How burnout built a startup

Yannell Selman, MBA 21, arrived at Berkeley Haas suffering from what she called “late-stage clinical burnout” from work. 

Within months, Selman was working to solve the root causes of her own problem.

Yannell Selman
Yannell Selman, MBA 21, turned her experience of suffering burnout into a startup.

That work turned into a startup, Cultiveit, which is building an online wellness platform that human resources departments use to recommend “high-quality time-off” experiences to treat worker burnout.

“Our goal is to shift workplace culture so people have boundaries between working and not working,” said Selman, who co-founded the company with classmate Dunja Panic, MBA 21. The pair met during the UC Berkeley Student Entrepreneurship Program (StEP), which helps students find other entrepreneurs and explore the viability of their startup ideas. 

Photo of Dunja Panic
Dunja Panic, MBA 21, met co-founder Yannell Selman at Haas.

First, Selman and Panic considered a startup focused on kids, screen time, and parental burnout. Then they pivoted to exploring burnout as an adult issue. Last fall, while conducting research, they noticed a pandemic “paradigm shift” as the lack of separation between home and work increasingly impacted workers.

While working on the startup at UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck incubator, they began viewing burnout as not an individual’s problem, but as a systematic issue, connected to how work is structured. 

They began viewing burnout as not an individual’s problem, but as a systematic issue, connected to how work is structured. 

It starts with “a grind of nonstop work that blends from day to night,” progressing to cynicism that leads to negative attitudes toward clients and your team, Selman said. Finally, there’s helplessness. “You lose hope that anything will change,” Selman said. “You try to make a change but realize nothing works so you quit or get a new job. You take two weeks off, but then the cycle starts again.”

Selman’s leadership on the issue has attracted attention. TaskRabbit CEO Ania Smith wrote a recent Forbes article that cited the benefit of  “what burnout consultant Yannell Selman calls “high-quality time off” (HQTO).”

“To qualify as HQTO, employees should engage in activities that are active and support cognitive distance (like rock climbing versus a massage), intrinsically satisfying and reconnect employees to their non-work identities (salsa dancing versus laundry), disconnected (hiking versus watching TV), sensory-stimulating (surfing versus video games) and encourage meaningful growth (woodworking versus social media),” Smith wrote.

Kelli Schultz, a senior people development specialist at TaskRabbit, recently worked with Cultiveit to help employees figure out what HQTO means to them—and urged them to make the most of a paid week off after a busy seasonal period.  

After the vacation week, TaskRabbit employees shared photos, emphasizing how they’d challenged themselves. Schultz said she headed to Tennessee where she went went ziplining, left her computer at home, and hit the hot tub when she thought about checking emails. 

Results of the company’s twice-annual engagement survey showed the program’s success: a jump of 12 points in employee satisfaction, which Schultz called “amazing, especially during Covid.” 

Selman also worked with leaders at content management company Box last July. She held a one-hour info session about burnout, attended by 60 people; 24 people signed up to try a new HQTO experience, said Andrew Chang, corporate finance and strategy manager at Box.

Each participating employee received $50 to spend on experiences ranging from cheesemaking to a botanical garden trip. The feedback from participants was enthusiastic, and planted a seed that company leaders are responding to, Chang said. “Anyone can talk about burnout and what they think it is,” he said. “Yannell tells it to people in a way that’s meaningful. That was the “wow” moment for me.”

Selman is now planning to expand Cultiveit, working on a seed funding round and continuing work with their corporate partners. The company makes money by receiving a percentage of the cost of classes or experiences it promotes to its clients.  

“The main thing is that we want to engage with the community,” she said. “We want to meet with more managers and HR leaders who see this as critical and want to participate. Nutrition and meditation aren’t enough to cure burnout. You have to change your work habits.”

Salaries, bonuses edge upward for 2021 FTMBA grads

Average salaries for the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Class of 2021 edged up $9,000 this year, with the consulting and technology sectors again luring more than 60% of graduates.

photo of Abby Scott
Abby Scott said Haas alumni went “beyond themselves” to help grads find jobs.

“I’m so pleased to see this jump in starting base salary and strong employment outcomes, which represent the continuing strength and confidence in our students and the Berkeley MBA,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management & Corporate Partnerships. “This is particularly encouraging, given the pandemic and slower reopening of the CA economy. The effort that our grads put into their job searches and the help of our alumni who went beyond themselves really helped this class land jobs.”  

Of the total class of 283 students, 239 students were seeking jobs. Within three months after graduation, 90% received job offers and 88% of the class—or 211 students—accepted, up slightly from 87% for the class of 2020.

A few highlights:

  • Starting base salaries are up to $149,000 median from $140,000 last year. 
  • 72% of students received a sign-on bonus and 42.6% received stock options or grants, adding significantly to long term compensation. The average sign-on bonus was $33,775, up from $31,000 last year.
  • Tech dominated employment outcomes at 34%; about 28% of the class went into consulting, up from 25% in 2020. 
  • About 12% of students took jobs in financial services; 10% went to startups; 6.6% landed in healthcare & biotech, 6.2% went to CPG/retail companies, and about 3% are employed in the energy industry.

This year’s top employers—companies that hired three or more graduates—included Amazon, Boston Consulting Group, Google, McKinsey & Company, Deloitte, Bain & Company, EY Parthenon, Adobe, Facebook, LEK, Microsoft, PwC Strategy and Samsung. Consulting was particularly strong this year, Scott said, with McKinsey and Deloitte hiring “the largest number of graduates we have ever seen.”

“One of a kind” Silicon Valley network

Photo of David Bolivar
David Bolivar, MBA 21, is a senior treasury analyst at Google.

David Bolívar, MBA 21, landed a job at Google as a senior treasury analyst after interning at Uber while at Haas.

Throughout the recruiting process, he spoke with over a dozen Haas alumni who work in tech, including several Haas alumni who work in Finance at Google. “The Haas network in tech in Silicon Valley is one of a kind,” said Bolívar, who credited Haas Career Management for its help providing key points of contact and coaching him on how to deliver impactful personal stories as an international student during interviews. “The Haas MBA gives you access to a unique network of alumni and faculty who become such valuable resources for your career.”

Bolívar said he was drawn to Google’s commitment to culture and to supporting its employees professionally and personally. “Google is a consensus-driven, flat organization, which is great if you are the kind of person not looking to operate under the mandate of traditional hierarchies.”

For many students like Bolivar, connecting with Haas alumni helped ease the recruitment process. Terence Mullin, MBA 21, who works in corporate strategy and strategic finance at Epic Games, said a fortuitous connection with an alumnus helped him find his career path.  

Terrence Mullin
Terrence Mullin, MBA 21, works in corporate strategy and finance at Epic Games.

Mullin, who returned to playing video games in his spare time during the lockdown, realized how much he loved games. That led to a eureka moment: “I thought I could do this as a job,” he said.

Mullin started connecting with Haas alumni who work in gaming, and talked with Roland Luk in Haas Career Management about finding internships. The day after he talked to Luk, Chris Kavcsak, MBA 17, who works in strategy at Epic Games, reached out to Luk about an internship in strategic finance at the company, the maker of the blockbuster multiplayer game Fortnite.

Mullin, who had been working on a game pricing project independently, studying Epic’s business model, accepted an internship working for Kavcsak. “Chris took me under his wing, and three months on they let me know things were going well—and then I came on full-time.”

Choosing a startup

Other students have found internships and jobs through a collaborative online effort called Hire Haas. The program, which generated 250 jobs from alumni in 2020, doubled that number to nearly 500 job postings from alumni in 2021.

Eduardo Bustamante, MBA 21, found his MBA internship at e-scooter and e-bike startup RidePanda through Hire Haas, which connected him to Ridepanda’s co-founder and CEO Chinmay Malaviya, MBA 18.

Bustamante said he came to Haas expecting to work in consulting or tech—but his Ridepanda experience led him to interview at Canoo, an electric vehicle startup that went public in December 2020.  “I got to wear different hats (at Ridepanda) and learn many things,” he said. “I liked the way it worked at a startup. That’s why I joined Canoo.” 

In his role as program controller in operations and finance, he’s working on the company’s new product rollout, a lifestyle vehicle that is scheduled to launch in late 2022.

View the 2021 employment report here.

MBA team wins 2021 UT Austin Real Estate Competition

Group of male MBA students and woman faculty advisor holding big check
The Haas MBA team wins first place and $10,000 in prize money. (From L-R: Ian MacLean, Alex Dragten, Abby Franklin (faculty advisor), Carson Goldman, Andrew Johnson, Fukang Peng, and Travis Kauzer.)

Converting an office building into a life science center to lease to medical and biotech companies landed a team of Berkeley Haas MBA students a first place win at the 2021 UT Austin Real Estate Competition. 

The competition was held Thursday, Nov. 18 and hosted by the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. 

Team members include Carson Goldman, Andrew Johnson, Ian MacLean, Alex Dragten, all MBA 22, Fukang Peng, and Travis Kauzer, both EWMBA 22.

Haas bested 19 other teams from top U.S. business schools including Columbia, Yale, Wharton, NYU Stern, and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and won $10,000 in prize money. This is Haas’ third first place win at this competition in the last four years. 

MBA teams were tasked with creating a business plan for a building with a single tenant whose lease was about to expire. They had to consider maximizing risk-adjusted returns and demonstrate an understanding of macroeconomic trends, including the effects of inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Haas MBA team decided to convert the building into a life science center to attract multiple tenants and maximize high returns.

Team lead Carson Goldman credited the team’s win to practicing case presentations every week this semester and to work they did with their faculty advisors.

“Our coaches Bill Falik and Abby Franklin provided constant feedback and guidance and were wholly committed to this competition,” Goldman said. “Our alumni were just as important as they had volunteered weekly to judge our practice cases and offer constructive criticism,” he added.

“It’s very gratifying to see our students progress over the semester and to win first place,” said Haas Lecturer Bill Falik. “We’ve had victories, but to win first place in three out of the four years at this national competition–this has never been done before.”

Ready for flying taxis? 2021 Mobility Summit to focus on future of transportation

three males smiling
From L-R: Thomas Fantis, Sam Bauer, and Jon Wan, all MBA 22.

Driverless trucks and electric air taxis are generating a lot of buzz. But are these new modes of transportation worth the hype?

Second-year MBA students Jon Wan, Sam Bauer, and Thomas Fantis hope to tackle that question next week at the second annual Berkeley Haas Mobility Summit. 

“Cutting Through the Hype” is the theme for this year’s summit, which brings together students, faculty, alumni, and industry leaders to explore sustainability, equity, and commercialization challenges that may arise from adopting new mobility technologies. 

The summit, organized by the Transportation & Mobility Club, will be held Nov. 19, from noon to 4:30 p.m. in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. Conference organizers include Wan, Bauer, Fantis, Marcus Brandford, Graham Haydon, Ryota Soshino, all MBA 22, and Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23.

“There’s a lot of optimism around these new technologies that promise pollution and traffic reduction in cities, for example, but we haven’t seen much of the benefits yet,” said Fantis. “We hope to create some dialogue about the implications of adopting autonomous and electric cars and how to apply these technologies responsibly and equitably.”

Bert Kauffman, head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Amazon’s autonomous car startup Zoox, will kick off the half-day conference with a keynote address, followed by panel discussions on the future of ride hailing, the scalability of electric vehicles, solving supply-chain challenges via autonomous trucking, and the creation of electric air taxis. 

Other notable guest speakers include Nick Matcheck, MBA 20, partnerships manager at Hyundai Urban Air Mobility; Jeff Sharp, MBA 21, government operations associate at Joby Aviation; Misha Cornes, MBA 01, UX research & strategy leader at Lyft; Shana Patadia, BS 10, director of Business Development at Chargepoint; Nick Silver, MBA 11, head of Marketing for US and Canada at Uber; Haas lecturer Molly Turner; and UC Berkeley civil and engineering professor Susan Shaheen.

“We hope this summit will serve as a guide for students interested in joining the mobility industry and that they find companies that are making the greatest impact in terms of sustainability and equity,” Bauer said.

“Our goal with this summit is to establish Haas as the center of mobility and put it on the map as the best school to attend for this [mobility] field,” Fantis added. “When prospective students look for MBA programs that offer mobility courses and clubs, we want Haas to be at the top of their search.”

Junaid Lughmani, MBA 23, honored by Tillman Foundation for Afghanistan evacuation work

Junaid Lughmani at the Tillman Foundation Awards in Chicago
Junaid Lughmani, MBA 23, speaks during the the Pat Tillman Foundation’s annual Tillman Honors event held Nov. 4 in Chicago.

Junaid Lughmani, MBA 23, was honored by the Pat Tillman Foundation last week for his work on “Digital Dunkirk,” a massive online effort by military veterans to help evacuate at-risk Afghans following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The annual Tillman Honors are named for Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who tragically died in Afghanistan while serving in the U.S. Army in 2004. The event gathered hundreds of supporters, investors, Tillman Scholars, and others in Chicago on Nov. 4 to celebrate Tillman’s legacy of service and leadership. The Foundation’s 2021 Champion Award went to Afghan politician and women’s rights activist Fawzia Koofi. Previous Champion award recipients include Sen. John McCain and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords & Sen. Mark Kelly.

Lughmani, Kate Hoit, and Rick Schumacher, who are among 60 Tillman Scholars chosen in 2021, accepted the “Make Your Mark” award on behalf of the Digital Dunkirk organizers. The Washington Post featured Lughmani’s work with former Green Beret Jon Reed in Berkeley in an Aug. 26 article. The pair joined veterans, active-duty service members, former government officials, and civil servants who volunteered to help Afghans flee Taliban retaliation.

How do we value hope?

Lughmani, a first-generation American of Pashtun origin, worked as an interpreter in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012, serving as a liaison between the U.S. and Afghan governments. He later returned to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army as an infantry officer, leading his platoon on multiple combat missions.

In his speech during the awards ceremony, Lughmani said that while in Afghanistan he received “the greatest gifts of love, generosity, care, and goodness from the people.” “From the children who would call me “kaka” (uncle) to the elders who treated me as their own son, Afghans embraced us, broke bread with us, and truly taught us the power of human connection.”

Watch Junaid Lughmani’s speak during the annual Tillman Honors (begins at 39:57 minutes.)

Lughmani, who sought an MBA with a plan to return to Afghanistan as an investor to help grow the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, spoke of how torn he was in the days when he began his MBA classes as the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan.

“As I sat through valuation lecturers and read through spreadsheets and assessments I wondered: how do we value hope?” he said. “Our dreams cannot be summed up by a formula in a little box. Our hearts belong in the in-between spaces. The Afghans who changed my life stepped out into the in-between spaces. If they could do that, given all they were up against, I decided that I would also choose the in-between spaces. I’d work with whoever showed up, to help as many people as we could.”

With winter fast approaching, more than half the population of Afghanistan is at risk of running short of food.

“The evacuation efforts are ongoing, and there is a desperate food crisis in Afghanistan with 23 million people at risk of facing starvation through the winter,” Lughmani said. “But refugees also need our help. There are over 50,000 refugees who are currently housed on U.S. military installations across the U.S. with little to no belongings; many possess only the clothing on their backs and about half of these refugees are children.”

Uniting B-school forces

Responding to military housing conditions, Lughmani and fellow members of the Haas Veterans Club launched a drive to collect clothing, household appliances, toys, personal care items, electronics, books, and baby supplies, for relocated Afghan refugees in Northern California. 

Haas Veterans Club
The Haas Veterans Club, holding the Afghan flag, organized the collection drive for evacuated Afghans now living in Northern California.

So far, they’ve collected over 3,000 items, Lughmani said. “Our donations go directly to refugees, cutting through the red tape typical of NGOs that have a more complicated aid-delivering process,” he said. “Our way enables us to identify communities that need help and respond directly through our military, veteran, and Afghan networks.”

The club is reaching out to veterans at other business schools nationwide to expand the effort. To date, veterans’ groups at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, NYU Stern, USC’s Marshall School of Business, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, UCLA’s Anderson School of Business, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business have signed on, and conversations continue with more schools.

The Berkeley Haas collection drive, located on the second floor of Chou Hall, is planned until Nov. 19, but may continue through the holidays, depending on need.

Berkeley Haas names 2021 Finance Fellows

2021 Finance Fellows, from top left, clockwise: Anojan Palarajah, Mallory Bell, Ali Ware, Alex Rohrbach, Robyn Barrios, Jordan Bell, Alex Sborov, Nonso Nwagha, and Ricky Ghoshal. (Missing from photo: Elias Habbar-Baylac and Sunny Uppal) Photo: Jim Block

As a Black woman, Mallory Bell is on a mission to change the face of venture capital. 

“My personal goal is to diversify what the venture capital world looks like,” said Bell, MBA 23, one of 11 students recently named 2021 Finance Fellows at Berkeley Haas. “Money is fuel and if you are in venture capital you can be the one fueling the companies you want to succeed.”

Haas Finance Fellowships are awarded annually to full-time MBA students based on their applications and interviews. Awardees receive a cash grant and priority enrollment for finance electives. They’re also assigned a mentor who provides career advice and support in their chosen field.

In addition to Bell, this year’s Finance Fellows, all first-year MBA students, include Bell, Elias Habbar-Baylac, Alison (Ali) Ware, Anojan Palarajah, Alex Rohrbach, in Entrepreneurial Finance; Jordan Bell, Sheetij (Ricky) Ghoshal, Chinonso Nwagha, and Praneet (Sunny) Uppal, in Investment Banking; Robyn Barrios in Investment Management; and Alexandra Sborov, who received the CJ White Fellowship earlier this year.

This group’s career interests lean toward the global intersection of finance coupled with technology and social impact, said William Rindfuss, executive director of Strategic Programs with the Haas Finance Group.

“Some of our students will be providing strategic advice to high-growth tech or biotech companies from the Bay Area offices of major investment banks or joining a fintech startup or established firm using blockchain technology for financial inclusion,” he said. “Others will be investing venture capital in startups in sectors with social impact.”

The importance of mentoring

A critical part of the fellowship is mentoring. CJ White Fellow Sborov said her mentor, Allan Holt, a senior partner at private equity firm Carlyle, has shared insights about the industry and helped guide her inquiries about investing in different asset classes.

Jordan Bell, who worked as a financial institutions examiner for more than seven years at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco before coming to Haas, was connected to mentor Adam Levine, MBA 20, and a Goldman Sachs investment banking associate.

Levine “has taken a hands-on approach in helping me craft my unique story, prepare my technical analysis, and discuss trends and deals within the technology industry,” Bell said.

“Adam tells it like it is and doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and that is exactly what I was looking for in a mentor to ensure I am the most competitive and well prepared candidate possible,” he said.

Berkeley Haas real estate curriculum gets a climate change makeover

Flooding in the streets of Pensacola, Fla., in September 2020 as Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The first thing real estate professor Nancy Wallace asked her students to think about last semester was rain.

 “Pick a city like Miami,” said Wallace, chair of the Real Estate Group at Haas. “When it rains in Miami, the sewage treatment plants flood, the water mains back up, and the streets are flooded. The same with Houston. We’re not talking about a hurricane, which would be 10 times worse—just a regular very rainy day. Because the infrastructure in these cities is below sea level, the risk is just huge.”

Nancy Wallace
Prof. Nancy Wallace

And with that intro, students in Wallace’s Real Estate Investment and Sustainability class began to consider the risks for cities that are fundamentally unequipped and slow to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

From flooding to wildfires to rising temperatures and other extreme weather events, climate impacts have rapidly moved from the theoretical future to the most pressing challenges facing the real estate industry today. Wallace, co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at Berkeley Haas, has responded by reshaping the real estate curriculum to focus on sustainability.

“The classes, our research, and everything that we now do will be taught through a lens of sustainability,” said Wallace, the Lisle and Roslyn Payne Chair in Real Estate and Capital Markets. “We’re addressing how climate change impacts all parts of the industry—from development and building to mortgages and mortgage-related securities to the insurance markets.”

Course changes

The Fisher Center’s real estate program provides both academic and interdisciplinary training in real estate investment, real estate law, and the role of real estate development in the built environment. MBA students, along with students in the College of Environmental Design and Berkeley Law, can earn the Center’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Real Estate (IGCRE)

Recent curriculum changes impacted two core real estate courses: Real Estate Investment and Sustainability, and Real Estate Finance and Securitization. 

Project work in both classes centers on developments in cities, which occupy 2% of the world’s land mass but consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for 70% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to C40, a network of the world’s megacities addressing climate change. What’s more, most of the world’s urban areas are on coastlines that are at risk from rising sea levels and coastal storms.  

Project work in both classes centers on developments in cities, which occupy 2% of the world’s land mass but consume two-thirds of the world’s energy.

“It’s so important that Haas is making this shift to help students approach these problems and move to solve them from the sustainability side,” said Michele de Nevers, executive director of Sustainability Programs at Haas. 

Bayfair real estate proiect
Students proposed a multilevel garage-based transportation hub for the Bayfair project, which includes street level retail, a shared electric vehicle program, and a solar canopy.

The Real Estate Investment and Sustainability class, which Wallace co-taught with architect Edward McFarlan, examines the challenges and opportunities in creating the next-generation city, including rethinking density, transit, mobility, infrastructure, and equity. 

Last spring, students worked on final team projects centered on sustainable redevelopment of two Bay Area sites: the Stonestown Mall in San Francisco, owned by Brookfield Properties; and the Bayfair Mall in San Leandro, owned by Madison Marquette. 

Students assumed that both sites could be redeveloped with a “blank slate” approach, and their charge was to convert both sites to a mixed-use development with affordable housing and live-work-shop components.

The Bayfair Project, outlined in a class project book Wallace compiled called “Building the Sustainable City,” included ground floor retail, a solar canopy over the garage, a shared electric vehicle program, and EV charging.  Students also recommended installing puzzle lifts, a semi-automatic parking system that moves cars both vertically and horizontally to create more parking space.

Looking back, Kyle Raines, MBA 21, said the project made him understand how ESG and sustainability extend to the community around a project and can help a project thrive in the long term. “Not only will it get good press, but it will help develop land around the project and create momentum,” he said.

Kyle Raines
Kyle Raines said what he learned in the The Real Estate Investment and Sustainability class helped him pitch investors.

What Raines learned in the class also helped him pitch investors when he was starting Crown Point, a real estate private equity fund. “The thing I think that most struck me from the class is how much investors care about ESG and sustainability—how creating that sense of community at that property is not only a competitive advantage, but also the right thing to do,”  he said.

Angus Maguire, MBA 21, said the Bayfair Project helped him better understand the real estate industry and apply what he’d learned in class from the many industry speakers.

“I took the course because I knew I would be working with real estate developers or real estate asset owners sometime in the future in my renewable energy career, so wanted to better understand how they think about project economics,” he said.

Real-world research

In the Real Estate Finance and Securitization course, Wallace, who is teaching the class this semester, draws from real-world research and the students explore real estate market data in depth.

Sabin Ray, MBA 22, said one highlight was learning about Berkeley Law’s recent findings on the City of Berkeley’s well-intentioned Property Assessed Clean Energy Program. The program allowed property owners to borrow money for renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements, and make payments through a special assessment to their property tax bills. But the research found that the program raised the property taxes of low-income residents, while underdelivering the promised green benefits.

For their final projects, students in the class will be able to access the electronic S&P Global database through a subscription that the Fisher Center subsidized. The database includes balance sheet, performance, and corporate Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies. Students tap the data to analyze current ESG strategies in the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry.

“The purpose of the Fisher Center subsidy is to provide MBA students with very granular firm-level data that connects the dots between performance and sustainability strategies within real estate operating companies,” Wallace said.  

Ray said the sustainability focus of the course appealed to her and that the project finance work will help her as she pursues an impact investing career. “A lot of things we are learning in class I can apply to other areas of financing,” she said.

Classified: Using data and art to inspire conversations about climate change

“Classified” is a series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.

George Milanovic,
George Milanović and Laila Samimi, both MBA 22, in the beginning stages of creating a hopscotch game that will reflect global warming. Photo: Jim Block

High above campus in Memorial Stadium last Wednesday, George Milanović, MBA 22, is lying on the pavement drawing hopscotch squares. It’s the first sign that this is not the usual business school class. His project partner, Laila Samimi, MBA 22, stands nearby. She translates what Milanović is doing.

“The shorter path is the point of no return if the earth’s temperature rises two degrees Celsius—the path of corporate greed and individualistic behavior,” Samimi says. “The other is a path of sustainability. It’s a longer path and it’s harder.”

Heavy stuff for a child’s game, but the hopscotch project makes perfect sense as art created in a new course called Sustainability, Art & Business. 

Clark Kellogg speaks to student in class.
Continuing Lecturer and Haas artist-in-residence Clark Kellogg (right) chats with undergraduate Alexis Mullard about her project, which explores the idea that earth is melting like an ice cream cone. Photo: Jim Block

The course calls on 25 undergraduate and MBA students to explore the meaning of sustainability—and the human response to global warming—through art. 

My hope is that this art will help people to see things differently–to reframe problems and challenge our comfortable assumptions,” says Clark Kellogg, a continuing lecturer with the Haas Professional Faculty and the Haas artist-in-residence. “We’re using art to invite people into a new relationship with sustainability, to inspire a different conversation that’s not about guilt or shame.”

“We’re using art to invite people into a new relationship with sustainability, to inspire a different conversation that’s not about guilt or shame.” — Clark Kellogg

The course, taught in the Berkeley Haas Innovation Lab, builds upon a series of classes Kellogg has taught at Haas over the past decade—from Creativity Lab to Art from Business to the pioneering Design Thinking class. 

Kellogg’s classroom method combines experiential learning-by-doing coupled with deep collaboration and peer-to-peer-critique, all on display in the new course. This morning, the class is focused on design, which is the second step of the three-step process for making public art that includes research, design, and execution.

Kellogg grabs a large roll of paper and starts cutting. 

“Let’s just start to play,” he says, as the class splits into small groups, clutching chalk, recyclable materials, and other supplies. 

Students in Memorial Stadium making art
(Left to right) MBA students Casey Dunajick-DeKnight, Rosa Huang, and Jesse Ruiz cutting recycled cans into flat aluminum that will be used to craft sea creatures. Photo: Jim Block

Preparing for the pop up

The idea is to finish something today that can be transferred to the Haas Courtyard next Wednesday to share during a pop up show.

Casey Dunajick-DeKnight and her team sit outside cutting recycled seltzer cans into shiny, flat metal pieces that will be used to craft sea creatures that are disappearing from oceans. Dunajick-DeKnight says she’s inspired by origami and found that aluminum is a flexible material “that cuts like paper.” Kellogg says he’s pleased that the cans are finding a second life as aluminum squid and crabs. “If it’s single use, and we use it twice, we cut the problem in half.”

Meanwhile, Zarine Kakalia, BS 22, is using chalk to draw a river that’s been diverted so many times that there’s no water left for the salmon. “I thought this was an interesting way to address resource constraints,” says Kakalia.

Samiya Mehreen, BS 23, presents her drawing, which explores how women artisans in developing countries are balancing business and sustainability. Photo: Jim Block

The class spends an hour working on projects before gathering for storytelling, where one group member describes the project to the class. Rachel Stinebaugh, MBA 22, shares an idea for a game of courtyard twister, with the dots representing vanishing coral reefs. Samiya Mehreen, BS 23, explains a drawing that explores the role of women artisans in developing countries, who are balancing sustainability and business. And Vincent Chang, MBA 22, says his drawing should provoke people to think about the future of a sky obscured by greenhouse gases. “It’s rainbow versus anti-rainbow,” he says.

Vincent Chang shows his artwork.
Vincent Chang, MBA 22, says his drawing—rainbow versus anti-rainbow—addresses the impact of greenhouse gases on the sky.

Kellogg offers praise and gentle prompts for students to take their ideas to the next level.

Before class breaks up, the students head outside to check out the hopscotch game. One student asks Kellogg if he remembers how to play hopscotch. Kellogg pauses, but then obliges, skipping through the squares as the group cheers him on.

Making a plan

Afterwards, the students must decide whether to transfer their projects in some form to the Haas courtyard or recreate their projects on site. The group votes to create their art on site. “Drawing time will be critical,” Kellogg warns, and the group agrees to plan more during the week on Slack, and meet at the courtyard by 10 a.m. on Wednesday. 

“It will be so great to look at the chalk drawings on the ground and think: ‘We did this,’ ” Rosa Huang, MBA 22, says.

Clark Kellogg's art
A work from Clark Kellogg’s 365 Art project—of making art daily for a year.

After next Wednesday’s event, a second courtyard pop-up show is planned for December, followed by a final gallery reception of student art.

Throughout the course, the class will read books like “Think Like an Artist” and “In Pursuit of Inspiration” and news articles that detail the links between taking walks and creativity and the importance of taking time to be alone to just think. (One of Kellogg’s personal projects was to document his commitment to making art daily.) 

Among the students, many of whom are involved in sustainability-focused student groups and working at environmentally-related internships, the consensus is that the class is fresh and fun, tapping a different part of their brains.

“As business school students we are often comfortable with data and frameworks and this class helps us break away from that and be creative and think of things on the spot,” says Alejandra Arrué, MBA 22. “That’s why we enjoy the class.”

Haas expands annual Diversity Symposium to alumni and community

The Berkeley Haas Diversity Symposium this month will bring together prospective students, and—for the first time—alumni and the Haas community for a weekend of events featuring top industry speakers and showcasing the school’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Rosanna Durruthy
Rosanna Durruthy, vice president of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at LinkedIn, will deliver the keynote.

The annual symposium will be held virtually this year over three half-days from Friday, Oct. 22 to Sunday Oct. 24. Organizers, including Berkeley Haas Alumni Relations and the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, in partnership with MBA Admissions, expect about 600 prospective students and 200 alumni to join. While the symposium has traditionally been an event for prospective students, a special morning of programming on Friday is also geared toward alumni and the the Haas community for the first time. 

Elida Bautista
Elida Bautista will give a “state of DEI at Haas” talk.

“We’ve expanded the symposium to make it a signature event for Haas that showcases the school’s DEI strategy and highlights areas where Haas is leading the way,” said Liz Rosenberg, director of Alumni Engagement & Leadership Development at Haas.

The program on Friday, Oct. 21 includes:

  • A talk on the state of DEI at Berkeley Haas with Interim Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer Élida Bautista.
  • A keynote conversation with Rosanna Durruthy, vice president of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at LinkedIn. “For over 35 years, Rosanna Durruthy has advocated for a more inclusive corporate America as an openly queer leader,” Business Insider wrote of Durruthy. “Now, as LinkedIn’s head of diversity, she’s clearing the path for other LGBTQ professionals.”
  • A discussion addressing “Business as a Catalyst for Social Change,” featuring alumni thought leaders including Rachel Williams, BA 97, head of equity, inclusion & diversity at X, the moonshot factory; Marcus Chung, MBA 04 and vice president of manufacturing & supply chain at ThirdLove;  Elisse Douglass, MBA 16, co-founder of the Oakland Black Business Fund;
    and Robert Chatwani, EWMBA 07, CMO of Atlassian. (Hector Preciado, MBA 11, will moderate)

On Saturday, Oct. 22, Dean Ann Harrison will welcome prospective students. Other highlights include tips from admissions officers, an interactive discussion on “crafting your authentic story” with Doy Charnsupharindr, a member of the Continuing Professional Faculty at Haas, and information on financing an MBA.

On Sunday, sessions include a networking event for prospective students, a mock class with Kimberly MacPherson, executive director of the Graduate Program in Health Management at Haas, and an overview followed by a Q&A with the Haas Career Management Group (CMG).

Register for the Diversity Symposium here.

Why Berkeley Haas leads in Bay Area investment banking

Rita Wiley, MBA 22, spent last summer interning at Piper Sandler’s San Francisco offices, taking in sweeping waterfront views from the 31st floor as she worked on healthcare investment deals with her team.

Rita Wiley, MBA 22
Rita Wiley, MBA 22, was a summer associate at Piper Sandler, where she accepted a full-time job after graduation. Photo: Jim Block

“On the first day, my managing director threw me into a live deal,” said Wiley, who spent a decade in project management with the U.S. Army before coming to Haas, where she was drawn to the work ethic and quick skill-building that investment banking demands. “I was given responsibility to run with projects.”

With that internship, Wiley joined a group of 14 Haas MBA students who worked as 2021 Summer Associate interns at Bay Area offices of investment banks. Now the top go-to business school for such hires, Haas typically nabs the largest—or over a 20%—share of the some-65 available IB Summer Associate slots each year. Internships, which are largely in either technology or healthcare investment banking, are critical because they lead to full-time positions at graduation with a very high return-offer rate relative to other industries. 

“Haas produces world-class talent right here locally for the sought-after Bay Area offices, which focus largely on high-growth tech clients, and we perennially have the largest share of associates here at the global intersection of tech and finance,” said William Rindfuss, a member of the continuing professional faculty in finance who also manages financial services recruiting at Haas. 

“Haas produces world-class talent right here locally for the sought-after Bay Area offices,” —William Rindfuss, who manages financial services recruiting at Haas.

Impressive alumni

Bill Rindfuss
William Rindfuss, who manages financial services recruiting at Haas.

Haas’ influence in investment banking grew for many reasons, including a strong finance faculty and curriculum, a Career Management Group (CMG) that’s well-connected to the top banks and supports students through the often intense recruiting process, and a powerful alumni network, Rindfuss said.

Importantly, those alumni show up for popular events like firm networking nights and the Investment Banking Speaker Series course, which recently featured Kate Claassen, MBA 07, head of West Coast Technology Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley, and will feature Nils Hellmer, MBA 15, an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs. 

“Our alumni are so supportive and inspiring to the students,” said Rindfuss, a former J.P. Morgan banker, who has been at Haas since 2008. “You’ll find Haasies at all the top investment banks and we’re so grateful that they take the time to give back to the school and our students—while at the same time seeking new talent.”

Berkeley Haas’ investment banking network has grown over the decades, said Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and is a founding partner at Greyrock Capital Group. Cal alumni helped build big investment banks of the 1970s and 1980s—banks like Montgomery Securities, Hambrecht & Quist, and Robertson Stephens, where alumni flocked. “Cal alumni helped build this West Coast community,” Etter said. “Then the Morgans and Goldmans started to build bigger West Coast presences. We now have senior (Cal) people across all the banks.”

Recruiting help from campus

Haas MBA students heading into full-time investment banking jobs: Rawool Sahu, (Moelis) Rita Wiley, (Piper Sandler) Alex Wong, and Adhithya Ravi. (Morgan Stanley) Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas MBA students coveting jobs in investment banking compete with students from top programs including Wharton, Booth, and Columbia. The jobs are in demand because investment banking pays very well, with a standard $175,000 salary, a typical $50,000+ signing bonus, and year-end performance-based bonuses—all very strong compared to the average MBA graduate compensation, said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management and Corporate Partnerships. 

“But the jobs not only pay well, they offer recent MBA hires some pretty amazing opportunities,” Scott said. “New MBA associates often become part of live deal teams working with high-profile clients in tech, healthcare, and other high-growth sectors.”

“But the jobs not only pay well, they offer recent MBA hires some pretty amazing opportunities,” —Asst. Dean Abby Scott.

Andrew Elliott
Andrew Elliott, MBA 22, landed an internship with Citi after working with CMG at Haas.

MBAs typically commit to investment banking quickly as they have to start preparing for internship recruiting early. “For investment banking you have to know early on if you want to do it because an IB internship is pretty much a requirement for a full time offer,” said Wiley, who was among 13 finance students chosen as 2020 Finance Fellows, receiving partial scholarships, priority registration for finance courses, and mentorship.

Andrew Elliott, MBA 22, said he was “95% committed” to investment banking when he arrived at Haas after working in strategy and business development at Boeing. Elliott worked for six months with Abby Franklin, an investment banking industry specialist with the Haas Career Management Group (CMG), to better understand both the career progression and work-hour demands. 

He applied to multiple firms, a few on his own and most through CMG. CMG’s on-campus recruiting resources—that covered everything from resume design to networking events and interviews—helped Elliott land a summer internship at Citi, where he had already connected with his peer advisor, Ryan Alders, MBA 20, an associate in technology investment banking at Citi. “When I first saw CMG’s requirements I was a little scared because they seemed so specific, but in the end, the process protected me because I ended up with a solid job offer,” said Elliott, who will start a full-time job at Citi this spring, after graduating early.

Christine Jan, who also worked closely with CMG, said she spent hours talking to Haas alumni at different investment banks about everything from deals to the nuts and bolts of jobs to personal life management advice before landing an offer. 

Christine Jan
Christine Jan, MBA 22, interned at Morgan Stanley, where she’ll work in tech investment banking after graduation.

With Franklin’s guidance, Jan reached out to Shilpi Saran, MBA 13, a vice president in technology investment banking at Morgan Stanley. “Shilpi got me interested,” said Jan, who grew up in Taiwan and worked in wealth management at UBS in Hong Kong before coming to Haas. “It’s a process. We have alumni who are performing exceptionally well and they draw us in.”

During recruitment, Jan also met UC Berkeley alumnus Michael Grimes, head of Global Technology Investment Banking for Morgan Stanley, who also founded Berkeley’s M.E.T. program, an undergraduate dual-degree program in business and engineering, and Michael Bausback, MBA 19, an associate in global tech investment banking. Jan committed to a summer internship in tech investment banking with them that led to a full-time job offer. (Jan will join Adhithya Ravi and Alex Wong, both MBA 22, who are also heading to Morgan Stanley Bay Area investment banking offices).

“I loved (the internship),” she said. “It was a deep dive into investment banking. I got to realize what it was and connect the dots to what I’ve done before, connecting my work in Asia and here. It was a great, overwhelming, inspiring experience.”

The boutique path

Rawool Sahu, MBA 22
Rawool Sahu, MBA 22, interned at Moelis in San Francisco, where he will work in tech and healthcare investment banking after graduation.

While bigger firms like Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, and Goldman Sachs draw Haas students each year, a smaller firm like Moelis or Evercore can be a better fit for other students—many who say culture, regardless of size, influences where they end up.

Rawool Sahu, MBA 22, who shifted from a career in corporate financial planning and analysis to investment banking through Haas, will join Moelis, a boutique investment bank, in its thriving San Francisco office next July. (Moelis’ founder and CEO Ken Moelis just announced that the firm had raised pay for first-year analysts because “business is booming” and deal flow is rising.)

Sahu said there are benefits to joining a smaller firm. “Moelis has a smaller office on the West Coast and you get more time with the senior bankers here. At banks on the East Coast, that’s harder.” In a smaller office, he said, work also feels more focused. “Managing directors communicate more directly about what they want, so we don’t waste time. It makes things more efficient.”

At Moelis, Sahu joins a group of Haas alumni, including Adam Burgess, an investment banking associate from the class of 2020, “who helped me to make inroads in the West Coast office,” Sahu said. 

“You can do this”

Adhithya Ravi
Adhithya Ravi, who will work at Morgan Stanley after graduating, is a peer advisor to first-year investment banking students at Haas.

With the 2023 MBA class now on campus, finance students are attending the Investment Banking Speaker Series—along with three networking events each week that connect them with bankers—and preparing for investment banking internship recruiting.

Ravi, who is co-president of the Haas Finance Club, said recruiting with investment banks was one of the most difficult experiences that he has gone through in his life, which is why he’s helping first-year students as one of three peer advisors.

This year, he said the Finance Club rolled out a new guide to everything a recruit will need to succeed, including a networking primer, study schedules, interview prep, and advice for finding a bank that’s a good internship fit. “I’m constantly reminding recruits to leverage those around them and support one another,” Ravi said. “Having a support group and people to prep with helped so much,” he said.

To prospective Haas investment banking students, Wiley offered encouragement.  “I had an interest in finance on the personal side but never thought I would make a career out of it,” said Wiley, who accepted a job with Piper Sandler after graduation. “I’m a prime example that you can do this.”

Community celebrates new MBA lounge, the Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons

The new student lounge at Haas.
Dean Ann Harrison (middle) celebrates the grand opening of the Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons with Mikhail Shneyder (second from left), EWMBA 08, and husband, Jim Kirk (left), who made a $1 million donation to name the lounge. Austen Diliberto and Bingbin Zhou of Gelfand Partners Architects are on the right. (Photo: Ute Frey)

The Berkeley Haas community gathered yesterday to celebrate the grand opening of the Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons, a larger, brighter space for MBA students to study and collaborate.

The MBA Commons is named for Mikhail Shneyder, EWMBA 08, and his husband, Jim Kirk, in recognition of their generous $1 million gift to the school. 

The 2,300 square feet of space, which previously housed the FIFO Café, has been in the works since 2019. The opening of Chou Hall and Café Think provided an opportunity to reconsider the use of the space, Dean Ann Harrison said at the grand opening.

The new MBA lounge at Haas
The new MBA lounge has private phone booths and portable charging stations. (Photo: Emily Ufheil-Somers)

Haas student leaders, who worked on focus groups to develop the plans, asked for a lounge that was bigger, updated, and more inviting. 

“We heard you,” Harrison said. The new space offers multiple seating areas, varied furniture options, a kitchenette, private phone booths, contemporary fixtures, portable charging stations, and even a digital trophy wall where MBA student achievements and awards will be showcased.

Previously, MBA students met outside of class in a room off the upper Bank of America Forum, which seats about 20 people. The Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons is three times the size of that space.

“Thrilled to give back”

Harrison said Shneyder, who immigrated to the United States from Belarus at 19 after earning a nursing degree, speaking no English, is “the archetype of our Defining Leadership Principles.” 

Mikhail Shneyder, EWMBA 08
Donor Mikhail Shneyder, EWMBA 08, addresses the Haas community. (Photo: Ute Frey)

After pursuing business classes as an undergraduate and, later, an MBA at Haas, he became CEO and president of Nightingale College, a nursing school headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Shneyder said Nightingale’s success was born “in Haas classes and in our group work.”

“We generated all these ideas that we are implementing day and day out,” he said. “My hope is that that you will generate so many new ideas that will continue to question the status quo and build the future that is equitable and accessible and good for everybody.”

Harrison lauded Shneyder’s goal to change the world “by improving health and revolutionizing access to quality education for health care professionals from varied socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds”—and for giving back to Haas.

“Mikhail, Jim, we are beyond thrilled to be the beneficiary of your success and generosity,” Harrison said. “We thank you for holding a special place in your heart for this Haas community.”

New undergrad, MBA, and PhD students arrive to start classes

MBA students jumping
New FTMBA students celebrate being together on campus. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas welcomed more than 750 new students in the full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD programs to campus over the past week, kicking off the start of fall semester with a flurry of online and in-person events.

The new students, among the first to return to class in person since the COVID-19 pandemic, join the evening & weekend and executive MBA students who arrived earlier this summer.  

Full-time MBA Program

A total of 291 new full-time MBA students in the Class of 2023 arrived for Week Zero, five days of sessions on topics including academic life at Haas; diversity, equity, and inclusion, and career planning.  Second-year MBA students Vaibhav Anand, Jose Philip and Jessica Hwang served as Week Zero co-chairs. 

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the class at Andersen Auditorium during Monday’s kickoff. “Getting here is not easy,” said Harrison, who earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley with a double major in economics and history and served as a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics from 2001 to 2011. “You’ve selected the right school and you really belong here.” 

Dean Ann Harrison
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the new class. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Harrison said the MBA program would challenge students both academically and personally. “We know that every single one of you has what it takes to succeed in this program,” she said, noting that the smaller program gives students the opportunity to  get to know each other.

Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions, discussed the meaning of resilience, quoting Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington, who described resilience as the ability to not only bounce back, but bounce forward.

“The fact that you are sitting here today shows that you have the capacity to bounce forward, and it’s a critical skill that’s going to enable you to be strong leaders now and in the future,” he said. 

Throughout the week, students met with cohort members, joined “ask me anything” sessions with professors, took a sunset cruise, and performed community service at the supportive housing community Alameda Point Collaborative and its social enterprise, Ploughshares Nursery.

Students in design thinking class at Haas
MBA students collaborate during a design thinking workshop. Photo: Jim Block

During orientation breaks, they gathered in the courtyard.

“It’s so nice to see everyone here,” said Anhelo Benavides, MBA 23, who grew up in Mexico and worked as a management consultant at Kearney in Dubai before coming to Haas. Highlights of orientation for her included meeting her cohort and hearing from Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar, who spoke to students about making their “house” at Haas into a true home. 

Bree Jenkins
Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar, shared some advice to the new FTMBA class. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Benavides added that she loved the heartwarming welcome video from Haas alumni around the world, who greeted the students with a “Welcome to Haas” cheer. “This video brought joyful tears to my eyes,” she wrote on her Linkedin page. 

A diverse group

The new MBA class is a diverse group composed of 38% women and 37% international students. About half the class are U.S. minorities, with 23% of the students identifying as underrepresented minorities (Black, Latinx, and Native American). Sixteen percent of the students are first in their families to attend college, and 14% of the class identifies at LGBTQ+.

The class is academically exceptional, with average GMAT scores of 726 and average GPAs of 3.67. 

MBA students in courtyard
New MBA students socialized in the courtyard between orientation sessions. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

With an average of 5.4 years of work experience—about 19% of the students are from the consulting industry; 16% are from banking/financial services; 12% are from high tech; 7% are from nonprofits; and 7% are from healthcare/pharma/biotech.

Tomoe Wang, who joins the MBA program from Australia, said she’s planning a career pivot at Haas, so she found the Career Management Group’s orientation panel useful. Organized by MBA Career & Leadership Coach Julia Rosoff, the panel was led by second-year MBA students Caroline Shu, Shane Wilkinson, Lisa Chen, Rachel Stinebaugh, and Kayla Razavi.

 “I had no idea what to expect with the hiring process, so it was good to have panelists walk you through it,” Wang said.

Haas students volunteering
FTMBA students help weed the gardens at the Alameda Point Collaborative. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Thirty-nine students are enrolled in dual degree programs in public health, engineering, and law, including 19 MBA/MPH students, 18 MBA/MEng students, and two MBA/JD students.

John Thompson, MBA/MEng 23, of Shrewsbury, Mass, said he’ll be taking his first engineering courses at UC Berkeley, alongside his business courses. Thompson said he’s looking forward to joining the Food@Haas club, and is interested in exploring the intersection of agriculture and technology as a dual MBA/engineering major. “It’s an area ripe for innovation and growth,” he said. 

Undergraduates

Undergrads in the courtyard
New Haas undergrads joined events held today in the Haas courtyard, including a team-building activity and a networking mixer. Photo: Natasha Payes.

Dean Ann Harrison and Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Undergraduate Program, gave a warm welcome yesterday on Zoom to the 457 new undergraduate students. The group includes 245 continuing UC Berkeley juniors and 101 transfer students.

Continuing students hold an average GPA of 3.79, and the transfer students’ GPA averages 3.91. The class was accepted from a total of 3,304 applicants.

New undergraduate students
Haas undergraduate students met in the courtyard to network today. Photo: Natasha Payes.

Joining orientation were 31 students in the undergraduate Global Management Program (GMP), a selective, four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018, along with 25 students in the Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship program. The Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology  (M.E.T.) program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, admitted 55 freshmen.

Orientation sessions on Zoom included a lecture by Distinguished Teaching Fellow Janet Brady, who discussed tools students need to be successful academically; an intro to career resources by Karen Lin, assistant director of career counseling; and an overview of the fall schedule.

Cohort events were held today in the Haas courtyard, including a team-building activity and a networking mixer.

PhD Program

The 2021 PhD cohort includes 12 students—seven women and five men. This year’s class includes two students in Accounting; three in Business and Public Policy;  two in Finance; three in Marketing—one in Marketing Science and two in Behavioral Marketing; one in Management of Organizations (micro) and one in Management of Organizations student (macro).

The new students are from the U.S., India, France, China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Canada.

The Berkeley Haas PhD program is a five-year, full-time, in-residence program, leading to a PhD in Business Administration. There are a total of 69 students in the program.

Junaid Lughmani: Starting my MBA as a country I love collapses

Man with Afghan flag
Photo by: Robert Michael/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Junaid Lughmani, MBA 23, found himself torn between two worlds last week, trying to stay focused on MBA orientation as he grappled with heart-wrenching sadness over the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Lughmani, a first-generation American of Pashtun origin, worked as an interpreter in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011. He served as a liaison between the U.S. and Afghan governments, conducting interrogations and gathering intelligence on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Three years later, he returned with the U.S. Army Infantry Rifle Platoon, leading multiple combat missions. 

He sought an MBA with a plan to return to Afghanistan and invest in entrepreneurs. Now, he is desperate to help.

In this edition of Haas Voices, Lughmani shares his grief, anger, and frustration as he watches what is happening.

Junaid Lughmani
Junaid Lughmani

More than a week after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, my mind continues to dwell in a state of shock. The hard-fought years spent alongside our Afghan partners to build a better future for the country catastrophically unraveled in a matter of days.

That sense of helplessness I felt as I watched is something I will never forget.

But I don’t waste time discussing the tragedy in terms of the failure of politicians. My heart is with the Afghan people. With my people. Words cannot convey how sorry I am for the Afghans who will once again have to endure the brutality and humiliation of the Taliban. I’m sorry for Afghanistan’s little ones, especially its daughters, whose promise of a bright future has been snatched from them. I am sorry for the 20 million Afghan women whose lives will become shuttered and oppressed, their voices now silenced. I am sorry for the brave teachers who risked death by creating opportunities for the nation’s youth, their dreams of living in a more prosperous society now indefinitely postponed. I am sorry for the courageous Afghan soldiers and police officers who fought to defend their country, but are now in hiding as the Taliban seeks vengeance.

To those who criticized the Afghan security forces within the past week from the safety of your living rooms, please reserve judgement. You have no idea (or maybe, sadly, you do) what Afghan service members endured over the past 20 years, in a climate of vast corruption and inconsistent policy. None of us know how we would fare under those circumstances.

Monday morning, the first day of MBA orientation, I woke up confused and angry over our government’s abandonment of Afghanistan. My mind raced: What was the point of entering the country in the first place? For what purpose did we liberate Afghans from the tyranny of the Taliban, just to have the terror group unleashed upon the citizens 20 years later? Were there any thoughts of the military families who endured deployment after deployment?  If not for them, then what about for the Afghan and American lives (and limbs) lost in war?

Monday morning, the first day of MBA orientation, I woke up confused and angry over our government’s abandonment of Afghanistan.

I sent a plea for help to the Haas veterans’ WhatsApp group chat. As a club, we needed to take a stand and express solidarity with the Afghan people. The responses multiplied within minutes, and by noon the Haas Veterans Club released a statement expressing firm support of the Afghan population. I shared the statement with a friend in Kabul and, upon reading it, she was overcome with emotion.

Like many Afghans, she feels abandoned and alone. In this grim moment of history, words matter, solidarity matters, and empathy matters. A simple statement from a student club at a Northern Californian school brought a breath of solace to someone trapped in hell on the other side of the world.

Once the statement was complete, I rushed to orientation. The only seat open was right smack in the middle of the first row of Andersen Auditorium. My mind was in a fog. My body was safe in the auditorium, but my head was with the chaos in Afghanistan. Under this terror regime, how many Afghans would lose the opportunity to start their own education journeys? How many would have to spend the next who-knows-how-many years of their lives fighting for their survival, instead of writing a thesis or forming study groups?

Junaid with boy wearing Yankees hat
Junaid Lughmani served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army.

Eric Askins, the MBA Admissions Director, began his orientation remarks by saying, “Our thoughts are with the people of Afghanistan and Haiti.” Immediately, I broke. I could not control the tears streaming down my face. Spotlighted in the front row, I buried my chin in my chest, hoping no one would notice. Matthew McGoffin, my roommate and also a veteran, was sitting next to me. He could feel my leg shaking uncontrollably. He put his hand on mine, and thankfully, I was able to gather myself enough to keep my head down and out of sight.

The past week has been a nightmare. The Afghan diaspora and veterans are sad and angry. The veterans who deployed to Afghanistan are ashamed. No one is sleeping. We simply can’t. Every phone call is an opportunity to help someone in need, to save their life, or to save their family. We can’t afford to miss one call, one text, or one desperate cry for help. For the past 20 years, we were there with the Afghans. We fought with them, served with them, ate food with them, laughed with them. They opened their homes and their lives and their hearts to us. Now, in this dire time, we can do nothing to defend them.

For the past 20 years, we were there with the Afghans. We fought with them, served with them, ate food with them, laughed with them.

The guilt eats at our consciences. Politicians in both countries have first and foremost deeply betrayed the Afghan people. But the betrayal also extends to the veterans who proudly served in Afghanistan; those who sacrificed their blood and souls to this country.

Junaid in Afganistan
Junaid Lughmani, MBA 23, wants to return to Afghanistan to help entrepreneurs.

Soon, all foreign troops will leave Afghanistan. By the time pumpkin spice lattes hit the menu at Starbucks, news headlines will shift focus to the next world event. The public will forget about Afghanistan. The most maddingly frustrating part of this calamity is that we were so close to healing the country from the first Taliban reign. Afghan children attended school. Women played an active role in Afghan society. Billboards were adorned with images of pop stars and the country’s sports heroes. There was even a coding school for girls, “Afghan Girls Code,” and an entrepreneurial ecosystem developing. I had plans to return to Afghanistan after finishing my MBA program as an investor in the country’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

I fear now that all of this progress is stalled.

Instead, I hear the cries of my Afghan brethren through tinny cell phones and the cold distance of text messages. I rest here safe in monotone, while they burn in chaotic color. I just want to be in Afghanistan again, with my people. I know the horror that lies ahead for them, yet I also know firsthand the resilience of the Afghan people.

Insha’Allah (God willing), I will be with them again. Whatever it takes, I am determined to make that happen.

Haas refreshes core MBA curriculum, adds three new courses

Berkeley Haas is rolling out core curriculum changes designed to prepare MBA students for a fast-changing workplace by equipping them with enhanced communication skills and deeper data knowledge.

The refreshed curriculum includes additional training in business communications and persuasion skills, doubles coursework in statistics and data analytics, and creates a new course, perhaps the first required core business class in the U.S., on leading diverse teams. The new courses will be rolled out in the full-time MBA program during the 2021-22 academic year. 

An eight-member faculty task force worked throughout the pandemic to rethink the MBA core experience. The faculty in April unanimously approved the task force’s recommendations. 

Dean Ann Harrison
Dean Ann Harrison

“I am so proud of the hard work that our faculty-led team put into these transformative core curriculum changes,” said Dean Ann Harrison, who created the core committee, which was led by co-chairs Prof. Ross Levine and Assoc. Prof. Dana R. Carney. “We are rolling out innovative courses that will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions.”

Three new courses

The MBA core consists of 14 required courses that form the fundamental building blocks of a general management education. The classes are designed to build on each other, providing students with the analytical tools and knowledge required to manage complex managerial problems–skills every employer expects from an MBA. 

The MBA core consists of 14 required courses that form the fundamental building blocks of a general management education.

The three courses added to the core include:

  • Data Analytics will provide more extensive training in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and related approaches to using big data for decision making. The course is a companion to the existing Data and Decisions statistical analysis course. 
  • Data-Driven Presentations: Making the Business Case will better prepare students to make persuasive arguments using data and narrative. It builds on the knowledge and experience developed in the courses Data and Decisions and Leadership Communication.
  • Business Communication in Diverse Work Environments will help students navigate diverse settings more effectively to improve their ability to create, work within, and lead diverse teams and global organizations. It also develops critical thinking on topics such as identity, relationships across differences, bias, and equality of opportunity in organizations.

Levine said he was proud of the group’s camaraderie and collaboration and the transparency of the process.

Prof. Ross Levine co-chaired the curriculum review task force.

“It’s very important for any type of program to re-evaluate, reassess, renew, modernize, and make things as relevant and useful for students as possible,” said Levine, the Willis H. Booth Chair in Banking and Finance. “We worked very hard to make some changes that would help our students achieve their professional ambitions.”

Jay Stowsky, who served as Senior Assistant Dean of Instruction for the past 13 years, added that the curriculum changes will make it easier for faculty “to address, with relevance to each of their courses and academic disciplines, the broader social impacts of business.” 

Evidence-based changes

Dana Carney
Assoc. Prof. Dana Carney co-chaired the curriculum review task force.

Copious research enabled the task force to have full confidence in the proposed core changes, said Carney, a psychologist who studies racial bias and is the director of the Institute of Personality and Social Research at UC Berkeley. “We knew that we had to have a lot of data to guide and substantiate the changes the data suggested we make; we made sure the data we collected were unimpeachable,” she said.

As part of this research, the task force members sought extensive feedback from different groups before making its recommendations. They met with tenure-track and teaching faculty and current students and separately with MBA students active in the Race Inclusion Initiative (RII) and the Gender Equity Initiative (GEI) at Haas. 

 

“We knew that we had to have a lot of data to guide and substantiate the changes the data suggested we make.” – Assoc. Prof. Dana Carney.

The task force also worked closely with the Haas Board and the Career Management Group (CMG), which developed a survey of recent alumni and collected data from corporate recruiters on the skills they seek when hiring. Early in the process, two clear areas in the existing curriculum emerged that would need a fresh and upgraded experience—interacting with people and interacting with data, Carney said. 

Jenn Bridge, senior director of employer engagement & industry readiness at Haas, said her team’s interviews with recruiters and alumni surveys aligned with findings in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, confirming the demand for strong data and people-centered skills. 

“Being nimble as a leader and managing people through change are skills that are highly desired,” she said. “The pandemic has accelerated all of this.” 

Learn by doing

One of the ways the task force made room in students’ schedules for the new core courses was to to shift the decade-old Fundamentals of Design Thinking course from the core to an elective. 

Haas pioneered teaching design thinking as part of an MBA core refresh in 2010. Since then, design thinking has become a standard approach to problem solving, woven throughout the curriculum, especially in the required project-based Applied Innovation electives. MBA students will continue to “learn by doing” through design thinking and other decision-making approaches, Stowsky said.  

The part-time MBA programs are considering the core refresh in light of the needs of their students. In the Evening & Weekend MBA program, the Business Communications in Diverse Environments core course will be added to the core and become the capstone course, while the two new data-focused courses will offered as electives. Implementation in the MBA for Executives program is under discussion with the EMBA Academic Program Committee.

Tokyo bound: Four Haasies to compete in summer Olympics

After a year of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer Olympics are here—and four Haasies are in Tokyo to compete in golf, swimming, and water polo.

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad are scheduled from from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021. The group of competing Haas athletes includes:

Collin Morikawa

Collin Morikawa, BS 19, joins Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau on the men’s U.S. golf team.

Collin Morikawa holding trophy
Collin Morikawa holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park in 2020 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The U.S. will have have more golfers represented than any other nation during this year’s Games, according to Golf magazine.  Pro-golfer Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship in his first-ever attempt last year.

When he enrolled at UC Berkeley, Morikawa had a single-minded focus to learn how he could succeed as a professional golfer, treating the endeavor as much as a job as a sport. “If you look at big professional athletes, they’re running their own business, which is their name and their brand,” he told Berkeley Haas Magazine. “I wanted to invest in my future and learn as much as I could so when I turned pro I would be ready for the outside world.”

Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy, swimmer
Ryan Murphy, BS 17, backstroker, is heading to his second Olympic Games.

Ryan Murphy, BS 17, is competing in his second Olympics, qualifying again in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke.

In 2016, Murphy won gold in both the 200m and 100m backstroke, and swam to victory in the 400m relay medley with Olympic legend Michael Phelps, Cal alum Nathan Adrian, and Cody Miller. “I honestly didn’t think I’d win the 200m backstroke, but that’s the event I really trained for,” he told Berkeley Haas News at the time. “The 100m back comes a little more naturally to me, so the 200 is the one I have to really work for. It’s the one that meant a lot because I know what’s gone on behind that whole race and what I did in coming up with the best strategy to win it.” This year, he’s serving as an Olympic team captain for USA swimming.

Johnny Hooper

Johnny hooper
Johnny Hooper, BS 19, is Cal’s #2 all-time leading scorer. (Cal Athletics photo)

Johnny Hooper, BS 19, a 6’2″ attacker, qualified for Tokyo as a member of the Men’s Senior National Team, USA Water Polo. Hooper is Cal’s #2 all-time leading scorer with 245 goals, and he helped lead the squad to the 2016 NCAA Championship. The team trained remotely during the pandemic, and Hooper, along with many of his teammates, spent part of the last year playing professionally in Europe.

 

 

Alicia Wilson

Alicia Wilson
Alicia Wilson, BS 22, will swim for Great Britain. (Cal Athletics photo)

Alicia Wilson, BS 22, qualified for a spot on Great Britain’s swim team to compete in the 200-meter individual medley, a technically challenging race involving equal parts backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, and freestyle. Wilson, a rising senior from England, had an incredible 2021 season, capturing the 2021 Pac-12 crown in the 200-yard individual medley.

Wilson said her inspiration started in 2012 when the London Olympic games “were literally on my front doorstep.” Read an interview with Wilson here.

London Swift, MBA 22, on helping creative freelancers find gigs and demand fair pay

Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.

London Swift photo
London Swift, MBA 22, co-founder of startup Et al, a community for women and gender-diverse creative freelancers.

Before London Swift arrived at Haas, she raised $15,000 on Kickstarter to build a test website called Et al., a hub for women and gender-diverse creative freelancers.

Swift hoped the beta site would bring “creatives”—digital designers, podcast creators, photographers, artists, and writers—together to find gigs.

“We got a tremendous response,” said Swift, MBA 22, who is working with her partner and co-founder Sophia Wirth, a digital brand strategy consultant. “We had 100 people reach out but only had room for 25 people on the site.”

At Haas, Swift is building Et al. from a test site into a business—a place for many more freelancers to showcase their portfolios, and network about everything from collaborative opportunities to fair pay rates to administrative challenges. Employers will use the site’s bulletin board to post job jobs and view users’ creative profiles.

Female “creatives”often face a persistent pay gap in the freelance market, a problem Swift is working to solve with the startup.

“We wanted to build a community where women could better understand the pay issues and work together to close the gender wage gap in the gig economy,” said Swift, a ceramics artist who once considered a career in the arts, but, wary of the low pay, worked as a consultant at Deloitte after her undergraduate program.

“We wanted to build a community where women could better understand the pay issues and work together to close the gender wage gap in the gig economy,” —London Swift, MBA 22.

Part of Et al.’s strategy will be to keep customers’ costs low, by offering flexible monthly user subscriptions.  Platform users will be segmented into professional communities, where they will have access to an exclusive Slack workspace.

Swift said she was inspired when one of their first test users, a new freelancer who had never written for a magazine, built her first creative portfolio and landed her first assignment with Elle UK, an article about how 1990s television sitcoms revolutionized Black beauty. “She is now working full-time as a freelance writer and we could not be happier for her,” Swift said.

Help along the way

Many groups have supported Swift’s startup journey since she arrived at Haas.

First, she was accepted into the Berkeley Student Entrepreneurship Program (StEP), a 10-week campus-wide incubator. Then she raised $35,000 last spring to build a new version of Et al.

Et al founders Sophia Wirth and London Swift
Et al. co-founders London Swift, MBA 22, (right) and her partner & CEO Sophia Wirth, a digital brand strategy consultant, whom she met during her undergraduate program at American University.

She was also the recent recipient of the Hansoo Lee Fellowship, created to honor the memory of Hansoo Lee, MBA 10, and is among the startup founders joining the Blackstone LaunchPad Techstars summer fellowship program for entrepreneurs. There, she’ll work with a mentor and bounce new ideas off other founders.

Last spring, El al. also participated in the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership’s Investing in Inclusion pitch competition, coming in second. “It’s so unique to have a startup space that’s focused on social impact and profitability,” she said. “It felt really special for us.”

Swift is also working with Berkeley Female Founders and Funders to find a few undergraduates who might be able to work with the team this summer. “We have an incredible network of entrepreneurs here,” she said.

London Swift
London Swift, co-founder of Et al., considered a career as an artist.

Outside of the startup world at Haas, Swift is a member of the Consortium, an organization that recruits qualified students who can demonstrate a commitment to its mission of enhancing diversity in business education and leadership, and Q@Haas, the LGBTQ+ MBA community at Haas—and the vice president of academic affairs for her MBA class. She said she’s looking forward to returning to campus this fall. “I’m definitely an extrovert and love being with people,” she said.

Meantime, Swift will focus on her company—and a new ceramics wheel she just bought, getting back into pottery and her creative side.

“Having the opportunity to study at Haas, support women in the arts, and address pay inequity is such a privilege and I cannot wait to see what the next few years bring,” she said.

Elle Wisnicki, MBA 22: Why goats should be part of mental healthcare

Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community

Elle Wisnicki, MBA 22, dreams of opening a wellness retreat center that offers animal-assisted therapy to children and adults—and she’s moving closer toward that goal at Haas. Wisnicki is a 2021 recipient of the John E. Martin Fellowship, (named for the father of Michael Martin, MBA 09) awarded to students who are working to improve mental healthcare quality and access. 

Elle Wisnicki photo with goats
Elle Wisnicki, MBA 22, dreams of opening a wellness retreat center that offers animal-assisted therapy.

I’m Black and Jewish and was raised by a single mom. I was an independent kid, always wanting to help others, so when I wasn’t caring for stray animals in the neighborhood, you could find me babysitting.

Growing up in Hollywood, Calif., where wealth exists parallel to a large population experiencing homelessness, I learned about mental health challenges at a young age. My mom and I got to know the stories of our neighbors who were homeless and faced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, and more.

From childhood to high school, my career aspiration was to become an OB/GYN doctor or genetic counselor for families. However, after realizing that a lot of people can’t even get to the doctor for basic care, I shifted my goals away from providing care to helping people access care.

After realizing that a lot of people can’t even get to the doctor for basic care, I shifted my goals away from providing care to helping people access care.

After undergrad at Columbia University, I worked in consulting. At that job, I began connecting the dots among common mental health issues within different groups of people I’d met and worked with for over a decade, including homeless veterans, patients I worked with at Planned Parenthood, students I supported as an RA in my dorm, and even my financially well-off consulting coworkers who were burning out. No matter their walk of life , many shared a common thread: determining how to best address their mental health problems.

When I started putting it all together I began to see how I could thrive in this line of work and I wanted to start focusing on it right away. When I considered leaving consulting, I knew I had to align my career with my values so that my work would reflect my life’s greater purpose. After reaching out to diverse people in my network, I was inspired to become a mental health coach at Sibly, a text-based mental health and wellness app.

This was the first step toward starting my own mental health-related venture. However, I knew that creating a startup without the support of an MBA network would be challenging. So I initially came to Haas to focus on startup solutions for crisis response. What I quickly learned was that the many hours of research, customer discovery calls, and networking on a computer screen, on top of my MBA lectures, was leading to burnout.

In November 2020, I took the month off of my startup to spend some time restoring my own mental health. I volunteered for a ferret rescue and took llamas on walks up north in Yuba City, played with goats and did goat yoga in Half Moon Bay, and worked with kitten rescues. My soul lit up.

My soul lit up. I felt healed when an animal rested in my lap or greeted me.

I felt healed when an animal rested in my lap or greeted me, or when I moved my body around innocent beings, who only wanted to provide affection.

goats with Elle Wisnicki in barn
Goats are part of Elle Wisnicki’s animal-assisted therapy plan.

I realized others enjoy animals and nature in a healing way as do I and many people are looking for alternative wellness solutions. My potential customers told me they benefited from being closer to nature, but craved structure and couldn’t find affordable group wellness centers near them.

My vision is to offer that structure, by opening a retreat center with half day, full-day, and weekend wellness retreats. I’m also considering animal-assisted individual and group therapy, goat yoga, sustainable farming workshops, garden box subscriptions, children’s birthday parties, summer camps, a petting zoo, products, and transportation to access all of these services through bus rides between San Francisco and Oakland.

When I was applying for the Martin fellowship I connected with a Haas alum who had won a similar fellowship a few years before me. We recognized we both had similar goals. He recently began developing land he and his family own and considering what kind of venture they want to use it for. We’ve started discussions around the types of pilots we will put together to determine what is most appealing to our customers.

In addition to these plans, I continue to work in mental health tech.  This semester, through the Lean Launchpad entrepreneurship class, I worked for a wellness startup Shimmer, focused on employer wellness benefits and insurance. My summer internship is focused on health insurance and mental health access for children and youth in  foster care.

Throughout this journey, I’ve realized how grateful I am to be living and working at a time where as a society we’re finally prioritizing mental health. There has been tremendous growth in the wellness industry and I am thrilled about increasing access and with the movement toward mental health destigmatization.

How search funds turn MBA “searchers” into young CEOs

Hannah Greenberg and Alex Lopez
Hannah Greenberg and Alex Lopez are “searchers” on the hunt to buy a U.S.-based software company.

Hannah Greenberg and Alex Lopez, both EMBA 20, are best friends who hope to add “chief executive” to their resumes.

The pair are looking to buy a software as a service (SaaS) company in the hospitality or financial services industry through their new search fund Ven Capital Partners. They scour markets for a perfect match, typically a successful 60-something owner who is about to retire. ”A lot of family businesses don’t think about succession and they don’t have a plan of what’s next for them when they retire,” Lopez said. “That’s where we come in.”

Greenberg and Lopez are known as “searchers” in the finance world, joining a growing tribe of MBAs who, lacking a pool of their own capital, use an established investment vehicle called a search fund to acquire a single, privately-held firm.The group includes pioneers like Mahesh Rajasekharan, MBA 09, and Sumit Garg, MBA 08, who co-founded search fund Globe Equity Partners in 2010. Two years later, the pair bought Cleo Communications, where Rajasekharan remains CEO.

More recently, Jeff Oldenburg, MBA 18, co-founder of the Tusker Fund, acquired Echosec, a Canadian cybersecurity company. Lance Barnard, MBA 21, founder of LML Capital, last month acquired and became CEO of Ward Pharmacy in Denver, Co.

“A very young CEO”

The search fund model isn’t new, but it’s growing fast at business schools. More than 400 search funds have been raised since 1984, according to a 2020 Stanford Business School Search Funds study, half of them within the past several years. From 1984 through 2019, investors put $1.4 billion of equity capital into traditional search funds and acquired companies.

Jan Simon teaches the Search Funds course at Haas.

“Search is really taking off,” said Jan Simon, a former Goldman Sachs executive who teaches the popular Search Funds course at Haas and is a managing partner at Vonzeo Capital Partners, typically investing in up to 25 search funds per year.  For MBAs who want to partly own a firm and serve as CEO, “it doesn’t get better than the search fund model,” said Simon, who also teaches at Barcelona’s IESE business school. “The average person who does this is 32 years old, a very young CEO,” he said. A typical search fund entrepreneur can land 25% to 35% ownership in a company (30% in the case of a team) over several years.

“Search is really taking off,” said Jan Simon, a former Goldman Sachs executive who teaches the popular Search Funds course at Haas.

Bill Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs for the Haas Finance Group, pitched Search Funds as a new Berkeley Haas finance course in 2019, inviting Simon to teach it as an extracurricular. “It was well-attended and got great student evaluations, which helped greatly in getting it approved as a new course,” Rindfuss said.

While other courses, including New Venture Finance taught by Maura O’Neill and M&A courses taught by Peter Goodson, help prepare students to launch their own funds, the Search Funds class is the headliner for students focused on search.

The course teaches MBA students with little to no CEO experience how to raise money—usually between $500,000 to $800,000—from a group of a dozen or so individual investors. The class also walks students through the complexities of the search and acquisition process. Searchers typically hold the companies they buy for six to 10 years.

Startup vs search

The model isn’t for everyone, though, as there’s risk. About a third of all searches end without an acquisition. Search also might not be the right fit for students with true startup aspirations. “I ask students, ‘What appeals to you?’” Simon said. “Do you like to go from 0 to 10 in starting a company? A lot of people want to be in the middle—from 100 to 1,000. It’s that type of entrepreneur we’re looking for, someone who is taking an existing business and growing it.”

For Lopez, a former U.S. Marine with an investment banking background, and Greenberg, who has a private equity background, a search fund is the perfect middle ground, as both are entrepreneurial but had no interest in building a startup from scratch. While their total fund amount is undisclosed, their lead investor is Pacific Lake Partners, and they’ve also drawn a few investors in the Haas community.

They’re now looking to buy a company with a minimum of  $1.5 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) on revenue up to $50 million, and a clear path of repetitive business from existing customers. “Our job is to find companies that aren’t actively for sale and figure out where they are financially before it gets to the point where they want to be more formal,” Greenberg said.

Lopez, whose family is from Mexico, said he and Hannah add to the diversity of an industry that is lacking Latinx and female representation. Women account for just 7% of searchers, according to the Stanford Business School study. No data in the study tracked ethnicity.

“Women and Latinx entrepreneurs are slowly getting more opportunities in the space, but Hannah and I would love to pave the way for many more,” said Lopez.

A roller coaster at times

Joe Odell photo
Joe Odell, EMBA 20, co-founded search fund Steadfast Horizon.

There are also relatively few MBAs with families in the search fund space, which demands that searchers move to wherever they buy a company. Jess Patterson and Joe Odell, both EMBA 20, are an exception, starting search fund Steadfast Horizon last year.

By March, they’d raised $800,000, on the high end for a search fund, from 24 investors.

They’re unique in search in that they both have families—yet are willing to relocate to where a deal takes them. “Traditional search skews toward a different profile than our own,” Patterson said. “But our families are all in and ready to move.”

Odell said the process has been an emotional roller coaster at times, but fun.

“I didn’t feel like we were going to make it a few times during fundraising,” he said, adding that the “searcher” community has supported them along the way. “Search is incredible opportunity-wise and it’s not cutthroat. Each one of us is trying to build a new future for ourselves and those we love.”

 

 

Faculty, student instructors honored with Cheit teaching awards

photo of Cheit teaching award winners
Clockwise from top left: Ross Levine, Panos Patatoukas, Nancy Wallace, Dan Mulhern, Guo Xu, and Jenny Herbert Creek.

Six faculty members and five Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) have been honored at 2021 commencements for excellence in teaching.

Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the Cheit Award, named after Dean Emeritus Earl F. Cheit, who made teaching excellence one of his top priorities.

This year’s winners include:

  • Evening & Weekend MBA program: Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas (evening cohort), who teaches financial information analysis, and Prof. Ross Levine (weekend cohort), who teaches macroeconomics
  • Full-time MBA program: Lecturer Jenny Herbert Creek, who teaches finance
  • Undergraduate program: Dan Mulhern, who teaches leadership in the Management of Operations Group as a continuing lecturer and distinguished teaching fellow
  • PhD program: Asst. Prof. Guo Xu of the Business & Public Policy group
  • Master of Financial Engineering (MFE): Prof. Nancy Wallace, chair of the real estate group.  received GSI teaching awards.
  • Graduate student instructors (GSIs): Atusa Sadeghi (EWMBA); Devan Courtois (FTMBA); and Sooji Kim (undergraduate); and Maxine Sauzet and Nick Sanders (MFE)

Speaker to 2021 MBA grads: ‘Become more than you can even imagine’

Grad in front of the bears statue
A total of 276 Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA students and 167 Evening & Weekend MBA students graduated last Friday. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

Commencement speaker Soyeon Yi, MBA 14, South Korea’s first astronaut, congratulated the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend classes last Friday for making it to the finish line, sharing her own challenge in space that almost took her life.

Yi, who survived a near-fatal landing in 2008 after her spacecraft flipped upside down upon reentry to earth, urged the students to learn from their experiences during the pandemic. 

Soyeon Yi, South Korea’s first astronaut, gave the commencement speech.

“Like my landing, you’re passing one big challenge now,” Yi said. “There will be many more challenges ahead of you, even if we face the most unluckiest situation again. The most important thing we should do is ask how we can go through it and what we can learn from it.”

A total of 276 Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA students and 167 Evening & Weekend MBA students graduated last Friday with virtual ceremonies that included congratulatory videos from Dean Ann Harrison, student speakers, and alumni. (Watch the FTMBA video here and the EWMBA video here.)

Harrison praised the graduates for their academic achievements, along with their empathy, and leadership. The students not only continued to pour energy into clubs and conferences held online during the pandemic, but also called attention to racial injustices and helped small businesses stay afloat through many volunteer efforts, she said.

“This required more thought, more ingenuity, more dedication than in any prior year,” Harrison said. ”But you persevered and you became stronger leaders for it.” 

‘This is our unique story’

Some Haas grads joined grads across campus last week, crossing the stage at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the Full-time MBA program, commended the class for its accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom.

I’m honored to play a role in celebrating everyone’s success today, including the family and friends of these graduates,” Johnson said. “This is your celebration too.” 

Fede Pacheco, the full-time MBA commencement student speaker, talked about one of the darkest days of the pandemic, when wildfires brought an apocalyptic orange sky to the Bay Area, and the photos he took to mark that day.

Pacheco urged students to savor the good times and reflect on the moments when they found creative ways to lean on each other, in spite of the unprecedented year they all endured. 

“This is not a beautiful story, but it’s our unique story. We are our unique story,” he said. “We found each other, we have each other. We have to hold onto each other.”

An MBA grad celebrates commencement with her little bear. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

‘Become more than you can even imagine’

Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, said that the students in the EWMBA program continued to balance school, work and their personal lives with “grit, grace, and energy,” during the pandemic.

Commencement student speaker Kate Hughes, EWMBA 21, noted that members of her class arrived at Haas with a unique set of “brands” or labels that influenced their identities such as gender, family status, and lived experiences. They are leaving the school as Haas graduates, another distinctive brand, she said.

“We’ve been pushed to lead with authenticity, harnessing our backgrounds to foster a different way of creative thinking,” she said. “As we step into this new chapter of our lives, I challenge you to become more than you can even imagine. I challenge you to embrace everything that we’ve learned at Haas to create a new brand of leader. One that can make a profound impact at a time when our country and planet need it the most.”

Haas alumni, who ranged from recent grads to veteran business leaders, also sent their well wishes and encouraged grads to tap into their network regularly. 

Graduates hugging
Celebrating with family and friends on campus. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Among those alumni were Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe; Scott Galloway, MBA 92, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business; and TubeMogul founder Brett Wilson, MBA 07; Abhishek Sharma, MBA 16, founder and CEO of Shake the Cosmos; Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar; Jessie Tang, MBA 20, principal and head of strategic initiatives at Gratitude Railroad; and Liz Rockett, MBA/MPH 10, director of Kaiser Permanente Ventures.

Haas faculty also bid farewell to graduates and told them to stay in touch as they start the next chapters of their lives. Among those faculty were Prof. Ross Levine, Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki, Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas, Rebecca Portnoy, a professional faculty member, and Mark Rittenberg, a continuing professional faculty member

Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2021:

Achievement Award: Devan Courtois

Student always: José Ramón Avellana

Beyond yourself: Kendall Bills

Question the status quo: Fayzan Gowani

Confidence without attitude: Fede Pacheco

Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois

Haas lecturer Jenny Herbert Creek, who teaches finance, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching. Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the award, the top teaching honor at Berkeley Haas.

Award winners for the evening & weekend MBA class of 2021:

Achievement Award: George Pradhan

Student Always: Lindsey Hoell

Beyond Yourself: Kyle Cook

Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Farrelly

Confidence without Attitude: Kate Hughes

Berkeley Leader Award Winner: Anna Lee

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Atusa Sadeghi

Prof. Panos Patatoukas, who teaches financial information analysis, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in the evening cohort and Prof. Ross Levine, who teaches macroeconomics, won the Cheit Award in the weekend cohort.

Read the latest campus information on coronavirus (COVID-19) here →