Year in review: Top Berkeley Haas stories of 2019

It was a big year at Berkeley Haas. We welcomed the school’s first new dean in more than a decade, continued our run in the top 10 in all rankings, and launched several new boundary-spanning programs. Our faculty broke new ground and were honored with numerous awards, and we also mourned the loss of several luminaries. The school was also recognized for its stellar sustainability efforts at our new building.

Going into the 2020, our culture—truly at the heart of Haas—will continue to take center stage. Here are a dozen of our highlights from 2019.

1. New year, new dean

Dean Ann Harrison
Dean Ann Harrison | Copyright Noah Berger 2018

On January 1, former Wharton economics professor Ann Harrison “came home” to Berkeley to serve as the 15th dean of Haas. Harrison was a double major in history and economics at UC Berkeley before going on to earn a PhD in economics from Princeton. She also served as a professor of UC Berkeley’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics from 2001 to 2011, and was the former director of development policy at the World Bank.

2. Fresh insights and groundbreaking research

Illustration of a satellite orbiting the earth

From the first-ever analysis of how hedge funds use satellite images to beat Wall Street, to a finding that information acts on the brain’s dopamine receptors in the same way as snacks, drugs, and money, to new insights from social network experts on how the opioid use spreads in families, Haas faculty questioned the status quo with their creative and groundbreaking research. They also made an impact: Ginnie Mae adopted a proposal based on Haas professors’ research for better risk management of non-bank lenders, and U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Doug Jones launched an investigation into evidence uncovered by three faculty that that online lending algorithms have created widespread lending discrimination.

3. Shedding light on PG&E blackouts

Professors Catherine Wolfram and Severin Borenstein

Haas experts were in high demand to make sense of this fall’s unprecedented power shutoffs. Energy economists Severin Borenstein and Catherine Wolfram of the Energy Institute at Haas fielded a stream of questions from journalists after Pacific Gas & Electric determined it could not guarantee the safety of its lines and shut down power to hundreds of thousands of people, including the entire UC Berkeley campus.

4. Mourning the loss of faculty luminaries

Prof. Mark Rubinstein in his home library / Photo by Jim Block
Prof. Mark Rubinstein in his home library | Photo by Jim Block

Mark Rubinstein (above), a finance professor emeritus whose work had a profound impact on Wall Street by forever changing how financial assets are created and priced, died at 74. Raymond Miles, a former Berkeley Haas dean and professor emeritus whose leadership had a deep and lasting impact on the Haas campus and community, passed away at 86. Leo Helzel, MBA 68, LLM 70, an honored faculty member who guided the school’s first forays into entrepreneurship and was a dedicated and generous supporter of Haas for decades, died at 101. Rob Chandra, BS 88, a professional faculty member since 2013, taught courses on entrepreneurship and venture capital to both undergraduate and MBA students. He passed away in October at age 53.

5. STEM designation for MBA programs

Photo of students in Chou Hall at Haas

Berkeley Haas is among the first business schools to receive a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) designation for its MBA programs. The designation makes all international graduates eligible to apply for an additional 24-month visa extension during post-MBA employment. All current international students studying on F-1 visas will be eligible to apply for the extension while they are in their first year of work authorization after graduating from the MBA program. “We anticipate that this will lead to expanded opportunities for our international graduates who pursue jobs incorporating business analytics, modeling, forecasting, and other skills developed through our program,” said Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the FTMBA program and admissions.

6. Record rankings

Students at work during week zero
Photo by Jim Block

All Haas programs continued their run in the top 10 in all major rankings, with the full-time MBA program moving up to #6 in the U.S. in the U.S. News & World Report ranking—its highest ever. The FTMBA program was also ranked #6 in the U.S. by The Economist (#7 worldwide) and #8 in the U.S. by Bloomberg BusinessweekU.S. News ranked the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program #2, the Undergraduate Program #3, and the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program #7.  The Master of Financial Engineering Program was ranked #1 by The Financial Engineer, and #2 by QuantNet.

7. Chou Hall’s green trifecta

Photo of the front of Chou Hall

Our newest building officially became the greenest academic space in the U.S., receiving a WELL Certification recognizing its “strong commitment to supporting human health, well-being, and comfort;” a TRUE Zero Waste Certification at the highest possible level for diverting at least 90% of its waste from landfills; and LEED Platinum Certification for its architectural design, construction, and energy efficiency.

8. Welcoming David Porter, our first Chief DEI officer

Berkley Haas Chief DEI Officer David Porter

“My first priority is making sure that the students, particularly students of color, have the best experience possible,” said Porter, who previously served as CEO of media nonprofit Walter Kaitz Foundation, director of graduate programs at the Howard University School of Business, and as an assistant professor and faculty director at UCLA’s Anderson School.

9. Unveiling a new sustainable and impact finance program (SAIF)

MBA students who managed the Haas Sustainably Investment Fund
MBA students who have managed the Sustainable Investment Fund at Haas. Photo: Jim Block

The Sustainable and Impact Finance program aims to better position students to work in sustainable and impact finance as public fund managers or private equity investors, or in the startup world. It’s focused on three sectors: sustainable investment, impact investment, and impact entrepreneurship. Assoc. Prof. Adair Morse developed the new program with Prof. Laura Tyson, faculty director for the Institute for Business and Social Impact (IBSI).

10. Building campus connections with cross-disciplinary programs

Haas joined forces with the College of Engineering to launch the concurrent MBA/MEng dual degree program. The new program, enrolling for fall 2020, allows students with undergraduate technical training to earn both a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Engineering degree in just two years. The new undergrad Biology+Business dual major is designed to prepare students for careers in healthcare, biotech, and drug discovery research. It’s a joint venture between the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology and Haas.

11. A host of honors for faculty

Top row: Chesbrough, Mowery, Wallace. Middle: Dal Bó, Schroeder, Morse. Bottom: Konchitchki, Patatoukas, Finan.

Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki and Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas received the 2019 Notable Contributions to Accounting Literature Award from the American Accounting Association. Prof. Emeritus David Mowery received the 2019 Irwin Outstanding Educator Award from the Academy of Management’s Strategic Management Division. Adj. Prof. Henry Chesbrough received the Leadership in Technology Management Award from the Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET). Prof. Nancy Wallace was honored by campus with a prestigious faculty service award. Miguel Villas-Boas was awarded the 2019 INFORMS Society for Marketing Science Fellow Award, which is the organization’s highest award recognizing cumulative scholarship and long-term contributions to the marketing field. Prof. Ernesto Dal Bó and Prof. Frederico Finan received the 2019 Williamson Award at the 2019 Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics (SIOE) conference. Assoc. Prof. Juliana Schroeder was recognized as a “Best 40 Under 40” professor by Poets & Quants. Cheit Awards for Excellence in Teaching went to professors Adair Morse, Ross Levine, Yaniv Konchitchki, and Hoai-Luu Nguyen, along with lecturers Janet Brady, Eric Reiner, and Veselina Dinova.

12. Going deeper on culture

We continued to embed our Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs)—Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself—throughout the school. In January, the Berkeley Haas Cultural Initiative launched with a  pioneering conference where executives from Facebook, Netflix, Zappos, Pixar Animation Studios, Deloitte, and other “culture aware” companies mingled with top academics from around the world. Separately, Haas supporters donated over $200,000 to distribute as grants for efforts aimed at keeping our DLPs strong. After reviewing 29 proposals from students, faculty, and staff, grant reviewers funded six projects and initiatives.

MBA team wins first place at National Real Estate Challenge

Eight people holding plaques and check.
MBA team wins first place in National Real Estate Challenge held at the University of Texas at Austin on Nov. 21. From left to right: David Eisenman, Maribel Garcia Ochoa, Jon Lam, Abby Franklin, Lecturer Bill Falik, Matt Tortorello, Andrew Sublett and Eric Valchuis.


Haas took first place in the 17th annual
National Real Estate Challenge for the second year in a row, taking home a $10,000 prize. Teams from the nation’s top-ranked business schools competed at the University of Texas at Austin on Nov. 21.

The Team: David Eisenman, MBA 20, Andrew Sublett, MBA 20, Matt Tortorello, MBA 20, Eric Valchuis, MCP 20 (city planning), Maribel Garcia Ochoa, JD 21, and Jon Lam, MBA 21 & MRED+D 20 (real estate development and design).

The Field: Finalists included Haas, Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and UPenn’s Wharton School. 

The Challenge: Playing the role of a real estate investment firm, the Haas team had to decide if it should buy 1,000 mixed-income housing units in Lakewood, a fictional city modeled after New York. The firm would receive a tax abatement from the city if it converted a portion of the units into affordable housing.

The Team’s plan: The team weighed the pros and cons of investing in a housing portfolio that included market-rate and affordable housing units. After careful consideration, the team decided to invest in the Lakewood property.

The Haas Factor: The Haas team received coaching from Professor Nancy Wallace, Lecturer Bill Falik, Abigail Franklin, an investment banking and real estate student advisor, and Haas alumni.“Questioning the status quo and having confidence without attitude set us apart from the pack,” said Eric Valchuis, MCP 20. “We prepared for this challenge for months and delivered a story-centered presentation to the judges.”

The team also benefited from Berkeley’s unique Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Real Estate program, allowing us to take classes at Haas, the College of Environmental Design, and Berkeley Law, Valchuis said. “As a result, we demonstrated a cohesive understanding of the social, political, and financial impacts of our investment that may have been more difficult for other schools to match.”

Classified: Empowering undergrads to be changemakers

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

Alex Budak teaches a new undergraduate course called Becoming a Changemaker
Alex Budak teaches a new undergraduate course called Becoming a Changemaker.

Nearly 40 students poured out of the Chou Hall elevators on a recent morning on a strange mission: to find ways to get rejected in less than 15 minutes.

One student told a passerby it was her birthday. “Could you sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me?” she asked.  Another offered to swap his jacket for a person’s laptop. Yet another went from table to table at Café Think, asking for bites of food.

The exercise may sound like improv, but it’s just part of Haas Lecturer Alex Budak’s new undergraduate course called Becoming a Changemaker. The course aims to inspire and empower future leaders with the mindset and tools to make a positive impact on the world—a mission that includes learning to overcome fear of failure by confronting it head-on.

“If you seek to do anything innovative or meaningful in your life, you’re inevitably going to fail along the way,” Budak said. “It’s one thing to intellectualize failure, but it’s another to feel it personally. How often do we hold back asking for something because we’re sure we’ll fail when in reality we may not? We’re failing even before we try.”

Turning panic into confidence

The rejection exercise is just one example of how Becoming a Changemaker tries to upend traditional notions of leadership. In follow-up interviews, students described how a near sense of panic turned to newfound confidence as they practiced asking for something and not getting it.

“It was one of the most powerful educational experiences I’ve ever had,” said Nye Avilla, BS 20, who overcame her fear of asking people if she could borrow their umbrellas. Despite getting rebuffed time and again, she basically realized it was no big deal to ask. “By being more open to failure, I know now that I can be a better leader and a better individual.”

The course includes a little improv, with a goal of creating leaders.
The course uses many tools (including this “act it out” exercise) to create a new kind of leader.

The students were also struck by how many strangers agreed to their outlandish requests, because it reminded them that people do want to help and that their own reticence can be inhibiting.

“Outdated notions of leadership tell young people to wait their turn; to wait for permission to lead,” Budak said. “But while leaders might be scarce, leadership is abundant. We can all lead positive change from wherever we are, whether we’re an intern or a CEO. Leadership is not a title; it’s an act. This course reflects the Haas commitment to building a different kind of leader.”

That’s why the Haas Defining Leadership Principles—Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Student Always, and Beyond Yourself—are woven throughout the course curriculum, he said.

The sum of “small, daily acts”

Students say the course has fundamentally changed how they think about leadership and has transformed how they see themselves in the world.

Sarika Saksena, for example, was 14 years old when she launched a nonprofit, Ujala, that has taught more than 1,000 women in India how to make and sell candles to gain financial independence. Despite her success and experience, the self-described introvert says she never thought she had what it takes to succeed as a leader.

“Before this class, I believed, like many others, that successful leaders are always extroverts, outspoken, bold, and dominating,” said Saksena, a freshman who plans to apply to Haas. She said Budak has taught her that leadership instead requires, among other things, humility, trust in yourself and others, a collaborative team spirit, and the resilience to “fail forward” after taking calculated risks. She sees leadership now as the sum of these small, daily acts that are within anyone’s reach.

Adeel Cheema, a senior computer science major who will work as a software engineer at Facebook after he graduates in May, said he didn’t know what leadership in a culture meant before taking the course. “Now I know how to lead culture,” he says.

Budak gives students many opportunities to put what they learn into practice. Throughout weekly two-hour sessions, students break into groups to discuss the topic at hand—including, for example, the role of corporate cultures on change—and their own experiences with it.

Budak’s teaching approach is to help all students recognize their capabilities as changemakers, which involves many techniques. When students arrive in class, they’re greeted with classic songs about change by the likes of Tracy Chapman, Bob Dylan, and Sam Cooke, and written quotes from some of history’s greatest changemakers. His “Changemaker of the Week” exercise gets students to select a favorite change agent and present on how course frameworks and theories apply to their impact.  For their final projects, students will work in small teams to identify a positive change they want to make on campus, in the community, or even globally, and develop a strategy for achieving it.

“A dream come true”

Budak says his commitment to fostering changemakers is deeply personal. In 2010, he co-founded the social enterprise StartSomeGood, which has helped over 1,000 people in 50 countries raise over $10 million to launch and scale new social ventures. He joined Haas in 2016, first as the founding executive director of the former UC Berkeley Center for Reinventing Leadership, and then as the director of the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program. Becoming a Changemaker is Budak’s first foray into teaching and, he says, a decade-long dream come true.

For their final projects, students will work in small teams to identify a positive change they want to make.
For their final projects, students will work in small teams to identify a positive change they want to make.

“In a world where the only constant is change, our companies, our communities, and our world are yearning for changemakers who can not just survive change but can leverage it to improve lives. These students give me so much hope for the future.” he said.

Ibrahim Balde, BS 20, said the course has opened his eyes to the leader he wants to be and has helped him gain confidence. Balde, who is active in student organizations such as Faces of African Muslims and Black Collectivism for California Students, came to Haas with visions of one day helping disadvantaged groups find economic empowerment.

Balde said the class, with its focus on putting lessons into practice, has been a welcome balance to courses in microeconomics and other technical business subjects.

“This class allows me to think about my mission and purpose and to understand that leadership isn’t a defined trait,” Balde said. “It’s a series of actions, a conscious effort every day to do the right thing.”

Haas team tops at Tech Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Undergrads Launch Competition to Build Confidence Without Attitude

More than 100 undergraduates have signed up to compete in a new cohort finance case competition launched by the Haas Business School Association as part of its year-long effort to foster the school’s four Defining Principles and culture.

The case competition, which attracted 27 teams of four members each, requires each team to include at least two students without any previous case competition experience. It’s designed to give more students Confidence Without Attitude, one of the school’s defining principles.

“With so many students participating, this is an amazing learning experience,” says HBSA President Tyler Wishnoff, BS 13. “We get to help develop our students professionally and give them the self confidence to go after more cases.”

Each month, HBSA is planning to host an activity or event related to one of the school’s four Defining Principles. In addition to the case competition in September designed to build Confidence Without Attitude, the events this fall will include :

  • October, Question the Status Quo: Working with the university’s Operational Excellence team to look at change within institutions.
  • November, Students Always: A fun trivia night with questions about business and Haas.
  • December, Beyond Yourself: A food drive.

The case competition will include an information session on the case and mixer with alumni Sept. 14, when students will be able to ask alumni for guidance and coaching. Cases will be due Sept. 16. The best team from each of the six undergraduate cohorts will be chosen to compete in a final round Sept. 19.

“The structure is designed for students without case competition experience to learn from students who have experience, which also gives those with experience the opportunity to apply leadership skills,” says Wishnoff. “And the competition will provide students with a chance to build relationships with alumni.”

Alumni involved in the competition include Tara Kramlich, BS 03, of Imprint Investments; Sam Snyder, MBA 11, who just left Goldman Sachs to join alumnus and lecturer Steve Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, at Greyrock Capital; and Aaron Schwartz, MBA 10, CEO of Modify Watches.

Etter, who teaches Corporate Finance to undergrads, helped develop the case and is organizing the grand prize: a dinner with Dean Rich Lyons and three alumni. The HBSA also will award smaller prizes along with $500 to be split amongst the top two teams.

 

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