C2M is a partnership between graduate students, startups, and industry professionals to help accelerate commercialization of cleantech solutions. Over 15 weeks, each C2M team spends nearly 1,000 hours assessing leading-edge technologies and investigating market opportunities.
Last week, teams presented their findings, followed by an audience Q&A. Dean Ann Harrison also took the stage, interviewed by Financial Times correspondent Dave Lee about the school’s work to put sustainability at the core of business education.
This year’s winners of the MetLife Climate Solutions Awards included:
Niron Magnetics: The team won $20,000 for working on powerful, low cost, and environmentally-sustainable permanent magnets to free electrification from dependence on rare earth elements. The team included Andrew Cahill, EWMBA 23, Ben Brokesh, JD 24, Campbell Scott, MBA 23, Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23, and Sepideh Karimiziarani, MS 22, Development Engineering.
GenH: The team won $10,000 for working on a rapidly deployable, fully modular hydropower system to electrify non-powered dams and canal heads to generate clean, stable, and cost-competitive renewable energy. Team members included Emily Robinson, EWMBA 23, Hon Leung “Curtis” Wong, MS 23, Development Engineering, Maelym Medina, MBA 23, and Santiago Recabarren, MBA 23.
Quino Energy: The team won $5,000 for working on scalable, non-flammable energy storage made possible by a proprietary zero-waste process that transforms coal and wood tar into designer flow-battery reactants. Team members included Dongwan Kim, MBA 23, Ingrid Xhafa, MS 23, Development Engineering, James Wang, MBA 23, Kennedy McCone, graduate student researcher, UC Berkeley College of Chemistry, and Noah Carson, EMBA 23.
The Quino Energy team also won the Hasler Cleantech to Market Award as audience favorite based on online polling throughout the day.
MetLife is a corporate sponsor of the C2M Program; The Financial Times served as an event partner.
The Berkeley Haas courtyard has sprung back to life. Over the past week, new undergraduate, full-time MBA, and PhD students arrived for orientations, getting a first glimpse of life in the classroom. Students in the Berkeley Haas Executive MBA and the evening & weekend MBA program, including the first Flex MBA class, came to campus for orientation last month.
Full-time MBA Program
(Photos by Jim Block)
Spirits were high among the entering full-time MBA students who gathered for the traditional Week Zero orientation Aug. 15-17. School and student leaders (including Week Zero Co-Chair Dingmi Gong, MBA 23) and Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs, welcomed the group, who throughout the two days participated in sessions on diversity, equity and inclusion at Haas, productivity and time management, and an introduction to the case study method. They also met their study groups for [email protected], a program that’s celebrating its 10th year in the MBA curriculum with lessons on collaborative leadership.
MBA Association (MBAA) President Jude Watson, a former chef and community organizer from Seattle, introduced Dean Ann Harrison, who emphasized how important it is for students to lead on critical issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as climate change. She noted that both innovation and collaboration that will be required to solve the world’s toughest problems.
“The issue of climate change has become visibly real, and despite the important climate bill that Joe Biden has put in place, we have a very long way to go. It’s just a down payment on the change we need,” she said. “I believe that you, as business leaders, will lead the change.”
“I believe that you, as business leaders, will lead the change.” Dean Ann Harrison.
Orientation speaker Lo Toney, MBA 97, urged students to explore, celebrate, and focus during their journeys. Toney, founding managing partner of Plexo Capital, told students that they will learn the most from their peers–not just about the diversity of where people are from, but what they have done. “Look around you,” he said. “These are people who are going to be in extremely senior positions,” who will help you along your journey.
In welcoming the new class, Dean Ann Harrison noted the sweeping changes coming for the undergraduate program, anchored by the recent $30 million gift from alumnus Warren “Ned” Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BA 66, (political science), that will be used to create the new four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program.
In her welcome message, Emma Hayes Daftary, the new assistant dean of undergraduate admissions, expanded on the changes and the importance of enhancing collaboration among the students in the competitive program. “This program and our Defining Leadership Principles will challenge you to shift from what you, as an individual, can achieve, to what we, as a community, can accomplish,’ she said. “It’s for this reason that we’re focusing on culture this year, and we’re working to create a more collaborative, inclusive, and equitable culture in the undergraduate program.”
Hayes Daftary said the first order of business is to eliminate the “Haas Curve” grading policy—which drew cheers from the students.
She said the policy of grading on a curve was adopted in 2011 across the MBA and undergraduate programs for ease and consistency. But in May 2021, the Undergraduate Program Committee voted to recommend that the policy be eliminated. Policies such as grade caps and grading on a curve are often criticized because they lead students to compete against each other, but in this case it was also deemed to be ineffective, she said.
“I’m not a competitive person, so I think it’s good…It will definitely help.” said Gloria Gonzalez-Serrano, a continuing undergraduate student who plans to pursue a career in digital marketing.
Other program changes include the hiring of more staff to focus on the academic and student experience, funding the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) at historic levels, renovating the undergraduate program lounge, and upgrading the Cheit Hall classrooms.
Browse more highlights (photos by Noah Berger):
Evening & Weekend MBA
The new class of evening & weekend MBA students arrived on campus in July for a jam-packed “WE Launch” orientation weekend of work sessions, team-building exercises, and an introduction to the Haas Defining Leadership Principles.
A few details about the Class of 2025: More than 40% of the new students have at least one advanced degree, including 21 PhDs. More than 40% of the class was born outside of the U.S. Nearly half—47%— are married or partnered, with 22% raising kids (altogether they have 80 children.)
Browse highlights from EWMBA orientation here. (Photos by Jim Block)
Also, some fun facts:
The class includes a violinist who performed at Carnegie Hall, a former professional ballet dancer, and three published authors, including the author of the “Silicon Valley Dictionary.”
The class boasts the youngest elected city council member of a Bay Area City, the lead singer in a band that raises money for domestic violence victims, and a volunteer for the Yellowstone Wolf Project who helps with tracking wolves. There’s also a flight controller for NASA Mission Control, a pilot instructor for the Air Force, and a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.
A total of 14 students joined the PhD program this fall, with an equal split between men and women. The group hails from around the world, including the U.S., Brazil, China, Colombia, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, and Singapore.
The students’ area of study is equally diverse, including accounting, business and public policy, finance, marketing science, management of organizations, and real estate.
QuantumScape CEO and Co-founder Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, will speak at the combined Berkeley Haas Full-Time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement ceremony, and corporate leader, entrepreneur, and author Aaron McDaniel, BS 05, will address undergraduates at commencement.
Both ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre, with the undergrads tossing caps on Monday, May 16, and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA students graduating together on Saturday, May 21.
A makeup commencement for the full-time MBA classes of 2020 and 2021—who had to forego in-person ceremonies during the pandemic—will be held Friday, April 29, at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85 and a senior vice president of sales for the East, Canada, and Latin America regions at ServiceNow, will address the graduates.
Additionally, the PhD hooding ceremony will be held May 6, and Executive MBA commencement will be held June 4. Laura Adint, EMBA 14, an operations and strategy executive, is the commencement speaker.
Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, to speak at FTMBA/EWMBA commencement
Singh is co-founder and CEO of QuantumScape, an energy storage company that supports the global transition toward a lower carbon future.
Prior to founding QuantumScape, Singh was co-founder and CEO of Infinera Corp, a telecommunications equipment company and developer of the first large-scale, photonic integrated circuit. He led the company from startup through an IPO.
Previously, he was founder and CEO of Lightera Networks, acquired by CIENA Corp. Before that, he founded and led several communications companies, including OnFiber and AirSoft.
Singh is also founder and CEO of Deep Valley Labs, a venture laboratory and incubator focused on a hypothesis-driven approach to founding, validating, and spinning out high-impact technology companies.
He holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, an MS in Computer Science from Stanford University, and an MBA from Berkeley Haas.
Aaron McDaniel, BS 05, named 2022 undergraduate commencement speaker
McDaniel, BS 05, is a former AT&T sales executive, serial entrepreneur, and has been an entrepreneurship lecturer at Berkeley Haas for the past five years.
He began his career at AT&T and rose to regional vice president of sales at age 27, among the youngest at the company to do so. In this role, he managed a team of more than 60 people and oversaw all sales operations, IT support, and data and mobility solutions for small- and medium-sized companies. He graduated from AT&T’s flagship Leadership Development Program and was a member of AT&T’s Diamond Club for the top 1% of sales leaders worldwide.
McDaniel went on to found and sell three companies, including Pong360, an e-commerce company that sells college and tailgating products; Tycoon Real Estate, a real estate crowdfunding platform; and Velocity Capital Group, a real estate private equity firm.
He is currently a founding partner at Grow Scale, a commercial real estate private equity firm, and co-founder of 10X Innovation Lab, a Silicon Valley-based consulting agency that offers entrepreneurship programs and services to government and corporate leaders.
McDonnell is senior vice president of sales for the East, Canada, and Latin America regions at ServiceNow, and serves on the board of directors of Zuora.
With extensive sales management, global experience, and legal expertise, McDonnell has held executive positions at leading companies in the high-technology industry as vice president of Microsoft’s New York region; senior vice president of North American sales at at Aspect Software; vice president of strategic services at IBM; and vice president of business development at Rational Software. She’s also held various senior sales and legal roles at Sun Microsystems, Cisco, and Apple and practiced private, corporate, and securities law.
McDonnell received a BS with distinction from San Jose State University, and an MBA/JD from Berkeley Haas. She was admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and the State of California.
She received the 2008 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Award and serves on the board of directors and membership committee of the Women’s Forum of New York and is a member of Women’s United of the United Way of New York City. She’s also an advisory committee member of the 92Y Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact.
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 peer and employer polls account for 40% of the score. The other 60% consist of placement success and starting salary (35%) and student selectivity (25%).
The score for the part-time MBA rankings 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.
It’s no secret that Robert Strand, executive director of the Center for Responsible Business at Berkeley Haas, believes the Nordics hold the key to the future of American capitalism. Strand, who came to Haas in 2014 after earning a PhD and becoming a sustainability professor at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, is finishing a book called “Sustainable Vikings: What the Nordics Can Teach Us about Reimagining American Capitalism.” He has been using drafts of the book to teach in his undergraduate and MBA course, Sustainable Capitalism in the Nordics. Strand is also now the executive director of the new UC Berkeley Nordic Center.
We spoke with Strand about the future of capitalism and his award-winning case Patagonia’s path to carbon neutrality by 2025, along with his Nordic Center role.
The Financial Times recently honored the Berkeley Haas Patagonia case in its special report on Responsible Business Education. (The case was co-written in 2018 with CRB’s former associate director, Seren Pendleton-Knoll, UC Berkeley Professor Daniel Kammen, and Patagonia employees, including Vincent Stanley.) What was your goal with the case?
The goal was to help frame this wicked problem of climate change and provide inspiration for other companies to take action. There’s real strength in acknowledging that a problem exists, that business is part of the problem, and that even a sustainability-leading company like Patagonia does not know exactly what to do. Patagonia is leveraging every resource at its disposal, including the Center for Responsible Business, to help frame the issues at hand. Within that case, we wanted to highlight tensions involved when you talk about running a for-profit business and you also desire to address a great issue like climate change.
There’s real strength in acknowledging that a problem exists, that business is part of the problem, and that even a sustainability-leading company like Patagonia does not know exactly what to do.
What did Patagonia do differently to address these challenges?
Patagonia is engaging in open innovation, drawing from a concept from our Berkeley Haas colleague Henry Chesbrough, to tackle its challenges. Through the authoring of a case and its use in the Patagonia Case Competition that we run through the Center for Responsible Business, Patagonia is opening its challenges up to the world for help. The likelihood that the best ideas and best solutions to tackle climate change exist within the walls of Patagonia are next to none. We can help Patagonia find solutions to its problems and facilitate cooperation with a variety of new stakeholders that Patagonia may have otherwise never encountered.
What can companies and our students learn from Patagonia?
Wicked problems like climate change demand cooperation. They demand us coming together and addressing a problem that affects us all. We must go beyond ourselves to address this. American business students need to get comfortable with cooperation and working beyond the walls of their companies to address our greatest sustainability challenges. This often includes engaging with industry peers. I deliberately use the expression industry peers as opposed to competitors because language matters and a peer is someone with whom you collaborate.
American business students need to get comfortable with cooperation and working beyond the walls of their companies to address our greatest sustainability challenges.
Your views on capitalism were deeply influenced by the time you spent living in Norway. How?
When I came from the Copenhagen Business School to Haas in 2014, my Trojan Horse agenda was the Nordics. My American mind was revolutionized by my experiences living and working in the Nordic countries for the better part of a decade. As a PhD-student-turned-professor in Denmark, I saw first-hand the policies and practices that were working really well there to better ensure the well-being of every member of society. These were policies and practices that I was told in the United States couldn’t work—including access to childcare, paid parental leaves, universal access to health care and education—because they were called socialism and had to be a drag on efficiency. However, I saw that the Nordic countries are market-based economies and exemplars of capitalism, but just a different variety of capitalism than what we know in the U.S. I saw how Nordic societies were more efficiently and equitably handling their challenges. I began to realize maybe the problem lies with us Americans. That set me on the path of questioning the status quo of American capitalism, and what better place to do such a thing than Berkeley Haas.
Let’s shift gears and discuss what you are working on now.
I’m finishing my book “Sustainable Vikings,” which is about what the Nordics can teach us about reimagining American capitalism. I use drafts of it in all the classes that I teach at Berkeley Haas and have just loved the discussions with our bright and wonderful Haas students over these past years. They are now a part of this book. I want to be part of normalizing the approach I saw in the Nordic societies where business leaders saw themselves as stewards of the company and society. I fear too many companies and too many prominent business figures in the United States have adopted an extractive approach. We need to fight this extractive approach head on because it is leading us all to a very bad place. But, I should stress there is nothing that says somebody needs to be from a place like Denmark to be a steward. I am talking about the need for a mindset shift where we discard the old assumptions that do not serve us well.
We need more American business leaders like Rose Marcario, former CEO of Patagonia, and Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi’s, and a partner of the Center for Responsible Business, who is leveraging his platform to elevate the risks to our democratic institutions and the need to strengthen our American democracy.
UC Berkeley recently launched the new Nordic Center and named you director. What has the center been up to?
The Nordic Center is institutionally tied to the Center for Responsible Business, the Scandinavian Department, and the Institute for European Studies, so we straddle the campus to bring the best of Berkeley to the Nordic agenda. Our first big event was the Nordic Sustainable Food Summit this fall, drawing upon our competency in sustainable food with Will Rosenzweig and courses like Edible Education, and the Plant Futures Lab. We showcased our Nordic connections, including Björn Öste,founder of Oatly, an oat milk company out of Sweden. We’ll make it an annual event and next year we will beef up ladder faculty participation, including our great researchers like Professor Paul Gertler, who’s interested in things like sugar taxes that Norway has implemented to compare with efforts here in the U.S. Our students are connecting with these Nordic-based firms and startups and next year we hope to be in- person at Haas, sharing some great Nordic food!
A primary driver behind the Nordic Center is Barbro Osher, a good friend to UC Berkeley and a good friend of mine. Without her, none of this would have been possible. Barbro gave me the nickname “Mr. Nordic,” and what a pleasure it has been to get the Nordic Center established in partnership with her and our friends and colleagues across UC Berkeley.
A plan to weave sustainability across the Berkeley Haas curriculum is underway, with faculty adding fresh cases, new class materials, and lectures with industry leaders to their courses.
“We are doubling down on our investment in sustainability and preparing the next generation of sustainability leaders,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison.
Making Haas the number one business school for sustainability is a goal shared by Harrison and Michele de Nevers, executive director of Sustainability Programs at Haas. “Our goal is that all graduates should have an understanding and awareness of the sustainability challenges, issues, and a framework for thinking about these challenges as they go forth into their careers,” she said.
By the end of 2023, the school plans to retool all 14 core courses at Haas to incorporate concepts that address climate change and other sustainability challenges throughout various business disciplines. (Haas already offers many elective courses focused on sustainability, everything from Energy & Environmental Markets to Business and Sustainable Supply Chains.)
“Accountants need to plan for the effects of climate change on valuation and outcomes; real estate developers and financiers will need to consider climate changes in forecasting risk; so will consultants and investment bankers,” Harrison said.
Becoming a leader
There are many signs that Haas is moving toward its goal as a sustainability leader. More than two-thirds of the full-time MBA Class of 2021 took a course focused on sustainability while they were at Haas. And a total of 109 part- and full-time MBA students are signed up for the new Michaels Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business, a 9-credit certificate program. The first 10 students earned the certificate last year in one of three tracks: corporate sustainability, sustainable finance, and impact venture capital.
In addition, Haas is also moving its campus further toward carbon neutrality. The Financial Times this week named Haas among the more ambitious schools today in this area, citing its efforts with UC Berkeley to be carbon neutral by 2025, for both direct emissions and indirect emissions arising from electricity consumed. (Chou Hall is already certified as zero-waste — defined as diverting more than 90 per cent of refuse from landfill.)
For the past year, de Nevers has been assessing how sustainability is incorporated within the curriculum. She is working with the faculty to update courses during the 2021/2022 school year to address sustainability, tapping funds from the Holmstrom Sustainability Curriculum Grant.
Faculty members participating include Assistant Professor Omri Even-Tov, who is teaching a carbon emissions case he co-wrote with Professor Xiao-Jun Zhang, in his Financial Accounting course. Taught to first-year MBA students, the case addresses how companies can provide detailed disclosures about their carbon emissions in financial statements and estimates the direct and indirect costs of disclosure. The case also asks why companies might act to mitigate pollution—and evaluates the costs and benefits of those actions.
At the undergraduate level, Professor David Levine includes sustainability issues during most weeks teaching his macroeconomics course, integrating it into topics such as measuring GDP, international trade, recessions, and the analysis of current policies such as the environmental elements of Biden’s “Build Back Better Plan.”
During discussion on global climate change toward semester’s end, students will engage in a simulation, with teams taking on the roles of different nations. “Their job is to see if they can find a climate agreement that they all find acceptable,” Levine said.
Five key areas
Across campus, what makes Haas stand out is the extensive work the school has done is five key areas of sustainability: energy, the food chain, the built environment, sustainable and impact finance, and corporate social responsibility.
In 2020, CRB led a survey of MBA employers across industries, asking them about their sustainability roles and the necessary skills required for success. They then mapped those in-demand skills to content taught in more than 40 Haas courses—that teach everything from impact measurement and management to systems thinking to coalition building.
Separately, CRB curated a database of top corporate sustainability cases and articles for the faculty to use in their courses. “The case compendium is one example where CRB and our wonderful Haas students have curated a suite of sustainability-minded business cases and articles that are primed to be readily integrated into the core MBA curriculum,” said CRB’s executive director Robert Strand.
Professional Faculty member Brandi Pearce is teaching a case tapped from the database about Burt’s Bees in her course Leading for Sustainability. The case examines the challenges the company faced in remaining committed to its mission after its acquisition by Clorox. Pearce said the case “encourages students to explore the challenges of becoming part of a public company—with a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders—while remaining a leader in driving social responsibility and sustainability business practices.”
Student demand for new course material in sustainability in the core and beyond is strong, said Olivia Wasteneys, MBA 22, who worked with de Nevers to assess how the faculty is integrating sustainability and on the distribution of grant funds. “It’s not just ESG reporting or climate change but the bigger question of ‘What is responsible business?’ ” she said. “It’s about how we cultivate a stronger sense of ethics and awareness of systemic issues, what we as a society face, and how business plays a role in perpetuating this and how we disassemble it.”
Donned in full regalia, graduates of both the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend and Executive MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 reunited on campus last weekend for in-person commencements.
The graduates crossed the stage, collected diplomas, and celebrated in the sunshine with classmates, family, and friends. (The EWMBA ceremony was held at Zellerbach Hall, while the EMBA ceremony was held at Hertz Hall.) The in-person events followed separate virtual commencement ceremonies held in May 2020 & 2021.
Here are a few highlights from Saturday’s ceremonies:
The Berkeley Haas community gathered yesterday to celebrate the grand opening of the Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons, a larger, brighter space for MBA students to study and collaborate.
The MBA Commons is named for Mikhail Shneyder, EWMBA 08, and his husband, Jim Kirk, in recognition of their generous $1 million gift to the school.
The 2,300 square feet of space, which previously housed the FIFO Café, has been in the works since 2019. The opening of Chou Hall and Café Think provided an opportunity to reconsider the use of the space, Dean Ann Harrison said at the grand opening.
Haas student leaders, who worked on focus groups to develop the plans, asked for a lounge that was bigger, updated, and more inviting.
“We heard you,” Harrison said. The new space offers multiple seating areas, varied furniture options, a kitchenette, private phone booths, contemporary fixtures, portable charging stations, and even a digital trophy wall where MBA student achievements and awards will be showcased.
Previously, MBA students met outside of class in a room off the upper Bank of America Forum, which seats about 20 people. The Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons is three times the size of that space.
“Thrilled to give back”
Harrison said Shneyder, who immigrated to the United States from Belarus at 19 after earning a nursing degree, speaking no English, is “the archetype of our Defining Leadership Principles.”
After pursuing business classes as an undergraduate and, later, an MBA at Haas, he became CEO and president of Nightingale College, a nursing school headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Shneyder said Nightingale’s success was born “in Haas classes and in our group work.”
“We generated all these ideas that we are implementing day and day out,” he said. “My hope is that that you will generate so many new ideas that will continue to question the status quo and build the future that is equitable and accessible and good for everybody.”
Harrison lauded Shneyder’s goal to change the world “by improving health and revolutionizing access to quality education for health care professionals from varied socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds”—and for giving back to Haas.
“Mikhail, Jim, we are beyond thrilled to be the beneficiary of your success and generosity,” Harrison said. “We thank you for holding a special place in your heart for this Haas community.”
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 the coursework in statistics and data analytics, and adds a brand 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.
“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 Decisionsstatistical analysis course.
Data-Driven Presentations: Making the Business Case will better prepare students to make persuasive arguments using data and narrative. It builds on the knowledge and experience developed in the courses Data and Decisions and Leadership Communication.
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.
“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.”
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 collectedwere 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.
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.
“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
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.”
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.
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:
Live Q&A Sessions: We will be hosting live online admissions question and answer sessions twice a day for the next few weeks. Sign up here.
Email: We will continue to monitor and promptly respond to all emails sent to [email protected].
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 [email protected] 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 [email protected].
Phone Consultations: We will continue offering phone consultations with our admissions team to discuss any aspect of the application process.
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 [email protected].