Same Berkeley MBA without the commute: Berkeley Haas now offers flexible online option

Berkeley, Calif. — UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced a new flexible online option for its top-ranked, part-time Evening & Weekend MBA Program. The new Flex option offers the same curriculum and faculty and the same Berkeley Haas MBA degree in a highly customized and flexible online and on-campus format. 

Students enrolled in the Flex option will take their core MBA courses online. After completing their first three semesters of the core curriculum, students can take their elective courses either in person on the Berkeley Haas campus or online.  

Applications for the Flex option will open on August 17 through the Evening & Weekend MBA Program (EWMBA). The first group of about 60 Flex students will enroll in July of 2022. 

The Flex option will be part of the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program, which is ranked #2 among part-time MBA programs by U.S. News. The program typically takes three years to complete, with some students completing their degree in just 2.5 years. 

“Students in the Flex cohort can get a top-ranked Berkeley Haas MBA from anywhere, without the commute to campus every week,” said Dean Ann E. Harrison. “They will have flexibility in how they complete their MBA program. Yet they can also enjoy the in-person and campus experience, giving them the ability to access the extracurricular experiences Berkeley and Haas have to offer.” 

The Flex option is designed for high-achieving and ambitious professionals with five or more years of professional work experience who seek additional skills to advance in their careers or to change jobs. They will join a network of 41,000 Haas alumni around the world.

In the Flex option, 40% to 60% of the online core courses will be delivered synchronously to create a robust, cohort-based learning experience. The significant percentage of synchronous content ensures that Flex students have the same opportunity for discussion and feedback as students in on-campus courses. Students will be assigned to study teams that are carefully selected for diverse skills and backgrounds, ensuring that students learn as much from each other as they do in the classroom. 

Given the importance of community in our EWMBA program, the Flex option also includes five in-person events:

  • WE Launch, the required orientation over a long weekend (Friday through Sunday) in late July on the Berkeley Haas campus. 
  • Leadership Communication, a required course taught on the Berkeley Haas campus as a weekend immersion (Friday through Sunday) in the second half of the second semester. 
  • RE Launch, an optional weekend immersion on the Berkeley Haas campus in October of the third semester. 
  • Business Communications in Diverse Environments, a required weekend immersion (Friday through Sunday), taught typically at a resort site in Napa Valley on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in January of the fourth semester. 
  • WE Lead, an optional weekend celebration and reflection on the MBA experience held in May of the graduation year. 

“In this fast-changing environment, our MBA experience provides professionals not only with a rigorous management education but also with an understanding of how innovation, inclusion, and sustainability will shape the future of business,” said Dean Harrison. “Our innovative courses will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions.”

In 2022, Haas will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its part-time MBA program. “We think the creation of this new Flex cohort reflects our commitment to innovation and UC Berkeley’s mission,” said Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean, MBA Programs for Working Professionals, who oversees the new Flex option.

As the second-oldest business school in the United States, Berkeley Haas has been questioning the status quo since its founding in 1898. It provides research, thought leadership, and talent development to lead the way to a more inclusive and sustainable future.

More at https://ewmba.haas.berkeley.edu/academics/flex

Media Contact:
Ute Frey, Executive Director of Communications
frey@haas.berkeley.edu
O: (510) 642-0342
M: (510) 301-9184

Haas welcomes new evening & weekend, exec MBA classes to campus

70 students sit on steps at Haas
New EMBA students take a break from orientation to pose for a group shot. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas welcomed 354 new students in the MBA for Executives and Evening & Weekend MBA programs for in-person orientation in July, the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

These working professional students, along with Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students who returned in June, are the first cohorts in 16 months to kick off the semester on campus.

Executive MBA (EMBA) Program

During orientation, held July 16-18 in Spieker Forum, a total of 71 EMBA students participated in bonding activities and workshops, including a scavenger hunt, a diversity and equity session led by Kellie McElhaney, executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership, and a condensed version of a popular MBA class called The Science of Productivity and Performance, which focuses on strategies to yield high-performance at work and school.

Women make up 30% of the class and 17% have either served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. Members of the class represent 64 companies including Google, Facebook, Deloitte, Chevron, and Oracle and have an average of 13 years of work experience.

Emma Daftary, executive director of the 22-month EMBA program, praised students for choosing Haas and reassured them that they have what it takes to successfully complete the program. 

“If you hear a little voice called imposter syndrome, tell it to be quiet because you belong here,” Daftary said. “You’re here with people who are going to push you to be your best selves and we’re here to support you every step of the way.”

Susan Petty, director of EMBA admissions, noted that this class was the most geographically diverse cohort in the program’s history. Sixty-five percent of students live outside of the Bay Area, including Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., and Brazil, and about a third of the class were born outside of the United States, hailing from Ukraine, China, India, Japan, Uzbekistan, and Taiwan.

Why an MBA?

When Cassie Dickerson, EMBA 23, was applying to b-schools, a friend from her undergraduate days at Ohio State, Isaiah Samuel, EMBA 20, suggested she add Berkeley to her list. Dickerson attended a diversity event at Haas last fall and fell in love with the people and culture.

Light-skinned Black woman with curly hair
“Everyone I met exemplified Haas’ DLPs,” said Cassie Dickerson, EMBA 23.

“Everyone I met exemplified Haas’ DLPs,” Dickerson said, a technology business strategist for GoHealth. “People showed up as their authentic selves and that deeply resonated with me.”

Naveena Gopinath, an IT database consultant at OptumServe, said it was her father’s entrepreneurial spirit that inspired her to pursue an MBA.

“My dad was an entrepreneur who owned many businesses, including a real estate and an exporting business in India,” said Gopinath, EMBA 23. “Seeing him pursue his passions pushed me to pursue mine.”

Johnny Zaragoza deferred for a year to take care of his family during the pandemic.

Gopinath had her choice of top business schools, but ultimately decided to attend Haas because of the people she met and the school’s Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs). She had worked in a mission-driven workplace before and wanted a similar MBA experience. Now that she’s at Haas, she can only imagine how the DLPs will transform her, she says.

Johnny Zaragoza, EMBA 23, was accepted to Haas last year, but decided to defer for a year to take care of his family during the pandemic. 

Zaragoza, a controller at San Francisco-based management firm White Oak Global Advisors, said he chose Haas because he had a transformational experience during Block Zero. “The support you get from the program office, career management group (CMG), and your peers, is bar none.”

Evening & Weekend MBA Program (EWMBA)

291 students sitting on steps at UC Berkeley
The Evening & Weekend Class of 2024 gathered for their group shot on campus. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas’ newest EWMBA class also arrived on campus for WE Launch orientation July 23-26.

Collectively, the 283 students have an average of eight years of work experience and represent 213 leading global companies, including Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Uber, Microsoft, and Chevron. Women make up 40% of the class, a record high.

The class of 2024 is also geographically and internationally diverse. Forty-three percent were born outside the U.S. and speak 17 different languages. Almost a third of the class reside outside of the Bay Area, hailing from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Japan, and Singapore. 

Student hula hooping while balancing a ball on her chest.
Students hooping during the Cohort Olympics. Photo: Jim Block

During orientation, students participated in workshops focused on leadership communications, inclusive leadership, and case-study methods. They also heard from Career Management Group (CMG) staff and received an introduction to Teams@Haas, an academic program designed to build stronger team outcomes. 

In his welcome speech, Prof. Don Moore, the associate dean of Academic Affairs, commended students for pursuing an MBA at a time when society is grappling with so many global challenges. 

“There is no better place to be than a dynamic university like Berkeley that has always been on the forefront of scientific and social progress,” he said. 

Moore added that Haas’ culture helps develop business leaders that the world could benefit from—leaders who question the status quo, who have confidence to create change but do it without attitude, who go beyond themselves by taking the long view in their decisions, and are students always. 

“We have such a diverse and accomplished class this year,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of the MBA Programs for Working Professionals. “And it is so great to have our second year students on campus for the first time as well. These are the leaders that business and society need.”

Members of the EWMBA 2023 class led many WE Launch events. Photo: Jim Block

Culture plays big role

After listening to the Haas podcasts, attending a diversity event last fall, and speaking with students and alumni, Dominic Williams, EWMBA 24, said he was “all in” and applied only to Haas.

Light-skinned Black man wearing navy shirt.
Dominic Williams, EWMBA 24, said he was “all in” and only applied to Haas.

“The school’s DLPs and its focus on inclusion resonated with me,” said Williams, a program manager for consumer goods at Google. “Now that I’m here, I feel compelled to share my perspective to advance the Haas community. I don’t think I would feel this way anywhere else.”

The school’s culture was also a big draw for Christy Tormey, EWMBA 24, who works as a lead strategic planning analyst at Chevron. 

“Question the status quo deeply resonates with me. As a woman mechanical engineer who works in an oil refinery, I challenge the status quo every day,” she said. “I’ve worked hard to gain a seat at the table and even harder to keep that seat. I hope to encourage and inspire all women to do the same, no matter what field of study or industry.”

Haas refreshes core MBA curriculum, adds three new courses

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

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

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

Dean Ann Harrison
Dean Ann Harrison

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

Three new courses

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

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

The three courses added to the core include:

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

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

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

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

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

Evidence-based changes

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Learn by doing

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

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

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

How search funds turn MBA “searchers” into young CEOs

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

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

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

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

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

“A very young CEO”

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

Jan Simon teaches the Search Funds course at Haas.

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

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

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

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

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

Startup vs search

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

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

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

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

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

A roller coaster at times

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Faculty, student instructors honored with Cheit teaching awards

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

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

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

This year’s winners include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘This is our unique story’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Become more than you can even imagine’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Achievement Award: Devan Courtois

Student always: José Ramón Avellana

Beyond yourself: Kendall Bills

Question the status quo: Fayzan Gowani

Confidence without attitude: Fede Pacheco

Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois

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

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

Achievement Award: George Pradhan

Student Always: Lindsey Hoell

Beyond Yourself: Kyle Cook

Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Farrelly

Confidence without Attitude: Kate Hughes

Berkeley Leader Award Winner: Anna Lee

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Atusa Sadeghi

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

Emmy-winning journalist Diane Dwyer and astronaut Soyeon Yi named commencement speakers

South Korea’s first astronaut, Soyeon Yi, MBA 14, and Emmy award winning former broadcast journalist Diane Dwyer, BS 87, will serve as commencement speakers this May. 

Yi will speak at the Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencements and Dwyer will speak at undergraduate commencement.

This year, commencement celebrations will be held virtually. The MBA commencement will take place Friday, May 21, 2021 and the undergraduate commencement will take place Saturday, May 15, 2021. Commencement celebration videos for undergraduate, Evening & Weekend, and Full-time MBA celebrations can be viewed online via Marching Order, an online platform used to host UC Berkeley’s virtual graduations.

“We’re so pleased to welcome two inspiring alumnae to address our soon-to-be graduates,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Soyeon and Diane reflect the very best of Haas and truly embody our Defining Leadership Principles.”

Soyeon Yi, MBA 14

Before coming to Berkeley, Yi spent 10 days at the International Space Station in 2008, making her South Korea’s first astronaut.  

Six years after her space mission, Yi decided to add a Berkeley MBA to her PhD in biosystems. Currently, she leads customer engagement at startup ProtoPie and works with Silicon Valley satellite startup Loft Orbital Solutions. 

Yi has lectured at the University of Washington and was recently selected to join the Karman Project 2021 Fellowship Program, which aims to foster trust and encourage collaboration among global leaders who want to positively impact space-related initiatives.

Dwyer worked as a broadcast journalist for 25 years, reporting important stories that range from the inauguration of President Bill Clinton to the Oakland Hills Firestorm.  

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

Thereafter, she became the solo weekend news anchor for NBC Bay Area. Her reporting won her two Emmy awards and prestigious awards from the Associated Press and the National Academy of Radio and Television Artists. 

Dwyer is a professional faculty member at Haas who teaches a course called Innovations in Communications and Public Relations and currently runs her own consulting business, Dwyer Media Consulting.

Five questions with Kyle Cook, EWMBA 21, a data analyst with heart

As commencement approaches, we’re interviewing grads from different Berkeley Haas programs about their experiences and future plans. 

Today we feature Kyle Cook, EWMBA 21, a data analyst at Vanguard who served as Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA academic cohort representative, VP of social impact for his class, executive VP of the EWMBA Association, and a Berkeley Haas admissions ambassador. Cook lives in Phoenix, Ariz., with his wife, Jayanthi, and two rescue dogs Limerick and Chewbacca Pickles. To hear more from Cook, listen to his 2020 Haas Podcast interview

Kyle Cook
Kyle Cook

You’ve been at Vanguard almost 11 years, a long time considering how often people job hop these days. What’s kept you there—even as you’ve completed your MBA?

What appeals to me about Vanguard is its mission: To take a stand for all investors, to treat them fairly, and to give them the best chance for investment success. We’re not putting retired peoples’ money into really risky things, and we want to be as low-cost as possible and return those savings to the consumer.

I’ve had multiple opportunities for advancement there, rotating to four or five positions, taking on new and challenging opportunities. In my current role, I’m responsible for sourcing, storing, validating, and distributing investment data. At Haas I’ve been able to update my job skills, including learning Python (the programming language) in my marketing and people analytics class.

What do you think helped bring your class together during the pandemic?

We’ve done a lot of different things to keep the unity of the EWMBA program. I will say it was definitely very challenging. The students really valued informal networking and that isn’t as easy to replicate on Zoom.

Cook’s dogs: Limerick (left) and Chewbacca Pickles.

Despite the challenges, one really cool thing that came out of the pandemic was Haas Hearts, a consulting and project implementation initiative driven by MBA students to address challenges nonprofits faced due to COVID. I worked with the program office and Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, to set up the program. Students stepped up and gave up their free time and we opened the program to incoming MBA students who delivered valuable services at a time when all businesses were suffering. Every team had a faculty advisor and the teams reached out to nonprofits, offering help with everything from volunteer planning to fundraising to strategy implementation to scaling and digitization.

Did you have a favorite course or professor at Haas?

Peter Goodson
Peter Goodson

I took two classes with Peter Goodson: Turnarounds and Private Equity. Turnarounds is a really unique course. We had to finish 16 cases before class even started. We got barraged with questions from 9 to 5 and worked on our slides until 10 pm each night. Goodson has the energy of a 20-year-old, and people like that he’s extremely candid with his feedback. If you give an answer that’s not good, he lets you know. You get muted if you go off topic and he has his GSI mute him if he goes off topic too. At one of our finals, we were asked to present to a board of directors.

Goodson took previous feedback he’d gathered that Haas students weren’t good on their feet or strong with presentations and he made us focus on those two things. In one role-playing assignment in class he’d say, “This is the role I want you to play,” and he’d tell you what the expectations were and when you were up, everyone had to present. I had a classmate who didn’t contribute much in core courses, but because he was forced to participate in Goodson’s class he opened up a lot more. He had so many insights that he wasn’t sharing before that enriched the class’s learning.

You’ve been involved with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in Phoenix to help the underserved with their taxes. What inspired you?

Vanguard partnered with the City of Phoenix to run a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site at the nearby community college. I started volunteering as a tax preparer in 2013 after some of my friends who were doing it suggested that I do it as well. It was a learning opportunity for me. During the program, you meet with clients and often their families. Their income was between $12,000 to $20,000, so getting every penny back for them was a critical thing. The year before I got into Haas I signed up to be the site lead. We took time to get everything right and we generated $1 million in returns from a total of 120 returns for people. Our work was so important and it helped generate a lot of empathy.

What did you take away from doing the MBA program during a pandemic and what’s next for you? 

I think that you learn more when times are more challenging. A lot of successful companies were founded post-Great Depression, after wars. There are a ton of startups launching this year. People are innovating and finding new ways for the world to work.  It wasn’t ideal but this is preparing people for the new economy, which will be remote-friendly.

Cook and his wife
Kyle Cook, EWMBA 21, and his wife, Jayanthi, at an Indian wedding.

Next up, I’m hoping to become a product manager. The longer term goal would be to eventually launch a social impact incubator at Berkeley and recruit business students to give more back to society.

I want to thank my wife a lot for her support. Before the pandemic lockdown, she would drop me at the airport and make me something to eat for my trip. I was a commuter from Phoenix so I would leave at 4 a.m. and get back the next day or night. She took care of our dogs and supported me through the devastation of a bad test. I couldn’t have done the program without her and I am excited to have more time to spend with her now.

Berkeley Haas startup founders raise record funding

A sustainable, space-saving vertical strawberry farm that produces ultra-sweet berries without pesticides and an online bank for “free thinkers, rebels, and entrepreneurs” were among the new companies that propelled Berkeley Haas to No. 4 for fundraising on the Poets & Quants Top 100 MBA startups list this year.

Annually, Poets & Quants ranks b-school startups with at least $5.5 million or more in funding. To be considered, founders must have launched their startups within the five prior years (2015-2020) and have at least one founder enrolled in an MBA program within that time frame.

Hiroki Koga, MBA 17
Hiroki Koga, MBA 17, developed his idea for more sustainable farming with Oishii at Haas.

This year, five Haas companies founded in that period raised a record total of $125 million. Two Haas startups made it into the Top 20, including Oishii, founded by Hiroki Koga, MBA 17, ($50 million) and Oxygen, founded by Hussein Ahmed, EMBA 18, ($33 million).

Also on the list were Kyte, a car-sharing startup co-founded by Ludwig Schoenack, MBA 19, ($18 million); Time by Ping, a timekeeping automation company co-founded by Kourosh Zamanizadeh, EWMBA 18, ($17.3 million); and healthcare startup Twentyeight Health, cofounded by Amy Fan, MBA/MPH 19, ($6.08 million). Twentyeight Health also made Poets & Quants’ 2020 “Most Disruptive Startups” list.

Amy Fan
Amy Fan, MBA/MPH 19, co-founder of Twentyeight Health

Stanford, Harvard, and Columbia Business School had seven startups on the 2021 list, while Haas, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and France’s INSEAD all had five.

“We’re so proud of what these startup founders have accomplished,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, noting that founders from four MBA degree programs–full-time MBA,  evening & weekend MBA, MBA/MPH, and executive MBA—are represented on the P&Q list. “Their ongoing success is proof of the depth and breadth of our entrepreneurship programs across campus, and a testament to the drive that so many of our students have to build world-changing startups.”

More proof of that drive came this week as Ryan McQuaid, MBA 08, announced that he’d sold his startup, virtual primary care platform Plushcare, to Accolade for $450 million. McQuaid, who started Plushcare at Haas, made previous Poets & Quants Top MBA startup lists.

Entrepreneurship is one of Dean Ann Harrison’s top three priorities for the school, and Haas continues to invest in new resources, recently announcing three new professors in its Entrepreneurship & Innovation group and a plan to build a new entrepreneurship hub on campus. “It’s gratifying to see so many Haas founders on this list who are solving important problems that impact everything from the environment to healthcare,” Harrison said.

Validating the business model

Oishii strawberries
Oishii’s sustainable strawberries have two to three times the sweetness of a conventional strawberry. Photo: Oishii

Jersey City-based Oishii, ranked No. 14 on the list, runs a vertical farming operation, raising top-quality strawberries that are tested to ensure two to three times the sweetness of conventional berries.

Founder Koga arrived at Haas in 2015 after working as a consultant in the vertical farm industry in Japan. Realizing that agriculture was no longer sustainable, he decided to tackle the problem by growing crops indoors, which allowed him to use 90% less land and water, eliminate the use of pesticides, and cut down on food transportation distances.

The MBA program provided two years to assess his hypothesis and validate the business model in the U.S., something he said he could never have done from Japan. During Koga’s second year, he entered the LAUNCH accelerator program—and won the competition, “which gave us more credibility and recognition as we were raising our seed round.”

Oishii’s strawberries, coveted by chefs, sold out pre-pandemic, Koga said. But as more people started cooking at home over the past year, they became increasingly aware of what they were eating and more willing to pay for higher-quality produce. As a result, many vertical farm companies have grown quickly and experienced a significant increase in revenue and funding, Koga said.

Filling in missing pieces

Startup Oxygen, No. 19 on the P&Q list, offers banking to freelancers, consumers, and small businesses, with no monthly fees, marketing itself as a new kind of bank account for “free thinkers, rebels, and entrepreneurs.”

Hussein Ahmed, EMBA 18, founded Oxygen to help people who don’t fit the “typical mold” for banking.

Ahmed said he founded Oxygen out of personal experiences with banks. “Living for a big part of my life as a “solopreneur,” consultant, and business owner, it was always a struggle to work with banks and financial institutions because I didn’t fit the typical molds they have—either a 9-to-5 full-time employee or a corporation—nothing in between,” he said.

The pandemic, while horrible, was “a blessing in disguise” for Oxygen, he said. With stay-at-home orders, digital banking suddenly became the only way to bank “without having to drive down to a branch and wait in line masked up,” he said. There was also a massive boom in new business formations in the U.S., which significantly accelerated Oxygen’s small-business banking growth.

Ahmed, who has an engineering background and started companies before he arrived at Haas, said the MBA program helped fill in missing pieces.

“With an engineering background and product focus, along with scars and wins and street smarts, I was still missing the academics and business tactics from economics, finance, and accounting,” he said. “Having those subjects, great professors, and class discussions gives a lot of perspective on how to think about all those different angles and perspectives—while being at the helm dealing with everything on a day-to-day basis.”

Poshmark’s Manish Chandra, EWMBA 95, on how clothing creates community

As CEO of Poshmark, Manish Chandra, EWMBA 95, constantly questions how and why people shop, and the journey clothing takes from the supply chain to closets to resale.

Manish Chandra, MBA95
Manish Chandra, EWMBA 95

A decade after he graduated from the evening & weekend MBA program, he started the pioneering social shopping platform Kaboodle, which he sold to Hearst two years later in 2007.  Poshmark, a social marketplace for new and used clothing and accessories that he founded in 2011, focuses largely on extending the life cycle of clothing.

In a Dean’s Speaker Series event on April 9, MBA students and Robert Strand, executive director of the Center for Responsible Business at Haas, interviewed Chandra about how he embeds sustainability into the core of his business, his journey as a leader, and his vision for the future of capitalism.

Here are a few highlights from the interview.

On the meaning of clothing: “Clothing really binds people together. It brings a sense of community, it empowers people, it makes people feel good, proud. It can uplift people.”

On Poshmark’s rise in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Covid 19 was a seismic shock and a very sad shock for all of us. We’re still reeling from it. We’re isolated and we’re not physically connected. The circular economy and the resale really was in many ways a connector. When you bought and sold things from each other it connected you to another human being. It gave you something that was very powerful, that took energy to do. We saw the rise of second hand.”

On capitalism in the post-pandemic world: “We’re at a very powerful moment in our history…As we come out of hiding places and the world reintegrates over the next few months, I feel like everyone is looking at their life and looking at their values in a very different way. And as we go out and truly experience both the wonder of human connection and the misery that people have had, it’s a really important time to transform how we feel about consumption, how we feel about capitalism, and how we feel about sustainability. I think all three things can exist in a meaningful way.”

On getting an MBA: “Haas is, for me, one of the most transformational experiences, particularly because it happened after I’d worked for a few years and I was looking at finding that next level of growth for me.”

Watch the full interview:

 

US News ranks all three Berkeley MBA Programs in top 10 

Student walking in front of Haas sign
Photo: Noah Berger

The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program ranked #7 and the Evening & Weekend MBA Program ranked #2 among part-time programs again in the US News & World Report, released today. The Berkeley MBA for Executives ranked #8 among executive MBA Programs.

In the top 10 specialty rankings, Haas placed:

#8 in Business Analytics

#4 in Entrepreneurship

#8 in Executive MBA

#7 in Finance

#9 in International (tied with Saint Louis University–Chaifetz)

#4 in Nonprofit

#3 in Real Estate

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.).

The specialty and the executive MBA rankings are based entirely on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs.

The EWMBA ranked #2 for the third year in a row. The Full-time MBA ranked #7 for 13 of the last 14 years. The Berkeley MBA for Executives ranked #7 for the last two years.

View the full report here. (log-in may be required).

Haas Voices: Luis Alejandro Liang on being “paperless, not powerless”

Haas Voices is a new first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. Our first perspective is by “double Bear” Luis Alejandro Liang, BS 12, EWMBA 23, who is among the approximately 644,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients granted special immigration status because they were brought to the U.S. as children. Liang’s path to Berkeley was challenging—he’s been accepted three times. He shares his story below.

Liang and his motherxico when Liang was 14, celebrate at his 2012 Haas undergraduate commencement.
Liang and his mother, Rosario Garcia, celebrate at his 2012 undergraduate commencement.

Many times over these past four years, I’ve woken up in fear. Fear of deportation. Fear about what was going to happen to our community. Fear that ICE could knock on my door and take me away.

I grew up in Sinaloa on the Pacific coast of Mexico. I’m half Chinese, half Mexican. I grew up multicultural—going to Catholic church on Sundays but celebrating Chinese New Year. I started helping my family in their Chinese restaurant when I was six years old. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs.

When I was 14, my mom moved me and my three little sisters to Orange County because she wanted to provide us with better chances. I entered high school as a sophomore without knowing any English. It was a culture shock, but I wanted to honor my mom’s sacrifices by excelling academically. I was put back in algebra, even though I was taking calculus when we left Mexico. As a senior, I got into a couple of UCs, but my first scholarship was taken away because I didn’t have a social security number.

Liang, an advocate for undocumented immigrant communities, marching to defend DACA at San Francisco’s City Hall in 2017.

So I decided to go to Fullerton College. In high school, I had been really shy because I was new, so I didn’t know anything about things like AP classes or honor society. When I got to community college, I decided to get involved. I joined the Puente Program, which is mostly for Latino students to help get us into four-year colleges. I was really active, working long days because I was also a tutor. The Puente Program gave us a tour of all the UCs. That was the first time that I actually went to visit the campuses.

When I visited Berkeley I fell in love. I remember the Campanile, Sather Gate and thought of all the famous people who went there, including Mexican presidents.

I knew that I wanted to study business. I also knew that I was gay by that time too, and that San Francisco was LGBTQ friendly. I knew I could be myself at Berkeley.

My dream came true when I got accepted to Haas as a junior and received the prestigious Regents’ and Chancellors’ Scholarship, given to the top 2% of students. But when I went to the financial aid office, they again took away my scholarship because I still didn’t have a social security number. I was crying, and the woman who broke the news to me was crying too.

They again took away my scholarship because I still didn’t have a social security number. I was crying, and the woman who broke the news to me was crying too.

I remember seeing the César E. Chávez Student Center in front of me and I just went in and I started walking around. I thought, “If this is César Chávez’s building, there’s going to be a Latino person here who can help me.” I ended up meeting Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, director of the Chicano Department at Berkeley. Lupe became a support for me when I returned to community college more determined to achieve my dreams.

I became more politically active, creating the Fullerton College Dream Team to support undocumented students. In 2010, I got into Berkeley Haas for the 2nd time, having raised $70,000 to cover my tuition.

When I graduated, I was a first-generation Berkeley Haas grad deemed ineligible to work in the U.S. I felt lost, but by then I knew I wasn’t alone. My life took a turn when President Obama passed DACA in 2012, extending opportunities previously unavailable to those of us brought to the U.S. as children. A door of possibilities opened up and led me to a job at Salesforce, helping non-profit organizations leverage technology to amplify their impact.

My life took a turn when President Obama passed DACA in 2012.

Being the first DACA employee at Salesforce motivated me to use my voice in a space where underrepresented groups lack a sense of inclusion. I worked with the chief equality officer on a podcast about diversity and inclusion, served on the leadership board of multiple employee resource groups, and came out of the shadows by sharing my story on a video called “Proudly Me.”

Liang, second from left, with President Obama at the White House in 2013.

In 2013, another dream came true when I traveled to the White House and met President Obama after I received the LGBT DREAMers Courage Award, which honors individuals who have shown courage and perseverance in the face of injustice.

Still focused on social impact at my current job at Twilio, I decided it was time to go back to school for an MBA. I applied to the Berkeley Haas Evening and Weekend MBA program and got into my dream university for the third time, starting last fall. My focus is to become a chief social impact officer and a social leader at a company. In my classes, surrounded by fellow Type As, I’m learning things that I put into practice at my job. I love the community and I can’t wait to get back to campus.

Luis Liang with family
Luis Liang with (left to right) sisters Jeniffer Liang and Marisol Looper (with daughter, Isabella); mother, Rosario Garcia, and sister Janette Liang.

Growing up, I thought  that life would change the day I could finally get my residency—that something would change inside of me and that things were going to be better. But as the years passed, thinking that way made me believe that I was incomplete and something was missing. But being paperless doesn’t make us powerless. We have purpose and an eagerness to give back, by creating communities, by finding the power in helping people. I now find so much joy in helping other “Dreamers” get into school and finding their dream jobs.

But being paperless doesn’t make us powerless. We have purpose and an eagerness to give back, by creating communities, by finding the power in helping people.

There are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., not by choice, but because we needed to survive. I hope to highlight the narrative of joy, love, and pride that comes from living a life dedicated to serving our families’ and communities’ dreams.”

Luis Liang, an account manager in social impact at communications company Twilio, is passionate about advocating for human rights and supporting Latinx, LGBTQ, and undocumented immigrant communities. Liang has served as a board member for the Association of Latino Professionals for America, The Greenlining Institute Alumni Association, and on several corporate Employee Resources Groups.

Berkeley Haas team wins Mental Healthcare Tech Challenge 

Portraits of MBA students. Two women, two men.
A team of Berkeley Haas MBA students place first at the John E. Martin Healthcare Tech Challenge. From left to right, top to bottom: Zhuoran (Zia) Li, Zixuan Chen, Eugene Kim, and Chen Su, all EWMBA 23.

An AI-powered app aimed to help construction workers experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts netted a first place win at the first inaugural John E. Martin Healthcare Tech Challenge. The competition was held online Nov. 16-20.

The winning team, Team CLiKS, included Eugene Kim, Zhuoran Li, Zixuan Chen, and Chen Su, all EWMBA 23. The team competed against 11 other teams from top U.S. business schools, including Wharton, Harvard, Columbia, MIT Sloan, and Kellogg for $10,000 in prize money.

Another Haas team placed second, earning $4,000 in prize money for pitching a chatbot that could collect health data, such as sleep patterns and appetite, and recommend tele-health therapy and wellness ambassadors stationed at construction worksites. 

Portraits of two women and two men
A second Berkeley Haas team placed second at the John E. Martin Healthcare Challenge. From left to right, top to bottom: Vishalli Loomba, MD/MS 23; Doug Pollack, MBA/MPH 20; Ben Delikat, and Sophie Schonfeld, both MBA/MPH 21.

Team members included Sophie Schonfeld, Ben Delikat, both MBA/MPH 21; Doug Pollack, MBA/MPH 20; and Vishalli Loomba, MD/MS 23. 

The competition was organized by the Berkeley Haas Healthcare Association and the Berkeley Haas Tech Club, and sponsored by Google. 

For the competition, students were asked to come up with an innovative solution to address mental health issues in the construction industry, which reports some of the highest rates of depression and suicide.

Team CLiKS pitched a mental health app that addressed three critical factors: prevention, assessment, and intervention. Through this app, construction workers would have access to music, podcasts, mental health specialists, peer volunteers, and a community-based forum to seek emotional support. The app would also collect daily mental health data from users through notifications, wellness checks, and diary entries.

The team credited its success to interviewing and surveying more than 90 construction workers, powerful storytelling, and a personal commitment to helping construction workers with mental health issues–an issue that hits close to home for Chen, Kim, and Li. 

Chen, a civil engineer who’s worked in the construction industry, said one of her co-workers committed suicide. “The amount of work, the physical stress, and the financial instability that comes with the job pushes people to the edge.”

Kim, an Army veteran, said several soldiers he served with had committed suicide and Li, a music rehabilitation therapist, treats patients with severe mental health illnesses. 

Su said the cause was important to him and he wanted to leverage his AI and computer engineering skills to help.

The team also credited its success to their construction industry mentor Matt Schulte; Rebecca Portnoy, a professional faculty member who teaches an organizational culture course called Leading People; and James Sallee, an associate economics professor at UC Berkeley. 

“As a first-year Evening and Weekend MBA student without previous business knowledge, I was thankful to have taken a class with Prof. Sallee to guide my thinking and to tackle this mental health challenge from a health and business perspective,” Li said.

Teams pitch innovations at annual C2M Symposium

A sensor that can detect any type of gas leak and a chemical process that makes plastics biodegradable earned top prizes at the 11th annual Cleantech to Market Symposium. The event was held online for the first time on Dec. 4.

Cleantech to Market (C2M) is a 15-week accelerator course that invites graduate students, industry leaders, and researchers to come together to pitch cleantech innovations from existing startups, government sponsored programs, and incubators. 

Seven student teams–including 39 MBA and UC Berkeley graduate students from law, engineering, and chemistry–pitched promising innovations aimed at addressing everything from climate change to pollution. 

In her opening remarks, Dean Harrison called C2M “one of those stellar and uniquely Haas experiential programs that would be hard to imagine at any other university” given the school’s locale within the UC Berkeley campus and proximity to Silicon Valley.

“We’ve long recognized that when you bring minds together from across campus, you make magic,” she said.

C2M alum Stephanie Greene, MBA 12, a clean energy director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and Janea Scott, vice chair of the California Energy Commision, also gave keynotes and spoke to the importance of developing and introducing cleantech innovations to battle climate change.

“Our students never cease to amaze me,” said Brian Steel, director of the C2M program. “In spite of the remote environment that we’re in, our students rose to the occasion and delivered top-notch presentations.”

Here are 2020’s C2M winning teams:

portrait: five males smiling
MBA students pitched Fullmoon Sensors, a high-performing sensor that can detect any type of a gas leak. From left to right: Gabe Lewis, EMBA 21; Jeff Sharp, Zuren Hsueh, Kair Dusenov, and Steven Brisley, all MBA 21.

Fullmoon Sensors, a high-performing gas detector that can identify any type of gas leak, earned the first inaugural Hasler Cleantech to Market Award, named after former Berkeley Haas dean William Hasler. Team members included Steven Brisley, Kair Dusenov, Zuren Hsueh, Jeff Sharp, all MBA 21; and Gabe Lewis, EMBA 21.

6 MBA students smiling, 2 women, 4 men
MBA students pitched Radical Plastics, a new technology that can make plastics biodegradable. From left to right, top to bottom: Branden Leonhardt PhD 22 (chemistry), Chris Jackson, PhD 21 (chemistry), Harshita Mira Venkatesh, Alex Russomagno, Greg Turk, all MBA 21, Lance Barnard, EWMBA 21.

Radical Plastics, a chemical process that makes plastics biodegradable, earned the People’s Choice Award. Team members included Harshita Mira Venkatesh, Greg Turk, Alex Russomagno, all MBA 21; Lance Barnard, EWMBA 21; Branden Leonhardt, PhD 22 (chemical engineering); and Chris Jackson, PhD 21 (chemistry).

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