This Veterans Day, we asked some of the many veterans in our community to share their stories.
Phil Ickes didn’t come from a military family. But a desire to explore the world—and make it a safer place–drew him to join the U.S. Army.
Ickes, MBA 24, began his military career as an undergraduate in the ROTC program at the University of Pittsburgh. Between his junior and senior years, he studied Arabic in Jordan and volunteered at Syrian refugee camps, which he describes as a turning point.
“One weekend, I met a family that had been severely wounded by a car bomb while they were still living in Syria,” said Ickes, who grew up outside Pittsburgh. “Meeting that family made me feel compelled to do something about it.”
After graduating, Ickes joined the U.S Army, training in the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), a school jointly run by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Working as s a platoon leader, his team supported the U.S. Secret Service, protecting several presidents, vice presidents, and foreign dignitaries.
As an EOD operations manager, he later directed an operations cell that supported more than 600 soldiers in full-spectrum bomb disposal.
In 2021, Ickes traveled to Syria and Iraq as an EOD company commander. “That experience definitely left me feeling like I left the world better than I found it,” Ickes says. “The act of disarming bombs and rendering explosive devices safe and leaving communities overseas safer than I found them was definitely very rewarding.”
Working with robotics and machine learning in the military piqued his interest in tech, and drew him to apply to Haas, where he’s working toward a career in technical product management.
Last summer, he interned at San Mateo-based drone startup Skydio. He said he believes drones have the potential to benefit fields including law enforcement, infrastructure inspections, mapping, and commercial delivery.
“I like products that make people or businesses’ lives easier or more efficient,” he said. “Usually these products are at the intersection of software and hardware.”
On making the transition from military life to an MBA program, Ickes said he immediately found a collaborative spirit and welcoming environment at Haas.
“Everyone is ambitious yet laid back,” he says. “Nobody takes themselves too seriously.”
“Join the Navy, see the world”
Just after turning 30, while working as an accountant in Santa Barbara, Emily Hawkins decided she wanted something more in life.
“It was a great job, but it kind of felt like I was lacking purpose, and it was at that time in your life where your friends are settling down and having families,” said Hawkins, MBA 24.
She’d always been interested in the military and, after some research and inspired by the slogan “join the Navy, see the world,” she decided to enlist.
“My plan was to enlist for one term, which is four years, learn some new skills, have an adventure, be part of something bigger than what I had been doing, and then return to what I thought of as my normal life,” Hawkins said.
Adventure is what she got. Hawkins went straight from boot camp to an aircraft carrier and a seven-month deployment off the coast of Japan in 2010 and 2011.
Hawkins and her team were called in to help with the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. “I had a chance to participate in the humanitarian operation, and it was amazing, and it kind of broadened my perspective of what a career in the military could be, and I was hooked,” Hawkins says. “And that was about 14 years ago.”
Hawkins is still serving in the Navy while earning her MBA, but her role has shifted from working on an aircraft carrier to serving as an officer in supply, logistics, and financial management.
While she was accepted to three MBA programs, she chose Haas due to the support of the school’s Veterans Club. “They were by far the most engaged in terms of helping you with your resume, reviewing your essays, talking to you pre- and post-interview,” Hawkins says. “They were so engaged and so supportive that I knew there would be a good community for me.”
Veterans Day, for Hawkins, is a time to reflect. “It’s a time to think about how we as a society view military veterans and the programs we provide for them in terms of education, transition programs, and medical care.”
Berkeley Haas welcomed an accomplished group of nearly 700 new full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD students to campus, kicking off the start of the fall 2023 semester. (The new evening & weekend and executive MBA classes arrived on campus earlier this summer.)
Full-time MBA program
A total of 244 new full-time MBA students kicked off five days of Week Zero orientation last Monday. Orientation included sessions on academic life at Haas, diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and belonging (DEIJB), team building, and career planning.
Wendy Guild, the new assistant dean of MBA programs at Haas, welcomed the class. “I want to celebrate the fact that you are here,” she said, noting that 2023 is a special year for Haas, marking the school’s 125th anniversary. “We have staying power,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere… We’re just getting better.”
A total of 244 new full-time MBA students in the Class of 2025 arrived last week for Week Zero orientation. Wendy Guild, assistant dean of MBA programs, welcomed the group, noting that Haas is celebrating a special 125th anniversary this year.
The new MBA class is comprised of 41% women; 20% are first-gen.
Prof. Don Moore, acting Haas dean, urged students to reach out to each other and take advantage of the resources at Haas, especially when the curriculum gets tough. "All of us want to see you succeed," he said.
Introducing the Gold Cohort!
Introducing the Axe cohort!
Introducing the Oski cohort!
Introducing the Blue cohort!
The Haas Undergraduate Program team welcomed 421 new students Monday. A total of 3,306 students applied to the program.
The undergraduate class includes103 transfer students and 240 continuing UC Berkeley students.
New students met up in the Haas courtyard throughout orientation.
All photos by Jim Block and Noah Berger.
New students participated in a whirlwind of orientation activities—from a scavenger hunt to an ice cream social to cleanup work at a local nonprofit that supports people who are homeless.
The MBA students are an accomplished group, with an average of nearly six years of work experience, with 20% coming the tech sector and 24% from consulting.
Remy Freire, MBA 25, was a consultant at Bain & Company in Washington D.C. before coming to Haas.
“I’m interested in climate tech and renewable energy and I thought that the MBA would be a chance to take classes and do an internship in that area, and get some hands-on experience. A lot of folks are interested in this at Haas and I’ll be meeting people with similar interests to mine.”
The class boasts 41% women and is richly international, including students from 39 countries.
Imogen O’Connor, MBA 26, worked as an analytical manager with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK before she came to Haas.
“What really prompted me to do an MBA was around change management and leadership because I was coming up against a lot of barriers in the NHS,” she said. “I really care about health care and just helping people. I think I need to develop certain skills in order to do that properly.”
The class has an average collective GMAT score of 732, and GREs of 163 quant and 161 verbal, and an average GPA of 3.63.
Eric Askins, director of MBA admissions, told the students to expect to learn from peers who come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Notably, 20% of the students in this class are the first generation of college students in their families. Fourteen of the new students are pursuing a dual MPA/MPH (public health) degree; nine are enrolled in the MBA/MEng (engineering) program.
Orientation week alumni speaker Lo Toney, MBA 97, founding managing partner at Plexo Capital, shared his wisdom with the class, encouraging students to explore and take advantage of the breadth and depth of the UC Berkeley and Haas campus resources, focus on academics in the first quarter in particular, and reach out to alumni to build a network.
Acting Dean and Professor Don Moore, whose research covers leadership and confidence in business and beyond, welcomed the students.
“You’re joining a community of innovators, renowned researchers, entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers who have made a profound impacts on business and on society,” he said.
“You’re joining a community of innovators, renowned researchers, entrepreneurs, and movers and shakers who have made a profound impacts on business and on society.” – Acting Dean Don Moore
Moore said the long list of leaders who embody the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles (Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself) includes professional golfer Collin Morikawa, BS 19, who won the 2020 PGA Championship; Nabeela Syed, BS 21, the first Muslim Indian-American and the youngest woman to serve in the Illinois House of Representatives; and gaming entrepreneur Kevin Chou, BS 02, who with his wife, Dr. Connie Chen, provided the largest-ever personal gift to UC Berkeley by an alumni under the age of 40 to help fund Chou Hall.
Emma Hayes Daftary, assistant dean of the undergraduate program, told the students that “the DLPs will challenge you to shift from what you, as an individual, can achieve, to what we, as a community, can accomplish.”
“We are living in a time of tremendous global transition, and within this time of upheaval and transition comes an urgent call for informed, collaborative, effective leaders,” she said. “There are urgent issues that are facing us—urgent issues that will require extraordinary leadership to develop and execute solutions to solve them.”
The PhD program welcomed its largest-ever cohort of 19 new students from around the world—including Russia, China, Ethiopia, India, South Korea, Nigeria, Portugal, Canada, and Germany.
New students include Abdulmuttolib (Abdul) Salako, Ziyi Liu, Sean Chen, Sarah Danner, Hanna Yu, Sara Shemali, Jordan Mickens, Nikita (Nick) Akimov, Wenxiao Yang, Srikanth Janjirala, Yutao Chen, Maggie Ye, Skyler Chen, David Gravanita , William Zhang, Zi Yang Chen, Nathan Godin, Nick Otis, and Fikremariam (Fikre) Gedefaw.
Berkeley Haas this month is kicking off its anniversary celebration of 125 years of reimagining business. The festivities commemorate a significant milestone in the school’s history as a leader in advancing management education, corporate responsibility, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Founded in 1898 as the College of Commerce with just three students, Haas has expanded to nearly 3,000 students across six programs, all of which rank in the top 10 and boast a world-renowned global faculty. Haas has 44,000 living alumni worldwide, spanning more than 20,000 organizations in 81 countries.
“A 125th anniversary is a remarkable achievement for any business school, especially given the immense changes that business and business education have gone through,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann E. Harrison. “As the world’s number one mission-driven business school, we take pride in developing innovative business leaders who consider the long-term impact of their actions—and increasingly, that requires a lens for sustainability and inclusion.”
Haas has always been a pioneer. It is the first business school founded at a public university, and the second-oldest in the U.S. It is the only leading business school to be founded by a woman, Cora Jane Flood.
It’s also the first top business school to be led by two female deans, Professor Laura Tyson (1998–2001 and 2018), and Harrison (since 2019).
And from the start, the school has had a distinctive culture.
Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler, Haas’s Chief Strategy and Operating Officer, described the principles as much more than mere aspirations or platitudes. They are, rather, aligned tightly with the school’s strategy. “Powerful leaders think about culture all the time,” Chandler said. “If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.”
“Powerful leaders think about culture all the time. If done well, everything relates back to the culture, from how we set priorities to how we get buy-in from people to how we show up as a community.” — Senior Assistant Dean Courtney Chandler, BA 90, MBA 96.
The Haas legacy includes generations of researchers and teachers who have changed how industry leaders think and do business. That legacy includes two Nobel laureates. The late John Harsanyi won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994—along with John Nash from Princeton University and Reinhard Selten from Bonn, Germany—for advancing the study of game theory, and in particular, how parties act in negotiations with incomplete information.
The late Oliver Williamson became the school’s second Nobel laureate—along with Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University—in 2009 for bringing together economics, organization theory, and contract law to invent the field of transaction cost economics, fundamentally reshaping understanding of how firms operate in the marketplace.
Many other Haas faculty members have ushered new ideas into the world, including Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, who created the novel theory of Open Innovation; and David Aaker, the father of modern branding, who defined brand equity and the idea of the brand portfolio.
Professor David Teece established his groundbreaking theories of dynamic capabilities in 1997; and Ikujiro Nonaka, MBA 68, PhD 72, a knowledge management expert, envisioned knowledge as a living and breathing entity that must be shared among workers to reach its full potential.
Finance Professor Ulrike Malmendier, who researches how individual biases affect corporate decisions, stock prices, and markets, illuminated many ways in which human psychology and systematic biases influence economic behavior. For her work, Malmendier won the prestigious 2013 Fischer Black Prize.
Women at Haas have also made pioneering contributions as visionary leaders—since Mary Dickson became the first woman to get a degree from the school in 1906. Professor and former Dean Laura Tyson served on President Clinton’s cabinet, and was also the first woman to chair the Council of Economic Advisers and direct the National Economic Council.
Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen, who taught macroeconomics at Haas for 25 years, is now the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and was the first to chair the Federal Reserve.
Berkeley Haas has also been a hub of innovation and a launching ground for entrepreneurs over the years. In 2022, for the fourth straight year, UC Berkeley was named the nation’s best public university for startup founders, and the second-best university among both private and public schools, according to Pitchbook’s annual ranking.
In 2022, for the fourth straight year, UC Berkeley was named the nation’s best public university for startup founders
In 1970, six years before Apple Computer was founded, Dean Richard Holton taught one of the country’s first entrepreneurship classes at Haas with Leo Helzel, MBA 68. Lecturer Steve Blank took the teaching of entrepreneurship in a cutting-edge new direction in 2011 with his Lean LaunchPad method. Blank taught students to build a company by developing business models rather than traditional business plans, iterating models quickly based on customer feedback. This approach is now accepted practice for entrepreneurs.
Haas students have been honing startup skills for years in programs like the UC Berkeley LAUNCH accelerator; SkyDeck, a partnership between the Haas School of Business founded in 2012 with the College of Engineering, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research; and The Cleantech to Market accelerator program, which for 15 years has been pairing students with entrepreneurs to help bring promising climate tech innovations to market.
Over the years, Haas students and alumni have founded hundreds of companies as part of the UC Berkeley startup ecosystem. Among the school’s notable alumni entrepreneurs:
John Hanke, MBA 96, CEO of Niantic Labs, was instrumental in creating Google Earth, Maps, and Street View, which brought sophisticated geospatial data visualization to the masses. Hanke then masterminded the wildly popular augmented reality Pokémon Go game.
Paul Rice, MBA 96, founded Fair Trade USA, whose Fair Trade Certified seals signify products made according to fair trade standards.
The late Priya Haji, MBA 03, co-founded Free at Last, a national program for substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS intervention; World of Good,a sustainable/fair trade product marketplace acquired by eBay in 2010, and served as CEO at SaveUp, a rewards game for saving money and reducing debt.
Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, launched Ashesi University, Ghana’s first liberal arts college, in 2002, which pioneered a multidisciplinary core curriculum that challenged the dominant rote-learning culture in many African schools.
Danae Ringelmann and Eric Schell, both MBA 08, co-founded Indiegogo with Slava Rubin, building a crowdfunding platform for all creative, cause, and entrepreneurial projects.
Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, both BS 09, grew mushrooms from used coffee grounds in their Haas class, which led to their startup Back to the Roots—now a national brand with products sold in thousands of stores.
Jason Bellet, BS 14, along with engineering alumni Connor Landgraf, BS 13, MEng 14 (bioengineering), and Tyler Crouch, BS 14 (mechanical engineering), founded Eko in 2013 and developed an FDA-cleared platform of AI-powered stethoscopes for early detection of cardiovascular disease.
Roots of social responsibility
The Haas tradition of educating leaders who prioritize the social impact of business dates back more than 100 years.
The school is named for Walter A. Haas, Sr., BS 1910, whose family at Levi Strauss & Company outfitted Western miners in a new kind of work pants that evolved into Levi’s iconic blue jeans. Haas Sr.’s views on social welfare and public affairs were influenced by the school’s first female instructor, Jessica Peixotto, and led him to grow this apparel manufacturer into one of the country’s largest socially responsible businesses. Later, as Levi’s CEO, he noted that the company “owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business.”
The company “owes responsibility to the communities in which we do business.” — Walter A. Haas, Sr., BS 1910
During the late 1950s, Earl F. Cheit, the future dean, ushered in the study of corporate social responsibility through research and teaching. Cheit organized the first national symposium on the subject in 1964, and Berkeley’s coursework became the model for other leading business schools with support from Professors Dow Votaw and Edwin Epstein.
Decades later, The Center for Responsible Business in 2002, brought Haas into the modern corporate social responsibility and business sustainability movements. Six years later, TheFinancial Times named Haas number one in the world in this area.
Socioeconomic mobility is core to both the UC Berkeley and Haas missions. Over the past six years, Haas has made substantive changes to increase diversity and representation, engender lifelong learning around equity and inclusion, and cultivate belonging.
When Harrison joined as dean, she made Diversity Equity Justice and Belonging (DEIJB) a priority by meeting with student leaders; significantly increasing student support; modifying the core MBA curriculum to require a course on leading diverse teams; and diversifying the Haas faculty and Haas School Board.
Haas also appointed Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista to oversee a six-person team focusing on admissions, community-related DEIJB issues, and, uniquely, faculty support.
Building on the Defining Leadership Principles, the school’s DEI Strategic Plan, first drafted in 2018 and updated in 2021, outlines aspirations for a learning environment where everyone belongs and everyone can thrive. The plan aims to equip all members of the Haas community to effectively lead diverse teams. (Research from Haas faculty and the work of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) makes the business case that diversity on teams can drive performance.)
The Heart of What’s Next
Looking forward, Haas continues to build on its academic strength in undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree executive education offerings.
The school also continues to embrace new ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the school’s foray to digital education, inspired by Berkeley Executive Education’s early adoption of virtual classroom teaching.
The virtual classrooms now anchor the Flex MBA program,—now in its second year—which combines academic courses in a live online environment with the option to come to campus for electives. At the undergraduate level, the school’s two-year program is expanding to become the four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program. The first four-year cohort will enroll in August of 2024.
Stepping up to address the severity of climate change, Haas created the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change to support teaching and research across agriculture, real estate, energy, finance, and corporate sectors. The school’s investment in sustainability includes the greenest academic building in the U.S., Chou Hall, having earned TRUE Zero Waste certification at the highest possible level along with a LEED Platinum certification for its energy efficient design and operation. Plans are now underway to launch a joint MBA/master’s in climate solutions degree with Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources.
Many of the school’s advancements have been made possible through the support of its loyal alumni, who continue to make Haas stronger through their engagement as teachers, mentors, employers, partners, and donors to the school.
Harrison said she is looking forward to celebrating the school’s many milestones and to what the future will bring, noting, “We look back with pride, but we move forward to have impact.”
Thomas Seidl, a data science manager for Red Bull Soccer in Munich, set a goal to get an MBA from a top American university to future-proof his career in sports analytics. Trouble was, he wanted to stay in Germany with his wife and two young children.
“I wanted to see whether there was an option to do an MBA in the United States at a world class university from home basically,” said Seidl, who holds a PhD in computer science in sports. “I was curious about whether I could get into a top-ranked program. I just wanted to give it my best shot.”
Seidl didn’t have any luck finding an online program in the U.S. that met his requirements. But then, while researching the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend Program, he discovered the new Flex MBA option, which lets students take courses remotely with the option to come to campus for electives. It sounded perfect, so Seidl applied and was accepted, joining 68 other students last year in the inaugural Flex cohort, who hail from the U.S., Canada, Egypt, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Flex cohort, launched last year, does things a bit differently. While the evening and weekend MBA cohorts meet in person during scheduled blocks of time throughout their programs—on either evenings or weekends—Flex students take their core courses remotely, with an option to come to campus for electives. For parents, caregivers, and professionals who move or travel often for their careers or for fun, Flex provides what they say they need most: schedule flexibility.
“The Flex program allowed me to stay in Los Angeles and stay very close to my family while also getting an MBA,” said Kevin Haroldo Ramirez, who was a philosophy and legal studies major as a UC Berkeley undergraduate. As a senior consultant at Edgility Consulting, Ramirez said he wanted an MBA to sharpen his business skills as his career progresses in the nonprofit sector.
“It worked out perfectly”
Like Ramirez, about 74% of the Flex class is from outside of the Bay Area, joining from nine California counties and 17 U.S. states. Seven students are living abroad, and many have relocated during the program, says Leah Rozeboom, director of Flex Experience.
Some students living in different time zones, like Seidl, log on in the middle of the night twice a week to take classes. “When class is over at 3 a.m., you start to think about the content and you try to get back to sleep,” he said. “But then your brain just starts to get into all of these ideas about ‘how can I apply this stuff in sports?’ Sometimes it’s difficult, but I think that’s a good sign that I am engaged.”
Kinshuk Verma, a product manager for Electric Hydrogen, who lives in San Jose, Ca., applied to Flex because of her heavy travel schedule. “At my previous job, I was traveling more than 50% of the time, and I knew that the weekend or weekday schedule was not going to work for me,” she said “Once I got into the Flex program, I had a baby, and it worked out perfectly.”
With an equally hectic life, Molly (Hill) Bjorkman, a mom of two who juggles work as a manager for an arts nonprofit and helps run Napa-based GRO wines with her husband, Lars Bjorkman, said she never considered commuting to do an MBA.
For Bjorkman, easing back into school during the first semester was difficult but fulfilling. “The core classes are challenging,” she said. “I am an all As” type so I have to be a little forgiving of myself and the first semester was, ‘how do I do school again? There’s so much that was new and there is still not enough time.” Last semester, Bjorkman, mom to an 11-year-old and 13-year-old, rose at 5 a.m. at her Calistoga, Ca., home to do an hour of asynchronous course work before heading to her local office. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. she joined live classes.
Bjorkman said she was impressed by the camaraderie among the many mothers in Flex. Her study group includes moms Erin Mitsuyoshi, who lives in Hawaii, and Sophie Christian, who lives in Portland, Oregon.
Christian, a college piano professor, said the group’s connection on Slack and at in-person weekend have helped make bonds stronger.
Christian said the pandemic and its many restrictions led her to pursue a new career path for herself that she believes will lead to a bigger impact. “I wanted something more flexible in business so I’m exploring,” she said. “I still run my teaching business but I am letting go of that part of my life. I jumped at the chance when Berkeley offered this program.”
Last April, the Flex cohort convened in Berkeley for an in-person weekend. Students participated in Leadership Communications course sessions on compelling storytelling and finding your authentic leadership style, completed one-on-one coaching sessions, and enjoyed small group dinners with Haas faculty and coffee with students in the evening MBA cohort.
Maria Carkovic, who taught their Macroeconomics class, surprised the cohort in person during lunch at Chou Hall, where they met her for the first time. “It was a wonderful surprise,” said Carkovic, who was chosen by the evening MBA class for the 2023 Cheit Award for teaching excellence. “I think that they were very aware that it was special to be together, so they were interacting to the max and connections were being formed. Life gets very complicated at the age that they go to grad school in business and the Flex program works to their advantage.”
Strong bonds have formed within the group, encouraged in part by cohort representative Lisa Dalgliesh, who is described by many classmates as a connector.
During Flex orientation kickoff, she said she was pleased to meet three other students from Texas sitting at her table. The group now meets for occasional dinners in Texas. Last August, while traveling for work to Washington, D.C., she had dinner and drinks with four classmates, and she hosted classmates when they traveled to Austin for work.
Dalgliesh, who lives in Austin and works as a people strategy and integration leader for Deloitte, said she chose Flex, in part, to stay put in her native Texas and not uproot her life. “I thought there would be a social trade off when you go to a program like this, but that’s not been the case,” she said.“Quite the opposite..It’s fun to visit people in their hubs.”
Flex is “the future of academia,” she added. “This is an equitable approach to ensuring that people from all walks of life and at all different stages of life have an opportunity to tap into an education from a top tier institution from anywhere.” she said.
“This is an equitable approach to ensuring that people from all walks of life and at all different stages of life have an opportunity to tap into an education from a top-tier institution from anywhere.” – Lisa Dalgliesh, EWMBA 25
Class from anywhere
The pandemic, though isolating for many students, proved that both remote work and remote teaching are possible, even preferable for some, which is one reason why Flex applications are rising.
“We don’t take a one-size-fits all approach to our part-time programs for working professionals,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of Berkeley Haas MBA programs. “Flex is an inclusive, future-forward program that works for an increasing number of students who want to earn a world-class degree that fits with their schedules and lives.”
Cairo serves as a perfect base for Scott Diddams to travel all over Europe. “I’ve attended (Haas) MBA lectures from Paris, Athens, London, and Cairo,” said Diddams, a product manager at Microsoft, who logs into class from different time zones. “I feel like I’ve been able to keep up and perform just as well as if I were in person. If anything, as an introvert, it makes it even easier for me to pay attention when I’m in my own space and not worrying about the classroom.”
“I’ve attended (Haas) MBA lectures from Paris, Athens, London, and Cairo,” – Scott Diddams, a product manager at Microsoft.
After coming to campus in April, Diddams, a former paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, stopped in Seattle to work at Microsoft headquarters before flying home. In a meeting with a senior engineer, Diddams said he tested some concepts he’d learned in his marketing class.
The manager gave him excellent feedback, he said. “Having that impact at work is something that I don’t think I would’ve been able to do a year ago before taking these courses,” he said. “I certainly felt much more confident.”
Macroeconomics was a favorite course, he said. “Attending that class from Egypt, which is undergoing a kind of financial inflation crisis, and being able to see that while learning about it,” he said, “that’s the perfect way to learn something.”
Like Diddams, Dalgliesh, who holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in human dimensions of organizations from the University of Texas, Austin, said she believes her MBA will take her to the next step professionally.
“It was important for me to learn more about the business world so I can have a seat at the table,” she said.
Commencement speaker Elena Gomez, BS 91, chief financial officer at Boston-based Toast, told undergrad students to learn “when to take the shot or pass the ball.” Gomez said that some of her observations on teamwork come from coaching a basketball team of 10-year-old girls that had one clear star.
“Part of me was excited about winning a lot of games, but what joy would that bring without getting the rest of the team involved?” she said. “As a player or as a teammate in the workplace, and more importantly as a star, because I see a lot of stars out in the audience, learn when your teammates need you to step up and take that last shot.”
As a leader, she continued, “you will have the opportunity to help others, your team, your colleagues, imagine the impossible. As graduates from Haas, you are ready for all of that. You are ready to be a star and you are ready to pass the ball and you are ready to help others see in themselves what they thought was not possible.”
Dean Ann Harrison noted that:
54% of the undergraduates are women.
47% have earned a dual degree.
20% are the first in their families to attend college
“Look next to you–look in front of you–look behind you,” Harrison said. “You are surrounded by some of the smartest, boldest, coolest people you will meet anywhere in the world.”
Undergraduate Award Winners
Departmental Citation to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business: Noah Oppenheimer
Question the Status Quo: Vedika Dayal
Confidence Without Attitude: Charissa Pham
Students Always: Jordan Laredo
Beyond Yourself: Vala Makhfi
Student speaker: Nina Dickens
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Lecturer Stephen Etter, BS 83, MBA 89 Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Khalil Somani, MBA 23
MBA Commencement (FTMBA + EWMBA)
Commencement speaker Frank Cooper III, BS 86, chief marketing officer at Visa, told graduates to embrace risk, reflecting on his transition from working in a law firm to the music industry.
“The fact that life is short is precisely the reason we should take risks rather than fear them,” he said. “It turns out there’s no such thing as a no-risk proposition anyway, even along what feels like the safest and surest path. From economic recession, to industry bubbles, to political surprises—we’ve all seen immovable mountains crumble.”
By taking a risk, Cooper said his varied experiences gave him the opportunity to work with extraordinary people, including Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lionel Messi, Magic Johnson, Eva Longoria, and Forest Whitaker.
What did they share in common? “They had an idea about their purpose in the world and had the courage to push back against uncertainty,” he said.
Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Kewenvoyouma
Confidence Without Attitude: Via Abolencia
Student Always: Julia Konso Mbakire
Beyond Yourself: Julian M. Ramirez, Jr.
Berkeley Leader: Afraz Khan
Student Speaker: Ricky Ghoshal
Academic Achievement Award: Math Williams (3.992)
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching:
Professor Lucas Davis
Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Zia Mehmood, MS 20, PhD 24
EWMBA 2023 Award Winners
Question the Status Quo: Bob Wang
Confidence Without Attitude: Ana Martinez
Students Always: Krupa Patel
Beyond Yourself: Supriya Golas
Outstanding Academic Performance: Andrew Hurley
Student speaker: Farzad Yousefi
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Evening MBA Program: Lecturer Maria Carkovic Weekend MBA Program: Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): Mahek Chheda
An MBA student team won first-prize funding for a startup that’s helping to make supply chains more efficient for small Brazilian farmers at last Friday’s Invest for Impact Pitch Competition.
The winning team, pitching on behalf of startup Clicampo-Arado, included Arsal Khanani, EWMBA 24, Byungwoo Han, MBA 23, Gui Klingelfus, MBA 23, Mateus Loesch, MBA 23, and Vivian Hare, EWMBA 23.
Clicampo, now rebranded as Arado, secured a $75,000 investment, awarded by a panel of industry judges, including Michelle Kiang, managing partner and co-founder at Impact Science Ventures; Matt Caspari, managing partner at Alumni Ventures, and Joshua Posamentier, managing partner at Congruent Ventures.
Klingelfus said he was thrilled by the team’s first-place win. “What set our team’s pitch apart was the fact that we highlighted both Arado’s social impact and its financial success, demonstrating that they are ready to scale.”
Loesch said pitching during the competition helped prepare him if he chooses to pursue a career in venture capital or entrepreneurship, as he learned about how industry pros analyze a startup’s potential.
“I don’t believe that I would have had the same experience in other classes in the MBA program,” he said.
Reducing food waste
Five MBA student teams pitched during the competition addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including food waste, financial access, health, and renewable energy. The teams included Team Health & Wellbeing representing startup Shezlong; Team Sustainable Supply Chain representing startup Diferente; Team International Development representing Farm to Feed, and Team Climate Tech representing Oceans-Sway.
Arado’s prize comes on the heels of two other funding rounds over the past year for the startup: a $7.5 million seed round and $12 million series A funding round. Founded in 2021, Arado connects small to midsize farmers in Latin America directly with restaurants and food retailers.
“Food waste is one of the main problems in the world now, and Arado came up with an innovative solution that increases the system’s efficiency and that contributed to the success of our pitch,” Loesch said.
The day also included a report from the Sustainable Investment Fund course, the first and largest student-led SRI fund within a leading business school. It offers MBA students real-world experience in delivering both strong financial returns and positive social impact in public markets. Since 2008, the student principals have more than tripled the initial investment to over $4 million.
Freada Kapor Klein, the founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, who gave a keynote at the event, noted the importance of investing in impact startups that help close opportunity gaps for communities of color and low-income communities.
In investing, “we look at one’s lived experience,” she said. “What hurdles do they encounter along the way, and how did those hurdles give them an idea for a startup that might solve the problems?”
Classified articles spotlight some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.
It’s week four of the Climate Change and Business Strategy course at Berkeley Haas, and Senior Lecturer Andrew Isaacs kicks off with a slide that compares China’s CO2 emissions to those of the U.S. and other countries.
“What you notice right away is a three-fold increase coming from China,” he said, noting that the country’s blazing economic growth has come with a huge increase in demand for energy. “This is like nothing the world has experienced. China is the elephant in the room right now, even though the US still leads the world in cumulative emissions of planet-warming gasses.”
As class continues, Isaacs covers the different potencies of the main greenhouse gasses, presents a quick tutorial on the First Law of Thermodynamics—energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another—and posts graphs that show how much countries have warmed over time and track loss of ice and snow around the world. “There will be a September within your lifetime that sees an ice-free Arctic Ocean,” he tells the 51 Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students in the class at Chou Hall.
It’s a lot for students to take in. “I knew there was a crisis, but to see how it might play out is mind blowing,” said Harry Davies, MBA 23, who interned for Impossible Foods last summer and plans to pursue a career at the intersection of sustainability and food.
“I knew there was a crisis, but to see how it might play out is mind blowing,” – Harry Davies, MBA 23.
After launching the course two years ago, Isaacs’ worry about the planet’s fate has only escalated. “We’re only starting to grapple with these problems,” he said. “In the coming weeks of class we’ll look at the various solutions available to us. But if we get climate change wrong, it doesn’t matter what else we get right.”
One key to getting it right? Electrification—and moving away from the inefficiency of fossil fuels, particularly gasoline-powered automobiles, Isaacs told students. “If I’m driving to work in a gasoline-powered car, 10% of the energy in each gallon of gas I burn gets me to work, and the other 90% goes to heating up the air around the car. You wanted mobility, but you used something—an automobile —that instead is good at producing heat,” he said. “Our economy is built substantially on the inefficient and inappropriate use of resources.”
“Our economy is built substantially on the inefficient and inappropriate use of resources.” – Andrew Isaacs
Response to a wildfire
Isaacs created the Climate Change and Business Strategy course after being forced to evacuate his home in Napa, California, during the 2020 North Bay wildfires. A geochemist by training who started his career as a scientist at NASA, Isaacs didn’t end up losing his house. But the fire did lead him to examine how he could do more to educate students about climate change. Since introducing the course, he also helped Haas launch a summer minor in sustainability open to all UC Berkeley undergraduates.
The class has filled up every semester. It helps immensely that Haas Dean Ann Harrison and Sustainability Director Michele de Nevers have both supported the sustainability course since its inception, Isaacs said.
“Drew’s course is critical to ensuring that our students graduate equipped to take on both the challenges and opportunities that climate change poses to business and our world,” de Nevers said. “A basic understanding of the fundamental science of climate change is critical to implementing and evaluating whether a business’s sustainability efforts are effective or just greenwashing.”
“A basic understanding of the fundamental science of climate change is critical to implementing and evaluating whether a business’s sustainability efforts are effective or just greenwashing.” – Michele de Nevers
The class covers a sweeping number of topics, including climate governance, carbon offsets, carbon capture and storage, greenwashing versus informed decision making, and investing in climate solutions. Students also examine corporate strategies, studying Apple’s climate roadmap, Tesla’s impact report, and Unilever’s progress. Guest speakers this semester include Peter Fiske, MBA 02, director of the Berkeley Lab’s Water-Energy Resilience Institute, and Phoebe Wang, an investment partner at the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, who will discuss climate startups.
In April, Graduate Student Instructor Natàlia Costa i Coromina, who has taught the class since fall 2021, will teach a session, exploring a case she co-wrote with Isaacs that questions whether Gen Z’s climate knowledge matches its climate concern.
Costa i Coromina, a second-year student in the Master of Development Practice at UC Berkeley, said she wants students who enter the course with “radical passion and a willingness to learn,” and to leave not deflated by climate anxiety, but instead with an action plan and a systems change mindset.
“They learn how hard it is going to be, because climate change will be (and is already) impacting every aspect of our lives” she said. “We equip students with the science, from the Keeling Curve (a daily record of global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration) and GHG emissions to offsets and resiliency; and then their eyes open to what does this all means for business: that, in fact, every single department—marketing, supply chain, operations, finance, HR—has a role to play.”
Filling in the gaps
Students said they had a wide variety of reasons for enrolling in the class, from a desire to create more effective policies at work to exploring the science of climate change to making more effective changes in their personal and work lives.
Himanshi Arora, MBA 24, came to Haas after working as an operations manager at Procter & Gamble, where she considered how to make packaging more sustainable and delivery more efficient. “I’ve been thinking about getting deeper into climate change and sustainability for a while,” she said. “Climate change is such a huge problem that will impact every corner of the Earth, particularly people who are marginalized. I took this class because I want to know if my thinking (about how to make change) is right and to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.”
Some students, including Rathin Ramesh, EWMBA 23, enrolled in the course as part of earning the Michaels Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business, which includes nine units of sustainability coursework over the course of the MBA program. Ramesh said the course will help him to make more impactful decisions for his company, a cannabis delivery service. “All of my drivers use cars, and two of them have a Prius. In trying to apply this knowledge one of the first things you’d do is figure out how to electrify your fleet or implement more sustainable growing practices at the farms we work with.”
Joy Wang, MBA 23, who is from China and has lived in the U.S. for a decade, said the world—not just China—shoulders the responsibility for turning the climate crisis around. Wang, who will work at EY Parthenon after graduating, said many projects she worked on while interning at EY required a sustainability strategy. “One day, these projects will be a bigger part of my job, so I want to prepare,” she said.
For more than six years, Danner Doud-Martin helped lead the school’s progress in sustainability—from leading the effort to make Chou Hall the first zero-waste building on campus to planting pollinator gardens around Haas to leading volunteers planting hundreds of trees in the community. Now, Doud-Martin, former assistant director of the International Business Development (IBD) Program at Haas, has been named the first full-time director of campus sustainability.
In her new role, one of her first projects is tapping what she learned in a night course to build a carbon roadmap for Haas that will quantify what sustainability goals Haas has attained so far and what remains to be done. Haas News recently interviewed Doud-Martin about her plans for further reducing waste, making Haas more energy efficient, and working across the UC Berkeley campus to be a part of the overall strategy for achieving net zero by 2025.
Over the past six years, you’ve worn two hats as assistant director of IBD and the school’s zero waste/sustainability lead. How did you turn the sustainability role into a full-time job?
I feel really fortunate that Dean Harrison has made this a priority because it meant that I was able to convince Haas senior leadership that this is a full-time role.
What are your first priorities?
One of the things about having a team and a true strategic plan is that our Office of Sustainability can spend time thinking through not only what zero waste means but understanding the data—and what we’re diverting from landfill. We also want to understand what emissions we produce at Haas and how we can reduce our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Zero waste is a big part of our goal, but so is energy and transportation. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to understand Haas’ energy, water, and transportation data soon and that we will be able to tell the story of how Haas, within a huge university, is making significant reductions and changes.
What is Haas’s role in helping the UC Berkeley campus reach its zero waste goals?
UC Berkeley has committed to the strongest ban on plastic in the country and has mandated that we need to eliminate single-use plastic by 2030 Haas continues to be the place that the rest of campus watches. Zero waste is not only about Chou Hall but the initiatives that we’ve continued to roll out and/or pilot. The reusables (utensils, mugs, water bottles, etc.) program is one of them. We’re trying to think through how to make reusables work. There is a logistical piece: can they be washed on site or do they need to transported to be washed? What is the footprint? Are we really helping the environment with reusables versus a compostable?
How are you working now to eliminate plastic on campus?
This is about finding solutions to something as simple as eliminating single-use balloons and replacing them with vinyl reusable balloons that can be blown up many times. We’ve told our campus event planners about the vinyl balloons, so demand is up and we’ve expanded our inventory. We also want to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Haas, which is why we are planning graduation without plastic water bottles this year. We are all brainstorming on what we can provide to guests and graduates to replace plastic. Graduation gowns are another thing that we’re tackling. Haas has taken back graduation gowns for years and offers whatever is collected to next years’ students. We hope to scale this program to be able to eliminate single use gowns—and the UC Berkeley CAL Zero Waste team is trying to get it to happen campus-wide this year. They’re trying to turn it around fast. We’re really starting to put in these policies and find solutions.
We also want to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Haas, which is why we are planning graduation without plastic water bottles this year.
Haas moved away from plastics to “compostable” utensils years ago, and now your goal is to move away from these PLA single-use compostable utensils and clamshells made of materials like corn starch and sugar cane toward reusables. How compostable are the single-use “compostable” products?
You have to put all of it in a 40-day, high-heat commercial composting system. You cannot put it in your backyard compost.
Where do we send ours?
We send all of our composting to the Richmond Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where we recently planted 150 redwood trees as part of our efforts to offset our paper use through printing. We also planted trees at Verde Elementary School across the street from the MFR in an effort to green their school yard.
How does the reusables program work?
FoodWare, a student startup that we’ve been working with since last spring, helped us replace 4,200 clamshell food containers with reusable containers between spring and winter of 2022. Our goal for the next semester is 6,500. The Dean’s Speaker Series lunches are done completely with reusables. We are having conversations with all the different program offices about expanding reusables at their events. I’m also working with a student team that’s part of a course called Zero Waste Lab. They’re going to put together a lifecycle analysis for us that will show the environmental and financial footprint of a compostable clamshell versus a reusable one. Reusable cutlery is a dream of mine because those are the hardest things to break down.
How has the pandemic impacted support for the reusable strategy?
We’ve seen pushback with reusables, specifically because of fear of COVID. We’ve been slowly working to get both our catering and the cafe back to a place of comfort around health protocols and reusables. This semester, Café Think is taking reusable mugs and filling them with coffee drinks. Guests save 25 cents each time they refill a reusable. Haas also gave all full-time MBA students bamboo utensil sets this year, building on the water bottles and coffee mugs given out a couple of years ago. It’s all about behavior change. I keep my bamboo utensil set in my purse at all times. When you see people pulling out their own forks, you feel more comfortable doing it.
How do you inspire more people to make the changes you need them to make?
Lots of education and incentives. Fill It Forward, a company we have partnered with over the years, makes an app that works with barcodes to track when you refill your water bottle or coffee mug. It sends the information to a central hub and tracks your impact. Fill It Forward also has a mission to donate water to communities in need. As we know, students like to have things gamified and many of these apps offer prizes for engaging. Now that I’m in this role 100%, I can think about how to utilize more incentives and gamification to engage people more and create behavior change.
Can you talk about planned upgrades to systems in other campus buildings, beyond Chou Hall?
We’re trying to figure out how to make energy-saving improvements and whether we can install solar in our Faculty Services, Cheit, and Student Services buildings. But our first priority is the new Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. As the hub is being renovated, we have to think about what we can do during the construction and operations phases to hit all of the sustainability points. Because this is a renovation rather than new construction, we won’t be able to have the same level of certification on this project that we had with Chou, but I’m looking at what we can do in a smaller building. Regardless, we want to push ourselves to make a significant impact wherever we can from a sustainability standpoint.
Visa’s Chief Marketing Officer Frank Cooper III, BS 86, and Toast’s Chief Financial Officer Elena Gomez, BS 91, will serve as Berkeley Haas commencement speakers this May.
Commencement ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre, with the undergrads tossing caps on Tuesday, May 16, and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA students graduating together on Friday, May 19.
Cooper will speak at the combined Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement, and Gomez will speak at undergraduate commencement.
Frank Cooper III
A branding and advertising leader, Cooper leads Visa’s marketing across all regions and functions, including brand, data and insights, social and digital platforms, content, and sponsorships. Cooper, recognized by Fast Company as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” describes himself as “a marketer in the broadest sense: I seek to change things—change ways of thinking but more important to change behaviors.”
Prior to working at Visa, Cooper served as chief marketing officer at BlackRock, shaping the firm’s global brand and marketing strategy.
Cooper has also previously held C-suite positions as chief marketing and creative officer at Buzzfeed, and as PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer of global consumer engagement for more than 12 years. Cooper also served as former chairman of the American Advertising Federation and on the for-profit boards of Burlington Stores and Ogmento/Flyby Media.
He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and was a senior executive at Motown and Def Jam. He is a four-time recipient of Billboard’s “Power 100” and AdColor’s “Legend” award.
He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and was a senior executive at Motown and Def Jam. He is a four-time recipient of Billboard’s “Power 100” and AdColor’s “Legend” award.
He earned an undergraduate degree in business administration at UC Berkeley, and a JD from Harvard Law School, where he served as the Supreme Court Editor of The Harvard Law Review.
As chief financial officer at Boston-based Toast, Gomez oversees global finance, investor relations, and corporate development. Under her financial leadership, the cloud-based restaurant management software company launched its initial public offering in 2021.
Prior to her position at Toast, Gomez served as the chief financial officer at Zendesk, where she grew the company’s market capitalization to more than $15 billion.
Throughout her 30-year career, Gomez has helped organizations scale through cycles of massive growth while leading in industries that have been transformed by digital transactions.
She has held financial leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies including Salesforce, Visa, and Charles Schwab.
Additionally, Gomez serves on the board of directors for Smartsheet and PagerDuty as audit committee chair. She was also named to the San Francisco Business TImes’ 2017 list of “Most Influential Women in Business.”
An advocate for corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion, she serves on the Founding Advisory Council of the Center for Gender, Equity & Leadership (EGAL) at Haas, as well as the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco.
Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison, lauded for keeping the school’s six business programs ranked among the world’s best and significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the faculty, has been appointed to serve a second five-year term.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin announced Harrison’s reappointment today. Her new term begins July 1, 2023.
“Please join us in congratulating Ann on her reappointment and her many accomplishments,” they said in a campus announcement. “With a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability, and DEIJB (diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging), her bold and transformative vision for the future of Haas will continue to set it apart from other top business schools.”
Harrison said she is thrilled by the reappointment and the opportunity to continue supporting student learning and well-being, growing the faculty and providing them with the necessary resources to conduct groundbreaking research, teaming up with the superb staff, and strengthening the school’s finances and reputation.
“As a public university, our mission is to transform the lives of as many students as possible and lead the world with path-breaking research,” Harrison said. “I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”
“I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”
Advancing the mission
Harrison is the 15th dean of Haas and the second woman to lead the school. Her new book, “Globalization, Firms, and Workers” (World Scientific Books, 2022), collects her path-breaking work on globalization and international trade. She is now the world’s most highly cited scholar on foreign direct investment.
Harrison earned her BA from UC Berkeley in economics and history, and her PhD from Princeton University. She held previous professorships in UC Berkeley’s College of Agricultural and Resource Economics as well as at Columbia University and the Wharton School, where she was the William H. Wurster Professor of Management.
At Haas since January 2019, Harrison has advanced the school’s mission in a number of critical areas, including:
increasing the size of the faculty, which allowed for diversification and the creation of new faculty groups. Since she arrived in 2019, Harrison has led the hiring of 33 new professors; 52% are women and 52% are people of color.
creating the first Flex online MBA cohort at any top business school. Haas applied learnings from the pandemic, using new technology to make the MBA available to expanded groups of international students and working parents who require flexible schedules.
raising a record $200 million over the last four years, including a record $69 million last year. Under Harrison, Haas secured the largest single gift in the school’s history—$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66—to turn the undergraduate program into a four-year program.
committing to making Haas a more inclusive school by creating a more diverse Haas Advisory Board; employing extensive resources to diversify the student body; rethinking faculty and staff hiring; and incorporating anti-bias training for senior leaders, staff, and students.
Harrison said she will continue to work with her team to strengthen academics as well as the student experience at Haas. One important goal is to ensure that the school’s six degree programs remain the best in the world. In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record high for the program. US News & World Report ranks both the highly-selective Haas Undergraduate Program and the Evening & Weekend MBA Program #2 in the U.S. The Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE)Program is also ranked #2 globally.
In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record-high for Haas.
Three priority areas
She also plans to continue work in her three priority areas: sustainability, DEIJB, and entrepreneurship.
“Business plays a critical role in mainstreaming everything from fighting climate change to creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces,” Harrison said. “Haas is preparing students to lead in those areas.” The school’s Accounting Group, for example, is assessing SEC proposals to increase financial disclosure requirements for climate risk, she said.
In sustainability, Harrison brought in Michele de Nevers, a top sustainability expert, from the World Bank, whose team has worked to combine the existing sustainability curriculum with new courses. By the end of 2023, all core courses at Haas will be on track to incorporate cases, topics, and assignments that will empower students to address climate change and other sustainability challenges through business. Haas is now set apart as the only school that offers depth and breadth across all of the key sustainability areas aligned with the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education: energy, food, real estate/built environment, corporate social responsibility, and impact finance.
In diversity and inclusion, Harrison oversaw the building of a team led by Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista, which includes four full-time staff and a part-time diversity expert who is working with faculty on curriculum and teaching. This past spring, the school launched its first-ever core course on leading diverse teams.
Known for its strength in entrepreneurship and innovation, Haas will be breaking ground on a new entrepreneurship hub this spring. In partnership with UC Berkeley, which is the #1 public institution for startup founders (as reported by Pitchbook), the hub will bring together students from across campus to network and innovate. On the faculty side, Harrison oversaw the creation of the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation faculty group in 2020.
Harrison, who has deep relationships with leaders across UC Berkeley, has also prioritized cross-campus collaboration, increasing the number of academic programs offered by Haas. She worked closely with the Berkeley School of Public Health and School of Law to bolster their joint programs and launched the Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program with the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, the MBA/MEng degree with the College of Engineering, and the summer minor in sustainable business and policy with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
She is currently developing a concurrent degree program for a joint MBA and master’s degree in climate solutions with the Rausser College of Natural Resources.
While tech employment remains strong, a wave of layoffs is shaking up the industry. According to the tracking site layoffs.fyi, about 137,000 people have lost their jobs since layoffs started ticking up in May.
To find out more about what is driving this shakeup, we spoke with Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director of the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (MET) Program and of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. Chaudhuri, an expert on corporate growth and innovation, mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing, and technological disruption, says the upheaval offers the opportunity for a reset and a chance to pursue growth in emerging areas.
The economy and labor markets are going strong. So why are so many tech companies laying off workers?
Many people are confounding two different things. We should not mix up the events specific to the tech industry with all the other issues that are going on in the broader economy due to the challenges of macroeconomic shocks, like Russia’s war on Ukraine, the aftereffects of the pandemic including supply chain problems, and the general inflationary pressures. The technology industry is also affected by those events, but there are additionally more fundamental factors at play.
“I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas.”
What’s happening in the tech industry is really a natural shakeout after over a decade of phenomenal growth. It is not unlike when the dotcom bubble burst in 2001. The sector was overheated and it could not continue as it had. The same is true now, as many startup and unicorn valuations skyrocketed over the last years, especially because the pandemic accelerated the growth to record levels as the deployment of technology and digital transformation became necessary everywhere. On the bright side, it’s actually not all bad. While I recognize that layoffs are painful for many people right now, the industry as a whole needs this adjustment to bring us to a path of more sustainable economic growth in tech. Because what was happening, especially with hiring over the last few years, was just completely unrealistic.
How did we get here?
During the pandemic, we went more digital. People worked remotely and they could work from anywhere—Hawaii, the countryside, anywhere. Tech became a big factor as the economy shifted entirely online: online retail, online banking, online instruction, online meetings, online therapy. It brought significant disruption to all industries.
We need to keep in mind that the pandemic was a different kind of economic crisis. Usually in an economic crisis, everybody loses, but that didn’t happen here. Some industries actually gained significantly, especially most of the technology sectors. The growth rate that they experienced, whether hardware, software, e-commerce, healthcare apps, fintech, crypto—you name it—was completely unsustainable. Just take a look at tech hiring last year: Tech job postings hit their peak in March 2022 and have been declining sharply since. We hit the point where the trend reverses. It was going to happen, either now or a year or two from now. It coincides with what’s going on in the overall economy and world politics, leading to a perfect storm.
“Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.”
This situation also poses a great excuse for employers. They say: A recession is coming. I will have to let people go.” Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.
Are you saying there was an inflation of the workforce inside the tech industry?
Yes. The reason for this is very simple: You don’t get penalized for growing your workforce while the sector is growing so fast. Everybody knows it will have to stop at some point, but there’s no penalty for riding the wave.
In fact, there’s a loss for your firm if you don’t ride the growth. If you said, “We should be more prudent because some sort of adjustment is going to happen,” there’d be no gain and you’d be losing out on the potential benefits—profits, funding, talent. Because when the correction happens, you can simply lay people off by the thousands. Two years later, the same people who got laid off will come back to the industry (whether at the same kinds of firms or new areas that emerge), and the same VCs will invest. There are no consequences for these actions. That’s just the way of Silicon Valley and the tech world, as they go through cycles.
Is this correction just a tightening of the belt, or is the industry reorganizing itself to make room for a new wave of technologies that require new skills or a reallocation of resources?
There will be some reorganization happening, because some areas are growing faster than others. For example, Amazon decided that not all of its devices are doing so well. Companies have been carrying losses in some areas for a while. But it didn’t matter because there was so much growth overall, and they didn’t want to miss out on that wave. It is not unlike the dotcom bubble, where for instance network equipment companies were investing in an array of optical networking products that never properly worked, because regular routers and switches were minting money.
“A re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role.”
Moreover, re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role. I’ve been puzzled for a while about all the anxiety surrounding the shortage of software developers, and the salaries they were being offered in the mad scramble to secure such talent. So much basic programming work has become well-defined, codified, and routine that those skills can be learned at scale by a wider base of employees. If you think about it, thousands of software developers, even at companies like Microsoft and Google, are engaged to implement enhancements to products such as adjusting fonts or updating visuals or adding simple features—not product design or creation of new functionality. Those jobs don’t require computer science graduates, as IBM realized five years ago, when they began hiring non-college graduates with programming experience, at that time out of necessity.
In fact, there are tools now that can automate basic code writing, which are already being deployed. It won’t stop there, because we now also have algorithms which can do many sophisticated tasks; just look at Open AI’s ChatGPT, which is writing essays, poems, lecture notes, speeches, and other creative pieces at the click of a button!
Why now? Is there anything in particular that started this domino effect this year?
Now, with increased scrutiny from investors and others who look at a firm’s financial viability, this overstaffing approach is getting reined in. There have been excesses in view of rosy projections and seemingly limitless valuations. Now the bubble has popped, as it does in every tech cycle, and it’s been a great opportunity (and excuse) for firms to make adjustments, tighten their belts, and reduce their workforce.
Where do you see opportunities?
The next wave of growth will come from emerging sectors, like cleantech and green tech, new materials, breakthroughs in the life sciences, and novel products and services resulting from the maturation of general purpose technologies like AI. Just like the dotcom era was about the internet and all that it spawned—cloud services, big data, the internet of things, and other advances in information technology—there will be a wave of new technologies that will disrupt a lot of different sectors.
In many industries, the disruption has just begun and exciting new transformations are taking place that’ll unfold over the next decade—whether in education, healthcare, finance, automobiles, or aerospace, just to name a few. I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas.
“If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches.”
What does that mean for the students at Haas, and those considering an MBA?
For our own graduates, it would be healthy to see this as an opportunity. The most entrepreneurial people are the ones who look at these situations and say, “Change is good, and uncertainty has two sides. It’s what creates the opportunity for new things.”
Instead of defining your career in terms of a particular job at a particular company, you could think about which problem you want to solve. That is where you will find the opportunity to lead and to make a real impact.
It’s great to aspire to work your way up to an executive job at a large firm, and many of our graduates will do that and be very successful. Others will go against the grain. They will be the ones we hear about, because they actually change how Goldman Sachs works or McKinsey works or Google works for the next era. And of course there will be the entrepreneurs who will pursue startups that will redefine entire industries.
Take Stuart Bernstein, BS 86, former Goldman Sachs managing director and partner who shook up investment banking with his passion for clean energy and the environment. A true leader by definition changes things. That’s why we pay attention to them and learn from them.
A lot of our students come in wanting to make an impact early in their careers. What does it take to get there?
If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches. Leaders have confidence, without attitude—confidence in their vision and in their ability to make it happen, and the humility to learn and acknowledge challenges and risks.
The good news is, you don’t have to be born with it. An MBA program like Berkeley’s gives you the opportunity to develop that kind of confidence. You can train yourself to see the opportunity in ambiguity, embrace serendipity, and take intelligent risks.
Along the way you also learn key the business skills—finance, marketing, management, operations, and so forth—that you will need as a leader. All that will help you develop this vision for your path to make an impact, and the confidence and network to make it happen.
What opportunities are there at Haas and Berkeley to get ahead of the next wave?
As part of our strategic priorities, we are building a new entrepreneurship hub at Haas that will be a game changer for our students and students across Berkeley. It will draw people from all over the campus. The great thing about Berkeley is that it has so many top-rated departments, and we will be able to bring them to one place to talk to each other and collaborate. So many of our Haas signature programs are about this kind of cross-pollination. Take Cleantech to Market’s partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, or the Berkeley Skydeck accelerator, or the dual degree programs we have with Public Health, Engineering, Law, and that we are developing with the Rausser College of Natural Resources.
The most pressing problems of global society today require interdisciplinary perspectives. The hub we are developing will not only allow diverse people to connect, but it will provide them with the space and resources to create community, build their ventures, and be discovered by investors. What is novel is that we will not only support those who have a good sense of the entrepreneurial path, but also those who simply would like to be exposed to what it’s all about—the “entrepre-curious,” as we call them. And anyone from around the university will be able to drop in to simply ask an expert for guidance on how to navigate the vast innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Berkeley based on what they need.
“While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well.”
What’s your big-picture advice?
Silicon Valley is our backyard. While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well. Beef up your skills, develop your leadership potential, build your network, and embrace your inner entrepreneur.
C2M is a partnership between graduate students, startups, and industry professionals to help accelerate commercialization of cleantech solutions. Over 15 weeks, each C2M team spends nearly 1,000 hours assessing leading-edge technologies and investigating market opportunities.
Last week, teams presented their findings, followed by an audience Q&A. Dean Ann Harrison also took the stage, interviewed by Financial Times correspondent Dave Lee about the school’s work to put sustainability at the core of business education.
This year’s winners of the MetLife Climate Solutions Awards included:
Niron Magnetics: The team won $20,000 for working on powerful, low cost, and environmentally-sustainable permanent magnets to free electrification from dependence on rare earth elements. The team included Andrew Cahill, EWMBA 23, Ben Brokesh, JD 24, Campbell Scott, MBA 23, Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23, and Sepideh Karimiziarani, MS 22, Development Engineering.
GenH: The team won $10,000 for working on a rapidly deployable, fully modular hydropower system to electrify non-powered dams and canal heads to generate clean, stable, and cost-competitive renewable energy. Team members included Emily Robinson, EWMBA 23, Hon Leung “Curtis” Wong, MS 23, Development Engineering, Maelym Medina, MBA 23, and Santiago Recabarren, MBA 23.
Quino Energy: The team won $5,000 for working on scalable, non-flammable energy storage made possible by a proprietary zero-waste process that transforms coal and wood tar into designer flow-battery reactants. Team members included Dongwan Kim, MBA 23, Ingrid Xhafa, MS 23, Development Engineering, James Wang, MBA 23, Kennedy McCone, graduate student researcher, UC Berkeley College of Chemistry, and Noah Carson, EMBA 23.
The Quino Energy team also won the Hasler Cleantech to Market Award as audience favorite based on online polling throughout the day.
MetLife is a corporate sponsor of the C2M Program; The Financial Times served as an event partner.
Haas Voices is a series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
Determined to break into TV news, Courtney Smith, EWMBA 25, took a leap of faith in her 20s that led to a career in broadcast journalism.
Now a local news producer for KTVU Fox 2, Smith aims to push the boundaries of entertainment media, opening it to new technologies and most importantly to her, more diverse voices. Before coming to Haas, Smith was a member of the Forté MBALaunch 2021 cohort, a development program that provides a road map for applying to business school. Here’s our recent interview with Smith.
How did you get your start in TV news?
I was still a bit fresh out of college living in Houston, and applying for jobs but not really getting the response that I was looking for. One day I got dressed up, as if I had an interview, and printed out a bunch of resumes. I just said, ‘You know what? I’m going to take a leap of faith.’
I went to one of the local television stations, where I planned to drop off a resume. I met with the security guard in the lobby to drop off a resume and she told me I could probably chat with the news director. So I picked up the lobby phone and dialed. When someone answered, I got so nervous that I hung up! But then I called back, and told him I was interested in a position. He asked me curiously, “Are you in the lobby?” I laughed and said yes, and he told me to stay right there, he would come get me. It was the moment that opened doors for me.
What brought you to the Bay Area?
Around 2018, a news director from KRON-TV reached out. I initially turned down the opportunity because my mother had just had surgery and was recovering after battling kidney cancer. I thought awhile about the decision, prayed about it, and reached back out to the news director and said if the position was still available that I would love to take it. It was an opportunity that I just couldn’t refuse: to move to the Bay Area and work in this market.
Why did you decide to apply to Haas?
When I first visited the campus it felt like home, and I knew right away that this was the place that would change me for the better. I wanted to pursue an MBA to develop my leadership skills and hone my business skills. I had given it some thought before the pandemic, but once 2020 rolled around, I knew that it was time. With the racial reckoning that our country was going through, and the host of issues that the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on, I felt a deep desire as a Black woman in media to do something that would have a lasting impact.
You are developing and assigning multiple story ideas daily with a team of 10 reporters, writers, and photographers. How are you juggling your job with your MBA program?
The life of a journalist and an MBA student is hard-work. I do keep a beautifully color-coordinated Google calendar that I swear by with alerts attached to almost every event. Notion and Goodnotes on my iPad are great, too. I also keep a written to-do list, where I jot down my top three priorities for the day, to-dos, and my wild ideas. I also write down things that went great in my day, followed by things that could have gone better. As a journalist, some of us work before most people are awake, or late into the night while others are enjoying dinner, or putting kids to bed. It’s a daily grind filled with deadlines you can’t miss. I have so much respect for the people working in my industry, as most people have no idea the sacrifices we make. I also think it’s so important in whatever your role is to give yourself grace. Life will always have its obstacle course days, so it’s important to be kind to yourself, especially as an MBA student so you can appreciate this journey and thrive.
Life will always have its obstacle course days, so it’s important to be kind to yourself, especially as an MBA student so you can appreciate this journey and thrive.
What is the most impactful or memorable story you have produced?
I was producing a live newscast in Beaumont, Texas, during the worst of Hurricane Harvey. I grew up in Houston so I’m very used to hurricanes, but this hurricane was devastating to so many smaller communities. I’ll never forget the voices of viewers on air that night. I worked to have local public figures speak to my news team on-air to get critical messages out, positioned reporters in hot spots where homes and buildings were hit the hardest, and dispelled myths that were beginning to surface throughout the evening in an effort to calm the community. Even when I wasn’t producing, I took the time to answer viewer phone calls. So many were in need of being rescued from their homes due to severe flooding. I did my very best that night to connect local rescue teams with those who needed immediate help.
What are your goals after graduating?
I have many goals, but one of them is to work for a TV network or streaming service as a CEO, president, or vice president. I also have a passion for entrepreneurship. I feel like the sky’s the limit and I’m open to all that life brings.
I would love to create more lanes of opportunity for diverse voices in TV & film. While there has been progress, there’s still a long way to go. I just want to be a strong voice and to make it easier for others to enter this industry, because there aren’t many women and men in positions of leadership who look like me. Increasing diverse leadership in any workforce improves it overall.
You’re clearly all about persistence, having started your career as an intern at Radio One and KPRC-TV in Houston before rising to producer in a top market. Where do you think that comes from?
I think it comes from being comfortable hearing the word no. If I have a goal that I just can’t stop working on, it’s one of those things that keeps me up at night. I’m going to keep trying and trying until I get a yes. I‘m open to criticism and I’m okay with putting myself out there as you can probably see from my crazy idea to walk into a building dressed as if I had an interview. I was truly walking by faith that day and said if it goes well then that’s great, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
If I have a goal that I just can’t stop working on, it’s one of those things that keeps me up at night. I’m going to keep trying and trying until I get a yes.
What are some impactful classes so far at Berkeley Haas?
Data and Decisions with Professor Frederico Finan and Marketing with Professor Zsolt Katona are truly amazing classes that gave me ah-ha moments, confirming answers to questions I’ve had for many years. From day one in Data and Decisions I became a better journalist just by learning how to identify poor quality data that many people see on a daily basis in morning headlines. In my marketing course I enjoy learning about how customers value brands/products and services along with the amount of storytelling that goes on in marketing. Leading People and Microeconomics classes are also wonderful. Leading People with Professor Ambar La Forgia takes you on a journey of what it is like to be a corporate leader and how to handle the challenges that come along the way. I learned so much about myself from this course and the type of leader I want to be. In Professor Ricardo Perez-Truglia’s microeconomics course I gained a better understanding of why companies made certain business decisions and how to think like an economist.
What are you most passionate about in your industry?
I’m so inspired by our youth today, and I just want to be in a position to support them so they can have an outlet to showcase their creativity and grow into leaders in this space. It’s work that I’m very passionate about doing.
I’m also very excited about where media and entertainment and this whole new world of streaming is going. I just want to be a part of it, and become a leader in that industry, so that I can continue to develop storytelling for diverse voices and open more doors of opportunity for others, like how others did for me.
As globalization began to give American businesses a run for their money in the early 1970s, international business expert and then-Dean Richard Holton began working with faculty on ideas for how to train new leaders to compete.
“Strong competition from Japanese companies started to wake people up,” said Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean of instruction at Haas from 2008 to 2021. “American business leaders and business school leaders understood the need to take a different approach to training people coming into American companies.”
That realization led to the creation of a new kind of MBA program that would provide the flexibility business leaders needed to earn the degree outside of their daily work schedules. In 1972, the business school launched its first part-time program called the San Francisco Evening Program (SFMBA) at the Wells Fargo Training Center in downtown San Francisco.
“We’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the decades,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs at Berkeley Haas. “The part-time program has changed so many lives by opening doors for working professionals who couldn’t afford to take two years off to go back to school. It has truly fulfilled a mission to increase access to an MBA.”
A pioneering program
The part-time MBA program, one of the first of its kind in the country and the first within the University of California system, was aimed at students in their mid-20s to late 30s who had been in the workforce for an average of five years.
“The part-time program has changed so many lives by opening doors for working professionals,” Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs.
The first-ever cohort of 88 students hailed from local companies like Wells Fargo and Levi Strauss & Co, many of them commuting from Silicon Valley. By fall 1975, the program swelled to 229 students taking 17 courses. And by the early 1980s, the program’s success ensured that it would remain a core offering, with courses modernized and aligned tightly with the full-time MBA program to address corporate needs, Stowsky said.
“The MBA by then had shifted from a more academic degree to what was called management science, a kind of mathematical approach to decision making focused on finance and the bottom line, in addition to marketing and other key things students learn today in business school,” he said.
Boosting career success
The program, consistently ranked in the top two in the U.S. News ranking of part-time MBA programs, has trained business leaders worldwide. Among the more than 6,000 living graduates of the program are Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93; Apple’s Managing Director of Greater China, Isabel Mahe, MBA 08; Poshmark CEO Manish Chandra, MBA 95; Sega Sammy CEO Haruki Satomi, MBA 12; Meituan Dianping founder and CFO Shuhong Ye, MBA 05; and Dilbert creator Scott Adams, MBA 86.
Constance Moore, who graduated from the SF MBA evening program in 1980, recalled attending classes in downtown San Francisco, near her office at BRE Properties. “I wanted to go to the evening program because I had recently started at BRE as an asset manager and knew I would likely learn as much at work as I would in school,” she said. “I could apply what I learned at work to my school work, and what I learned at Haas I could apply to my work. It was perfect.”
Attending class on Monday and Thursday evenings allowed her to travel for work in between and then study all weekend, she said. “It didn’t leave much time for anything else but it was so worth it,” said Moore, who became CEO of BRE after getting an MBA. “Haas made me fearless.”
While relatively few women enrolled during the part-time MBA program’s earliest days, that changed over the years as women were recruited or encouraged by their employers and each other.
Lesley Keffer Russell enrolled in the program in 1999, at the encouragement of her boss at St. Supéry Winery, Michaela Rodeno, who graduated from the part-time program in 1980.
“She became a great mentor for me. She asked me one day during lunch, after I had done a three-month work stint in France for St. Supéry, ‘So, when are you going to go to biz school?'” she said. “I had mentioned that it was on my mind for a while and there was nobody else who was going to push me to apply, so she did. I got right on it.”
Russell said classes she took that help her today in her job as general manager of Saint Helena Winery include microeconomics, negotiations, and real estate development, for which she completed a final group project on assessing two Napa Valley vineyard purchases. “This led to understanding about aspects of the wine industry that have been critical to my career advancement,” she said.
A name change, and even more flexibility
While San Francisco served as the part-time program’s hub for years, student demand to be closer to UC Berkeley led the school to move the program to campus in 1995. In 2002, then-Dean Laura Tyson added a weekend option for students.
The expanded program, renamed the evening & weekend program, split students into evening or weekend cohorts, depending on their schedules. It now attracts a wide breadth of students from around the world— engineers, general managers, sales and marketing managers working in high tech, computer services, banking, fintech, and biotechnology, among other industries.
This year, about 36% of the entering class is from outside the Bay Area, and 59% of them were born outside of the U.S. Nearly 40% of the students are women.
“We’ve always had a fairly rich body of applicants to draw upon given our geography, Berkeley’s name, and the Haas reputation,” Breen said. “Those factors have served us well.”
The flexibility of the program has also increased. Spurred by the success of virtual learning, Haas developed the Flex option, a hybrid online/in-person MBA, which was in the works for three years. Flex is popular with working professionals who can take core courses online and opt to come to Haas for electives. The first cohort of 69 students began in August.
“With the launch of Flex, we’re looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring for the program and our students,” Breen said. “It’s an exciting time to be offering innovative business program options to working professionals.”
The Berkeley Haas courtyard has sprung back to life. Over the past week, new undergraduate, full-time MBA, and PhD students arrived for orientations, getting a first glimpse of life in the classroom. Students in the Berkeley Haas Executive MBA and the evening & weekend MBA program, including the first Flex MBA class, came to campus for orientation last month.
Full-time MBA Program
(Photos by Jim Block)
Spirits were high among the entering full-time MBA students who gathered for the traditional Week Zero orientation Aug. 15-17. School and student leaders (including Week Zero Co-Chair Dingmi Gong, MBA 23) and Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs, welcomed the group, who throughout the two days participated in sessions on diversity, equity and inclusion at Haas, productivity and time management, and an introduction to the case study method. They also met their study groups for Teams@Haas, a program that’s celebrating its 10th year in the MBA curriculum with lessons on collaborative leadership.
MBA Association (MBAA) President Jude Watson, a former chef and community organizer from Seattle, introduced Dean Ann Harrison, who emphasized how important it is for students to lead on critical issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as climate change. She noted that both innovation and collaboration that will be required to solve the world’s toughest problems.
“The issue of climate change has become visibly real, and despite the important climate bill that Joe Biden has put in place, we have a very long way to go. It’s just a down payment on the change we need,” she said. “I believe that you, as business leaders, will lead the change.”
“I believe that you, as business leaders, will lead the change.” Dean Ann Harrison.
Orientation speaker Lo Toney, MBA 97, urged students to explore, celebrate, and focus during their journeys. Toney, founding managing partner of Plexo Capital, told students that they will learn the most from their peers–not just about the diversity of where people are from, but what they have done. “Look around you,” he said. “These are people who are going to be in extremely senior positions,” who will help you along your journey.
In welcoming the new class, Dean Ann Harrison noted the sweeping changes coming for the undergraduate program, anchored by the recent $30 million gift from alumnus Warren “Ned” Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BA 66, (political science), that will be used to create the new four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program.
In her welcome message, Emma Hayes Daftary, the new assistant dean of undergraduate admissions, expanded on the changes and the importance of enhancing collaboration among the students in the competitive program. “This program and our Defining Leadership Principles will challenge you to shift from what you, as an individual, can achieve, to what we, as a community, can accomplish,’ she said. “It’s for this reason that we’re focusing on culture this year, and we’re working to create a more collaborative, inclusive, and equitable culture in the undergraduate program.”
Hayes Daftary said the first order of business is to eliminate the “Haas Curve” grading policy—which drew cheers from the students.
She said the policy of grading on a curve was adopted in 2011 across the MBA and undergraduate programs for ease and consistency. But in May 2021, the Undergraduate Program Committee voted to recommend that the policy be eliminated. Policies such as grade caps and grading on a curve are often criticized because they lead students to compete against each other, but in this case it was also deemed to be ineffective, she said.
“I’m not a competitive person, so I think it’s good…It will definitely help.” said Gloria Gonzalez-Serrano, a continuing undergraduate student who plans to pursue a career in digital marketing.
Other program changes include the hiring of more staff to focus on the academic and student experience, funding the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) at historic levels, renovating the undergraduate program lounge, and upgrading the Cheit Hall classrooms.
Browse more highlights (photos by Noah Berger):
Evening & Weekend MBA
The new class of evening & weekend MBA students arrived on campus in July for a jam-packed “WE Launch” orientation weekend of work sessions, team-building exercises, and an introduction to the Haas Defining Leadership Principles.
A few details about the Class of 2025: More than 40% of the new students have at least one advanced degree, including 21 PhDs. More than 40% of the class was born outside of the U.S. Nearly half—47%— are married or partnered, with 22% raising kids (altogether they have 80 children.)
Browse highlights from EWMBA orientation here. (Photos by Jim Block)
Also, some fun facts:
The class includes a violinist who performed at Carnegie Hall, a former professional ballet dancer, and three published authors, including the author of the “Silicon Valley Dictionary.”
The class boasts the youngest elected city council member of a Bay Area City, the lead singer in a band that raises money for domestic violence victims, and a volunteer for the Yellowstone Wolf Project who helps with tracking wolves. There’s also a flight controller for NASA Mission Control, a pilot instructor for the Air Force, and a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.
A total of 14 students joined the PhD program this fall, with an equal split between men and women. The group hails from around the world, including the U.S., Brazil, China, Colombia, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, and Singapore.
The students’ area of study is equally diverse, including accounting, business and public policy, finance, marketing science, management of organizations, and real estate.
Exuberant grads tossed beach balls and danced salsa in the aisles of the Greek Theatre at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening and Weekend MBA Class of 2022.
It was a moment of unfettered joy, as speakers rallied the graduates for the challenges ahead.
“The world right now has lots of huge unsolved problems—from political polarization to climate change to artificial general intelligence to augmented humanity to disease to inequality—so you have lots of big problems to choose from,” commencement speaker Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, told about 600 graduates, who gathered under blue skies and sunshine. “Pick one that you have passion for, that you can’t help but want to spend all your time day and night on even if others think it’s too idealistic, too big, or too unsolvable. You’re Berkeley MBAs now. You don’t need to settle.”
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed Singh, an entrepreneur who in 2010 co-founded battery technology company QuantumScape. She acknowledged how special it was to be together for the first in-person MBA commencement in two years.
“This felt like the best closure for a two-year process that has been life changing,” said Ignacio Solis, MBA 22, an international student from Chile.
Harrison praised the students for their resilience during their program, noting that those experiences will serve them well throughout their careers. “Because of who you are—your fierce intelligence and your deep understanding of the forces that drive business– you will have power,” she said. “Power is not always about how many people report to you or whether you have the CEO’s ear or whether you are the CEO. Power is the ability to make a difference—one day at a time; one project at a time; one function at a time.”
Evening & Weekend grads: “Pause and savor”
Noting how many life events happened for the EWMBA class during the program, Harrison said that 32% of the class was promoted, 41% of the students changed jobs, 13% got married, and 30 babies were born.
Evening & Weekend program student speaker Paulina Lee, a marketing director at Procter & Gamble, told graduates to stop and consider how much they’ve changed at Haas.
“What Haas has afforded us is the opportunity to redefine ourselves, to explore the edges of our comfort zone, and that’s why as we end this chapter and start our new paths to our own definitions of success we are faced with so many different emotions,” she said. “Joy, anxiety relief, excitement to move on to the next thing, get on with it, but perhaps we shouldn’t. At least not right away.”
Lee asked students to pause for a moment and savor, after spending the last three years on a sprint. “The first ask (from me) is to pause, really pause, and see the space that school used to take up and protect it,” she said. “Now that you have become the person you are today, reevaluate, sit down with yourself and honestly seek to understand who you have become.”
Full-time MBA: The opportunity to “fail and learn”
The 2022 full-time MBA class is the most diverse ever, Harrison told the graduates, including 39% women, 50% U.S. minorities, 8% veterans, and 10% first-generation college students.
Full-time MBA student speaker Kokei Otosi, who will join IBM as a senior consultant in August, opened her speech by thanking her classmates. She also expressed thanks for the time that the MBA program gave her to explore.
“What I know now is that the MBA is a sandbox,” said Otosi, a Bay Area native-turned-New Yorker whose parents are Nigerian immigrants. “When you leave you may still not know what you want to do, but for two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try. We may not get that kind of freedom again.”
Throughout the ceremony, speakers paid tribute to classmate Nadeem Farooqi, who died in fall 2020.
Otosi said the shock and grief the class experienced over his death was palpable. “Nadeem, we cannot believe you aren’t here with us celebrating today, but we haven’t forgotten you,” she said. “We miss you.”
Honors for both MBA programs
Harrison asked all students with GPAs in the top 10% of their classes to stand and be honored for their achievements.
Here are the EWMBA program honors:
Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Laura Jacobson
Defining Leadership Principles awards:
Question the Status Quo: Eleanor Boli
Confidence Without Attitude: Cheick Diarra
Students Always: Steve Odell
Beyond Yourself: Nana Lei
The Berkeley Leader Award: Nana Lei and Frances Ho
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, weekend MBA program: Ricardo Perez-Truglia, for macroeconomics
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, evening MBA program: Professor Max Aufhammer, for data and decisions
Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Kimberlyn George
FTMBA program honors:
Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Jon Christopher Thompson
Question the Status Quo: Aliza Gazek
Confidence Without Attitude: Casey Dunajick-DeKnight
Students Always: Mathilde De La Calle
Beyond Yourself: Kevin Hu
Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Griffin Grail-Binghman
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick for Strategic Leadership
Earlier this month, seven Phd candidates participated in a hooding ceremony.
The PhD program at Haas stands out among all six academic programs, Harrison told the graduates. “It is our smallest, but it’s also the program nearest and dearest to the hearts of our faculty, all of whom are PhDs and are deeply committed to training the researchers and professors of the future,” she said. “This is a core part of my mission, and of all of our faculty’s mission.”
Graduating students included Kristin Donnelly, Shoshana Jarvis, Łukasz Langer, Petr Martynov, Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, and Young Yoon. The Cheit award for excellence in teaching in the PhD program went to Professor Panos Patatoukas of the Haas Accounting Group.
“We’re so happy to be up and running again,” said IBD’s executive director David Richardson, who runs the marquee Haas global management consulting program that is celebrating its 30th year. “This is one of the most popular electives for our students, and we were crushed when we got hit by COVID restrictions and our students could no longer travel. But we want everyone to know that we’re back.”
Lecturer Whitney Hischier, who teaches the IBD course, added that the hiatus “made us all appreciate the value of experiential classes more than ever.”
Thirteen students assigned to four teams will head to Singapore, Finland, and Guatemala in mid May. To prepare, the students began the IBD consulting course last January, which included the much-anticipated “big reveal” when the students learn where they’ll go.
In Singapore, one project team will work with a global food company. Two teams are heading to Finland. One will work with a software company that offers consumer electronics service management solutions, and another is assigned to a company that built a digital food safety and operations system for hotels, restaurants, and catering businesses. In Guatemala, students will collaborate with a social service organization that operates hospitals and vision centers that aim to eradicate treatable blindness.
Monica Shavers, MBA 23, said she is looking forward to experiencing the culture and the food of Singapore, while working for the global food company.
“We’ve had lots of (virtual) client meetings, talking to our sponsor every week to figure out our itinerary and the ways in which we’ll learn about Singaporean food culture,” she said. “We’ve been talking through all of our ideas, and laying out what we will validate while we are in-country.”
When applying to Haas, IBD was one of the key attractions, she said. “I didn’t get to study abroad as an undergraduate,” she said. “I saw this as a great opportunity for me to get that global experience while I’m in school again.”
Kylie Gemmell, MBA 23, is heading to Joensuu, a small town in Finland, in mid-May to work with a client that makes hardware and software used to control food temperature safety.
Gemmell, who worked in real estate investing before coming to Haas, said IBD has helped her explore a career change. “I’ve never had a consulting job and I wanted to experience what that would feel like—and here I am, 12 weeks into food safety regulation, an area I never knew existed,” she said. Gemmell added that her IBD consulting project has helped her learn more about herself, as the work differs from the independent nature of real estate.
“What I’ve realized is that I really love working on a team and that I get my energy from people and from working collaboratively.”
IBD has grown since JoAnn Dunaway, MBA 92, started the program after she graduated from Haas. “She saw a need for a challenging experiential learning program for MBA students to solve business problems,” Richardson said. “JoAnn had an international background and interest and she brought that in—and the school ran with it.”
During the recent Alumni Weekend at Haas, six IBD alumni joined students for a combined virtual/in-person panel during the April 28 IBD class. The alumni shared insights on their projects and the impact the program has had on their careers. (Read more from IBD’s Associate Director Danner Doud-Martin on the IBD blog)
To prepare for the return to project work overseas, Richardson, a former Peace Corps volunteer, headed abroad last November to meet with potential IBD project clients. In recent months, he worked with UC Berkeley Study Abroad Office and Risk Services to make sure Haas met UC Berkeley’s standards for mitigating the risk of Covid during student travel and at client sites. Over time, he said he’s updated the list of countries where IBD students were able to safely work.
Richardson said he feels great about the program’s future.
“We’re hopeful that we’re getting back into the business of sending more students overseas,” Richardson said.
A passion to protect the environment began as a child for Sheeraz Haji, the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) Program at Berkeley Haas.
“My dad was working in Africa for the World Bank, and we got to see how water pollution impacts peoples’ lives,” said Haji, who directs C2M with Brian Steel. “I ended up going back to Africa in college, and the environment just emerged as something that I became interested in.”
We talked to Haji, who began his career as an environmental engineer, about his varied career and his plans for C2M, a program that matches graduate student teams with entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize their climate tech solutions.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
All over the world, actually. My dad worked for the World Bank, so we lived in Washington DC, then in Algeria and then Kenya when I was between eight and 12. Africa was amazing; Nairobi was a peaceful, amazing city surrounded by stunning parks. My dad was born and raised in East Africa so it felt like discovering our roots. One of my big memories was kicking and screaming when my parents told my brother and I we had to return to DC, where I went to high school. We didn’t want to go.
How did living in Africa as a kid impact your world view?
Africa played a big role in shaping my world view. My dad’s work gave me exposure to development and sustainability projects. It hit me as a young person. I was like, ‘Oh, this is something to hold onto.’ It was a pretty strong focus coming out of college. Later I got interested in a lot of other things, including business and software.
You’ve had an interesting career. What are some of the highlights?
There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues. I’ve had some twists and turns in my career, working at McKinsey in strategy and at startups, running software startup GetActive, which helped nonprofits raise money online. But certainly the environment and energy have been big themes. Recently, I ran a company called Cleantech Group which helps corporations and investors across the globe invest in sustainable innovation. I now focus on climate tech investing and corporate consulting through my own firm, zipdragon ventures.
There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues.
What interested you in C2M and this role in particular?
First and foremost, I’ve known Brian (Steel) for a while. We met back in 2013 when I became involved in the program as a guest speaker, a coach, and then as a judge last year. What interested me was just observing and admiring what Brian and (former C2M co-director) Beverly Alexander had built and the impact it had on the students and the entrepreneurs. They put a lot of passion into this program. When I talked to students last year it was clear that C2M was a transformative experience for many of them. Brian, Beverly and co-faculty Bill (Shelander) have also done a really nice job of also keeping other folks from Haas, from the Berkeley ecosystem, and from the industry involved. Also, I have always dreamed of teaching at a world-class institution such as Haas, which happens to be very close to my home in Berkeley.
What are some of the trends that you’re seeing as an investor in clean tech markets?
Investors have poured more money into climate tech in recent years than at any other stage in my career. Global enterprises are driving sustainability goals, and governments are seeking to adopt policies to accelerate transitions to a low-carbon economy. We have observed some big financial outcomes for climate tech startups – something we had not seen for a long time. For example, quite a few EV charging companies have been able to access public markets and provide big returns for founders and investors. In the larger picture, I see sustainability serving as a huge driver across every industry and every company. There’s a massive amount of investment and adoption of climate technologies like the ones we work on at C2M. It feels like a unique time across the globe to focus on clean tech.
Can you share immediate/long-term plans for C2M?
I think job number one is for me to learn the program. Job number two is to try to not to mess up a good thing. We’ve got amazing students and a great cohort of startups. We must execute. We’re definitely looking at the curriculum, trying to figure out if and where to adjust. We’ve had some interesting conversations around, ‘Okay, where could we go? Is it another cohort, perhaps? Doing a class in the spring versus just in the fall?’ Also, we’re trying to be creative, as in, ‘Okay, there’s a great set of relationships, both within and outside the university community, creating a wonderful foundation. What else could we do?’ We are very open to ideas, and would love to hear from the Haas community.
A group of Berkeley Haas MBA students helped build the business plan for an attic-retrofit system based around heat sensing drones and foam-spraying spider robots that took the top prize in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2022 American-Made E-ROBOT competition.
Alexander Sergian, Joseph Aharon, John Aquino, all MBA/MEng 22, built the business plan for team RoboAttic/Thermadrone, along with Zixuan Chen, EWMBA 23, and Vincent Chang, MBA 22. The robotics project was led by Dr. Avideh Zakhor.
Dr. Zakhor led the team of about 35 people, including UC Berkeley students, professionals, and consultants, who developed the RoboAttic/Thermadrone technology. The three top winners in the multi-stage competition were announced April 7 by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). (Watch the robot in action in the video below)
Homes lose up to 20% of their heat and air conditioning due to poorly insulated roofs. Yet just 1% of building floorspace in the U.S. undergoes a meaningful retrofit each year due to the high cost and invasive nature of construction and renovation, according to Ram Narayanamurthy, a Program Manager in the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office.
Thermadrone’s software uses thermal drone camera images to diagnose and identify opportunities for attic insulation retrofits. Once attics in need of insulation are identified, Roboattic robots clean, air seal, and apply spray foam insulation to the building envelope. This enables construction workers to retrofit previously inaccessible attics with a PS4 controller. Finally, Thermadrone software provides quality assurance by measuring and verifying the retrofit was done properly.
An earlier round of the E-ROBOT Competition challenged participants to design and build robot prototypes that could be used to retrofit buildings to improve energy efficiency. For the second and final phase of the competition, 10 finalists were tasked with building viable business models for their respective startups.
Sergian, Aharon, and Aquino worked on the business plan for RoboAttic/Thermadrone for both the competition andas their capstone project, a required component of the MBA/MEng Program.
Their work included estimating the total market size, sales, marketing, channel partners, and go-to-market strategy. “As MBA/MEng students, we were brought on as folks who were not only technical enough to understand the technology, but also strategic enough to put together a compelling business vision,” Aharon said. “It’s an example of the sort of cross-disciplinary collaboration that we constantly see around UC Berkeley.”
To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential.
To be successful, the team had to prove the energy consumption and cost reduction benefits as well as worker safety potential.
“We were presented with an exciting technology,” said Sergian. “It was our challenge to figure out how to commercialize the product and make it a market success.”
The students said they applied lessons from their MBA coursework in research and development and finance to the project. They calculated a total market size for building envelope retrofits in the US at about $1.25 billion, estimating that contractors would be willing to invest about $10,000 per robot. The value of the robot is that it can access places in attics that are hazardous and foul for construction workers to crawl through, Aharon said.
Chen, who also worked on the project while in the evening & weekend MBA program, helped with marketing research, identifying potential user groups and conducting interviews with facility managers, utility companies, and government agencies.
“In the business plan stage, I worked with Avideh to identify critical cost components and revenue sources,” she said. She also developed profit and loss statements, cost performance models, and a manufacturing and scalability analysis.
The other competition winners included a semi-autonomous flying quadcopter air duct inspection drone and a robotic retrofit tool used for caulking, aerosol sealing, and foam insulating buildings.