Anna Lee, EWMBA 21: Commuting with Confidence

Here@Haas is a student-run podcast that tells the stories of current students.

Here@Haas Podcast host, Ray Guan, speaks with EWMBAA Co-President Anna Lee to talk about her path from Korea to Iowa to Los Angeles to Haas. Lee shares how she has been able to bond with her classmates through student leadership and class trips, and how that gave her confidence to successfully pivot into a business development role at Apple. Finally, Lee talks about the perks and drawbacks of being a commuter for the first half of her MBA journey.

Berkeley Haas welcomes largest-ever evening and weekend MBA class

Students from the EWMBA Class of 2023
EWMBA students from the Gold Cohort have a little fun on Zoom.

The largest-ever Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA class came together for an unprecedented virtual orientation this month, as students met their cohort members online, explored their academic and career goals, hosted a talent show, and heard from Dean Ann Harrison.

Students in the EWMBA program, 318 strong compared to 279 last year, balance their coursework while working full time. During WE Launch, the program’s orientation held from July 13-26, students participated in workshops on case-study methods, inclusive leadership, leadership communications, partnering with the Career Management Group, and an intro to Teams@Haas, a curriculum designed to build stronger team outcomes.

Orientation culminated with Saturday’s welcome from Dean Ann Harrison and a talk by Alumni Speaker Greg Greeley, MBA 98 and outgoing President of Homes for Airbnb.

In her welcome, Harrison called the current economy “nothing like I’ve experienced in my lifetime,” but added that the pandemic is accelerating and digitally transforming the fields of education tech, fintech, and healthcare. “It presents an incredible opportunity for all of us,” she said. “That’s why I really believe that this is the best time to go to business school—and our applications reflected it. “I can’t imagine a better time to take on the challenges of this pandemic than at Berkeley, which has always been at the forefront of change.”

Greeley told students that they will emerge from the MBA program stronger on the other side of this. “Bond with each other, lean on each other,” said Greeley, who called out each of the four Haas Defining Leadership Principles, which articulate the Haas culture, and discussed how important culture has been throughout his career at Amazon and Airbnb, companies that “have disrupted and defined their industries.”

company logos from where students work

Students in the class of 2023 have a collective average of eight years work experience, and work at a total of 243 companies. The majority hail from industries including technology, finance, computer-related services, and consulting. About half the class works in roles in engineering, marketing/sales, consulting, and finance. Google is the class’ biggest employer, followed by Apple and Genentech, Intel, LinkedIn, EY, and PG&E.

The class is comprised of 36% women, a record high. It’s also quite international. Almost a third of the students were born outside of the U.S., and speak 20 different languages.

“There is such an enormous amount of diversity and knowledge and creativity in this group of people,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of the MBA Programs for Working Professionals at Haas. “Take it, embrace it, enjoy it. Take advantage of everything.”

“Orientation was a taste of what’s in store for us,” said Tiffany Shumate, executive director for Hack the Hood in Oakland, Ca., which works to increase access to living-wage technology jobs for early career workers. “I’m already a proud Blue Cohort (students are split into four cohorts: Blue, Gold, Oski, and Axe) member. I’m excited to start classes.”

Why an MBA, why Haas?

Many EWMBA students are seeking the skill set required to change roles at their company or be better managers. Divya Pillai, a software engineer at Google, holds a master’s degree in engineering from MIT.

She said an MBA will give her business skills, and that she’s looking forward to studying microeconomics and leadership. “I thought I was happy as a software engineer but I realized that what we needed was more product direction, and bringing stakeholders together,” she said. “I thought I needed an MBA to contribute there.

Rajat Verma, a data insights manager at Autodesk, said he aims to strengthen his leadership skills as a new manager of a virtual, global team. “A new learning journey just began for me,” he said. “There are a lot of things I want to leverage from Haas: the faculty, the caliber of students, and the breadth of electives. There’s a huge opportunity for me to strengthen my leadership skills and to eventually become an inspiring and holistic leader.” Verma added that he’s excited that in an EWMBA program “you get to apply what you learn in class the following Monday.”
Students from the EWMBA Class of 2023
The Axe cohort shows some spirit.

Diversity at Haas was critical to Adam Ward, a native of the UK who works as a senior manager in partner product marketing at MuleSoft. Ward said he attended the Berkeley Haas Diversity Symposium, an event held last October, and became convinced that Haas was the right school for him.

“It was amazing to see the work they are putting into equality,” said Ward, who recently pivoted from account development into marketing at his company. “That was really important to me.”

Portrait: Adam Ward, EWMBA 23
Diversity in an MBA program was critical for Adam Ward, EWMBA 23

The social link

In addition to academics, social life moved online for the EWMBA class, too, with happy hours for the entire class, a happy hour for Black and Latinx students, as well as an LGBTQ mixer.

In recent weeks, an EWMBA 2023 Slack channel brought the class together with daily challenges posted by members, such as: post a photo of yourself wearing Berkeley gear, share a photo of a recent book you read during quarantine, or post a photo related to your pandemic hobby. “There was a really active poster, Dan Bernstein, who direct-messaged a bunch of people—and once he got people on board we were trying to get 100% participation,” Pillai said. “The whole process just made everyone feel they were part of something.”

So did a talent show, which brought out the class musicians, singers, and dancers. Pillai, who played the ukulele while singing Lady Gaga’s “Shallow,” with tongue-in-cheek lyrics adapted for the COVID-19 pandemic, took first place.

Second place was a tie between Jack Woodruff (singing/guitar) and Joni Chan (Chopin on piano).

“We need leaders like you:” Parting words to evening & weekend MBA graduates

Members of the EWMBA 2020 class. Photo credit, Arthur Tong, EWMBA20
Members of the EWMBA 2020 class. (Photo credit: Arthur Tong, EWMBA 20)

The 2020 evening & weekend MBA grads are leaders who embody the Defining Leadership Principles, Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison told the class in a celebratory sendoff video.

“We need leaders like you,” Dean Harrison said. “Now more than ever, we need leaders with a passion to be students always, who question the status quo and act with confidence without attitude, and leaders who think beyond themselves.”

Commencement speaker Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85, VP of ServiceNow Enterprise Sales-East Region, also congratulated grads.

“Your time at Haas has equipped you to be the kind of leader that we need in the world today,” she said.

Your time at Haas has equipped you to be the kind of leader that we need in the world today.

Axe cohort celebrates on Zoom
The Axe cohort celebrating on Zoom last Friday. (Blue, gold, and Oski cohorts celebrated together, too)


Award winners 

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Professor James Wilcox and Dan Simpson, a member of the professional faculty. Wilcox taught Global Macroeconomics and Simpson taught Corporate Strategy.

Adam Burgess, MBA 20, received the GSI Award as an Evening & Weekend MBA program GSI.

Academic Achievement Award: Cody Cusic and Jordan Waiwaiole won, as students with the highest GPAs. 

Berkeley Leader Award: Sean Li, creator of the OneHaas podcast.

Defining Leadership Award winners

Question the Status Quo: Bruce Hilman

Confidence without Attitude: Jordan Waiwaiole

Students Always: Janice Shon

Beyond Yourself: Shannon Eliot (profiled here)

MBA students in Patagonia.
Shannon Eliot and EWMBA classmates backpacking in Patagonia before the pandemic.

Grit and resilience: Shannon Eliot’s journey to graduation

It was the first day of a week-long backpacking trip to Patagonia last January, a trip where Shannon Eliot and eight of her classmates were finally going to test lessons learned in their Extreme Leadership class at Berkeley Haas. 

Their goal was to reach Cordillera Arturo Prat, a mountain peak just outside Torres Del Paine National Park, but not long after leaving base camp, Eliot, EWMBA 20, slipped on a log and fell backwards into a muddy swamp, twisting her knee on the forest floor. “I thought I would have to be airlifted out of Chile,” she said as she lay on her back looking up at the Chilean sky. “I asked myself, ‘Why did I come?’”

That question could have led her to abandon the trek. But as she would several times during her final year at Haas, Eliot blocked the pain from her mind and moved forward with the help of her Haas friends, including two of her close classmates, Terrell Baptiste, EWMBA 20, and Brian Bell, MBA 20. “They told me that I was stronger than I thought I was and that I could do it,” Eliot said. 

They told me that I was stronger than I thought I was and that I could do it.

Shannon Eliot, EWMBA 20
Shannon Eliot, EWMBA 20, traveled to Chilean Patagonia for a seven-day backpacking trip.

“A million tiny knives”

For her grit, determination, and her role as EWMBA Association’s VP of Philanthropy, Eliot, a senior communications manager for Blue Shield of California, will receive the Beyond Yourself award at graduation Friday. It’s one of four Defining Leadership Principles awards given to students who embody the spirit of Haas and have made a lasting impact on the community. Eliot is being honored for leading ethically and responsibly and putting larger interests above her own.

Just months before the Patagonia trek, Eliot was almost convinced the trip would not be possible. Three days after her birthday in August, Eliot awoke from an afternoon nap unable to stand with a feeling of “a million tiny knives stabbing me in the back,” she said.

Doctors diagnosed Eliot with rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue that causes myoglobin, or muscle protein, to enter the bloodstream. This “freak accident,” she said, was a rare side effect of a prescribed medication she took.

For five months, Eliot, who is also a part-time Pilates instructor, tapped into her training to restore the muscles in her lower back. By December, Eliot had gained enough strength to walk on a treadmill with a 25-pound backpack — just enough weight to convince herself that she could make it to Patagonia.

An athlete’s recovery

Anyone who knows Eliot wouldn’t have been surprised to learn how determined she was to restore her physical health. From being an elite soccer player as a teen to racing for UC San Diego’s collegiate cycling team to teaching Pilates, Eliot has always been a lifelong athlete who has pushed her body to the max. 

That fitness level and mental perseverance ultimately helped her to complete the Patagonia trek.

After her knee injury, Eliot got back on her feet and marched forward. For six days, she hiked on a sprained knee for 10 hours carrying a 52-pound backpack and camping atop of an icy mountain in high winds.

“Despite spraining her knee, Shannon was still able to keep a positive attitude and motivate our team to finish the trip,” Baptiste said. “She has a lot of grit.”

Eliot is working towards a role in management consulting following graduation. She’d also like to launch an online Pilates studio to help people remain physically fit in the age of the coronavirus.

“I’m so excited for the future and I have Haas—and especially my Haas family—to thank for it,” Eliot said. “Their unwavering support and endless encouragement are the secret sauce to my success.”


Berkeley Haas launches MBA Summer Internship Stimulus Fund

Berkeley Haas has launched the MBA Summer Internship Stimulus Fund, which will provide $5,000 stipends to students.

photo of Abby Scott
Abby Scott

The stipends, which will help cover basic needs like rent and living expenses, will be awarded on a rolling basis to continuing MBA students who qualify. Full-time first-year MBA students, first and second year MBA/MPH students, and evening and weekend MBA students seeking internships may apply.

Students can apply once they’ve received a written job offer for a paid summer internship, so long as the salary offered is below market, said Abby Scott, Assistant Dean of Career Management & Corporate Partnerships.

“We know that some companies are experiencing significant financial constraints right now and supplementing student compensation through this stipend program will help impacted organizations access Berkeley MBA talent for the summer,” Scott said. “If a company cannot pay a typical summer salary, they can still hire a Berkeley MBA intern as long as they are contributing to student wages and meeting standards governed by employment law.”

All internships must be for MBA-level work and the internships must start by July 6 and run for at least six weeks.

Scott said she considers the fund “a stimulus package” that will benefit both students and employers.

“Ultimately we want all of our MBA students seeking internships to have a great experience and we believe this fund will help,” she said.

Click here for more information on the fund. The Haas Annual Fund for the Full-time MBA Program supports the Internship Stimulus Fund. To make a gift, click here.

A Berkeley Haas startup’s quick pivot to deliver hand sanitizer to the needy

A Dispatch Goods container kit
A Dispatch Goods container kit

Word was getting out last year about Berkeley Haas startup Dispatch Goods.

The startup had landed its first two corporate clients and had 15 deals in the pipeline. They’d signed a partnership with Yelp! and debuted a mobile app and subscription service with membership tiers. By November, the Wall Street Journal had featured Dispatch’s business model— providing reusable stainless steel containers that companies use for restaurant takeout or pickup— in a news article.

But then coronavirus hit. Nearly overnight, business evaporated as restaurant owners shut down and corporate workers started working from home. For CEO Lindsey Hoell and her team it was “a gut punch for the anti-single use movement.”

“COVID was a huge disruption,” said Hoell, EWMBA 21. “We thought to ourselves: What do we have to offer now and how can we help?”

Dispatch Goods & Project Clean team includes (left to right) Lindsey Hoell, EWMBA 21, CEO; Jessica Heiges, UC Berkeley PhD student in environmental science, sustainability leader; Andrew Foster, tech and design director; Peter Altaffer, user experience designer; and Adam Boostrom, EWMBA 21, CFO (front).
Dispatch Goods & Project Clean team includes (l-r) Lindsey Hoell, EWMBA 21, CEO; Jessica Heiges, UC Berkeley PhD student in environmental science, sustainability leader; Andrew Foster, tech and design director; Peter Altaffer, user experience designer; and Adam Boostrom, EWMBA 21, CFO (front).

A quick pivot

Hoell had heard that hand sanitizer was quickly hard to come by after COVID-19 hit. One of the Dispatch team members knew that Tim Obert, CEO of Seven Stills distillery in San Francisco, had a plan to use some of the company’s alcohol to make hand sanitizer. The company connects donors to those in need on its website.

Andrew Foster of Dispatch Goods & Project Clean holds recycled bottles filled with Seven Stills hand sanitizer.
Andrew Foster of Dispatch Goods & Project Clean holds recycled bottles filled with Seven Stills hand sanitizer.

Hoell chatted with Obert and decided to launch a zero waste co-op to provide some of the hand sanitizer in recycled containers. Now, the team is collecting plastic bottles from donors, cleaning the bottles in their commercial dishwasher at their warehouse space in Daly City, and delivering them in the company’s van to Bay Area organizations, including retirement communities and homeless shelters.

Hoell, who is relying on donations to run the co-op, said they’re trying to keep costs down by batching pickups in neighborhoods in San Francisco, South San Francisco, Daly City, Berkeley, and Oakland. (Bottle donors can sign up on their website) She’s not sure if the model is financially sustainable, as the transportation costs are high, but the startup is willing to try to make it work.

“All of us got into this company because of the impact we want to have,” Hoell said. “We didn’t know how we could make money but we knew we could make an impact.”

All of us got into this company because of the impact we want to have.

Sticking to the mission

Pizza pan
Square Guys pizza is delivered in a zero-waste metal pan. Photo: Square Guys

Meanwhile, Dispatch Goods’ founding mission hasn’t been lost.

Adam Boostrom, an evening and weekend MBA student, is working to adapt the business model while Dispatch participates in Berkeley’s SkyDeck accelerator program. During Skydeck’s online sessions, he worked alongside the Dispatch team to develop a pilot which would continue zero waste delivery for businesses. The first plan is to work with Square Pie Guys to deliver pizza on Tuesdays and Thursdays to employees’ homes in a reusable, covered metal alloy pan.

If the pilot works, the startup will approach other companies that want to provide takeout food to their employees who are working at home.

The startup’s goal has always been to change the food delivery model and eliminate the waste—and this is a new approach.

“The mission is still the same: we pick up containers, clean them, and return them to food providers,” said Boostrom. “What’s different is the primary customer.”


LAUNCH Diaries: Startups navigate COVID-19 crisis

Note: Haas News is following two of this year’s teams participating in LAUNCH, an accelerator for University of California startup founders that has helped create more than 200 companies since 1999. The teams are gearing up for the Demo Day final on May 1, when they’ll pitch their ideas to VCs and angel investors and compete for $25,000 in funding. This year the teams face an extra challenge: launching a startup at a time when the world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic.

If there’s one thing this year’s LAUNCH teams have had to learn overnight, it’s the value of flexibility.

Leading the LAUNCH teams through all of the ongoing uncertainty is Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, who quickly shifted LAUNCH online, where the teams met on Zoom last Wednesday to share updates at the last webinar before the semifinals.

Dispatch Goods, for one, detailed its pivot from a reusable food container business for restaurants to a zero-waste co-op called Project Clean that fills recycled plastic bottles with hand sanitizer made by San Francisco-based distillery Seven Stills.

Dispatch CEO Lindsey Hoell, MBA 21, said the team’s shift to provide free hand sanitizer to homeless shelters, nursing homes, and low-income communities, has proven “a big saving grace.” “This has given us a reason to keep moving after a horrible disruption to our business model,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to keep active, engaged, and on the mission, so you can weather the storm.”

SuperPetFoods and BumpR, teams Haas News has followed since the start of LAUNCH in March, shared their own COVID-19 challenges on the call as they continue on their startup journeys.


Sticking to the plan: Since their last meeting, the team—María (Mar) del Mar Londoño, MBA 21, Thais Esteves, MBA 21, and Gina Myers, MS 20 (bioengineering), who is also a chef—finalized their recipe for dehydrated pet food. The food is made from black soldier flies (Hermetia Illucens) and Mar plans to produce it in Colombia, where her family has a farm in the coffee-growing region (and she’s surrounded by more than 15 dogs). The black soldier fly is capable of converting food waste into high-quality protein and fat with incredible efficiency, with an undetectable carbon footprint, she said.  Now, they are looking closely at how to cut the cost of production, which is high, and studying their potential profit margins by benchmarking against market competitors.

SuperPetFoods team
L-R: María (Mar) del Mar Londoño, MBA 21, Thais Esteves, MBA 21, and Gina Myers, MS 20 (bioengineering), with Gina’s dog, Qora, (before the COVID-19 crisis).

Eye-opening data: Mar, who represented the team on the webinar Wednesday, said COVID-19 dashed her plan to do many customer interviews in person. So she shifted online, surveying 300 people on Reddit. About 41% responded positively to the idea of using insects as pet food (73 percent were either positive or neutral). Mar also discovered that vegans are a possible niche market, as they were open to the idea of feeding insects to their pets.

Her initial fear that people would prefer dog food made in the U.S., sourced locally, instead of in Colombia, turned out to be unfounded, which was a relief. “I have the contacts there, the knowledge of how to run a business there and the manufacturing costs are way, way lower,” she said. From 11 interviews, the team discovered that they needed to do more to convince and educate pet owners of the safety and nutrition level of pet food made from insects.

Seed funding challenges: Mar applied for a grant from Arrow Capital, the student-run investment fund, but the fund recently announced it was shutting. “We’ll have to look for more alternatives,” she said. She’ll be soon competing as a finalist for the 2020 Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize, as well as in the LAUNCH final, which could net the startup $25,000. Mar asked Rhonda for advice about presenting the company to judges. She advised against a graphics-heavy presentation. “One trend I have hated over the past couple of years is “entrepreneur-tainment,” Rhonda said. “Images are not what LAUNCH is about.” Judges want to look under the hood, she said, so weave metrics into the company’s story and make sure to present a strong narrative.


Challenges for BumpR: Responding to new campus COVID-19 rules, the undergraduate founders of BumpR —Armaan Goel, Aishwarya (Ash) Mahesh, Shreya Shekhar, all M.E.T. 23 (Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology); and Justin Quan, BS 23 (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science), — scrambled to move out of their dorms. Their move came at the same time as LAUNCHathon, a part of LAUNCH when participants across campus volunteer their skills to help other teams fulfill one item on their wish list. At the same time, the team decided to shift their business model. “Powered by instant ramen, we completed the move out from our dorms as well as our pivot,” Justin said.

BumpR’s Justin Quan explains the team’s pivot at last Wednesday’s Zoom webinar.

The pivot: BumpR started out building a cloud-based back end for targeted advertising displays. The team decided that an ad tech company wouldn’t work, so they abandoned the original mission and started building a Smart Cities plan to help governments collect data more efficiently. In recent days, Justin and Ash started reaching out to city and public safety officials to collect data. Justin interviewed officials in Saratoga and Los Gatos by phone, while Ash scheduled phone calls with city officials in L.A. county, where she lives. They found that cities often hire traffic engineers to collect data before building structures like parking garages and public transit stations, which is an expensive and tedious process, or they rely on published general traffic data, which isn’t always accurate nor specific to individual cities. Both saw a problem that team BumpR can solve.

Validating the idea: Justin, who had just finished a computer science midterm moments before, and Ash asked for feedback from their instructor Rhonda. Their new business model centers on producing an inexpensive Internet of Things (IoT) device, similar to a city-registered electronic carpool sticker, that rideshare drivers mount on their cars to easily collect data over geographic areas. Revenue would come from payments for access to

Team bumpR at work
L-R: Shreya Shekhar, Justin Quan, Armaan Goel, and Aishwarya (Ash) Mahesh at work on their LAUNCH plan before the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Jim Block

datasets. The team said the devices could be used by planning departments, law enforcement, and fire departments.

Sharpening the focus: Rhonda asked team members to better define the key benefits to customers. Does BumpR help cities save money? Does it save time or improve quality of life? The team needs to figure out how much that savings would need to be to make the offering a priority for cities, she said. She also told them to not overlook the social part of their offering: the idea of making people look good to their bosses. “Test that with them. Ask them: how would this change your life if you had more accurate data that costs less? Think about that as you go out to do interviews,” she said.











Update: Changes to late-round MBA application deadlines

Cronk Gate on Haas campus

Responding to the spread of the coronavirus and changes to GMAT and GRE testing, Berkeley Haas has updated the deadlines and procedures for late-round MBA applications.

The following is a list of information from the Haas admissions offices, created to guide applicants through the process of applying to our programs. The information will be updated as the situation evolves.

Full-time MBA

Application review continues for fall 2020, and we are on schedule to receive Round 3 applications. Admissions interviews have been transitioned to virtual formats.

We are opening a new extended deadline of May 4th, 2020 to assist candidates who have been delayed in completing their application due to their inability to take the GMAT/GRE or difficulty in obtaining letters of recommendation, etc.

Our Round 3 deadline will remain on April 2, 2020 with decisions released on May 7th.  Candidates submitting applications for the May 4th extended application deadline will receive decisions on June 4th, 2020.

Throughout this time, we are available to connect with you virtually:

Evening & Weekend MBA

Application review and processing continues on schedule for all application rounds. Round 2 applicants can still expect a decision on April 10. Round 3 applicants will receive their decisions as planned on June 5.

Round 4: A new application deadline of April 7th has been announced. Applicants are encouraged to complete and submit their application, and decisions will be sent on June 5. If you are unable to complete part of your application by the deadline due to COVID-19, please contact our admissions office at or call us at 510-642-0292.

Throughout this time, we are available to connect with you virtually:

  • Email: We will continue to monitor and promptly respond to all emails sent to
  • Phone Consultations: We will continue offering phone consultations with our admissions team to discuss any aspect of the application process.
  • Recorded Webinars: Browse our library of recorded webinars to learn more about the application process and MBA experience.

Executive MBA

Application review and processing continues on schedule. Round 2 applicants can still expect a decision on March 26.

Throughout this time, we are available to connect with you virtually:

Accelerated Access

Accelerated Access, a new Berkeley Haas program, will give undergraduates the option of applying early for a spot in the full-time MBA program and deferring for two to five years to gain the required professional experience. The program is initially open only to UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students in their final year of study, with a plan to expand to students throughout the University of California system and then more broadly in the future.

Deadlines remain unchanged and are April 2 for Round 1 and June 11 for Round 2.

Standardized Tests: We acknowledge that many standardized test centers are closed. If you plan to apply in the first round and have completed all other application elements, you may still submit by April 2 and complete the exam at the earliest possible date in the future, but no later than May 21. You’re encouraged to register now while dates are still available. On the application, add a “0” as the score received. This will alert us to watch for your test scores to arrive. Also, please email us with your unofficial scores once you have completed the test. The unofficial score will be added to your application while we wait for your official score to arrive.

If you plan to apply in the second round, the timeline is unchanged and the standardized test must be completed on or before June 11.

Letters of Recommendation (LORs): The letters of recommendation provide valuable insight into your character and achievements and are an important part of our evaluation. Please encourage your recommenders to submit their LORs as close to the April 2 or June 11 deadline as possible. Although we will accept your application without the recommendations, a review of your candidacy will be delayed until both LORs have been received. It is your responsibility to follow-up with your recommender.

Throughout this time, we are available to connect with you virtually. We will continue to monitor and promptly respond to all emails sent to


From virtual birthday parties to yoga, Haasies stay connected as life shifts online

Lauren Graminis practices yoga
Lauren Grimanis (left) practices yoga with a student during her time in Ghana.

When Lauren Grimanis ran a rural education organization in a remote community in Ghana with no running water or electricity, she turned to yoga and meditation to handle the stresses of daily life.

“While I had community around me, I still felt socially isolated,” said Grimanis, MBA 20, who founded the nonprofit Akaa Project in 2008. “I had to climb a hill into a tomato farm behind my house to get cell service so it was difficult to connect with friends and family.”

Grimanis had no idea that what she’d learned about the value of mindfulness in Africa might prove a handy tool for both helping herself and her tight-knit MBA class cope with the isolation and frustrations of social distancing under the COVID-19 outbreak. As head of the Haas Mindfulness Club, Grimanis not only exercises online with her MBA friends; she’s also put together a Google doc listing everything from free meditation apps to CorePower Yoga classes and shared the doc with both FTMBA classes.

“Last week people were feeling really frustrated and anxious, both understandable feelings. I wanted to help, so we jumped into action,” she said. “We really want to get people to think more positively and use mindfulness in their new daily routines.”

Cheering each other up

Chris Lee's birthday party on zoom chat
Chris Lee celebrated his 30th birthday with classmates online. Photo: Chris Lee.

Under COVID-19 restrictions, student life has continued online. Joey Parker, MBA 21, organized a toast on Zoom at 9 pm on St. Patrick’s Day for all MBA students. Chris Lee, MBA 20, celebrated his recent 30th birthday online, surrounded by about 50 of his MBA friends. The new reality won’t replace the in-person courtyard lunches, cohort parties, or Tahoe weekends, students say, but they’re working hard to use tech to keep their communities together and stay focused on their work.

The same rings true for evening and weekend students. Terrell Baptiste, EWMBA 20, said his classmates are phoning each other and tapping into the class’ WhatsApp chat group to keep in touch. About 40 classmates are using the app to cheer each other up or initiate discussions about the pros and cons of a shelter-in-place order and whether a stimulus package would help stabilize the U.S. economy. 

Haas undergraduates, too, are finding ways to stay virtually connected.

Four women talk via Zoom, a video chat platform.
Shun Lei Sin, BS 20, (bottom right) chats with friends via Zoom.

Shun Lei Sin, BS 20, uses Zoom and has joined a Slack channel called SF Entourage, a private virtual community, where she can participate in cooking competitions, play games online or start a book club with friends. Zaheer Ebtikar, BS 20, uses Slack, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with friends while he finishes the semester at home. Neha Dubey, BS 21, sends Google hangout links to classmates, inviting them to virtual lunches. She’s also tapping into Berkeley’s Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) to stay in touch with friends.

“One of my friends is the community engagement associate for SERC and she’s hosting virtual study sessions every Tuesday and organizing baking classes and Netflix parties. It’s just another way to have that human interaction,” Dubey said. 

Despite not being able to see her friends in person, Dubey said life under COVID-19 has brought her friends closer together.

“All of my friends have really bonded through this. We’re all making an effort to be a larger part of our everyday lives,” said Dubey. “It’s a lot less texting and a lot more calling.” 

Saying goodbye

Two Haas students work on school project.
Thais Esteves, MBA 21, (right) with classmate Maria del Mar Londono Jaramillo, returned home to Brazil for the summer after her FTMBA friends threw her an impromptu birthday party online. Photo: Jim Block

For some international students in countries where borders are shutting, the decision to stay on campus or go home, depending on border and visa situations, is difficult. Before Thais Esteves, MBA 21, returned home for the summer to Brazil this week her friends threw her one last impromptu party. The party, initiated by a handful of classmates who were playing an online board game together, started after they sent a few photos to WhatsApp with a link to the virtual celebration. A bunch more classmates joined in to celebrate Esteves’ birthday, and to say goodbye before she boarded the plane. They donned costumes, as they often do at MBA parties, including a polar bear, a viking hat, a unicorn, and a ship’s captain.

A sari, never worn

Ije wearing a sari in India.
Ije Durga, MBA 20, who lived in India prior to coming to Haas, planned to wear a special sari to commencement.

Many students are grappling with the possibility of  a virtual commencement. Ije Durga, MBA 20, said she understands why commencement can’t be held in-person, but is hurt that she won’t be able to say goodbye to her friends. Durga, who worked in India before coming to Haas, is also disappointed that she won’t be wearing a special sari she’d picked out for the ceremony and ordered from India.  “I was looking forward to putting that on and surprising everyone—an African woman in a sari,” she said. She said the friend who was going to bring it to her can’t even travel to the U.S. now. “The world has changed so much in just two weeks,” she added.

April staycation

Ana Alanis and classmates.
Ana Alanis (front, middle) spent the morning canceling a spring break trip to Colombia.

For many students, spring break meant canceling planned trips, and treks, and suddenly wondering what to do with all that time off. On Thursday, Ana Christina Alanis, MBA 21 and the class’ VP of social, was canceling a web of spring break flights to Colombia. She’d planned to visit Medellin and then scuba dive in Cartagena with a group of 12 students, including her roommate. She was looking forward to relaxing for nine days and a break from her job search. “Spring break starts tomorrow and I have absolutely nothing to do,” she said. The upside? She might teach an online cooking class to Haasies—and she might be able to reschedule her trip with her Colombian classmates, who couldn’t go with her this time. 

Get your Zumba on!

Six students do Zumba online.
Lipika Grover, MBA 20, hosted a virtual Zumba class for FTMBA students.

After in-person classes stopped, the FTMBA Association and Alex D’Agostino and Annie Powers, both MBA 20, got together and worked on a spreadsheet of classes that could be taught by students for students. Lipika Grover, MBA 20, is one of the first to go for it. She taught her first Zumba class ever on Zoom on Thursday morning. Grover, who had taken many Bollywood classes and loves to dance, was live teaching by 10 am from her home in Houston, where she returned to be with her family. 

“It will hopefully lift people’s moods and we’ll get some exercise—wherever we are,” said Grover. “Virtual is the best way to be together and to be strong now. We have to make the best of what we have and come together as a community.”  


Three Haas MBA programs ranked in top 10 by U.S. News

The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program placed #7 and the Evening & Weekend Program ranked #2 again in the latest U.S. News and World Report ranking published today. The Berkeley MBA for Executives program ranked #7, the same as last year. The EMBA ranking is based entirely on a peer poll among deans and FTMBA directors.

The full-time MBA rankings are based on data provided by participating U.S. schools and on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs, as well as surveys of corporate recruiters and company contacts. The score is calculated from placement success and starting salary (35%), student selectivity (25%), a peer poll (25%), and the average of the last three years of recruiter polls (15%).

Part-time MBA rankings are based on data from participating schools and on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited part-time programs. The score is calculated from  the peer polls (50%), student selectivity (27.5%), work experience (10%), and percent of MBA students who are enrolled part-time (12.5.).

Haas also ranked in the top ten of the following specialty rankings, based on a peer poll among deans and FTMBA directors:

#2 Real Estate

#4 Entrepreneurship

#4 Nonprofit

#8 Finance

#9 Business Analytics

#9 Management

#10 International

Last year, the FTMBA placed in a three-way tie for #6. It ranked #7 for 11 years prior to that.


OneHaas: a podcast for students by students

Portrait of Sean Li
Sean Li, EWMBA 20, is the creator and co-producer of the OneHaas podcast.

This is the first in a series of articles we’ll be writing throughout the year to mark the 10th anniversary of the Haas Defining Leadership Principles by showcasing community members who embody our culture.

When Sean Li, EWMBA 20, asks Haas students to come on his podcast, there’s usually some hesitation. 

“Many people tell me, ‘I don’t think that I’m that interesting,’” he said. “But trust me, everybody has a story.”

And he’s right. Tune into Li’s OneHaas podcast and you’ll hear from a U.S. kickboxing champ, a former Marine turned sommelier, and an entrepreneur who created caffeinated gum.

Produced by Li and Raymond Guan, EWMBA 22, OneHaas takes about 25 minutes to tell stories of current students to foster community among all MBAs on campus. Since launching in March 2018, Li has interviewed more than 50 students, and many people are listening. OneHaas has been downloaded more than 7,300 times in more than 50 countries.  

With so many people tuning in, Li tries to interview a diverse mix of students from all degree programs and backgrounds. One interviewee, Dana Zhang, EWMBA 21, said the podcast has helped her to get to know fellow classmates. 

“As evening and weekend students, we don’t have the luxury to spend as much time as we’d like on campus to get to know each other, so the OneHaas podcast has been a useful forum for me personally to get to hear from my classmates,” she said.

Two students participate in a podcast.
Sean Li interviews Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, for his podcast in April 2019.

Not only are current students tuning into OneHaas, but so are prospective students, which is part of the reason why Li created it. 

“I’ve had at least 20 prospective students reach out to me,” Li said. “They’ll write and say, ‘You know, this one episode that I heard really convinced me to come to Haas. Thank you.’ That really moved me.” 

Creating the podcast wasn’t difficult for Li. He’d produced DIY videos for two automotive e-commerce businesses that he co-founded prior to coming to Haas. 

Asking the right questions and convincing students to share their stories were the hard parts. 

“In the beginning, it was like pulling teeth to get someone on,” he said. “But once I produced the first five episodes, people started to realize that I was serious and that the podcast sounded pretty professional.” 

Now that OneHaas is gaining traction and helping to strengthen ties among students, Li is receiving more support from campus leaders. 

This past fall, Li received $1,000 from the Evening & Weekend MBA Association, the student body government association, and a $5,000 grant from the Berkeley Haas Culture Fund for audio equipment.   

Li will graduate this May, but he plans to support the continuation of the podcast long after he’s gone. 

“I feel so privileged to have had this platform to interview all these amazing students and hear their stories. I hope more students will join the team and help carry the torch.”


Laura Clayton McDonnell, Diane Dwyer named 2020 commencement speakers 

Two pioneering women in tech sales and broadcast television will serve as commencement speakers for the full-time, evening & weekend and undergraduate programs this May.

Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA 85,  a visionary sales executive who has held leadership roles at two of the world’s top tech companies, was chosen as speaker at the 2020 Full-time MBA and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement; Diane Dwyer, BS 87, former KTVU and NBC broadcast journalist, was chosen to speak at undergraduate commencement.

The MBA commencement will take place on Friday, May 22, 2020, at the Greek Theatre.

The undergraduate commencement will take place on Monday, May 18, 2020, at the Greek Theatre. 

“We are so thrilled to welcome two successful female alumnae who represent our Defining Leadership Principles to speak at our commencements,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Laura questions the status quo as a business leader in so many ways and Diane, as a professional faculty member, is a student always.”

Laura Clayton McDonnell
Laura Clayton McDonnell

McDonnell, who is vice president of enterprise sales for management software company ServiceNow, was previously vice president of Microsoft’s New York region. Managing a team of more than 230 people, she was responsible for increasing sales revenue and expanding Microsoft’s influence in the region by building relationships with key stakeholders, such as New York City’s Department of Education. 

McDonnell also piloted innovative programs such as Microsoft’s Tech Jobs Academy, an educational program that offers free tech training to underrepresented communities. 

At IBM, where she previously worked for 11 years, she rose to vice president of strategic services for North America, before taking on a role as senior vice president of North America Sales at Aspect Software.

Dwyer, a professional faculty member at Haas who teaches Innovations in communications and public relations, has been a broadcast journalist for 25 years, reporting important stories from the inauguration of President Bill Clinton to the Oakland Hills Firestorm.  

Diane Dwyer
Diane Dwyer

She began her career as an anchor and reporter at KXLF in Butte, Montana, in 1988. Two years later she and joined the KTVU-Channel 2 newsroom, where she launched and co-hosted the Morning Show on KTVU with Ross McGowan for several years. 

She then moved to San Jose to become the weekend news solo anchor for NBC Bay Area. Her reporting won her two Emmy awards and other prestigious awards from the Associated Press and the National Academy of Radio and Television Artists. In addition to teaching, Dwyer runs her own consulting business, Dwyer Media Consulting.




Berkeley Haas receives STEM designation for MBAs

Berkeley Haas is among the first business schools to receive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) designation for MBAs. The designation makes all international students who graduate eligible to apply for an additional 24-month visa extension during post-MBA employment.

Haas’ STEM OPT extension is retroactive to December 2018.

All current international full-time MBA students studying on F-1 visas will be eligible to apply for the extension while they are in their first year of work authorization after graduating from the MBA program, said Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions. Approval of the extensions will depend on the individual training plans that employers and MBA graduates submit, Johnson said.

“We anticipate that this will lead to expanded opportunities for our international graduates who pursue jobs incorporating business analytics, modeling, forecasting, and other skills developed through our program,” he said.

The MBA programs received the STEM designation after a campus review of how the programs are categorized by the National Center for Education Statistics under a Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code.

The new code defines the Berkeley Haas MBA as “a general program that focuses on the application of statistical modeling, data warehousing, data mining, programming, forecasting and operations research techniques to the analysis of problems of business organization and performance.” After the review, the Haas MBA degree programs were changed from “Business Administration and Management, General,” to “Management Science,” which is considered a STEM program.

The BIO STEM OPT webpage outlines the extension rules and application process for F-1 students, including information about the responsibilities of employers in the process.

Learn more about the Berkeley Haas MBA programs:

Full-time MBA Program
Evening & Weekend MBA Program
Executive MBA Program



Classified: Teaching students to think like entrepreneurs and investors

Justin Jeffers, an MBA student in the “Bay Area Innovation and Entrepreneurship” course
Justin Jeffers, EWMBA 21, pitched the class on a mobile robot that could assist in emergencies. Photo: Jim Block

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


Just seconds into his funding pitch for a mobile robot that could assist in emergencies, Justin Jeffers realized that his carefully timed audio of a detonation had failed. Jeffers quickly pivoted.

“Boom! Big explosion!” yelled Jeffers, EWMBA 21, as the students gathered in Chou Hall last month for the “Bay Area Innovation and Entrepreneurship” course erupted in laughter.

Jeffers, an entrepreneur who is contemplating a career in venture capital, went on to successfully deliver his final five-minute presentation, which was required to cap off the week-long immersive course.

Taught by a trio of Haas faculty members—David Charron, Sara Beckman, and Vivek Rao— the course aims to teach students how to think and act like both entrepreneurs and investors. A total of 50 students from 16 countries enrolled, a quarter of them Haas MBA students.

The course is one of many network weeks offered through The Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), an international consortium of graduate business schools. The international makeup of the course is intentional; GNAM, formed by the Yale School of Management in 2012 with Haas as the only other U.S. member, has a mission to broaden MBA students’ exposure to ideas and each other. Through GNAM, a diverse range of courses are offered around the world, from “Economic Analysis of High Tech Industries,” taught at Yale SOM, to “Brand Cultures and Emerging City Markets,” held at EGADE Business School, Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico.

Working in teams, meeting with founders       

The curriculum for “Bay Area Innovation and Entrepreneurship” combines core concepts of entrepreneurship, investing, and innovation that are often taught separately in business school. “We wanted students to learn to see what entrepreneurs look like from the investor’s side and what investors look like from the entrepreneur’s side,” said Beckman, a veteran innovation and design expert and the Earl F. Cheit Faculty Fellow.

Beckman recruited 10 entrepreneurs, most of whom are Haas or UC Berkeley graduates running startups that are facing very different challenges. Students were assigned to one of the companies and, working in teams, spoke with the founders. On the second day, they headed to San Francisco to meet with leaders at four companies, including the corporate innovation arms of Salesforce and the French telecom giant Orange.

Sarah Beckman, David Charron and Vivek Rao.
(left to right) Sara Beckman, David Charron, and Vivek Rao teach Bay Area Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Photo: Jim Block

Their assignment for the week was to identify and make the case for a pivot in the direction of the business. Among other things, they learned from Beckman how to “diverge and converge” as they brainstormed ideas and about the power of compelling storytelling in attracting customers and investors. From Rao, they learned how to measure risk and about the need to “re-risk” throughout the capital raising process.

Throughout, the faculty kept returning to one critical question: does an innovation solve a real customer problem and, if so, is the problem big enough to build a business around?

On the investing side, Charron led students through the fundamentals of evaluating ideas and the people behind them. Three venture capitalists came to class to describe the divergent paths they each took into the profession.

Each team was also tasked with setting up a fictitious fund, ranging from angel to mega, with a partnership structure and dollar size that they determined. “One of the goals was to get them thinking about how this all works, including the decision-making process when you have partners who have put more money in than others,” said Charron, MBA 95, the former executive director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at Haas.

“Why does this matter to you?”

In the week’s closing exercise, “Designing Your Life,” students were asked to reflect openly on how their new perspectives on entrepreneurship and investing might apply to their own career aspirations.

MBA students huddle with Entrepreneurship Lecturer Dave Charron. Photo: Jim Block

Sean Li, EWMBA 20, who has launched a half dozen companies in the last 10 years, said the course got him thinking deeply about the core elements of entrepreneurial success.

“I was chatting with Dave (Charron) about an idea for the problem my team was trying to solve and he asked me, ‘Why do you care? Why does this matter to you?’” said Li. “He was telling me that if you don’t care deeply about a problem, then you’re not going to have the endurance or persistence to follow through when you hit a roadblock. The question has stuck with me.”

The role of passion has been on Siún Tobin’s mind, too. An MBA student at Ireland’s UCD Smurfit School of Business, Tobin left her career as a pharmacist out of frustration with the country’s antiquated healthcare system. “It felt like the only alternative was a drastic career change,” said Tobin.

Now, she’s thinking about starting her own digital health business and using the framework she learned in class to do it. “I realized that I needn’t walk away from health care,” said Tobin. “Now I feel like the sky’s the limit.”

Vrinda Gupta
Vrinda Gupta, MBA 20, was also inspired by the connections she made during the week. Photo: Jim Block

Vrinda Gupta, MBA 20, was also inspired by the connections she made and the encouragement she got as she prepared to launch her own women-focused credit card company, Sequin. A classmate who is studying in Spain got her thinking about potential new markets abroad.

“Feeling everyone’s excitement and hearing ideas from members of the MBA community from around the world was so energizing,” she said.


Veterans Day 2019: Why we serve

The Berkeley Haas community thanks our student veterans for their contributions to the greater campus and, more importantly, to their country.

“Every year, our student veteran community grows, enriching our campus with unique insights, wisdom, leadership, and unyielding dedication to helping others,” said Dean Ann Harrison.

This Veterans Day, we asked four student veterans about what it means to serve and how they continue to serve their communities. Students interviewed include:

  • Ami Patel, FTMBA 21, former U.S. Army captain & Black Hawk pilot
  • Andrew Price, EWMBA 20, former U.S. Coast Guard commanding officer
  • Joseph Choi, FTMBA 21, former U.S. Navy Seal officer
  • Adan Garcia Nevarez, BS 21, former U.S. Marine Corps squad leader

Check out what they had to say:

Q&A: Andrew Hening, MBA 17, on solving chronic homelessness

Andrew Hening, MBA 17
Andrew Hening, MBA 17, San Rafael’s director of Homeless Planning & Outreach

As director of Homeless Planning & Outreach for the city of San Rafael, California, Andrew Hening used what he learned in his Evening & Weekend MBA classes to spearhead programs that helped lead to a 28% reduction in chronic homelessness in just two years in Marin County.

We talked to Hening, MBA 17, who grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and previously aspired to be a lawyer, about how he created new approaches to homelessness and why he believes that housing people isn’t as intractable a problem as many people believe.

When did you get interested in working on behalf of homeless people?

After college, I moved back to Richmond to work as a paralegal and study for the LSAT. To my surprise, I quickly realized the law wasn’t for me, and I started taking time off to volunteer in the community. I’d done a lot with youth and tutoring, but then I participated with a Project Homeless Connect event, which is essentially a resource fair for people living outside. It was my first exposure to homelessness, and it had a huge impact on me. Between that experience and my dad, a carpenter, losing his job during the recession, I decided that I had to do something to help economically marginalized people. With that goal in mind, I found AmeriCorps VISTA, which is the domestic version of the Peace Corps, and accepted a job as Santa Clara County Project Homeless Connect Coordinator in 2010.

You’ve been at your current job in San Rafael since 2016. What were some of the challenges you faced after you started?

My first City Council meeting was standing-room-only for a hearing about whether or not the city should revoke the use permit for a local nonprofit. There was this polarized community conversation around whether we needed to provide more services in the community or get rid of existing ones because they were enabling the problem. The truth was somewhere in between. We realized community frustration was really stemming from a small minority of the homeless community – the long-term, chronically homeless. While just 20% of the overall homeless community, these folks often exhibit untreated mental illness and generate other nuisances like public defecation. Importantly, these are also extremely vulnerable people – dying over 20 years earlier than their housed peers. We knew all of these people by name, but year after year they weren’t getting prioritized. In fact, four or five agencies might be serving the same person. There was no coordination, no strategy. So we said if we can figure out a system for them, we can start to fix this.

What happened after you started identifying the chronically homeless?

Our new process is shockingly simple. First and foremost, we finally prioritized chronic homelessness. We made vulnerability the top criteria for getting housing placements, which put the chronically homeless at the top of our housing list. Next, for people at the top of our list, we provided housing subsidies using Section 8 vouchers, a government program that requires people pay a third of their income on rent while the subsidy covers the rest. Additionally, the county hired dedicated landlord recruitment staff with property management experience, which was 200 percent more effective than relying on social workers to recruit landlords. We’ve now brought together county supervisors and city council members and created a public-private coalition with the Marin Community Foundation and the private sector to create even more housing. Finally, every person that gets a housing voucher also gets intensive wraparound services. We like to say that housing is essentially healthcare for these high-needs people.

What are some of the outcomes that you’ve tracked?

During our 18-month pilot that started in March of 2016, we housed 23 of the most visibly, chronically homeless people in the community. After validating this approach, we scaled it and over the last two years housed over 170 of the most vulnerable people in our community. Ninety-five percent of these people are still housed, and in San Rafael we’ve seen a 54% reduction in EMS transports and an 86% reduction in police department calls after people are housed. Amazingly, providing services and housing is roughly 50% cheaper than letting people languish on the streets.

How did your MBA courses help you when you were both designing the new program and educating the community about what you were doing?

Sara Beckman
Sara Beckman, who teaches design thinking at Haas

Being in the EWMBA program was amazing because I was constantly bringing fresh ideas back to the team — so many things that seemed tangential to homelessness but weren’t.  For example, from our operations class, I was seeing ways to apply supply chains and turnover to our housing placements and the speed at which people become and resolve their homelessness.

I also had an incredible mentor in Sara Beckman. After starting to learn design thinking during Applied Innovation, I did an independent study with Sara and also took her course on slums at the Jacobs Institute. Seeing the big picture and using data to analyze it — that really made a big difference. For months I had a floor-to-ceiling sticky note map on the wall in my office trying to map the flow of people through our homeless system of care. It helped make the case to policymakers that the system needed to change.

Do you think that the success you’ve had in Marin County could be replicated in larger cities like San Francisco or LA?

That’s my hope. It’s hard to believe, but in 2017, just as our new strategy was scaling up, Marin County had the 7th highest per capita rate of homelessness in the entire country. We had success here because we got all of the partners in the same room. We identified the people we needed to house, made a list, and started housing them. That’s a lot harder in a big city, but I think it can be scaled by creating smaller jurisdictions inside a city, including smaller populations of a couple of hundred people, as well as leveraging technology to communicate and coordinate.

The other tricky part is staying focused on housing. Across California, only about 30% of people who are homeless have access to shelter. It’s a humanitarian disaster, but the solution is more than housing. To the extent that communities invest in emergency shelter, it comes back to the idea of the operational supply chain: what is the pathway to permanent housing?

You’re writing a book about what caused modern homelessness. What is the goal?

I started writing this book about what’s causing this modern homelessness crisis after I finished the EWMBA program. I spent two years researching and writing. Now I’m finalizing a book proposal. The goal is to get it out to the general public, providing stories and solutions to end this. It’s so easy to talk about the negative stuff. I’m hoping to make people feel empowered to make a difference.


Alex Lopez, EMBA 20: Honored after serving in Benghazi, fighting for banking equity

Alex (second from right) with a group of Marines at the US Navy vs Notre Dame Game in Dublin, Ireland in September 2012.
Alex Lopez (second from right) with fellow Marines at the US Navy vs Notre Dame Game in Dublin, Ireland, in September 2012

In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we’re featuring interviews with members of our Latinx community.

After the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans in 2012, U.S. Marine Sgt. Alex Lopez, EMBA 20, was deployed to Libya, where he led a team that provided support to the U.S. Embassy as Americans were evacuated.

Outside of work and class, Alex Lopez, EMBA 20, a vice president at U.S. Bank, teaches financial literacy to ESL students in Nevada.

Now a student in the Berkeley Executive MBA program and a vice president at the U.S. Bank in Las Vegas, Lopez has post-graduation plans to continue assisting people from Latinx backgrounds with financial literacy.

We talked to Lopez, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, about his time in the Marine Corps, and his new project to promote financial literacy in schools.

Where did you grow up?

I was a teenager when I came to the U.S. with my dad. I came to Las Vegas in 2006. After I graduated high school, I joined the Marines. I wanted to change the world….That was important to me. My siblings were in the Navy and Army so I decided to enlist in the Marines, and spent five years serving.

Tell me about your role as a Marine after the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Right after American Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed on Sept. 11, 2012, our company received the call to deploy as part of Operation Jukebox Lotus. We were a hand-selected group, assisting the Department of State with evacuation, protecting people and assets at a time of extreme diplomatic sensitivity. Four Americans lost their lives during the Benghazi attacks.

Our small military company had limited knowledge and experience, since none of us had operated in Libya before. I learned that in the presence of chaos, I had to take the initiative to complete every task to the best of my ability, whether it was high priority or something seemingly unimportant. I’m confident that during those extreme times of uncertainty that the Marine Corps’ leadership principles were critical to preserving the integrity of my Marines. When we returned, our company was recognized with the Meritorious Honor Award by the Department of the State.

Alex on board the USS Fort Henry as part of the Marine Corps Ground Combat Element in August 2012
Lopez on board the USS Fort McHenry in August 2012

Did you always want to go to business school?

I moved to the U.S. to pursue an education. Business school was always attractive to me, but I never knew what I wanted to do in business. I was involved in college in leadership positions and by the time I graduated from college I had several offers from banks, and so I started my career in finance. One of the reasons why I decided to come to Berkeley for an MBA is because Haas truly embodies diversity and inclusiveness across the board. Learning from a diverse executive MBA class is enriching and furthering my capacity to innovate and go beyond my own possibilities.

Why did you choose to study finance?

My grandmother owned a restaurant. I grew up watching her and my family manage it. One thing that made a big impact is how basic financial literacy concepts could have helped the family-owned business to flourish in a more efficient way. In Mexico, I noticed a big disconnect between small businesses and banks. There’s a lack of financial literacy in Mexico that stops people from getting the help they need. This is true in the U.S., too.

Lopez (age 3 in photo) immigrated to America from Mexico at age 13 with his father.

You are already working on fixing this in your community?

Outside of work, I’m working on a project with a couple of friends from college. We go to community schools in Clark County, Nevada, that offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and provide a 30-45 minute workshop that focuses on basic finance topics like compound interest, retirement plans, home mortgages, personal and business loans, and credit cards. We’ve received extremely positive feedback so we hope to take the next step on this project and provide a more efficient way to increase financial literacy within the Latinx community.

What aspect of your cultural heritage do you enjoy most?

Food. Mexican dishes are very popular worldwide—tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and tamales. I love that in every part of the U.S. or the world I visit I can always count on Mexican food to be there. Our traditional food and culture is well-known worldwide, and I love to be able to eat tacos pretty much anywhere.


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