Dean Ann Harrison called the new certificate an important addition for Haas. “We need to make sustainability an integral part of doing business,” Harrison said. “Future business leaders will need to design new models and financial structures, policies, and industry solutions to address the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges. The Michaels Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business will train our students to evaluate operational, financial, and strategic decisions using a sustainability lens.”
We need to make sustainability an integral part of doing business. —Dean Ann Harrison.
The certificate, approved for rollout in the current spring semester, evolved from initiatives launched across campus by faculty and students who are passionate about both sustainability and social impact, said Michele de Nevers, executive director of sustainability programs at Haas.
“This new certificate addresses a pressing need to empower new leaders with the capacity to lead the economic and social transition to a climate resilient, low-carbon, and equitable future,” de Nevers said.
To earn the certificate, students are required to complete at least nine graduate-level units of approved courses drawn from electives in the existing MBA curriculum. Students must first take two foundational courses—Energy and Environmental Markets and Business and Sustainable Supply Chain—that introduce sustainability concepts critical to energy and the environment, natural resources, and supply chains.
They will then choose an in-depth course to dive deeper in a particular area, such as impact investing, entrepreneurship, clean tech, energy infrastructure, or food systems. The certification culminates with a final project that will focus on developing strategic and sustainable business solutions or bringing clean technology to market.
About 15 to 20 students are expected to complete the certificate within the first year, said Pete Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions.
De Nevers said the certificate will equip graduates to bring a sustainability perspective to their work across all types of organizations.
“We hope that they will see opportunities to create value across industry roles, whether it’s through increasing energy efficiency, eliminating waste in supply chains, or pursuing new business opportunities in clean technology,” she said.
For more information about the certificate click here.
Poets&Quants’ ranking is based on five influential rankings published in U.S. News, The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek,Forbes, and The Economist and combines them assigning weights based on Poets & Quants’ assessment of the soundness of each publication’s methodology.
Since Bloomberg Businessweek and The Economist did not publish rankings in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was little change in the results of this year’s P&Q ranking.
Among Financial Engineering Programs, the Berkeley Haas MFE recently ranked #5in Risk.net.
The MFE program had an outstanding employment year in 2020 with just over 99% of the class placed and, at $115,132, earning the second-highest average starting salary of the programs being ranked, in spite enrolling the largest class of 96 students. With only 17% of the application pool accepted, Haas also ranked 4th in terms of the number of accepted students who enrolled.
Risk.net bases its ranking on 20% admissions, 10% ratio of industry-affiliated lecturers, 30% employment rate six months after graduation, 25% average starting salary, 5% faculty research based on the number of citations of the five most cited instructors in the past four years.
In comparison, Haas ranked #5 again in the 2021 Quantnetranking that was published in November.
Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.
EdVisorly was co-founded by Manny Smith, MBA 21, a former product manager with the U.S. Air Force and a first-generation college student, and Alyson Isaacs, BS 21, who is tapping her experience as a former community college student to help fix the transfer process for the next generation. Smith is CEO and Isaacs serves as COO.
We recently interviewed Smith and Isaacs.
What does your startup do (in 20 words or less)? We help California community college students transfer to their target universities.
How did you meet?
Alyson Isaacs: Manny and I met by chance while waiting on line for coffee at Cafe Think during orientation week my first year at Haas. Manny had started the ideation process for the company and we talked about it. We’ve committed to this mission ever since. Manny has always been inspired by community college students and their grit. Being a first-gen student, he empathizes with what community college stands for, so our mission for this company is aligned.
Where did the idea come from?
Alyson Isaacs: I attended three community colleges before deciding on business at Haas—Chabot, Santa Barbara City College and Las Positas. There’s a discouraging problem that there are few reliable resources for community college students to help them transfer and few students who know how to access and use the resources. The academic counselors are overburdened and the COVID-19 remote learning environment has exacerbated these issues. Students get misinformation. Also, the four-year universities each have their own unique admission requirements, from courses to the process of applying. We are aggregating all of the information and insights a student would need to transfer to a four-year university and improving the student experience.
How does EdVisorly solve the problem in a new or different way?
Manny Smith: Of the 13.1 million community college students, who represent a third of all undergraduate students across the U.S., about 40% drop out per year. After interviewing more than 200 community college students, we uncovered big resource problems that are causing students to drop out. That’s what we aim to solve with EdVisorly. With our student-centric approach, we aim to positively disrupt higher education by providing a more clear path to university acceptance from community college. I compare our approach to the way GPS works— you tell us where you are, and we tell you what path or set of paths to take to reach your destination.
After interviewing more than 200 community college students, we uncovered big resource problems that are causing students to drop out. — Manny Smith
What’s been the biggest challenge for you so far?
Alyson Isaacs: The data side of things. We have millions of combinations of what classes meet the requirements for which majors and there are a lot of different subsets of that information. We are generating more accurate data every day to improve the quality of our student data experience.
Manny Smith: We are running a concierge service where we use the software to work directly with students while planning their academic journey. This is helping us learn more about the student’s wants, needs, and fears to ensure we have a product that both helps students and garners high adoption rates. We are in the process of hiring additional software engineers to augment the team and help us refactor our product.
What are your goals for the next six months?
Manny Smith: Over the next six months, we plan to help 250 students plan their journey from community college to four-year universities. By exercising an action-oriented, go-to-market strategy, we’ll be able to better understand unique student experiences, refine our marketing channels, validate our pricing model, and deliver a better product by summer 2021.
Has Haas helped with resources for your startup?
Manny Smith: The Haas Entrepreneurship ecosystem has truly been a game changer. The expert professors, mentors, incubator and accelerator programs are second to none. I would like to call special attention to the Hansoo Lee Fellowship (named after the late Hansoo Lee, MBA 10, and co-founder of Magoosh) which provided mentors and resources to allow me to pursue EdVisorly for my summer internship. Mentors such as Steven Horowitz from the Big Ideas Contest, helped us develop frameworks to think critically about the problem we aim to solve. Kurt Beyer, Rhonda Shrader, and Phillip Denny have been phenomenal in helping us navigate the right incubator and accelerator programs based on our startup progress.
Berkeley Haas is expanding its Accelerated Access program, allowing all undergraduate seniors or final-year graduate students to apply for deferred admittance to the full-time MBA program.
Haas first piloted the Accelerated Access program in January 2020, limiting it to UC Berkeley students. The pilot’s success led to an expansion of the program to a wider variety of applicants, said Eric Askins, executive director of full-time MBA admissions.
“We wanted to provide a new opportunity for young professionals who are planning to make an impact earlier in their careers through earning an MBA,” Askins said. “Deferred admission is the perfect option for many of these students, and we’re looking forward to meeting them.”
Under the program, undergraduate and master’s students apply to the MBA program during their final year. Successful applicants gain conditional admission, and can then enroll after a flexible two-to-five-year deferment period during which they gain professional experience, which is typically required for all traditional MBA candidates.
The program allows students to “do work that aligns with their passions with the reassurance that they will be able to return to a top-ranked MBA program within a few years,” Askins said.
The program is expected to increase the diversity of the class, he said, encouraging more international students and students from a wide variety of academic disciplines to consider an MBA—from graduate students in environmental science who want to pursue careers in sustainability to engineering students who want to complement their technical skills with a business foundation.
Askins added that the program enables the admissions office to get to know potential applicants earlier in the process, when they are planning their careers, deepening their academic passions, and considering an MBA.
Admitted applicants can join a Slack community, to meet other deferring students who want to stay on top of the admission process and connect with future peers.
Students will check in annually during the deferral period with admissions to make sure that they are on track and supported, Askins said.
The first deadline for applicants is April 5. The application process is similar to that of the full-time MBA program, with requirements that include a resume, two letters of recommendation, two short essays, undergraduate transcripts, and either the GMAT or GRE standardized test. An interview will be required for admission.
While these applicants will not be able to tap into work experience on their applications, they have much to offer, Askins said. “We’re looking for strong academic indicators paired with clarity of purpose. If you know an MBA will be useful in your future goals, it means you’ve thought about a plan. We are looking for clarity on that plan.”
Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.
For Kim Long and Samantha Penabad, both MBA 18, launching a startup in a pandemic during the holiday season made perfect sense.
“We felt that this was something that people need right now,” Penabad said of their company GivingFund, which targets millennials who are new to philanthropy. “We’re focused on helping young professionals who want to give more strategically, especially during the pandemic, when there are outsized needs.”
“We felt that this was something that people need right now…especially during the pandemic, when there are outsized needs.” —Samantha Penabad
GivingFund allows those who are interested in giving back to deposit a percentage of their income that they can then donate to nonprofits based on their preferences. Because GivingFund users are typically new to philanthropy, there’s no minimum deposit amount required to start.
Doubling your impact
The signup process starts with a quiz, with questions designed for users to reflect on their preferences and goals in order to develop what Penabad describes as a “giving style.” After depositing funds, users can set up monthly or one-off donations to nonprofits, which are vetted by GivingFund to ensure that they are legitimate or 501(c)(3)s. Users can login to track donations, check their balances, and monitor their giving strategy.
GivingFund invests part of the money that customers hold in their accounts in local businesses and economic development projects. The interest paid from those investments helps support the company’s business model, and allows Penabad and Long to keep the services free to users.
Future versions of the platform will give users options to invest more money through CNote, their current investment provider, or directly in options like green bonds, Long said, “Ultimately, we want everyone to feel like they’re able to double their impact—first when their GivingFund is invested, and second when they donate to their nonprofit of choice.”
An interesting team
Penabad, who is a head of strategy and operations at Google, and Long, who works in data strategy at Boston-based Foundation Medicine, are an interesting team. A New Jersey native, Penabad has always been interested in philanthropy, starting her career as a nonprofit consultant and as a volunteer for Goodwill of Greater Washington. In that capacity, she built a board of 15 young professionals, who gathered to host events such as fashion shows aimed at recruiting more people to work for Goodwill.
Long grew up in France, where she wasn’t exposed to philanthropy. “The government takes care of people,” she said. “That was my experience. We don’t need to donate because someone is going to take care of us.” What drew her to the project was the technology. “This is a fintech project,” she said. “We’re really building a product that has impact.”
This is a fintech project. We’re really building a product that has impact. —Kim Long
While at Haas, the pair received grants from the Dean’s Startup Seed Fund and by winning their category at the annual UC-wide Big Ideas competition. In classes like Lean Launchpad, the founders interviewed scores of fellow millennials to try to figure out why they don’t donate more to causes they care about.
Long said her interviews with fellow millennials made her realize that she, too, was trying to figure out how to best donate money to worthy causes beyond the typical “GoFundMe one-off.” After graduating, the pair kept the idea for GivingFund alive, even while working full-time. They have tested the platform for the past year, asking classmates and friends to try it, and hosting online events in New York and San Francisco to answer questions and build the donor community.
An accountability tool
One early champion of GivingFund is Om Chitale, Penabad’s classmate who is now director of diversity admissions at Berkeley Haas. He said he plans to use the platform because it “meets us where we are.”
“GivingFund allows us to have a positive impact in a way that feels familiar: engaging with a central tool and system that helps us understand our goals, allocating our giving based on the different types of impact we want to have, and tracking it like we would other investments and budgets,” he said. “Plus, it’s an accountability tool to directly track if we’re putting our money where our mouths—and hearts—are.”
An AI-powered app aimed to help construction workers experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts netted a first place win at the first inaugural John E. Martin Healthcare Tech Challenge. The competition was held online Nov. 16-20.
The winning team, Team CLiKS, included Eugene Kim, Zhuoran Li, Zixuan Chen, and Chen Su, all EWMBA 23. The team competed against 11 other teams from top U.S. business schools, including Wharton, Harvard, Columbia, MIT Sloan, and Kellogg for $10,000 in prize money.
Another Haas team placed second, earning $4,000 in prize money for pitching a chatbot that could collect health data, such as sleep patterns and appetite, and recommend tele-health therapy and wellness ambassadors stationed at construction worksites.
Team members included Sophie Schonfeld, Ben Delikat, both MBA/MPH 21; Doug Pollack, MBA/MPH 20; and Vishalli Loomba, MD/MS 23.
The competition was organized by the Berkeley Haas Healthcare Association and the Berkeley Haas Tech Club, and sponsored by Google.
For the competition, students were asked to come up with an innovative solution to address mental health issues in the construction industry, which reports some of the highest rates of depression and suicide.
Team CLiKS pitched a mental health app that addressed three critical factors: prevention, assessment, and intervention. Through this app, construction workers would have access to music, podcasts, mental health specialists, peer volunteers, and a community-based forum to seek emotional support. The app would also collect daily mental health data from users through notifications, wellness checks, and diary entries.
The team credited its success to interviewing and surveying more than 90 construction workers, powerful storytelling, and a personal commitment to helping construction workers with mental health issues–an issue that hits close to home for Chen, Kim, and Li.
Chen, a civil engineer who’s worked in the construction industry, said one of her co-workers committed suicide. “The amount of work, the physical stress, and the financial instability that comes with the job pushes people to the edge.”
Kim, an Army veteran, said several soldiers he served with had committed suicide and Li, a music rehabilitation therapist, treats patients with severe mental health illnesses.
Su said the cause was important to him and he wanted to leverage his AI and computer engineering skills to help.
The team also credited its success to their construction industry mentor Matt Schulte; Rebecca Portnoy, a professional faculty member who teaches an organizational culture course called Leading People; and James Sallee, an associate economics professor at UC Berkeley.
“As a first-year Evening and Weekend MBA student without previous business knowledge, I was thankful to have taken a class with Prof. Sallee to guide my thinking and to tackle this mental health challenge from a health and business perspective,” Li said.
A sensor that can detect any type of gas leak and a chemical process that makes plastics biodegradable earned top prizes at the 11th annual Cleantech to Market Symposium. The event was held online for the first time on Dec. 4.
Cleantech to Market (C2M) is a 15-week accelerator course that invites graduate students, industry leaders, and researchers to come together to pitch cleantech innovations from existing startups, government sponsored programs, and incubators.
Seven student teams–including 39 MBA and UC Berkeley graduate students from law, engineering, and chemistry–pitched promising innovations aimed at addressing everything from climate change to pollution.
In her opening remarks, Dean Harrison called C2M “one of those stellar and uniquely Haas experiential programs that would be hard to imagine at any other university” given the school’s locale within the UC Berkeley campus and proximity to Silicon Valley.
“We’ve long recognized that when you bring minds together from across campus, you make magic,” she said.
C2M alum Stephanie Greene, MBA 12, a clean energy director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and Janea Scott, vice chair of the California Energy Commision, also gave keynotes and spoke to the importance of developing and introducing cleantech innovations to battle climate change.
“Our students never cease to amaze me,” said Brian Steel, director of the C2M program. “In spite of the remote environment that we’re in, our students rose to the occasion and delivered top-notch presentations.”
Here are 2020’s C2M winning teams:
Fullmoon Sensors, a high-performing gas detector that can identify any type of gas leak, earned the first inaugural Hasler Cleantech to Market Award, named after former Berkeley Haas dean William Hasler. Team members included Steven Brisley, Kair Dusenov, Zuren Hsueh, Jeff Sharp, all MBA 21; and Gabe Lewis, EMBA 21.
Radical Plastics, a chemical process that makes plastics biodegradable, earned the People’s Choice Award. Team members included Harshita Mira Venkatesh, Greg Turk, Alex Russomagno, all MBA 21; Lance Barnard, EWMBA 21; Branden Leonhardt, PhD 22 (chemical engineering); and Chris Jackson, PhD 21 (chemistry).
Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh believes it’s his job to speak up about pressing and difficult societal issues including racial and social injustice, voter rights, environmental protection, and sustainability.
Bergh spent 28 years at Procter & Gamble before taking the helm at Levi’s, one of the oldest companies in America, in 2011. His goal was to revive it.
“The whole Levi’s story for the past nine years has been the turnaround,” he said. “Levi’s is back. It’s a hot brand. We’re number one around the world.” But then the pandemic hit hard, shuttering stores and slashing quarterly revenue 67 percent. “I can honestly say I’ve never had to post revenue results that bad,” Bergh said, predicting that Levi’s will emerge from COVID-19 smaller, but with stronger brands.
When I joined the company (in 2011), diversity and inclusion was really low on my list. The house was on fire. We needed to fix the house and I thought that the two were separate. When I look back on it now, I realize that if I’d addressed these issues head on in the early days we’d be a better company today. I really do believe that diverse organizations will out-compete homogeneous ones every single day.
On the no nonsense pre-IPO road show with investors:
We made it really really clear during our IPO that what got us to where we are is being a values-led company and by doubling down on the things that make us who we are. We talked about our values and the investments we’ve made in sustainability. We talked about some of the innovation that’s come out of sustainability. I talked about the stand that we took on ending gun violence in this country. It’s a pretty polarizing place to be…and I said if you don’t have an appetite for that we’re not your kind of stock. Don’t invest in us.
The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Class of 2020 overcame a challenging job market this year, with most graduates landing jobs three months post-graduation with salaries and bonuses that held steady over 2019.
“The value of the Berkeley MBA has held strong in the market despite the pandemic and great economic uncertainty,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of Career Management & Corporate Relations. “We’re so pleased with the flexibility, persistence, and resilience of our grads and are thankful to our alumni, who stepped up, going beyond themselves to help this class secure positions.”
Of the total class of 291 students, 238 students were seeking jobs, and 212 of them—or 89%— received offers within three months of graduation. About 87% had accepted an offer within three months after graduation, down slightly from 91% for the class of 2019.
In addition to a mean annual base salary of just over $139,000, 73% of the graduates received signing bonuses that averaged over $31,000, and 43% received stock options or grants.
“The value of the Berkeley MBA has held strong in the market despite the pandemic and great economic uncertainty.” —Assistant Dean Abby Scott
More than a quarter of the class accepted consulting roles at firms, at an average salary of $147,000. About 18% of the class accepted business development and strategy roles that pay an average of $140,000 annually. Grads working in finance roles (17.4% of the class) received $142,480.
Top employers of Haas graduates, or companies that hired three or more students this year, included Adobe, Amazon, Bain, Ernst & Young (including Parthenon), Boston Consulting Group, Cisco, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Google, LEK, McKinsey & Co., Genentech, and Visa.
Tech, consulting again top sectors
Technology and consulting were again the most popular sector for Berkeley MBAs, pulling in 32.4% and 25.1% of those seeking work. But many graduates had to be flexible and pivot quickly in an uncertain economy. Some students accepted later start dates with consultancies, while others had to completely reassess their job searches. Many relied on the help of Haas alumni more than ever this year.
Ije Durga, MBA 20, accepted a job with Amazon in Seattle after an offer from a hedge fund where she had interned was rescinded. In May, Durga decided to pivot to interview for jobs in the technology sector. She reached out to Trisha Mittal, MBA 19, who had started a job at Amazon. “She sent me open jobs and said ‘Hey, write me back on Monday with five roles you want to apply for,’ and when she didn’t hear from me she’d email me. She was pushing me. She literally went above and beyond.”
An opening in Amazon’s risk-management group, which entailed keeping dangerous, unsafe, or illegal products off Amazon websites, appealed to Durga because she had done similar work in India before applying to Haas. “I found a great job,” she said. “This is a dream job, everything about it has just been perfection.”
A pivot from consulting
Healthcare, which includes digital health, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, was also a strong sector for grads this year, employing 11.6% of the class.
Marion Robine, an associate with Genentech’s three-year Commercial Rotational Development Program, landed her job through her summer 2019 internship at the company. Robine, a consultant before she came to Haas, said she worked with Hoyt Ng of the Haas Career Management Group to figure out if she was ready to leave consulting. “The (Genentech) internship was the test for me.” After she decided to take a job there, she didn’t look back.
“The internship was the test for me.”— Marion Robine, MBA 2020
About 15% of students accepted roles in financial services, including fintech companies.
Matthias Froehlich accepted a job as an investment banking associate at JP Morgan Chase & Co. in San Francisco, where he interned during the summer of 2019. Froehlich, who works in technology coverage, said he was relieved when he received the offer after interviewing the entire first semester with many firms. “It’s definitely stressful when you’re recruiting,” he said. “I really loved the (JP Morgan) internship and working with big clients and I enjoyed the culture,” so it was a relief to get the offer letter, he said.
For Hilary Platt, an account manager at payment technology company Stripe, a post-graduate job meant changing industries. Prior to Haas, Platt had worked in the clean energy sector. After graduation, she became interested in pursuing a job in sales. So Doug Massa of the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group connected her to James Vessa, MBA 19, who worked as an account manager at Stripe. Vessa put in a referral for her. “I had not been explicitly targeting the fintech space, but the more I learned about Stripe and their mission and their goals I became increasingly excited about the company,” Platt said.
Startup life: “You need the scrappiness”
About 14% of grads went to work for startups, including Sid Mullick, who accepted a job as a senior manager at electric adventure vehicle company Rivian, where he works on capital projects. Mullick said the experience he gained at Haas co-founding electric scooter charger startup Grido, along with his pre-MBA engineering and project management experience, made him a good candidate to work at Rivian.
“They were excited to have someone with my mix of background who could project a solid engineering mindset with a nimble acceptance of the startup ecosystem,” he said. “You need the scrappiness, but to also balance it with good engineering judgement.”
Of the remaining 2020 graduates, 5.4% took jobs at consumer packaged goods/retail companies, 3% joined nonprofits or the public sector, 2.5% accepted real estate jobs, and 2.4% took jobs in energy.
For Michael Martin, MBA 09, teaming up with Berkeley Haas to launch the 2020 John E. Martin Mental Healthcare Tech Challenge was deeply personal. The challenge is named for his father, a Vietnam veteran who in his later years counseled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was Martin’s father’s commitment to improving the quality of and access to mental healthcare that drove the theme of this year’s inaugural competition, which invites 12 teams from top MBA programs to find ways to use data to better support construction workers facing anxiety, addiction, depression, and suicide. The challenge kicks off on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
“It’s an auspicious date considering that my dad was a veteran,” said Martin, a portfolio manager in Google’s Energy & Infrastructure division. In 2014, Martin established the John E. Martin Memorial Fellowship to honor the memory of his father who succumbed to injuries resulting from a car accident in 2013.
Earlier this year, Martin decided to further his commitment to the cause his father was most passionate about.
Martin connected with the Haas Healthcare Association, whose members then reached out to the Tech Club. “Michael wanted to set up a case competition linked to mental health and the Tech Club has experience with running cross-MBA competitions through our annual Tech Challenge,” said Corrine Marquardt, MBA/MPH 21. “A team effort between the two clubs seemed like an ideal way to blend healthcare industry knowledge with the operational know-how of running a competition like this.”
In planning the event, which is sponsored by Google, Marquardt worked with fellow Tech Club leaders Brad Deal, Mary Yao, and Dunja Panic, all MBA 21, as well as Haas Healthcare Association leaders Elena Gambon, MBA/MPH 21 and Will Herling, MBA/MPH 21.
The idea for a mental health case competition focusing on the construction industry sprang from Martin’s many job-related visits to data center construction sites. “I was going to more rural locations in middle America and I had the opportunity to establish a rapport with a lot of these folks,” he said.
He noted that the construction industry, one of the largest sectors in the U.S., suffers disproportionately high rates of depression and suicide. He further noted that many mental disorders are going untreated, which can have serious consequences. “When people bring these problems to work and they’re handling heavy machinery on a job site there’s a greater chance of injury and death.”
In addition to the challenge, a speaker series consisting of three sessions will be held on Mental Health in the Construction Industry, YouTube in Mental Health, and Google in Healthcare. Google’s leadership team earmarked $30,000 for the competition, and Martin contributed an additional $20,000.
The case competition field includes teams from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Harvard Business School, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Columbia Business School, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, and Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
The Berkeley Haas community thanks our student veterans for their contributions to the greater campus and, more importantly, to their country.
“As we are experiencing a year unlike any other, it is even more important to recognize what we are grateful for and to express our gratitude to those who have served and continue to serve on our behalf,” said Dean Ann Harrison.
This Veterans Day, we asked four student veterans what dealing with times of uncertainty has taught them. Students interviewed include:
Manuel (Alex) Lopez, EMBA 20, former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant (E-5)
Samrawit (Sami) Tamyalew, FTMBA 22, former U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer/Operations Manager
Nick Clark, EWMBA 22, former U.S. Navy Submarine Officer
Keagan Akles, BS 20, former U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant
Samrawit (Sami) Tamyalew, MBA 22, joined the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in 2014, becoming the first female artillery platoon leader in the division. At Fort Campbell, she led artillerymen across an array of different specialties.
Haas News spoke to Tamyalew about why she joined the U.S. Army, what it was like serving in a combat unit after the repeal of the Combat Exclusion Policy, and her aspirations to use her business skills to serve communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
What motivated you to serve?
Growing up, my parents would share stories about why they left Ethiopia. While they had amazing childhoods, everything changed for them after a military coup in 1974 and the assasination of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Ethiopia broke out into a civil war after the Derg, a communist military regime, took over the country. It forced them to seek life elsewhere. Hearing their stories made me appreciate my life in the U.S. and inspired me to go into service. Initially, I wanted to be a teacher, but I changed my mind after meeting my high school cross-country coaches who served in the Marine Corps.
The repeal of the Combat Exclusion Policy made it possible for you to serve in a direct combat role. What did you do and what was it like?
Once the ban was lifted, I was no longer limited to only non-combat positions; I could expand my career options by serving on a brigade combat team. After I put in a request to transfer to an infantry brigade, I was transferred to Fort Campbell to lead artillerymen, which was previously an all-male unit. I was the only woman in my firing battery (100-member team). I was there for about two years before I deployed to Erbil, Iraq, where our mission was to support the Iraqi and Kurdish militaries who were clearing out ISIS from territories.
I served as an organizational liaison officer in the command center. Whenever our ground troops needed a strike request or any type of asset support, I’d be the one who liaised between the troops and the one-star general who authorized engagements.
It was an amazing experience to serve my country and be part of something that was greater than myself, but I was ready to serve in a different capacity. I believe I can make a meaningful impact in the private sector.
Why did you decide to go to business school?
Before Haas, I briefly worked as an operations program manager for the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, a government organization aimed to transform and modernize Ethiopia’s agriculture sector. Working there reminded me of what I loved about the Army: I was committed to community-and purpose-driven work.
That experience inspired me to go to business school. Once I graduate from Haas, I plan to go into consulting with the long-term goal of working with social enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Although I’m no longer in the Army, I’ll always find a way to serve my community. Service is at the core of my being.
While working as a senior consultant at Deloitte, Stephanie Wenclawski, MBA 22, noticed that many of her clients lacked access to digital tools that could help them efficiently manage their finances. Employees at one women’s empowerment organization, for example, spent hours manually uploading travel receipts to an outdated accounts payable system. “It was time they could have spent focusing on their mission,” she said.
Now, as one of 13 full-time MBA students named among this year’s Berkeley Haas Finance Fellows, Wenclawski said she wants to tap what she’s learned in previous roles to develop fintech products that will help women better manage their money.
Haas grants finance fellowships annually to full-time MBA students. Fellows receive a $5,000 scholarship, priority enrollment for elective classes, and a mentor in their field of interest, usually a Haas alum who provides career guidance and support. Fellows are evaluated and selected based on work experience in their chosen field, career goals, and interviews.
Fellows receive a $5,000 scholarship, priority enrollment for elective classes, and a mentor in their field of interest.
The Finance Fellowship Program, now in its 15th year, has doubled in size and expanded its scope as student interests have evolved over time, said William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs for the Haas Finance Group. In addition to investment banking fellowships, the program now offers fellowships to students interested in private equity, venture capital, impact investing, public-markets investing, and fintech.
This year’s fellows are:
Investment Management: Ray Xu, Sarah Beauge, Cyrus Aga
Entrepreneurial Finance: Chris Quaidoo, Stuart Fram, Stephanie Wenclawski
Investment Banking: Ian MacLean, Adhithya Ravi, Alex Wong, Rita Wiley
C&J White Finance Fellows (selected last spring): Jimmy Yang, Eric Edelstein, Bryan Locascio
Before coming to Haas, Chris Quaidoo, MBA 22, worked as a research analyst at Snow Capital Management, picking technology stocks. Now, he’s shifting gears, setting his sights on becoming a partner at a venture capital firm. Moving toward that goal, he’s already secured an associate position at venture capital and private equity firm Griffin Gaming Partners.
Quaidoo, the son of Ghanaian and Jamaican parents, said one of his goals is to create more diversity in the venture capital industry and a pathway for more people of color to follow in his footsteps.
“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you can’t truly create change,” he said. “I want to create an industry that includes more people who have backgrounds like mine.”
“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you can’t truly create change,” — Chris Quaidoo, MBA 22.
Rita Wiley, MBA 22, said she’s looking forward to tapping her undergraduate life sciences degree with her MBA to launch a career in healthcare investment banking. Wiley, a former U.S. Army military police officer, is already reaping the benefits of her fellowship.
“I just accepted an early offer for a summer internship with Piper Sandler’s healthcare team, so I’m pretty excited about that,” she said. “They’re definitely one of the top companies I’d like to work for after graduation.”
Lokilani Hunt, MBA 22, watched her partner battle the coronavirus and friends lose jobs and businesses due to the pandemic. So for Hunt, becoming president of the Berkeley Community Business Partnership was deeply personal.
“I jumped right in and said, ‘I don’t care what it takes,'”said Hunt, who oversees a group of 60 MBA students who came together this fall to consult on volunteer projects that support small businesses.
The consulting work, which ranges from organizing a worker-owned cooperative for struggling restaurants to developing new financing pipelines for women-owned businesses, builds on a project launched last spring by the Sustainable and Impact Finance (SAIF) initiative at Berkeley Haas. That program aimed to assist hundreds of small business owners in Oakland who face language, technology, or income barriers, to help them access federal relief funds including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, and unemployment insurance.
Over the summer, Katherine Baird, SAIF’s program director, worked to expand the program within Oakland—and beyond.
Baird put together a leadership team of first-year MBA students including Hunt, Crystal Ang, Drew Schneider, Stuart Fram, and Colin Ridlon, who reached out to 19 organizations that are supporting small businesses across the Bay Area and the Central Valley.
That included surveying the needs of city economic development teams from Daly City to San Leandro and business associations like the Black Cultural Zone in East Oakland, the Fresno Hispanic Foundation, and the Chambers of Commerce for both Berkeley and Chinatown, among others.
“We are at risk of losing 30% of our small businesses, and all of these projects are designed to help support small businesses during this critical time,” Baird said. “Our program is also asking students to go beyond themselves, engaging support for low-income and marginalized communities that have been even more hard-hit than most.”
“We are at risk of losing 30 percent of our small businesses and all of these projects are designed to help support small businesses during this critical time.”
Under the new program, teams of MBA students are matched with one of the organizations for two months to tackle a project that supports areas of need identified by small businesses.
Ang, MBA 22, is helping the nonprofit Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center develop a step-by-step guide for digital marketing for businesses in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. “Equity in economic opportunity is something that I’m so passionate about,” said Ang, who worked at an economic development agency in Singapore before coming to Haas. She’s working with two other MBA students, Alyssa Zhu, MBA 21, and Juliana Rivera, MBA 22, on a toolkit, which covers everything from helping businesses take more eye-catching photos of their products for social media posts to helping businesses navigate Facebook Marketplace and Instagram Shopping.
“Working with small businesses has been incredibly humbling,” Ang said. “A number of the businesses we’re working with were very successful before the pandemic, and built that success through hosting in-person events and trade shows. All of that is off the table now so we’re working with them to develop a social media and a digital marketing strategy.”
Schneider, who formerly worked at a startup that provided loans to small businesses, is working with the nonprofit Pacific Community Ventures in San Francisco. He and teammates Vishal Desai and Lifan Wang are creating a series of webinars and workshops focused on digital marketing and pivoting a business.
As president of the partnership program, Hunt oversees the progress of the student teams, keeping them on track with nonprofit clients. Hunt said the program has received a great response so far from MBA student volunteers, though at times it’s been frustrating to reach some of the struggling small business owners. “The virtual environment is limiting and has proposed unique challenges,” she said. “One team servicing Oakland expressed frustration with the barriers owners are experiencing that they’ve never experienced before.”
After conducting a midpoint survey of what teams have accomplished to date, Hunt said they’re planning a Nov. 20 virtual event to showcase all that they’ve accomplished.
“We’re still a long way from full economic recovery, but by dedicating over two months of their time, our MBA students are having an incredible, tangible impact right now on small businesses in our communities,” Baird said.
Founders: John Melizanis, BS 20, Joseph Lorenzo, a University of Tampa graduate, and Jake Lourenco, BA 20 (political science)
What does Newmen do (in 20 words or less)?
We’re a men’s grooming brand that helps hard-working men look good, feel good, and smell good.
How did you come up with the idea?
Joseph, my co-founder and best friend since fourth grade, had the biggest beard and didn’t like the grooming options that were out there. With that in mind, we both said, ‘Let’s make something happen.’ It’s the second company we’ve started together.
What problem does Newmen solve?
There’s an under-served demographic when it comes to men’s grooming needs. The men who come to our site are often buying products for the first time. We’re building a community around this group, offering products like scented beard oils, a beard straightener, and a protective heat spray for beards.
You participated in the UC LAUNCH accelerator with a different startup. What did you learn that you apply now?
LAUNCH taught us how to test products quickly. We did a lot of research on our Newmen oils, which are made by a small mom and pop shop in Detroit. We wanted to figure out what scents men liked and what’s good for the skin, so we looked at what a lot of women’s skin-care companies were selling.
We tested our products on hundreds of men super quickly, asking them how their faces felt after using our products for a week. We’re super close to our customers and we have early evangelists, people whom we text and email all the time. These people aren’t necessarily spending the most time on our website, but have been crucial in the development of Newmen. They might spend $40, but they’re giving us feedback all the time, telling their friends what they just bought and why.
Has anyone from Haas helped you with your startup?
Of course! Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas has been super helpful. I met Panos before I came to Cal and he was extremely supportive throughout my undergraduate years. I’d be working on something and I’d ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He was a great sounding board and a supportive mentor. Additionally, Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, has been the best, along with Aaron McDaniel, a professional faculty member at Haas, and Darren Cooke, a LAUNCH advisor.
I met Panos before I came to Cal and he was extremely supportive throughout my undergraduate years. I’d be working on something and I’d ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He was a great sounding board and a supportive mentor.
What are your goals for the next six to 12 months?
We’re selling only on our website right now. We’ve been making a profit so we haven’t thought about raising money yet. I don’t think much about the competition, I focus on what we’re selling. We’re thinking about new products and planning to sell a line of skincare, body wash, and shampoo in the future. As we continue to grow, we’re looking to sell into different channels, including regional and national retailers and barbershops around the country. We’re constantly focused on building relationships that can help us put our products in our customers’ hands wherever they might be in their grooming journey.
A lot of guys are telling us that they’re so proud of their beards now. They’re talking about their morning routines. It’s crazy to think we’re helping people with that!
Aila Health is a data-driven, remote-care platform for patients with chronic illness.
How did you come up with the idea?
My cousin has what you would call an invisible illness, meaning she looks healthy on the outside, but is actually managing multiple chronic conditions. After watching her bounce between specialists for years before getting a diagnosis and seeing the lack of communication between her different doctors, I thought there had to be a better way for doctors to deliver personalized care to patients with chronic illness.
What problem does Aila solve?
There are nearly 50 million Americans living with chronic autoimmune conditions today. That’s more than diabetes and cancer combined. Despite the fact that these conditions cost the health system billions each year, they are not well understood or managed. We aim to change that.
There are nearly 50 million Americans living with chronic autoimmune conditions today. That’s more than diabetes and cancer combined.
How doe Aila work and how do teams use it?
Aila Health is a chronic care management platform that offers personalized remote care at scale. It enables patients with chronic illness to sync all of their health information in one place and quantify disease progression over time. It similarly gives their healthcare providers a holistic view of a patient’s health so they can track symptoms in real-time and deliver the right care with the right provider at the right time.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a founder so far?
There are so many inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system that Aila’s solution can help with. One of the biggest challenges for us was determining which problem to solve first. During our customer interviews, we learned that the COVID-19 pandemic had drastically shifted priorities for healthcare organizations. There is a need for new technical infrastructure to deliver value-based care and personalized remote care at scale.
Has anyone from Haas helped you on your startup journey?
Haas gave me a great community of classmates and mentors who have helped us along our journey. Rhonda Shrader (executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program), in particular, has been an amazing mentor and advocate for me. From cheerleading during some difficult transition periods to supporting our team’s application for the National Science Foundation’s I-CORPS Program, I really appreciate having her in my corner. Dan Cloutier, EWMBA 21, was also a wonderful health industry mentor for our I-CORPS team.
What are your goals for the next six months?
We are kicking off our first couple of pilots now. We want to execute these really well and validate our solution with an improved provider experience and patient outcome. In the next six months, we aim to bring more health systems onto the platform and raise an initial round of financing.
Seren creates serendipity online by nudging people into instant and personalized water cooler calls—using AI to preserve relationships and collaboration.
How did you come up with the idea?
When COVID hit in March, I started looking for opportunities in the chaos. I looked for areas undergoing massive change and picked remote work because I had experienced it and understood its shortcomings.
As I spoke to my classmates about our challenges with remote schooling, I noticed a pattern. Without chance meetings in the Haas courtyard or around campus, my peers were finding it harder to stay connected. We were being told to “be intentional” but it felt like a ton of work, and our social interactions and circles were shrinking. I came to Haas for the culture, and I loved interacting with my friends and classmates, but I was beginning to feel isolated. Then I interned as a product manager at Cisco, where I saw first-hand how the problem of not having informal interactions could affect business. When informal connections are disrupted, employees find it harder to maintain a sense of belonging, and scientific research suggested this could impact culture and innovation.
What problem does Seren solve?
Seren solves the problem of staying in touch online by helping people to “bump into” other virtually, so that brief and informal conversations can happen.
We are making water cooler chats better in some ways than in-person, even though we can’t quite replace face-to-face conversations…yet. With this technology, we can customize water cooler chats for individual preferences around how people like to engage, who they want to talk to, how long they want to talk, and what they want to talk about. We want to help people have better informal conversations over audio/video with colleagues, on any platform, whether that’s Slack, Teams, Zoom or the web.
With this technology, we can customize water cooler chats for individual preferences around how people like to engage, who they want to talk to, how long they want to talk, and what they want to talk about.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge has been finding software engineering and machine learning talent to join our team. We have used BearX, Handshake, and LinkedIn and are really keen to find more people who are excited about impactful startups.
So far, I have been working with an amazing team of Berkeley undergrads and alumni—Leonor Alcaraz-Guzman, Helen Xu, and Patrick Zhu. In my Product Management class, I am on a diverse team with grad students from the School of Information, Fung Institute, and Haas, and we are learning so much.
Has anyone from Haas helped you with your startup?
I’ve had lots of help from faculty and staff. Early on, I took the NSF Bay Area I-CORPS course, which helped me learn how to do customer discovery. Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, has been consistent in pointing us towards potential partners, competitions, mentors, and opportunities.
Vince Law, a professional faculty member, has reviewed more than one version of our early prototypes, and given critical feedback. In Jeff Eyet’s class on design thinking, he shared great advice on trying to understand users’ emotions and motivations for using our solution. Greg La Blanc, another professional faculty member, helped me think strategically about whether to even pursue this idea or space of remote work.
What are your goals for the next six months?
Our top goal is to get a strong sense of whether our product is exceptional at solving the challenge of creating serendipity for our users or not. We will need to launch and get lots of user feedback to answer that question. When you think about it, these are unique times with millions of people stuck at home, so if they want this, we should be able to quickly determine whether we can satisfy that need, and build a business out of it.
Another key goal is to clearly show a path to defeating our competition. I joke with my teammates that every week someone else has launched a new product to solve the same problem. Currently, we segment our competition in these categories: bots offering instant water cooler calls, standalone virtual office applications, and platforms that match people for conversations based on interests. We understand the competition and have a distinct path toward differentiating ourselves.
As a former banker, business school fundraiser, and veteran admissions expert, Eric Askins’ varied career helped shape him as a nimble and creative team builder. He was recently named executive director of admissions for the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA program.
We talked to Askins recently about his New York roots, his varied career path in education, and his goals as new admissions director.
Tell us a little about your background and where you grew up?
I’m originally from New York and grew up with two sisters in an incredibly diverse neighborhood in Queens. I’ve always been incredibly proud of how my mother brought us up. An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, my mother cleaned houses and took care of other people’s kids to ensure we had what we needed. I know she was excited to see me accepted into the Bronx High School of Science, a specialized public school. I went to Hunter College, a school in the CUNY system, where I worked during the day and studied political science and sociology in the evenings. I learned to appreciate the way a community can support people through school, as I wasn’t the only first-generation Latinx college student working their way through at night.
What are a few of your first goals as admissions chief?
The primary role of any admissions head is to support the team of admissions professionals who work tirelessly to engage with the amazing applicants to our program. That will continue to be my number one priority. Externally, I’m focused on maintaining the academic standards of our program and broadening our outreach strategy.
Specifically, we will focus some of our efforts on increasing the percentage of women applicants to our program. Berkeley Haas was among the first business schools to cross the 40% women threshold. My goal is to consistently hold that figure. In order to move towards closing the gender divide, we are working to better highlight our programs like Women in Leadership and the work of our Gender Equity Initiative and our programs that develop leaders equipped to manage diverse and inclusive work environments. We also need to think about how we are reaching out to all women: women of color, international students, women from different academic backgrounds, and students with non-binary identities.
Berkeley Haas was among the first business schools to cross the 40% women threshold. My goal is to consistently hold that figure.
What was your first job after graduating from college?
I started my professional career in banking, in a process-oriented role at Sterling National Bank, shifting into commercial loan workout, and then to small business lending. I worked with small business owners, individuals whose entire lives were tied to the businesses. These were often immigrants, first-generation business owners opening restaurants, franchises, and dry cleaners.
I began my admissions career in 2010 at Fordham University in New York as an assistant director of admissions for the law school. In that role, I traveled the country and developed a deep interest in the pathways to graduate-level education. After a number of years, I decided to broaden my experience and take on a new challenge with Fordham Business School’s fundraising arm. I worked closely with the school’s alumni to help chart avenues for growth for the school. Among our successes was a partnership with the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center here in the Bay Area. I was amazed at the impact business school alumni could make on the community. I think it’s safe to say that that experience planted the seed that would eventually bring me to Haas.
Can you talk about how you diversified your experiences by working at The New School in New York, which has a design school, liberal arts college, and a performing arts college?
I was director of strategic initiatives and planning, managing net tuition revenue for an institution that was constantly looking for ways to shift, be nimble, and be dynamic. The New School was a collection of various different types of colleges and it’s connective tissue was cultural not structural. The New School provided a number of very unique challenges that engaged me intellectually. I worked directly with the college’s deans, doing scholarship modeling, developing enrollment strategies, building our strategic partnerships globally. But in this role I was no longer participating in the candidate’s journey, something that I enjoyed and have returned to at Haas.
What brought you to the West Coast?
I’ve been lucky enough to be with my partner for nearly 20 years. In that short amount of time we’ve had a number of different adventures, not the least of which has been our two children. Though we’ve both traveled significantly for work, neither of us had ever lived outside of New York City. So when she was offered an amazing professional opportunity here in the Bay Area it felt like the perfect time to start a new adventure.
I’ve always been aware of Berkeley and its reputation as a culture-forward institution. When we moved here we rented a house within walking distance of campus. I knew I wanted to work at one of the graduate schools and I loved the idea of the Haas MBA. It’s the least narrow degree providing the most opportunity to make a change. Through the Defining Leadership Principles, I had a very clear understanding of the school’s values and they closely reflect my own personal values.
Every person matriculating through Haas is going to make an impact, whether it’s in impact investing, tech, transportation, sustainability, or consulting. This is where I want to be, participating in some small part on that journey.
Every person matriculating through Haas is going to make an impact.
What’s your favorite DLP?
I most closely align with Confidence without Attitude. It prompts me to reflect not only on what I can contribute, but also calls on me to recognize where I need to grow. When I practice this DLP, I’m an active listener and I engage meaningfully with my partners and peers, so that I can learn from them and build with them. I’m excited to see what we build together in the coming years.
The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA class came together for a virtual orientation Monday, participating in networking sessions, meeting study team members, as well as joining academic and diversity, equity and inclusion workshops designed to prepare them for a successful two years at Haas.
With 331 students, the largest-ever FTMBA Class of 2022 attended the Week Zero orientation held from Aug. 17 to 21.
In her welcome, Dean Harrison commended students for attending business school at this unprecedented time of uncertainty. “This couldn’t be a better time to go to business school, especially at a place like Berkeley, as this school has always been at the forefront of massive changes and movement,” she said. “This crazy time also requires you to be leaders yourselves. One of the most difficult things to learn is how to live with this uncertainty.”
The incoming MBA class is comprised of 39% women, an increase of two percentage points compared to last year. Underrepresented minorities represent 17% of the class, up from 14%. International students make up 21% and hail from 37 countries. Students have an average of five years work experience and majored in economics, engineering, business commerce, and the social sciences.
Each day of orientation features a surprise guest speaker. So far, that’s included rapper Ace “Call Me Ace” Patterson, MBA 16, and Aubrey Blanche, director of equitable design and impact at Culture Amp.
Patterson shared his story of humble beginnings in Bridgeport, Conn., getting accepted to Columbia University, and later to Haas. “My family wasn’t poor, we were just broke,” said Patterson. “So what I lacked in resources, I had to gain in creativity and ingenuity.” Patterson also talked about experiencing so-called “imposter syndrome” as one of the youngest students in his FTMBA program, but eventually he convinced himself that he belonged.
Blanche led Tuesday’s discussion on shifting focus away from terms like “diversity and inclusion” and instead embracing “equity and belonging” to activate allies and build equity in the world. “By focusing on equity and belonging, we can actually get to the goals—diversity and equality—that I think we probably all share.”
Students said they’ve enjoyed the week so far.
“It’s been super exciting to meet all of my classmates for the first time,” said Torrey Mayes, a former manager of financial planning and analysis for Palm Casino Resort. Mayes said his favorite part of orientation has been the networking sessions. “We’ve had the opportunity to meet every single person in our class since everyone is online.”
Week Zero Co-Chair Dominic Masuda, MBA 21, agreed. “I’m amazed and thrilled to see how creative and flexible the new class has been with engaging and meeting each other,” he said. “I think we’ve proven that virtual events can be incredibly engaging when structured and built thoughtfully.”
Many students said they’re getting an MBA to build their business acumen, develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, or transition to a completely new field.
Christine Yee, a student in the new MBA/Master of Engineering (MBA/MEng) program, said she wants to learn how to “democratize technology” to help entrepreneurs with little to no financial means access the digital economy. Yee, who co-founded Paysa, a startup that allows people in rural India make mobile payments using fingerprint authentication, said she is looking forward to taking courses that will take her skills to the next level.
Members of the Class of 2022 have gone above and beyond to connect with each other.
Each day culminates with a trivia game night or Zoom happy hour organized by second-year students.
Amanda Wonnell, a former project manager at Shell, said her classmates have created Slack channels based on interests and organized Zoom happy hours. She added that classmate Chris Quaidoo has organized virtual coffee chats, randomly pairing two students for weekly chats.
As for Mayes, he’s thankful to be living with three classmates with whom he can experience the FTMBA program and weather the pandemic.
Mayes said he’s been doing a mix of online and physically-distanced gatherings with classmates. On Monday night, he and five other students set up a TV outside and watched cohort members battle each other in Family Feud. “The Gold cohort won, but we were a close second,” said Mayes, a member of the Oski cohort.
This fall, Berkeley Haas welcomes a diverse and international group of nine new professors, including a record five women. The new faculty members include one full professor, two associate professors, and six new assistant professors, who are from Italy, Argentina, France, China, Canada, and California.
In addition to the new professors, seven new lecturers have joined the professional faculty to teach classes in various programs.
Professor Francesco Trebbi, Business & Public Policy
As a child in Italy, Francesco Trebbi played basketball on a kids’ team with Kobe Bryant, whose father was a star in the city’s basketball team at the time. An athletic career did not prove as promising as his ventures in economics have been, however. “Our team lost even with Kobe on our side, so you can just imagine how bad of a basketball player I must be!” said Trebbi.
Instead, Trebbi attended Italy’s prestigious Bocconi University, earning a degree in political economy, before going on to receive his MA and PhD in economics from Harvard University.
Before joining Berkeley, he was the Canada Research Chair and professor of economics at the University of British Columbia Vancouver School of Economics, and an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Trebbi’s academic research focuses on political economy and applied economics. He has studied the design of political institutions, elections, political behavior, campaign finance, lobbying, and financial regulation. He has also worked on the political economy of development, ethnic politics, and conflict. His primary teaching interests are in political economy, applied economics, and applied econometrics. Currently, he is working on new empirical approaches to the study of behavior of government officials, voters, and special interest groups. He also maintains an active research program on the political economy of non-democratic and low-income countries.
Trebbi also has an artistic streak. “I have only one modest talent outside of economics: I paint. Non-figuratively. Many economists I know have been inflicted with one canvas or two, which I think they keep in their homes and offices out of affection,” he said.
Associate Professor Matilde Bombardini, Business & Public Policy
Though Matilde Bombardini grew up in Imola, a city in Northern Italy, UC Berkeley has long had a special place in her life and career. It’s where she came as an undergraduate student on an exchange program in 1998-99.
“I took a graduate course in the Economics Department that opened the door for me to pursue a PhD at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Professor David Romer was one of my letter writers for PhD admission,” she said. Bombardini earned her PhD from MIT in 2005.
Before coming to Berkeley, she was an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics.
Bombardini is conducting ongoing research on the role of corporate charity as a channel for influencing regulation, and as a tool for political influence in general. She is also researching the role of politicians’ information in congressional voting on China’s Normal Trade Relationship with the U.S.
In her free time, Bombardini likes to ski, sail, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. “I am eager to explore the Tahoe area ski slopes, and the good weather in the Bay Area will make it easier to go back to sailing.” She is a beginner electric guitar player and likes all rock music.
Associate Professor Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Economic Analysis and Policy
Ricardo Perez-Truglia grew up in the Ciudadela neighborhood near Buenos Aires, Argentina, moving to the U.S. for a PhD in economics from Harvard University. He joins Berkeley Haas from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where he was an assistant professor of economics for four years.
As a behavioral economist, one of Perez-Truglia’s main research interests is how social image and social comparisons shape economic behavior: What do others think of you? Are you rich? Smart? Hard-working? The desire to shape these opinions is a powerful driver of human behavior, he said.
His research often involves collaborating with private and public institutions, sometimes using large datasets to study the effects of policies, or conducting large-scale field experiments with their clients or employees. He studies a range of topics such as transparency, tax collection, and macroeconomic expectations. “My research is intended to inform firms and policy makers in the developed and developing world, leading to practical applications,” he said.
Perez-Truglia says he would be happy to talk to students about economics and social science research as well as two more personal topics: “I’m familiar with the challenges associated with being an immigrant and a first-generation college graduate, so I’m happy to discuss them with any of the Berkeley students who are facing the same or similar challenges.”
He’s also happy to talk about Latin America—and his favorite sport, fútbol or soccer. “I’d love to play soccer with the students if they want. I am a huge soccer fan—my favorite teams are River Plate (from Argentina), FC Barcelona (Spain) and obviously, I care the most about the Argentine national team.”
Assistant Professor Sydnee Caldwell, Economic Analysis & Policy
Sydnee Caldwell, who grew up in Fallbrook, Calif., is coming “home” to Cal. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a double bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and economics in 2008, before earning her PhD in economics from MIT in 2019. She joins Berkeley Haas after serving a year as a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research New England.
Caldwell’s research focuses on topics of labor and personnel economics, and she is currently interested in how firms find and recruit new employees. She has also conducted research on the gender-wage gap, recently examining how it plays out in the gig economy. In a paper forthcoming in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, she looks at the differences between taxis and ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber from the driver’s perspective.
She says students should feel free to come to her with any questions they have about economics or data science, regardless of whether they are in her data and decisions class. “I am always interested in how companies and people use data to make decisions,” she says.
She’s also looking forward to hiking and skiing and spending more time outside now that she’s back in the Bay Area.
Assistant Professor Solène Delecourt, Management of Organizations
Solène Delecourt hails from Lille, a city at the northern tip of France. She earned her PhD in organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Delecourt’s research centers on inequality in business performance. She is passionate about using rigorous social scientific theories and methods to delve deeply into this phenomenon, particularly among entrepreneurs in emerging economies. Her research agenda focuses on what drives variation in profits across firms, and how to reduce inequality in business performance among entrepreneurs in different market settings—including India, Uganda, and the U.S. In the three papers that made up her dissertation, Delecourt used field experiments to understand how business characteristics, client search behavior, and peer-to-peer advice among entrepreneurs affect business success.
Delecourt wants students to feel free to come to her for discussions. “I would love to hear about their projects, especially as they relate to issues of gender inequality,” she said.
In her free time, she enjoys swimming and is excited for the numerous outdoor pools on campus. She also loves good bread and pastries and cannot wait to try out Fournée Bakery.
Assistant Professor Douglas Guilbeault, Management of Organizations
Douglas Guilbeault is from Tecumseh, a small town in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. He received his PhD in 2020 from the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania.
Guilbeault studies how people build shared concepts as they communicate in daily life, specifically within social networks and organizations. “Big problems on my list to tackle are: bias reduction in crowdsourcing, cross-cultural concept translation, equitable content moderation over social media, and enhancing scientific discovery,” he said.
Guilbeault is developing a computational theory of how categories emerge, grow, and evolve in social systems, as well as how categories shape social systems themselves.
Guilbeault looks forward to meeting his new colleagues. “I am most excited by the dynamic network of colleagues that I will get to exchange ideas with and learn from,” he said. “The Management of Organizations group at Haas is absolutely distinct in its integration of both macro and micro perspectives on organizations, and my work explores this interface.”
When he’s not conducting research or teaching, Guilbeault makes music and writes software that produces digital art. He also loves running, biking, hiking, and seeing live music.
Assistant Professor Xi Wu, Accounting
Xi Wu is originally from Beijing, China. She received her PhD in accounting from New York University’s Stern School of Business after studying mathematics and economics as an undergrad at Cornell University.
Wu’s research focuses on the intersection of securities regulation, corporate governance, and valuation. Her current research studies how regulations affect firms, how managers and creditors use information to address agency issues, and how to use newly-available data to value firms and cryptocurrencies. Her recent work shows that more heavily regulated companies fare significantly better during extreme economic downturns—including the coronavirus pandemic.
Since she is currently studying the valuation of cryptocurrencies and the market of initial coin offerings (ICOs), Wu says that being close to both the San Francisco Bay Area and the Silicon Valley is of huge value to her, and she is excited about the potential of connecting fintech research to the practical world.
Wu enjoys hiking and skiing in her free time.
Assistant Professor Luyi Yang, Operations & Information Technology Management
Luyi Yang, a native of Shanghai, China, joins Haas from Johns Hopkins University, where he was an assistant professor at the Carey Business School for the past three years. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago Booth School of Management in 2017.
Yang’s work is focused on developing new theories for understanding emerging business models and policy initiatives in service operations. On the business front, he has studied innovative mechanisms for managing queues—which are often a key feature of service systems—such as line-sitting, mobile ordering, and referral priority programs. On the policy front, he has studied the welfare implications of expanding patient choice in elective surgeries, as well as the pricing and environmental implications of the right-to-repair legislation, which gives consumers the ability to repair and modify their own consumer electronic devices.
Yang is excited to experience the innovative culture of Haas. He said students should come talk to him about their startup ideas and new business models. “Over the years I have engaged many startups in my research and teaching. If you have an innovative idea to start a new business, we should talk!” Yang said. In his free time, he likes travelling and hiking.
Assistant Professor Biwen Zhang, Accounting
Biwen Zhang is from Nanchang, the capital and largest city of Jiangxi Province, China. She completed her PhD in accounting in 2020 from Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.
Her main research interests are in the areas of financial intermediaries and corporate governance. Specifically, her current research revolves around the economic implications of conflicts of interest faced by capital market participants.
In her free time, Zhang likes to play table tennis and badminton.
New Professional Faculty
New lecturers this fall include Ahmed Badruzzaman, Deborah Krackeler, Don Hanna, and Sachita Saxena, who will each teach a course in the Undergraduate Program; James Zuberi, who will teach a course in the Executive MBA Program; and Temina Madon, who will teach in the Full-time MBA Program. Sasha Radovich will join in the spring to teach a class in the Undergraduate Program.
The Latin American Magazine ÁmericaEconomía ranked Berkeley Haas #5 among global full-time MBA programs and #3 among U.S. peers. Haas ranked #6 globally and #3 among US schools in 2019.
The ÁmericaEconomía ranking focuses on the best business schools for Latin American students, based on data provided by participating business schools and a reader survey. Its weighting goes as follows: 22.5% multicultural experience and diversity, 15% networking for Latin American students, 25% school activities in Latin America, and 27.5% selectivity, and 10% innovation.
The full report, published June 12, is available in Spanish here.