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.
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.
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.
“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.
In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re featuring profiles and interviews with members of our Haas community.
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.
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.
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.
Berkeley 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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
“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 Buehlchaired this year’s EMBA student campaign, raising almost $60,000 to support faculty and student excellence at Haas.
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
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-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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Students in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program turned a classmate’s tragedy into a mission to help others, creating a grant fund that will provide seed funding to under-represented minorities and social impact startups.
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. “She was our little warrior princess, a true fighter to the very end who never gave up,” Sumit Shah said.
So far, they’ve raised more than $136,000 for the new fund, surpassing the $100,000 goal, with more than 60 percent of class participation.
“Everybody was really heartbroken, and just wanted to contribute to make it a little easier for Sumit and Astha,” said Tina Summers, who serves as vice president of philanthropy for the EMBA class.
Summers said the students chose to earmark the fund’s grants specifically to social impact startups and under-represented minorities after Silicon Valley Immersion Week opened their eyes to the problems these groups face in getting funded.
The first $5,000 grants will be awarded in September 2018.
“We became like family”
Summers met Sumit Shah right after she began the EMBA program. “We sat next to each other for a couple of terms when we started, and I had the opportunity to get to know him—being neighbors,” she said. “We became family very quickly.”
Shah’s classmates rallied around the family while the baby was in the hospital, building a spreadsheet to coordinate help with everything from meals to rides to places to stay while the Shahs commuted to UCSF Hospital from their home in Mountain View every day.
“Astha and I very humbled by the love we received from our Haas family,” Sumit Shah said. “We are touched by everyone’s kindness and willingness to help. We greatly appreciate all the support and cannot thank everyone enough for helping us through this very difficult time.”
He said he believes the fund will endure after he graduates, with the support of the EMBA class and the students’ extended families who continue to contribute.
“We’re hoping the season of giving will encourage people to donate,” Summers said. “The fund is intended to live on, so we’re hoping to plan annual fundraisers and events like fun runs to continually raise money.”
Marcus Krauss, a U.S. Marine turned chef, began looking into part-time MBA programs while he was running Salsipuedes, his Oakland, Calif.-based bistro.
“Being a military veteran, I felt like I had a lot of leadership and organizational management experience, and that I wanted to bring my knowledge of business up to that level,” said Krauss, who closed his restaurant last year and joined the Berkeley MBA for Executives Class of 2018 that arrived on campus last week.
Dean Rich Lyons welcomed the new class of 70 EMBA students May 10, kicking off an orientation week that included a Chez Panisse-inspired dinner at Memorial Stadium and the sharing of EMBA experiences by past and present class presidents.
“We’re so excited to welcome this new class to Haas, where they’re beginning an intense 19-month journey in our challenging curriculum and deep immersion programs,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean and director of the MBA for Executives Program. “This class hails from a wide array of top companies and organizations in the Bay Area and beyond—and we’ve enrolled more women than ever this year.”
The accomplished group includes three doctors, two commercial airline pilots, seven PhDs, and a U.S. Army ranger. Students have an average of 12 years of work experience in industries ranging from tech and retail to energy and consulting. The group works at a total of 64 companies, including Intel, Salesforce, Amazon, PG&E, Levi Strauss, Uber, Kaiser Permanente, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
With deep international roots, 41 percent of the EMBA class was born outside of the US, in 22 different countries including Uganda, Barbados, Ecuador, Russia, Iran, and Mexico. More than a third of the class—34 percent, up from 30 percent last year—is women, and the average age of the class is 36.
Over the coming months, the new class will participate in five immersive experiential learning sessions, which comprise a quarter of the EMBA curriculum. At the center of this format are five field immersion weeks, led by Haas faculty on location, including Leadership Communications in Napa Valley, Applied Innovation in San Francisco, entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, an international trip (to be determined), and a public policy-focused trip to Washington D.C.
Three women in the class have spouses who graduated in the EMBA Class of 2016. Sahar Sadeghian-Kleinman, who is married to Matthew Kleinman, EMBA 16, said she made the decision to apply to Haas when she watched 69 strangers in her husband’s program “become family for life.” “It’s amazing how everybody really takes care of each other in any way they can, which is authentic,” said Sadeghian-Kleinman, who is manager of digital production at Macy’s, overseeing new technology enhancements.
Krauss said the Defining Principles at Haas (Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself) aren’t just words on paper; he could see them come to life as he was applying.
“Through the admissions process, talking with current students and staff, and now through just one class block within my own cohort, I can see that the defining principles really guide how the program is built and how everyone strives to carry themselves,” he said.
About 400 people attended the ceremony for the 69 Class of 2016 graduates at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall. Many of the commencement speeches focused on the power of relationships forged among the class members.
“This was a special class for many reasons,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean and executive director of the EMBA program. “As a group, they were all so close-knit, supportive, and truly connected—helping each other navigate the program and succeed in so many ways, both inside and outside of the classroom.”
From “They do that” to “I do that”
During the 19-month program, students dove into five week-long immersion programs, which comprise 25 percent of the curriculum. The immersion courses are led by Haas faculty on location: leadership communications in Napa Valley with Mark Rittenberg, entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley with Toby Stuart, applied innovation in San Francisco with Sara Beckman, pricing in Singapore with Teck Ho, and business and policy in Washington DC with Maura O’Neill.
Dean Rich Lyons said that UC Berkeley and Haas transformed the students by enabling them to do things they didn’t realize were possible, creating a shift from thinking “They do that” to “I do that.”
“These transformations are possible because of how and what you’ve learned here about leadership. In short, you have become Berkeley Leaders,” he said.
Commencement speaker Tim Campos, BCEMBA 11, and the former CIO of Facebook, told students that they were graduating with far more than a degree. “An MBA is not about achieving a degree, a title, a credential, it’s about what you’ve learned,” he said. “It’s about the relationships you’ve built, and most of all, it’s about how it changes who you are. This program has given you a tremendous set of gifts. The gifts you’ve received have only just begun to pay dividends.”
Student Speaker Matt Kleinman recounted the exact point when he felt the class come together: Midway through the Leadership Communications Immersion, class members were asked to get up and dance, imitating the moves of the person who came before them. “One by one, with the people who you might characterize as quieter members of the class, you could see the insecurities melt away as they were received with love and support. What I saw was a desire to show each and every classmate that they belonged that they were accepted and they were loved. That love, belonging, and acceptance has grown stronger each day.”
We did this!
Class valedictorian Chris Sampson, who earned a 3.957 GPA, highlighted how the class shared deep stories, shed tears, and learned about how strong relationships led to success in business. “I would not be standing here today if it weren’t for my teammates. WE did this. Just as we stood together throughout this program, it only feels right to me that we stand together as we formally end it.” Sampson then called his teammates’ names and asked each person to stand.
Awards then went to faculty and students. Maura O’Neill, a distinguished teaching fellow and Haas entrepreneurship lecturer who organized this year’s immersion trip to Washington D.C., received the Earl F. Cheit Award for the second time. The award, named for the late Dean Emeritus Earl Cheit, was established in 1975 and is granted by the students for excellence in teaching.
“Maura is inspiring, transparent and selfless in all things—sharing herself so that we can all learn through her experiences and extended network of really exceptionally smart people,” Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean for instruction said, reading a comment shared by an EMBA student about O’Neill.
O’Neill started four companies and worked as former President Barack Obama’s USAID chief innovation officer before teaching at Haas. She was heading to the Sundance Film Festival after the ceremony, where a documentary about a charter school for girls she helped found in Baltimore was premiering.
And the awards go to….
Auyon Siddiqq received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award for his work in Greg LaBlanc’s Data & Decisions Course.
The Defining Principles Awards, presented by Breen and former EMBA executive director Mike Rielly, CEO of the Berkeley Executive Education, went to:
When Wolfgang Stehr is at work in the operating room at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, he’s at the center of a complex ballet, performing delicate surgeries with a highly-skilled team.
The stakes are high. Stehr, the hospital’s division chief of pediatric surgery, operates on around 20 children per week, from one-pound premature babies to 200-pound teenage gunshot victims. When things break down, egos may reign, tempers may flare, and miscommunication over logistics such as scheduling may lead to resentments.
“I wanted to improve the communication among our nurses and doctors, to break down silos in the hospital, and create a better experience for the patients and staff,” said Stehr, whose hospital is one of six Level 1 pediatric trauma centers in California, treating about 10,000 patients last year. “I wanted to become a better leader.”
Stehr found the tools to transform both himself and his team just a few miles down the road from the hospital, at Berkeley-Haas, where he’s in his second year of the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.
Care, community & positivity
In August 2015, Stehr participated in a Leadership Communications course, taught by Lecturer Mark Rittenberg during the EMBA Program’s immersion week in Napa, Calif. One of four core leadership classes for all MBA students, Leadership Communications tackles four areas: showing up and choosing to be being present; paying attention to “heart and meaning;” telling the truth without blame or judgement; and being open and not attached to outcome.
“By the end of the class I was so inspired by the work, how it made me think about my colleagues, and even how I felt about the world,” says Stehr, who began chatting with Rittenberg on the second day of the workshop about his leadership goals.
“Wolfgang told me, ‘We have a problem at the hospital. We need to bring the same level of care, community, and positivity toward each other that we bring to the children,’” said Rittenberg. Indeed, research has linked better communication among healthcare teams to better patient care; a 2015 article in the Columbia Medical Review found doing so can reduce the length of hospital stays and create more positive patient health outcomes.
David Durand, chief medical officer at UCSF Benioff Oakland, says Stehr started raving about Rittenberg’s class immediately. “He asked: can we roll this out to some groups within the hospital?”
The heart and mind of a leader
By last March, Stehr had convinced hospital leadership, and they agreed to give Leadership Communications a try. A total of 25 hospital doctors, nurses, and staff kicked off a three-day workshop, run by the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute.
Rittenberg, a former professional actor who founded the Coaching Institute, uses theatrical activities to build bridges and develop respect among groups that have over the years ranged from Israeli and Palestinian students to Facebook and Salesforce execs. With UCSF Benioff Oakland he focused on developing “the heart and mind of a leader,” by getting staff to engage with each other.
“We had them share what they most wanted their colleagues to know about them, what holds them back, their biggest dreams for themselves at the hospital, and what they wanted to be remembered for at the hospital,” said Susan Houlihan, EWMBA 11, a coach with the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute who is working with UCSF Benioff Oakland.
During the workshop, Stehr and his colleagues explored the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication—everything from a person’s tone of voice to eye contact to facial expression, all factors that can impact communication in the OR, where it’s critical to be calm and present.
Leadership communication: Starting with simple things
By many accounts, the workshops are starting to transform the hospital’s operating room environment, helping to build more trust.
Chris Newton, trauma director at UCSF Benioff Oakland, who is works in the OR with Stehr, called the workshop “phenomenal.”
“A small percent of the core staff here did this, but those core people are changing the culture of our little world overnight,” he said. “It was the simplest things that made the biggest difference: How you talk to each other in the hallway, how you solve a problem, how you see other people and walk in their shoes.”
The tools have enabled the staff to approach problems with “curiosity instead of judgment, which could make you go down the wrong path,” said Scout E. Hebinck, a nurse and clinical educator in perioperative services. “People talk about their experiences in the workshops and how it’s changed them,” she said. “This has made people’s trust go up across the board.”
Durand said he expects the hospital, which has sent a total of 60 people to two Leadership Communications workshops so far, to continue to see benefits. “With Mark’s workshop we saw two things happen: we’re working together and getting to know each other and this brings a lot of value. Also, the communications tools and how we use them have proven really valuable for the team. It’s taken on a life of its own.”
Each month, workshop attendees hold follow up meetings to revisit key leadership concepts. Stehr believes what they’ve learned will only stay fresh if they “keep the fires burning” until they hold a third workshop in December.
Stehr and Rittenberg have also taken the leadership message on the road, most recently speaking to doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. The pair plans to continue spreading the word at hospitals about how valuable authentic communication can be for staff and for patients.
Meantime, when Stehr walks the halls at Haas, he scans the posters in the hallway, of Berkeley leaders like Annie’s President John Foraker and Ghana-based Ashesi University founder Patrick Awuah, and ponders what his own legacy will be.
His goal is lofty: “We can revolutionize health care through trust and connection with each other,” Stehr said. “This can be as powerful as any new procedures, treatments, or antibiotics.”
When Cristy Johnston-Limón was hired as executive director of Oakland’s Destiny Arts Center in 2011, the nonprofit was facing eviction from its shared space at a local charter school.
For more than 25 years, the respected center had offered classes—from hip hop to kung fu to karate—to thousands of kids, encouraging violence prevention through the performing arts.
But its future was in jeopardy.
The board had shied away from a plan to purchase and build out an 8,000-square-foot warehouse in North Oakland: with just enough money for a down payment on a new building, some directors and advisors were worried about crushing loan payments.
Even before her first official day on the job, Johnston-Limón began scouting sites. “After touring more than 50 potential sites, I knew this one was it and I did everything in my power to make it happen,” Johnston-Limón said.
It was a tough sell, but Johnston-Limón, EMBA 16, didn’t give up. The daughter of Guatemalan immigrants who grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District, Johnston-Limón has always figured out how to navigate life’s challenges—as a teenager turning away from gangs, as a young urban neighborhood activist, as a first-generation college student at UC Berkeley, and now as a student in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.
Working with Destiny Arts board member David Riemer, Johnston- Limón met repeatedly with the the board, listened to what they had to say and calmly countered every argument against the building plan. “We kept laying brick after brick after brick,” until the skeptics got the reassurance they needed, says Riemer, an Executive-in-Residence at Berkeley-Haas. “Cristy is a leader with an incredible combination of confidence, ambition, passion, and vision.”
By 2013, Destiny Arts had moved into the new center, which boasts high ceilings; clean, bright studios; peace murals; a black box theater; and meeting spaces.
“A few nerves”
As an EMBA student, Johnston-Limón is working to gain the business skills required to ensure Destiny Arts Center’s future in a nonprofit environment increasingly focused on ROI.
She admits to having had a few nerves when she arrived at Berkeley-Haas last year. In particular, she worried that, for all her strengths in communication and leadership, she didn’t have the quantitative skills required to keep up. She also learned, on her first day, that she was the only Latina and the only head of a nonprofit in her cohort of 69 students.
A natural bridge-builder, she responded by becoming the first vice president of diversity for the EMBA Program, working closely with administrators and peers in the full-time MBA program on plans to foster more inclusion within the student body and faculty.
“Cristy brings an intense focus on diversity to her fellow students and the program overall,” says Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean of the EMBA program. ‘She has taken a leading role, working with other diversity leaders at Haas to ensure we provide our students with the skills required to lead diverse workforces and find and develop talent.”
Johnston-Limón, who is 39 and the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, never shies away from discussing issues of social justice. In July, while sitting at a local pub with classmates after a long day of EMBA classes, news broke of the shooting of five white police officers in Dallas, the latest shock in a summer of extraordinary race-based violence nationwide.
Johnston-Limón immediately started engaging her group in a discussion about the events, sharing her insights as a leader on the front lines.
“When I see an opportunity to help people talk about and understand the issues around diversity in a way that’s useful and productive, I grab it,” she says.
Before she graduates in December, Johnston-Limón plans to host a voluntary training on how unconscious bias deters inclusion and gets in the way of great decisions. Partly because of her efforts, the curriculum for incoming EMBA students in the fall included bias workshops.
From “super nerd” to activist
Johnston-Limón was an overachiever early in life.
As a kid growing up in San Francisco’s Mission District, she was a star student who turned to music to escape gang life, domestic troubles, and the trauma of eviction notices as rents skyrocketed. A self-described “super nerd,” she walked to the bus stop with a cello strapped to her back for the cross-city ride to a school in a better neighborhood.
The weekly staff meeting at Destiny Arts Center
As a teen, she felt pressure to join a gang, and even dropped out of high school at one point. But her cello—and her passion for learning—kept her on track.
At 19, she joined angry street protests against The Mission’s gentrification that was pushing out longtime residents.
Even then, she says she sensed that dialogue instead of violent confrontation was the answer and that desire for peaceful justice propelled her to major in political science at UC Berkeley.
A post-graduation year as a legislative aide in Sacramento led her to return to San Francisco to work on a pilot program aiming to revitalize one of the city’s struggling neighborhoods: the Excelsior District.
For her work, she received a national community leadership award for the pilot program, which has since become a citywide initiative for transforming local San Francisco neighborhoods.
Working to create opportunities
Johnston-Limón’s younger brother, Jon, hasn’t fared as well over the years.
He joined a Mission District gang and, after several drug-related infractions, is serving a 15-year prison sentence, she said. “My brother didn’t have the opportunities I did,” she says, tearfully. “Having my best friend in prison has been a motivating factor in my work with youth, advocacy work, and our programs that serve incarcerated youth, which I’ve expanded while at Destiny Arts Center.”
At Destiny, which is an acronym for “De-Escalation Skills Training Inspiring Nonviolence in Youth,” Johnston-Limón works to create new opportunities for kids in a city impacted by high drop-out rates and violence. Over the last five years, she has more than doubled the number of children served by boosting Destiny Arts’ operating budget from $800,000 to $3 million. More than 4,000 students—ranging from age three to 24—now choose from 800 classes annually.
Meantime, at Berkeley-Haas, Johnston-Limón and classmate Alejandro Maldonado are developing an app that aims to help teaching artists connect to parents looking for activities for their kids.
“One reason I love having her as a co-founder is because, even when things don’t go perfectly, she’ll manage to turn them around,” Maldonado says.
For Johnston-Limón problem-solving at work and in her community is about building upon what she’s learned throughout her life. It may sound hokey, she jokes, but she’s hoping to inspire a desire to build a better world in her classmates, too.
“I’m striving for the children we serve to ensure they have safe, inclusive spaces to thrive,” she says. “I’m striving to create the kind of world where everyone feels valued, included, and loved. Who doesn’t want that?”