were over. I can’t believe that we’re still fighting for these same issues.”

So how old were you when you came out?

I was 20. It was the summer between my junior and senior year in college. I’d never dated boys, wasn’t even remotely interested except for one sixth grade crush. Also, I didn’t have any interest in girls. When I went away to college, my freshman year I thought, “Okay, I guess I’m supposed to have a boyfriend.” So my roommate and I decided we were going to try and find boys in the dorm to be friends with as a starting point, and we did. And I still didn’t have any romantic interest in them. That kind of went nowhere, but my second year in college I met a woman in the dorm who became my best friend. I also fell in love with her. She was the first lesbian I knew who was my age.

Were there issues when you came out?

It was really hard when I came out to my mom and she said, “Well, you don’t know.” She knew that I was in love with my friend, but she thought that it was a phase, and that it was about that particular person and not about coming to terms with my sexuality.

So how did you finally convince your family?

We got into a lot of discussions and eventually my mom came around, but what I realized is that everyone in the family had to go through their own coming out process. It wasn’t just me. And that was hard to take. It was actually my stepmom, when I came out, who said, “Well, we knew that a long time ago.” And I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?” While it wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped for, that was a blip on the radar I would say. They are the most loving and supportive family and I am so grateful. My mom and I have marched in the San Francisco Pride Parade multiple times with PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians & Gays, with people crying and screaming as we went by. It’s such a euphoric feeling.

Can you talk about why you got involved with Marriage Equality USA?

Marriage Equality USA was a very small volunteer driven organization that for many years had little or no paid staff. Our mission was to change hearts and minds by talking to people, one conversation at a time, about why marriage mattered. I believe that is what changed the tide so incredibly quickly on this issue. People realized that all we wanted were the same legal rights that any heterosexual married person had.

Kirsten thanked then Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for his role in the fight for marriage equality at the Marriage Equality USA San Francisco Awards Reception in May 2013.
Kirsten thanked then Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, for his support of marriage equality at the Marriage Equality USA San Francisco Awards Reception in May 2013.

What do you remember about the day that the California Supreme Court granted the rights of marriage to same sex couples?

It was May 15, 2008. I remember that day very clearly. It was a few months before I started working at Haas. I remember sobbing at my computer, overcome with joy, and being totally distracted, thinking, “Oh my God, I’m supposed to be at work.” I read every email and article I could get my hands on and listened to the radio analysis of the decision. I couldn’t understand how the world could keep going like everything was normal, when my life and the lives of so many marriage equality activists like me had changed so dramatically with this victory.

My wife and I got married in August of 2008, along with 18,000 other couples in California, in what became known as the Prop 8 window.

But then Prop 8 passed in November 2008, a ballot measure that eliminated the rights of same sex couples to marry in California. What did you do?

That was a very, very dark time. You felt like you were just trying to live your life and yet there was just so much hate out there. I was working at Haas when Prop 8 passed. Obama had just won his first election, and I was elated. But Prop 8 had passed, and I was destroyed by that. Having those two emotions at the same time was really hard to reconcile.

Considering all that you’ve worked for, including the eventual Supreme Court decision to strike down all same sex marriage bans in 2015, how much does the current political environment worry you?

I’m incredibly nervous. We won marriage, which was huge and what we’d been fighting for for years, but you can still be fired for being gay in 26 states. Brian Silva, the former executive director of Marriage Equality USA, calls it “lived equality.” He’d say, “If you can get married to your same-sex partner on a Sunday, but bring a picture from your wedding into work on Monday and get fired, we have a lot of work left to do.” While we were all incredibly thrilled that we gained the freedom to marry, there are still so many LGBT civil rights battles yet to be won. I’m worried and I don’t think marriage equality is a given anymore. Just like I’m worried about Roe v. Wade, as a former reproductive rights activist. I don’t think either of those hard won rights are safe in the current climate.

Kirsten Berzon and her father at her wedding.
Kirsten and her father celebrate at her wedding.

 

EMBA students’ Alabama road trip: Reflections on racial injustice

A trip to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, over Memorial Day weekend led Lisa Rawlings, EMBA 19, to redefine courage.

“Putting myself in my grandparents’ shoes, I realized that courage was not always resistance, but sometimes it was simply endurance, which often required unthinkable compromises to their dignity to save their lives and those of their loved ones,” said Rawlings, whose African American grandmother was born in Alabama and left for Memphis as a teenager.

EMBA Students
Left to right: Claire Veuthey, EMBA 19; Travis Adkins; Lisa Rawlings, EMBA 19; John Gribowich EMBA 19; Alexei Greig, EMBA 19; Suprita Makh, EMBA 19; Vansh Makh (Suprita’s husband); and Adam Rosenzweig, EMBA 19, gather in front of the City of Saint Jude Parish in Montgomery, the final campground site for the people who marched from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights.
Father John
John Gribowich (who is also a Catholic priest) at the Brown Chapel AME Church, which was the staging area for the beginning of the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
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The outside of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also called the lynching memorial. "Certain places come to encapsulate large, complex issues: the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Berlin Wall, Robben Island," said Adam Rosenzweig. "Without visiting the place, you can’t fully understand the issue. The National Memorial for Peace & Justice has become such a place for anyone seeking to better understand the legacy of racial terrorism in America."
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More than 4,300 documented lynchings of African Americans took place between 1877 and 1950. "I was taken aback by the horror we are able to inflict on each other," said Suprita Makh. "I knew this on an intellectual level but it was something else to be confronted with in person, to put names and faces behind numbers."
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Jars that contain samples of soil from confirmed lynching sites in Alabama. The victims' names are on the jars. "The sadness and pain I felt while reflecting on the sheer number of people tortured, humiliated and murdered during lynchings or protests... I will not become jaded to the utter terror black Americans experienced for centuries here and continue to experience today," said Alexei Greig.
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"In my mind lynchings had been horrendous acts carried out by tens or a few hundred white men in response to perceived slights," said Alexei Greig. "Learning that they were a class of lynchings that were public events with crowds of thousands, with audiences of women and children who took joy in the spectacle was beyond sickening."
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"I took this trip to honor the legacy and sacrifice of my grandparents...and all of those before them," Lisa Rawlings said. "I think especially of my grandmother who was born in Alabama and left for Memphis as a teenager. She never looked back and never spoke about her life in Alabama."
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"I thought we would have to look harder for signs of “the old South," Adam Rosenzweig said. "I expected that time and modernity would have forced the most visible elements of slavery and racism underground or into sanitized museum exhibits. This was not the case."
bridge photo
The group walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which is named after a Grand Wizard of the KKK. "This shocked everyone in our group," said Adam Rosenzweig. "We all knew the name of the bridge, but we didn’t know who it was named for. It’s a powerful and not uncommon symbol of the centrality of white supremacy in Alabama."
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"I’d like to think I would have been part of the freedom fighters, willing to risk my life for equal voting rights," said Claire Veuthey, (left). "But I’m not that brave. I’m pushing myself to consider: what’s the analogy today? What’s the injustice we’re too timid to call out, too frightened to push back against?"
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"I still will never comprehend the full extent of the injustice and ongoing plight that exists for people of color," said John Gribowich, left. "I can only try my best each day to be a bit more empathetic and challenge how I am selflessly using my white privilege for the betterment of society."

Rawlings was among a group of six students in the MBA for Executives program who traveled to Alabama to connect the history of racial injustice in America to the present day. Rawlings was joined by Adam Rosenzweig, John Gribowich, a priest who made the same trip last year, Alexei Greig, Claire Veuthey, and Suprita Makh, all EMBA 19.

In Montgomery, the group visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also called the lynching memorial, which opened in 2018 and was built by the the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative. They toured the City of Saint Jude Parish and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the first church where Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor. After visiting the Lowndes Interpretive Center (in 1965, 80% of residents in Lowndes were African-American and not a single one was registered to vote), they walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the scene of the stand-off between the marchers for voting rights and law enforcement on Bloody Sunday in 1965.

(All photos by John Gribowich and Adam Rosenzweig)

Kellie McElhaney named to “Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” list

Kellie McElhaney in classroom teaching.
Kellie McElhaney teaches students to be “equity fluent leaders.”

Kellie McElhaney, distinguished teaching fellow and founding executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender, & Leadership at Berkeley Haas, has been named among the “Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” by the San Francisco Business Times.

McElhaney was featured among more than 100 Bay Area women leaders in real estate, law, tech, finance, health care, and education, among other industries. The women chosen all share a passion for what they do and are leaders in their organizations and their communities, according to the SF Business Times.

McElhaney joined Berkeley Haas in 2002 as an adjunct professor and founded the Center for Responsible Business, serving as its executive director. In 2008, The Financial Times rated Haas #1 in the world for corporate social responsibility.

Over the years, McElhaney has been interviewed as an expert on gender equity and inclusiveness, women in business leadership, the gender pay gap, and #MeToo by media outlets ranging from Bloomberg and The Washington Post to NPR and Forbes.

McElhaney, who earned a PhD from the University of Michigan, told the SF Business Times that her biggest professional accomplishment was being dubbed “chief inspiration officer” by her MBA students. She said she’s also proud of teaching more than 1,000 Berkeley students a year to be “equity fluent leaders,” a term she uses to describe leaders who understand inclusiveness and how to lead people from all gender and ethnic backgrounds. McElhaney is currently teaching “The Value of Equity Fluent Leadership” across all degree programs.

She said the biggest challenge of her career was finding her voice to stand up to gender discrimination and harassment. “I’ve learned that I need to practice what I teach, and that by speaking up, I help countless women, not just myself.”

Her sister, Mary Lynne, is her personal hero, she said. A triathlete who weathered difficult professional and personal circumstances after she came out, her sister was able to reclaim “her authentic self,” McElhaney said.

“She’s a fearless big sis crusader for me and always has my back,” she said.

McElhaney, the mother of two college-age daughters, serves on the board of Sierra Global Management LLC and is involved in the community as a board member of the national nonprofit Empower Her Network. She also serves on the gender equity committee for the California Athletics Board.

New Exec MBA class arrives at Haas

The new class of 68 Berkeley MBA for Executives students who arrived at Berkeley Haas this month is an accomplished professional group that includes a cardiac surgeon, a professional chef, a healthy snack entrepreneur, and a rocket scientist.

Class of 2020 Berkeley Haas Executive MBAs
Photo: Noah Berger

“We’re so excited to welcome this interesting new class,” said Susan Petty, director of admissions for the Berkeley EMBA program. “They have talents in so many areas inside and outside of their professional lives, and their backgrounds are incredibly diverse.”

Students average between eight to 22 years of work experience in industries ranging from tech and retail to energy and consulting. The group works at a total of 65 companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Abbott, Intel, Google, Chevron, Sephora, CVS, Applied Materials, and McKesson.

About 34 percent of the class arrived from outside of the Bay Area, hailing from Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Washington DC. More than half (54 percent) were born outside of the U.S., including China, Canada, Romania, Israel, Iran, Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. More than half are are multilingual.

The average age among the students is 37, and about a third are women.

Students said they’ve returned to Haas for an MBA for many reasons: to change a career path, start a company, or gain new skills to move up in their existing jobs.

Ben Nagar, a software engineer at Facebook who is from Israel, started a mobile payment company that he ran for three years, shutting it down in 2015.

“It was a great experience, but I needed more tools,” he said.

Nagar said he came to Haas to learn more about business operations, entrepreneurship, and innovation. “I like the mentality of the school and the pride in culture here,” he said. “It’s innovation oriented. I felt like it was the right place for me.”

Paris Latham, who works at Oakland-based Nelson-Nygaard, where she’s using data and maps to create more livable and connected communities, said she wanted MBA skills “to implement change for good in a larger way.”

Latham, who grew up in Berkeley and whose mother earned both an MBA and a law degree from UC Berkeley, said she’s especially excited about the EMBA immersion trips, experiential learning weeks that comprise a quarter of the EMBA curriculum. “I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone,” she said. “Everyone is really serious about the program and it’s nice to know that there will be an unmatched level of commitment.”

Shahed Behed Behjat, who serves as the Oracle lead at aerospace company PTI Technologies in Oxnard, California, said he’s hoping to start a group fitness company based on traditional Persian fighting methods that combine movement with weights.

He said he chose Haas because he wanted a residential MBA program. “If I’m going to come all the way to graduate school I wanted to meet the people and get to know them,” he said. “For me, that’s 50 percent of the experience.”

Some facts about the Class of 2020:

  • Three students have four children each—and the class has a total of 73 children. One student has a son who will enter UC Berkeley this fall as a freshman in the College of Engineering.
  • 28% of the class is the first generation in their families to go to college, and 33% hold at least one advanced degree, including two PhDs, two MDs, one JD, and a pharmacy degree.
  • 12% of the class has served in the military, including the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. One student led special ops forces through combat missions, and another carried out the largest drug bust in U.S. history, Petty said.

Michael Kim, EMBA 20, on snacking to success

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re featuring profiles and interviews with members of our Haas community.

The 2020 EMBA Class
Michael Kim (front row, center) is one of 68 students in the new class of Berkeley MBA for Executives. Photo: Noah Berger.

Twenty years after founding 180 Snacks, a healthy snack company he started up in his kitchen, Michael Kim, EMBA 20, decided to seek a formal business education. His goal was to leave his $30 million company in good shape for his children.

Kim, who arrived in the U.S. from Korea as a child and attended UCLA as an undergrad, launched 180 Snacks in 1998 for personal reasons. He wanted to feed his four kids an alternative to the sugar-packed Twinkies, Hostess donuts, and candy bars that he grew up with. The trick was making his snacks not only healthy but delicious. Today, the Anaheim-based company’s products—organic Almond Square Crunch, Pistachio Squares, Nut & Seed Crunch, and the latest, the Skinny Rice Bar—are sold online and at big retail chain stores including Costco, Trader Joe’s, and CVS.

We spoke with Kim about his childhood as an Asian immigrant, the hurdles he faced, and why he enrolled in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.

Where did you grow up and what was your experience growing up Asian in your community?

I was born in Seoul, Korea, and lived there until I was 10 years old, when my parents emigrated to Southern California. I lived in many places as a kid, usually in the rougher area of Los Angeles. We were a typical Asian American family. My parents went through tough times, working 12 hour days, carrying multiple jobs, and they finally managed to own and operate a small beauty supplies shop. Growing up in America was tough, mainly due to racial discrimination, but I was determined to make the best out of the cards I was dealt.

Michael Kim, EMBA 20
“I want my children to know that they are 100% American, and at the same time, they are 100% Korean.” – Michael Kim, EMBA 20.

Did you learn about Asian American history at all in school?

No. When I came to the U.S. in the early 1970s, as many Asian families did, Asian history wasn’t of interest yet in schools. As part of the first wave of new immigrants, my parent’s priority for their children was to assimilate by making sure we learned English and adapted to American culture quickly. They believed that was the expressway to college and the guaranteed path to success in America.

You have four children in their 20s. Was their upbringing different from yours?

They were all born in the U.S., so their first language, unlike mine, was English. They grew up in Southern California, surrounded by a large Asian population, so it was very competitive—in fact, too competitive—so we moved to Mission Viejo, California, to give them a more normal childhood. My two sons have since graduated from university (UC Irvine and UC Berkeley)  and I have two daughters who are still in school (at Wellesley College and UC Riverside). My children understand about 90 percent of spoken Korean, but they can only speak about 40 percent. They’re working on it!

Why is that important to you?

As a Korean American, I believe that understanding the mother language and ancestry is of paramount importance. I want my children to know that they are 100% American and, at the same time, they are 100% Korean. We take many trips to Korea and to many other Asian countries so that the Asian heritage is ingrained in their identity, alongside their pride in being American. I am the 29th generation of the Kim family and I want my children to be proud to be the 30th generation, and for their children to be the 31st generation of the Kim family.

Michael Kim with his wife, Katherine, and children.
Michael Kim (center) with his family: Josephine, Eugene, (wife) Katherine, Timothy, and Rachael.

How did 180 Snacks break into Costco?

It started in the Fall of 1998 when I approached the regional Costco buying office, at a time when being an Asian American and selling to the mainstream U.S. market was not so well received. When I got there, they saw a young Asian fellow and said, “Delivery is in the back.” They assumed I was a delivery guy because I wasn’t white. However, after the meeting with the buyer and some trial sales, my product was well received. The real shocker came when the buyer gave me a whole truckload for an order, which was impossible for me to fulfill. My journey into the world of Willy Wonka’s snack factory had become real.

What brings you back to get an MBA after running a successful business for years?

With my company, I did everything instinctively. I came back here to see if I did it right—so this is more of a confirmation for me. My sons Timothy and Eugene are now training with me to be the company principles. But we’re a small family that sells to major chains so I want to make sure that when I leave this company everything is set up the way it should be. At Berkeley Haas, I am wearing different shoes than the rest of my cohort. So many people here want to be entrepreneurs and live the American dream. I hope that my experiences encourage future entrepreneurs, and that I can be a reference and share my experiences. This is just one small way I can give back.

Who are your Asian heroes?

I read a lot of Confucius and Taoist teachings growing up. The teachings of these great teachers share many similarities with our Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

Choreographing Haas’ future: New Dean Ann Harrison outlines her plans to advance Haas

Dean Ann HarrisonBerkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison grew up with an insatiable curiosity and a dream to make the world a better place.

No surprise, then, that she ended up at Berkeley—first as a double major in history and economics and later, after receiving a PhD in economics from Princeton, as a professor in the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics from 2001 until 2011. She then joined the World Bank as director of development policy and after that the Wharton School of Business, where she gained international acclaim for her research on foreign investment and multinational firms. On January 1, Harrison “came home” to Berkeley once more—this time to serve as the 15th dean of Berkeley Haas.

She recently spoke to BerkeleyHaas magazine about her early years on campus, her groundbreaking research, and her plans for strengthening Haas as a leader in 21st century business education.

What was your experience as a Cal undergrad?

Being a Berkeley student and growing up in the Bay Area pretty much shaped who I am today. I had an independent streak and had hiked all over California by the time I was in junior high. I remember campaigning door-to-door in support of a statewide ballot initiative to protect our coastline. When I came to Berkeley, I lived in a co-op on the North Side. I was—and still am—into modern dance and loved that I could take dance classes on campus from former stars with the Martha Graham company and go to Zellerbach Hall and see great performances. I wrote dance reviews for the Daily Cal and was elected to the ASUC senate.

How did you get interested in economics?

I started off as a history major with a plan to go to law school. But then I took economics and loved it. One day I saw a posting for someone to do the grading for Econ 101A and the professor, Leo Simon, hired me—although he was taking a bit of a risk since I was an undergraduate. He became my mentor and convinced me to get a PhD. He really changed my life. After college I became a health economist at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. It opened my world to the power of data. Kaiser had millions of members, and I would stay in the office until 10:00 p.m., just analyzing the data.

How did your time at the World Bank shape you as a leader?

It taught me diplomacy, patience, and how people can do amazing things when they have the will to work together. After the financial crisis a decade ago, the bank’s lending tripled but its overall budget stayed flat. So, there was a lot of competition internally for fewer resources. The different parts of the bank were able to overcome that because of the strong relationships between people.

You are a much-cited scholar in your field. What inspires your research?

As a trade economist, I’m interested in real-world questions and their policy implications. What I find most interesting are big-picture policy issues. During my first business trip to India in 1986, I was part of a team that helped the Indian government formulate policies to increase competition and reduce monopoly power. To be able to take part in a project that helps economies solve problems in real time is very satisfying.

The question I have been most obsessed with recently is whether rising international competition has led to job losses and stagnating wages for the American worker—and whether free-trade economists miscalculated the costs of globalization or whether trade is just a scapegoat. I’ve concluded through my research that China is not the culprit. The cause of all those job losses is automation. The Factory-Free Economy, a book I co-edited with French economist Lionel Fontagné, looks at what will happen to high-income economies when many tasks become automated and jobs that used to exist are done by machines.

Read the full interview here.

Berkeley Haas rises in the U.S. News rankings

The Full-time Berkeley MBA and the Berkeley MBA for Executives rose to their highest ranks ever in the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking published today.

U.S. News ranked the Full-time Berkeley MBA #6 for the first time—tied with Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Columbia Business School; the Berkeley MBA program had ranked #7 for the prior 11 years.

The full-time MBA rankings are based on data provided by participating U.S. schools and on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs, as well as surveys of corporate recruiters and company contacts. The score is calculated from placement success and starting salary (35%), student selectivity (25%), peer poll (25%), and the average of the last three years of recruiter polls (15%).

The Berkeley MBA for Executives rose to #7, up from #9 last year, in the EMBA ranking. The EMBA ranking is based entirely on the peer assessment by business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs.

The Evening & Weekend MBA ranked #2 with an index of 99 (out of 100) points, after being ranked #1 for the past six years. The part-time MBA ranking is based on a peer assessment score by deans and MBA directors (weighted 50%), various student quality measures, and percent of MBA students who are part-time (12.5%).

In the specialty rankings, Haas placed as follows:

#3 in nonprofit

#5 in entrepreneurship

#6 in international

#8 in finance

#8 in management

#9 in marketing

#14 in accounting

#14 in info systems

#14 in production/operations

#19 in supply chain/logistics

The full report is available here.

Berkeley MBA for Executives grads urged to embrace adversity, “go beyond yourself”

"Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself," Dean Harrison told the graduates.
“Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself,” Dean Harrison told the graduates. (Left to right) Audrey Ng, Katherine Mlika, Shalaka Kharche, and Rohini Panjrath. All photos: Jim Block

Be open to risk, embrace adversity, and go beyond yourself were inspiring messages delivered to 69 students in the Berkeley MBA for Executives (EMBA) Class of 2018 who graduated last Saturday.

“We live in challenging times,” said commencement speaker Tootie Tatum, EMBA 15, CEO of Blackhawk Genomics. “There’s no shortage of tribalism, cynicism, or discord. You are truly empowered to change that tide in the world because if you don’t, who will?”

At a ceremony packed with students’ friends and family in Hertz Hall, Dean Ann Harrison praised the class for persevering through 19 months of a rigorous management and leadership curriculum—all the while managing demanding jobs, and maintaining active family and social lives.

“Many of you traveled long distances to take classes,” said Harrison, who presided over her first commencement as new dean. “This wasn’t always easy. Finding ways to balance all of these commitments is nothing short of remarkable, and we applaud you. After this, you can accomplish anything.”

Dean Harrison with Valedictorian Jim Griffin.
Dean Harrison with Valedictorian Jim Griffin who “excelled in the program and encouraged others to excel as well.”

Jessica LaBounty, chosen as the class student speaker, described the support that her classmates provided each other. “Our cohort family has become a new and powerful kind of mirror,” she said. “In this mirror, we have the opportunity to see ourselves not as our families see us, not as our work colleagues see us, and certainly not as we see ourselves. This Haas mirror has the remarkable ability of showing us who we are capable of being. This mirror, this faith we have in each other, is full of optimism and bravery.”

Together, the group experienced the Haas School’s unique brand of experiential learning, which comprises 25 percent of the curriculum. At the heart of this EMBA format are five immersive learning experiences led by Haas faculty on location: leadership communications in Napa, applied innovation in San Francisco, entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, business and corporate social responsibility in Copenhagen, and policy in Washington DC.

Distinguished Teaching Fellow Veselina Dinova received the Earl F. Cheit Award For Excellence In Teaching for her instruction.

“In (the course) Financial Information Analysis, Veselina made the fine print of financial statements come alive with her infectious enthusiasm for this characteristically dry topic,” Jay Stowsky, senior dean of instruction, said before presenting the award.

The award for outstanding graduate student instructor went to Auyon Siddiq, who was the GSI for Prof. Lucas Davis’ Data & Decisions course.

Grads were surrounded by friends and family at Saturday's EMBA commencement.
Graduates were surrounded by friends and family at Saturday’s commencement.

Stowsky also delivered the Valedictorian Award to Jim Griffin. “Our valedictorian award goes beyond celebrating the student with the highest GPA,” he said. “It also celebrates the student who excels in an intense and accelerated environment. Not only did Jim excel in the program—he encouraged others to excel as well.”

The ceremony included Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles Awards, which went to Michael Guimarin (Question the Status Quo), Kate Mansalis & Ron Sasaki (Confidence Without Attitude), Jim Griffin (Students Always), and Laura Hassner (Beyond Yourself). A 5th Principle award, for embodying all four principles while always choosing graciousness, went to Wendi Chiong and Brian Tajo.

Tatum, who holds a PhD in biomedical sciences and has made her mark in genomics, urged graduates to be open to risk, and welcome adversity with open arms. But she also noted that there’s a safety net available to them if they fall.

EMBA Class of 2018
The EMBA 2018 Class

“Know that this Haas fellowship that you are now a part of is for a lifetime,” she said. “Everyone here who has come before you, we are really your safety net.”

Harrison closed the ceremony with a reflection on Martin Luther King Jr.

“Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself,” she said. “In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrated on Monday: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?'”

Chris Larocca and Trevor Buehl chaired this year’s EMBA student campaign, raising almost $60,000 to support faculty and student excellence at Haas.

VIDEO: Veterans Day 2018—Student vets reflect on going beyond yourself

This Veterans Day, we thank our Berkeley Haas student veterans for their service and for all they they contribute to our campus community.

“We’re delighted to have one of our largest classes of veterans studying at Haas this year,” said Interim Dean Laura Tyson. “Those who volunteer to serve their country feel a calling to do something beyond themselves. It makes veterans a perfect fit for Berkeley Haas since they embody our Defining Leadership Principle ‘Beyond Yourself.’ We are grateful for the leadership skills and the global perspectives our veterans bring to the Haas community, and we thank them for their service.”

We asked four student veterans to share what “Beyond Yourself” means to them:

  • Poga Ahn, EMBA 18, former U.S. Army captain
  • Rodrigo Flores, EWMBA 21, former U.S. Navy submarine officer
  • Cassidy Nolan, BS 19, former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence chief
  • Katie Rentz, FTMBA 20, former U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicles department head

Here’s what they had to say:

 

More Resources

Haas Veterans Club

Veterans in the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program

Veterans in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program

Veterans in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program

Haas Undergraduate Program

More videos about veterans at Berkeley Haas

Cristy Johnston Limón, EMBA 16, on transforming lives and communities through the arts

In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we’re featuring interviews and profiles with members of the Haas community of Latin American descent. For our first interview, we caught up with Cristy Johnston-Limón.

Cristy Johnston Limon, EMBA 16, executive director of Youth Speaks (Photo by Noah Berger)
Cristy Johnston Limón, EMBA 16, executive director of Youth Speaks (Photo by Noah Berger)

Cristy Johnston-Limón, EMBA 16, is the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants who grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District, where she worked as a young urban neighborhood activist. A first-gen UC Berkeley student who went on to graduate from the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program, Johnston-Limón was the former executive director of Destiny Arts in Oakland. She’s now the executive director of Youth Speaks, an organization that aims to transform young peoples’ lives and communities through the arts. 

Recently, she volunteered for the CARA Pro Bono Legal Project, which works with lawyers and translators to help asylum-seeking mothers at the border prepare for their “credible fear interviews,” the first step in a lengthy process to gain protection from violence and persecution in their native countries.

“The majority of the women were from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras,” Johnston-Limón said. “As a Guatemalan woman who speaks the language and understands our cultural norms, I was able to build rapport and trust quickly with the mothers, some who were struggling with the trauma of migration, and having been separated from their children while gaining entry into the U.S. I have never felt more proud of my fluency than I did when I discovered that all of the women I worked with were granted asylum, and have a fighting chance to start a new life in this country.”

We asked her a few more questions:

Tells us about your heritage.

My ancestral roots are Mayan. Both of my parents are from Guatemala and met in San Francisco in the mid 1970s. My grandparents are from Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of my favorite places to visit, drink coffee from my grandfather’s coffee plants, and listen to American rock music with my cousins.

What aspect of your cultural heritage do you enjoy sharing most with others?

Being bilingual and bicultural has opened so many doors, professionally and personally. I was raised to value family, friendships, and personal connections which have translated into being able to make a connection with virtually anyone from any background. Emotional intelligence is a powerful skill that builds bridges, creates opportunities for genuine connection, and more. Having developed this cultural fluency has really helped propel my career in public service as I engage with people from all walks of life, sometimes in the same conversation.

How did your heritage shape your desire to get an MBA and your career path?

Obtaining higher education is still largely limited in our Latinx community, with just under 4% of U.S. Hispanics obtaining master’s degrees [2016, U.S. Census Bureau reported 3.9%]. Being the first person in my family to graduate from college, from UC Berkeley no less, I felt a responsibility–still feel it–to push myself beyond what I think I can do and make a greater impact in my family and my community through higher education. I knew an MBA could open more doors for my social impact work, as increasingly nonprofit leaders must also have business fluency, but what I didn’t account for was that other young men and women, particularly young people of color, would be inspired by my journey.

Today, as the director of the country’s largest spoken-word organization, I am using every skill and tool I learned at Haas to advance social justice through the arts, centering youth voices and narratives to make lasting change for the better.

MBA students’ globe-trotting education with GNAM

Students participating in the GNAM program concluded their week preparing and sharing traditional Irish food at Ballyknocken Cookery School with owner and chef Catherine Fulvio.
Students participating in the GNAM program in Ireland concluded their week preparing and sharing traditional Irish food at Ballyknocken Cookery School with owner and chef Catherine Fulvio.

On a recent study trip to Ireland, Laura Hassner found herself in a Dublin supermarket chatting with a Slovakian classmate who co-owns 250 bakery outlets about the difference between stores that buy dough from factories versus those that bake from scratch.

For Hassner, EMBA 18, the business strategy conversation was one of many outlining the unique challenges facing small businesses as well as conglomerates during a “The Future of Food” course taught at University College Dublin’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. The course, with 30 international students enrolled, is one of many offered through the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), an international consortium of 30 business schools that Haas joined three years ago.

Founded by the Yale School of Management in 2012, GNAM allows graduate business students to study at a member school, joining other students from around the world for a week of lectures, discussions, field trips, and immersion in another culture.

Students participating in GNAM select from a range of classes and locations; in the fall of 2018, for instance, students at member schools will choose from 16 classes, including “Leadership Challenges in Latin America,” offered at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile School of Business, and “Service Excellence in the Tourism Industry,” taught at the University of Indonesia Faculty of Economics.

Opening perspectives

While Haas has forged relationships with other business schools in the past, it accepted the invitation to join GNAM to give its students more opportunities in far more countries. Many Haas students have lived or worked internationally, but they haven’t had this kind of learning experience abroad, says Jamie Breen, assistant dean of Haas programs for working professionals, adding that Yale School of Management is the only other U.S. institution in the network.

Studying in a GNAM course “opens up different perspectives for students and makes them think about the assumptions they bring to the table,” Breen says. “They will come to a topic area with a U.S. lens and then suddenly learn the history, government, and regulatory and social framework of the country they’re in,” she said.

For some Haas students, participating in the program helps further interests that are personal as well as professional.

Brian Tajo, EMBA 18, who moved to the U.S. from the Philippines as a child, in June traveled to the Asian Institute of Management in Manila for a class on growth strategies for southeast Asian nations. Tajo, who has family living in the Philippines, says that the course strengthened his understanding of the economies of southeast Asia and will help him ultimately fulfill a personal goal of working in economic development in the Philippines.

<em>L-R:</em> <em>Rocky Lee, associate dean of the Asia Institute of Management, Brian Tajo, EMBA18, and Professor Federico Macaranas. Tajo traveled to the Asian Institute of Management in Manila for a class on growth strategies for southeast Asian nations.<br />
L-R: Rocky Lee, associate dean of the Asia Institute of Management, Brian Tajo, EMBA18, and Professor Federico Macaranas. Tajo traveled to the Asian Institute of Management in Manila for a class on growth strategies for southeast Asian nations.

“That aligned with my life ambition,” says Tajo, currently a senior product manager at software company Salesforce. Given the growth potential of southeast Asia, “I’m fortunate to have a head-start” in learning about the region, he says.

Women in leadership

All Haas students are eligible to participate in GNAM classes and earn two credits for their overseas study. In June, 35 Haas students attended courses at 11 schools, while 33 students from other institutions came to Haas to take the class “Women’s 21st Century Leadership,” taught by Professor Laura Kray.

Among other issues, students discussed gender inequality around the world. “We certainly had some interesting conversations about how some of the pathways for equality that we’ve identified that work in a U.S.-centric environment require further nuance and contemplation in cross-cultural settings,” said Kray.

The class provided the chance to “brainstorm a future that’s appreciative of women’s leadership strengths,” she added.

Students can also take GNAM’s online classes taught by business faculty at member schools. INCAE Business School in Costa Rica, for one, expects to offer a semester-long class in operations management analytics in the fall, while University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business plans to teach a course entitled “Urban Resilience.”

Haas is considering offering online classes in game theory or entrepreneurship.

Breen sees future opportunities for collaboration among Haas and other schools in the network. Possibilities include holding joint alumni events and opening Haas’s annual Global Social Venture Competition to students at network schools, with a goal of forming teams comprised of students from both Haas and member schools.

Participating in GNAM, Breen says, “has been enormously successful for us.”

Faith in an MBA: A priest comes to Berkeley Haas

John Gribowich, EMBA 19, outside of Chou Hall at Haas.
John Gribowich, EMBA 19, outside of Chou Hall at Haas.

With his horn-rimmed glasses, wool sweater, and goatee, John Gribowich blends in with many of the buttoned-down professionals in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program (EMBA) at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

But Gribowich, 39, is equally comfortable in a robe — as a priest who often leads Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Church after beginning his day serving breakfast at dawn to the homeless in downtown Berkeley.

“I never take my priest hat off,” says Gribowich, who has chosen to live at St. Joseph’s throughout the 19-month EMBA program, which typically draws a cohort of about 70 professionals from around the world to learn leadership, strategy, entrepreneurship, and finance. “I am always conscious of it. As a priest, you are always connected to ministry. I say Mass at church here, and I haven’t ceased doing priestly ministry. I am just not full-time in a parish.”

<em>Father John Gribowich and lead cook Robert Bradshaw clean up after community breakfast they helped serve at the Dorothy Day House
Father John Gribowich and lead cook Robert Bradshaw clean up after community breakfast they helped serve at the Dorothy Day House in Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Last April, Gribowich was released from his parish duties in Brooklyn, New York, where he served as an assistant pastor, to work at DeSales Media Group, the communications arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn. At the time, DeSales, which publishes and broadcasts news from a Catholic point of view, had plans to launch a big tech project to connect and modernize the systems shared by all of the diocese’s local parishes.

Gribowich was chosen to be a consultant for the project, but needed the technology project management skills required to do it. “My bishop said, ‘You need the right schooling,’” he says. “I said, ‘An MBA makes sense for everything I need to do.’ I set my sights to the west, where there’s a great creative and progressive vibe.”

After one visit to UC Berkeley, he decided the campus was a perfect fit for him because of its culture, commitment to public service and social justice, and location as a tech hub. “Who I am as a Catholic, who I am as a priest, who I am as a person, just syncs perfectly with Berkeley’s mission,” he said. “It’s seamless.”

Taking a gamble, Gribowich applied only to Berkeley Haas. It paid off, and he headed to California, joining a diverse EMBA cohort that this year includes an artificial intelligence expert in the Pentagon, four doctors, an expert on rare wine and an Italian woman who commutes to class from her solar power startup job in China. One student speaks seven languages, while another helped rescue 11 hostages in a military operation.

Gribowich is the only student priest in the history of the EMBA program, says Susan Petty, the program’s director of admissions.

Father John Gribowich prepares to celebrate a weekday mass at the St. Joseph the Worker church in Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)</em>
Father John Gribowich prepares to celebrate a weekday mass at the St. Joseph the Worker church in Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Growing up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia, Gribowich says he felt pulled to the priesthood as early as first grade. While initially drawn to the priest’s external actions, the intellectual and spiritual sides of the vocation had become more intriguing and attractive to him by high school.

Ordained in June 2015, Gribowich was assigned as parochial vicar at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica, Queens. His days were busy. “Some people mistakenly think being a priest is just working Sundays,” he says. “But you’re meeting with people, attending to sick calls, going to hospitals. It’s a very demanding and full schedule. No two days are ever the same!”

As a priest, he says he’s aligned with a long tradition of Catholic creativity that he feels has waned in recent years and that he would like to help revive. “There is something about being Catholic that should intrinsically stir innovation, because you are constantly searching for that which is real and true in the world,” he says. Gribowich adds that his creativity is inspired by everything from playing guitar to listening to Bob Dylan to studying a Caravaggio painting.

As a Catholic, Gribowich follows the teachings of the late Dorothy Day, a political radical who was central to the pacifist Catholic Worker Movement, which combines aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action professed by Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi. Five years ago, Gribowich’s love of Dorothy Day led him to help found a Catholic Worker farm in Harvey’s Lake, Pennsylvania, where workers and students visit to connect with the land. The farm, run by two of his former undergraduate professors from DeSales University, a private Catholic university, donates its produce to local food pantries.

<em>Gribowich gives communion to worshippers during a weekday mass at the St. Joseph the Worker church. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)</em>
Gribowich gives communion to worshippers during a weekday mass at the St. Joseph the Worker church. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

At UC Berkeley, Gribowich finds that the classroom is another opportunity for creative connections and discussions. So far, he’s found the MBA coursework — accounting, data analytics, microeconomics — challenging as well. (His master’s degree is in art history from Pratt Institute, which never required subjects like calculus, he says.) Gribowich says he’s surprised at how supportive his classmates have been as study partners and friends. “There’s a genuine openness,” he says. “I can see these people being friends for life.”

Carol Shumate, one of Gribowich’s EMBA classmates, says students were curious about him from day one, when they all introduced themselves. “They were like: ‘What’s a priest going to do with an MBA in the church?’” she recalls. That first day, she says, Gribowich drew the biggest laugh of all when he described his love of Bob Dylan, whom he has seen perform more than 40 times. “He put his hand up and said, ‘This is how much I love God.’ And then he put the other hand just beneath it and said, ‘This is how much I love Bob Dylan,’ ” Shumate says.

Shumate, who calls Gribowich “one of the most fascinating people I have met in the recent past,“ says she’s always surprised when he talks about history and art, sometimes breaking out in song. One day, he crooned Neil Sedaka’s “Oh! Carol” to her, a song she’d never heard but which he explained to her in detail.

Sometimes Gribowich’s theological background emerges in class, where he likes to strike up conversations and doesn’t shy away from controversy, says classmate Adam Rosenzweig. “He knows a lot and thinks a lot and has been trained about how people relate to God and religion,” he says. “We all bring various expertise to the program, but nobody forgets what (Gribowich) does.”

Professor Lucas Davis, who teaches statistics, says Gribowich’s unique perspective comes through “even in a class as a class as dry as statistics,” where Gribowich, rather than answering a question, might question Davis’s thought process in asking the question.

After Gribowich graduates, he plans to return to Brooklyn and his job at DeSales, where he will navigate the process of providing local parishes and nonprofits with tech tools to manage everything from data — such as historical information found in the church’s marriage and baptism documents — to the church’s financial records.

But for now, he’s enjoying UC Berkeley and the academic experience in his EMBA class, which will head to Santa Cruz this month to explore leadership communications in one of the program’s five week-long experiential field immersions. Other immersions include trips to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., as well as overseas.

“I love it here,” he says. “I’m surrounded by so many creative people. It puts me in awe.”

Haas Professor Laura Tyson named business school’s interim dean

Haas Interim Dean Laura Tyson
Haas Interim Dean Laura Tyson. Photo: Karl Nielsen

Laura D’Andrea Tyson, renowned economist at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, has been named the school’s interim dean as of July 1, Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ announced today.

Tyson joined the Berkeley Economics Department in 1977 and the Haas faculty in 1990.  She was the dean of the Haas School from 1998 to 2001. She also served as dean of London Business School from 2002 until 2006. She has graciously agreed to serve as interim dean at Berkeley Haas while the chancellor’s office continues to work on recruiting a permanent dean. The chancellor’s office hopes to have a new dean named and in place this fall.

“We are so fortunate that somebody as able and uniquely qualified for this role as Professor Tyson is willing to step in and help the school during this leadership transition,” said Chancellor Christ. “When Laura was dean of Berkeley Haas, she initiated many important programs that laid the foundation for the school’s financial and reputational strengths today. Haas couldn’t be in better hands.”

Tyson succeeds Professor Richard K. Lyons, who has served as the Haas School dean for 11 years. Lyons will to return to his full-time faculty position at Haas next year following a well-deserved sabbatical.

“The Berkeley Haas community recognizes and appreciates the enormous contributions that Dean Lyons has made during his deanship,” said Tyson. “I am honored by the opportunity to serve our community during the transition to the new dean.”

Currently, Tyson is a Distinguished Professor of the Graduate School and serves as the faculty director of the Haas School’s Institute for Business and Social Impact, which she launched in 2013. The Institute houses the Centers for Responsible Business (CRB), Social Sector Leadership (CSSL), and Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGaL); the Global Social Venture Competition, BOOST and B-BAY. Tyson also chairs the Board of Trustees at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley.

Tyson is an influential scholar of economics and public policy and an expert on trade and competitiveness. She served as Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1993 to 1995 and as Director of the White House National Economic Council from 1995 to 1996. She was the first woman to serve in these two positions.

Tyson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She serves on three corporate boards and as an advisor to or member of several advisory boards for nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Tyson has devoted some of her policy attention to the links between women’s rights and national economic performance. At the World Economic Forum (WEF), she is the co-chair of the Global Future Council on Education, Gender and Work and is a Stewardship Board member of the System Initiative on Education, Gender and Work. She is the co-author of the WEF Annual Global Gender Gap Report, which ranks nations on economic, political, education, and health gender gaps. She is also the co-author of Leave No One Behind, a report for the United Nation’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment (2016).

Much of Tyson’s recent research focuses on the effects of automation on the future of work. She is the co-organizer of WITS (Work and Intelligent Tools and System), an interdisciplinary faculty group created to explore the impacts of digital technologies and artificial intelligence on working, earning, and learning.

New Executive MBA immersion focuses on the Nordics

Robert Strand with sons, Mikkel (Batman), Jonas, and wife, Sarah, in Copenhagen on the iconic Christiana Bicycle made in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Robert Strand, who will lead the first Nordic EMBA immersion, with sons, Mikkel (left) and Jonas, and wife, Sarah, in Copenhagen on the iconic Christiana Bicycle made in Copenhagen, Denmark

How do Nordic countries dominate virtually all global sustainability metrics? Why are Nordic companies three times more likely to be in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index than U.S. companies? How did the brewer Carlsberg leverage open innovation to develop the green fiber bottle? And how did IKEA become a global leader in supply chain social responsibility?

Berkeley Executive MBA (EMBA) Class of 2018 students will explore the answers to these questions and more during a new international Immersion Week called “Sustainable Business in the Nordics.” The August 20-24 trip is organized and led by Lecturer Robert Strand, director of the Haas Center for Responsible Business (CRB) and an expert in sustainability and Nordic business—defined as business in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland.

“Simply put, the Nordics are global leaders in sustainable business,” says Strand, who will accompany 70 EMBA students to Denmark during a week of sessions and site visits. “There’s no better place on the planet to go to learn first-hand about the most progressive approaches to sustainability and sustainable capitalism. The world is in need of inspiration, and the Nordics provide it.”

This new international immersion to the Nordics is one of five experiential learning weeks that comprise a quarter of the EMBA curriculum.

Strand, who came to Haas in 2014, has close ties to the Nordics. Arriving in Norway as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in 2005, he returned to the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark in 2009 to earn a PhD and continued thereafter as an assistant professor before coming to Haas. He maintains a formal affiliation with the Copenhagen Business School as an associate professor.

Robert Strand
Robert Strand

Over the past decade, Strand has led hundreds of American business school students and professors on immersion study tours traveling across the Nordics with the University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education’s CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research) program, and the Copenhagen Business School. The new EMBA immersion schedule is the culmination of these years of Strand’s experiences and connections.

The Nordic approach to business appeals to Strand for its flat organizational structure and democratic practices, emphasis on greater gender equality, and embrace of social purpose. “There’s a deep-seated commitment to consensus-building, a participatory leadership style, humility, and humanism in Nordic business,” says Strand, who grew up in Wisconsin and earned an MBA in international business at the University of Minnesota. “Life in the Nordics—and business as a component of it—is fundamentally seen as a cooperative endeavor, not competitive. It’s about co-creating value together.”

Strand’s research backs this assessment. Prof. Ed Freeman of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, with Strand, coined the expression “Scandinavian Cooperative Advantage,” to describe the Nordic firms’ ability to cooperate with stakeholders.

Copenhagen-based healthcare company Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest producer of insulin, described by Forbes in 2012 as “the most sustainable company on Earth,” is an example of what the Scandinavians get right, Strand says. “Their goal is to not only treat, but to eradicate, diabetes,” he says. “And by all measures they are one of the greatest sustainability leaders.”

During the immersion, students will meet with Mads Øvlisen, former CEO and chairman of Novo Nordisk and former chairman of Lego. On a separate day, the group will visit Novo Nordisk for sessions with Susanne Stormer, vice president of corporate sustainability, and company CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen.

The week kicks off with a visit to Annette Stube, head of group sustainability for shipping giant Maersk at the company’s Copenhagen offices, followed by lunch with Claus Meyer, father of the new Nordic cuisine movement and co-founder of the original Noma restaurant.

Other highlights include:

  • A welcome reception at the Copenhagen Business School, with a keynote by Ambassador Ove Ullerup, Danish ambassador to Sweden.
  • A visit to beer-maker Carlsberg, where they’ll hear from Simon Hoffmeyer Boas, the company’s director of group sustainability.
    Carlsberg's fiber beer bottle. Photo: Carlsberg
    Carlberg’s fiber beer bottle prototype. Photo: Carlsberg

    At Carlsberg, the conversation will focus on the beer maker’s new green fiber bottle design—and sustainable open innovation. (Strand and Haas Lecturer Henry Chesbrough, director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, are working on a case together about Carlsberg’s open innovation approach to sustainability.) The EMBA group will end the day with a private tasting at the old brewery.

  • A session with Marianne Barner, who is retired from IKEA and was a creator of the IWAY program, which governs how Ikea purchases materials, products, and services, and is the protagonist of one of the most well-known cases on social responsibility.
  • A discussion with Claus Stig Pedersen, head of corporate sustainability at the sustainability leader Novozymes, and Novozymes COO Thomas Videbæk.

Strand’s long-term strategy is to continue building a bridge between Berkeley and the Nordics, a history that began at the very inception of UC Berkeley with its co-founder, the Norwegian Peder Sather—whom Sather Gate and Sather Tower are named for.

The cultural connections between UC Berkeley and the Nordics are clear, says Strand, who is currently writing the book, Sustainable Vikings: Understanding Nordic Global Leadership in Sustainable Business.

“This program represents the precise reason I wanted to come to Berkeley,” he says. “I was drawn to UC Berkeley and Haas because of our unique culture—a culture I recognize as remarkably ‘Nordic’—and believe that if there’s anywhere in the U.S. that can mainstream the progressive sustainability approaches found across the Nordics it’s here at Berkeley.”

Berkeley EMBA Ranks #4 in the World

The Berkeley MBA for Executives Program ranks #4 in the world, according to The Economist‘s “Which MBA?” ranking for EMBA programs released today.

This is the first time the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program has participated in the three-year-old ranking.

Executive MBA programs were evaluated on two broad measures: personal development/educational experience and career development (including networking), each of which accounted for 50% of the ranking.

Berkeley Haas ranked #1 on networking opportunities for EMBA graduates, which considers Haas alumni chapters around the world and the student rating of the helpfulness of EMBA alumni.

Berkeley Haas ranked #4 in career development, based primarily on its score in career progression and in the extent to which the program helped alumni to fulfill their pre-EMBA goals.

Berkeley Haas EMBA graduates also had the third highest salaries among the most recently graduated classes.

This ranking is based on data provided by participating schools and a survey of alumni of the Classes of 2014 to 2017. Due to how close the scores were, The Economist grouped all ranked programs into bands. The Berkeley MBA for Executives was part of Band A.

View the full report here.

New Berkeley Executive MBA class has record number of women

A diverse group of 72 students—including an Artificial Intelligence expert in the Pentagon, four doctors, a Catholic priest, and a rare wine expert—makes up the new class of Berkeley MBA for Executives who arrived on campus last week.

The 2019 class kicked off with a greeting and lunch with Dean Rich Lyons and multiple orientation sessions. Classes started last Thursday in data analysis, accounting, and leadership communication. Over the coming months, the new class will participate in five immersive experiential learning sessions.

“We’re really proud of this incoming class,” said Marjorie DeGraca, executive director of admissions for the MBA Programs for Working Professionals. “It’s an accomplished group with so much depth and interesting life and career experiences—and we’re so excited to welcome a record number of women to our program this year.”

EMBA students meet Oski at orientation. Photo: Noah Berger

Many EMBA parents

Class members have 72 children among them—including student Linda Liu, who is mom to Margie Jiang, a freshman at UC Berkeley. About a third of the new group comes from outside of the Bay Area, hailing from Southern California, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Jason Atwater, a Pennsylvania native who now works as a digital marketing manager for Ancestry.com in San Francisco, said he was drawn to Haas in part for its Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

“I wanted a program with ’emotion and strength of character to be a better human being’ attached to it,” he said. “Everyone I met seemed really motivated to learn and to be a better person. Not that other schools didn’t—but it stood out with every person I talked to at Berkeley. I had the strongest feeling that this is where I belonged for the next chapter of my life. “A large slice of the class—44 percent—was born outside of the U.S., in Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, China, Greece, India, Italy, Jamaica, and Mexico.

Adele Mucci, who is a native of Italy and vice president at JA Solar, is commuting from the company’s headquarters in Shanghai to Berkeley for the program, which she believes will help give her the tools to help her company strategize, move into new markets, and change its mindset.

She chose Berkeley for its commitment to sustainability and alternative energy.  “California and Berkeley are incubators for this kind of discussion and dialogue. I think for me this was something calling me.”

Adele Mucci is commuting to Haas from Shanghai, where she works for a solar startup.
Globetrotter Adele Mucci is commuting to Haas from Shanghai, where she works for a solar startup. Photo: Noah Berger

Record percentage of women

Women represent a record 39 percent of the class —up from 34 percent last year and 30 percent in 2016.

Jamie Breen, assistant dean of the MBA Programs for Working Professionals, credited the increase to various efforts they’ve made over the past few years.

“We’ve made our admissions strategy more inclusive and broadened our recruitment efforts, adding messaging that was more attractive to our female applicants,” she said.

Among the 28 women in the class is Molly Zucker, who earned a BA in rhetoric and communications from UC Berkeley in 2005 and found herself contemplating a business degree while running the online auction business at K&L Wine Merchants, her family’s business.

“We’re doing well but now it’s about how do we get to the next level?” she said. “I have no formal business training. I felt like I was lacking a bit and I wanted to go back and learn the principles of business and finance and take those back with me…. I want to talk the talk and walk the walk.”

Molly Zucker, EMBA 19, came to Haas to formalize her business education.
Molly Zucker (right) applied to Haas with a plan to formalize her business education. Photo: Noah Berger

An experienced group

With a median 13 years of work experience, the students’ resumes span across industries within 69 companies.

Three students work at Google and two are with Chevron, with others coming from Intel, PayPal, Amazon, PG&E, Walmart, United Airlines, Abbott, Shell, and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Perhaps the most unusual student story is that of John Gribowich, a 39-year-old priest.

Gribowich was assigned by his bishop to work at DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn. DeSales wants to develop new technology for Catholic organizations across the country—to help them to share data more effectively.

Gribowich, who was asked to consider an MBA to help work on the project, said he found the perfect mix of creativity and technology depth at Haas. “I said: ‘I’m just going to put all my bets on Berkeley,'” he said. “I knew the program was really good from the research I’d done talking to people. To me, there really wasn’t a second choice.”

Families celebrate as Berkeley MBA for Executives toss caps

EMBA 2017 commencements
Dean Lyons with valedictorian John Illia and daughter, Nicole. All photos: Jim Block

The close-knit 2017 Berkeley MBA for Executives class came together for commencement last Saturday, celebrating their achievements and acknowledging the program’s life-changing impact.

About 400 people attended the ceremony for the 68 graduating students at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall.

“The way you have come together as a group, as a team, really, is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Dean Rich Lyons, in his welcoming remarks. “Your class is leaving its mark on our institution, and contributing to the experiences of those who come after you. You set the standard.”

Learning from failure

Commencement keynote speaker Karesha McGee, BCEMBA 12, and head of global corporate communications at Slack, reminded the students that graduation, while an extraordinary achievement, is just a beginning.

Commencement keynote speaker Karesha McGee, BCEMBA 12
Commencement keynote speaker Karesha McGee, BCEMBA 12

McGee shared a story of how being laid off from a job within her first year of graduating from her MBA program taught her to learn from the failure and choose a path of continuous growth.

“By looking inward and reflecting on all of the challenges, but also the strengths that I sharpened here in school, I recognized that my stalk—and that’s S-T-A-L-K—and my roots, my vine, was so much stronger than I had ever imagined,” McGee said.

During the 19-month program the students, who are often well along in their careers, engaged in five field immersions in locations that range from Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C. to Singapore.

Students noted that a classmate’s tragedy brought the group closer together during the program. Members of the EMBA Class of 2017 established the Sanaya Shah Memorial Fund after the passing of Sanaya Shah, the daughter of their fellow classmate Sumit Shah and his wife, Astha Shah. Sanaya was born prematurely and passed away after just 52 days due to complications from prematurity and a rare heart condition.

With 100 percent participation by the class, the record $145,000 raised for the fund will provide seed grants to underrepresented minority students at Haas, or for students starting companies with social impact.

“For 19 months we have struggled together, we have overcome together,” said class president Eli Andrews. “To all of you who have helped shape who we are, to all of you who have taught us, to all of you who have cared so deeply for our development, thank you for helping us to develop the unique value that we have to bring to this world.”

Watch the EMBA commencement video

From ‘they do that’ to ‘I do that”

Class valedictorian John Illia reflected on the diversity of the class, and shared his experience of bonding with classmates who at first seemed to have little more in common than a desire for a master’s degree. “This is a group of people focused on collaboration, not competition,” Illia said. “During this program, I witnessed 68 individuals who approach the world and each other with respect, compassion and empathy. I could not be more proud to be part of this family.”

Maura O'Neill, Cheit Award winner
Distinguished Teaching Fellow and Cheit Award winner Maura O’Neill

Dean Lyons spoke of the transformation students undergo while in the program. “You came in thinking ‘They do that’ and you walk out of this place thinking ‘I do that,’ ” Lyons said. “These transformations are possible because of how and what you’ve learned here about leadership. In short, you’ve become Berkeley Leaders.”

And the awards go to…..

The day’s awards included the Earl F. Cheit Award for excellence in teaching, which Distinguished Teaching Fellow Maura O’Neill received for the third year in a row. O’Neill, the former Chief Innovation Officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development, has organized and led the Washington DC Immersion Week for EMBA students for the past two years.

“She does more than connect people, she invests and takes pride in them,” said Jay Stowsky, Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction.

Jenny Petersen, Tansy Brook, Chijioke Emenike
(L-R) Jenny Petersen, Tansy Brook, & Chijioke Emenike, EMBA 17s

The award for Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) was given to Veselina Dinova for her support in Financial Accounting, one of the first classes the EMBA students take.

The Defining Principles Awards: (presented by Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, and Emma Hayes-Daftary, Director of Academics and Student Experience)

Question the Status Quo and Confidence without Attitude: Tansy Brook.

Students Always: Chien-Hsin Lee.

Beyond Yourself: Sonali Patel.

Fifth Principle Award: Hallie Higbee and valedictorian John Illia.Teddy bears were handout out at the reception

After the ceremony, students celebrated at a reception held at Haas. Dean Lyons capped off the evening with an acoustic guitar performance, and O’Neill toasted the group.

Graduates acknowledged the sacrifice that their partners and, in some cases, their children made during the program, and presented the children with teddy bears and the adults with long stemmed red roses.