A look back: Top Berkeley Haas moments of 2023

Gearing up to welcome a new year is the perfect opportunity to look back at highlights from 2023 at Berkeley Haas. A toast to 2023 wouldn’t be complete without marking the big celebrations, distinct milestones, grand achievements, and more than a few welcomes (alongside some farewells). In no particular order, here are our Top 10 picks for 2023.

    1. 125 years of reimagining business: We celebrated a BIG milestone with a big party on the 125th anniversary of the day that Cora Jane Flood announced the gift that launched the College of Commerce—now the Haas School of Business. Students, staff, alumni, campus and Haas senior leaders, and founding donor Flood’s family member gathered to honor the school’s trailblazers —and our ongoing impact on business and society
    2. Dean of the Year: Dean Ann Harrison was recognized by the business school publication Poets & Quants, which lauded Harrison for leading a major diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and belonging effort; broadening the profile of the Haas faculty, school board, and student body; and helping fundraise a total of $227 million for the school, among other successes. She also made the cover of our fall issue of Berkeley Haas Magazine. Harrison returns from sabbatical in early January.
      Photo of Dean Ann Harrison on campus.
      Harrison gracing the pages of Berkeley Haas Magazine. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.



    3. More major milestones: Berkeley Executive Education (BEE) celebrated its 15th anniversary and Cleantech to Market (C2M) turned 10. Exec Ed has provided top programs to thousands of individuals in leadership, entrepreneurship, and strategy and finance, as well as customized programs for companies, government, and university partners. Promising climate technologies that addressed everything from water desalination to Earth element extraction to lightening-fast battery charging took center stage at a bigger and better than ever December Cleantech to Market (C2M) Climate Tech Summit.

      large group of masters students on stage at Haas
      Students in the Cleantech to Market program at the 2023 C2M Summit.
    4. Our generous community: The Berkeley Haas Development and Alumni Relations team (DAR) team reported a record three-year period in the school’s fundraising history, raising more than $171 million from alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends. The funds raised this fiscal year—about $56 million—brought Haas to the finish line of its five-year campaign. 
    5. Student walking in front of Haas sign in front of campus
      Photo: Noah Berger

      5. Undergrad’s big shift: We began to bid farewell to our incredible two-year undergraduate program as the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Program Office received its first round of applications from prospective first-year students for our inaugural Spieker class. The first class of four-year students will enter in the fall.

      Woman and man talking animatedly.
      Dean Ann Harrison with Ned Spieker, BS 66, who with his wife, Carol, funded the undergraduate program’s transformation.
    6. The rise of the Flex cohort: As part of the evening & weekend MBA program, students in the Flex cohort completed their first year of live remote courses, demonstrating an innovative educational model that will serve a greater range of students. Flex provides what many students say they need most: schedule flexibility in a top program. MBA student group gathered at Haas
    7. New brain power: Eight new ladder and 22 professional faculty members joined Haas in fall, bringing their intellect, passion, and unique perspectives to the school. With the new tenure-track arrivals, the ladder faculty—at 96 members—is now the largest it’s ever been and is closing in on Dean Harrison’s goal of 100. 
      A photo collage of all 8 new professors.
      From top row, left to right: New Berkeley Haas assistant professors Eben Lazarus, Cailin Slattery, Shawn Kim, Antoine Levy, Sam Kapon, Erica Bailey, returning professor Alexandre Mas, and new assistant professor Rachel Gershon.

    8. Making headlines: Our faculty were featured in national media outlets more than 500 times this year, bringing expertise to everything from the rising price of gas, to the Silicon Valley Bank fallout, to tech layoffs, to the future of AI.

      Image: AdobeStock

    9. Growth space: Construction continued on the new Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub, which will allow entrepreneurs at Haas—and across the university—to meet, brainstorm, and invent new startups. The Hub is expected to be completed in fall 2024.

      new entrepreneurship hub at Haas (rendition)
      A photo illustration of the home of the new hub, a Julia Morgan designed building under renovation. The building was constructed in 1908.
    10. Chart toppers: All of Haas’ degree programs once again performed well in key rankings. U.S. News & World Report ranked the EWMBA program #1 (again) and the undergraduate program #2; The Financial Times ranked the FTMBA program #7 globally and #4 in the U.S.; and the MFE program was ranked #4 by QuantNet.

Startup Spotlight: How late-night crypto conversations led to hyphen labs launch

two men standing in downtown Berkeley
Tarek Mohammad and Jin Kim, both MFE 23, launched hyphen labs in November 2022.

When Jin Kim and Tarek Mohammad, both MFE 23, met at orientation for the Berkeley Haas Master of Financial Engineering program last year, they instantly connected over a shared passion for blockchain, crypto, financial systems, and entrepreneurship. 

Intense discussions, many times lasting until 4 a.m., led Kim and Mohammad to launch hyphen labs, a platform for industry decentralized finance (DeFi) trading. DeFi is a broad term for applications and projects in public blockchain geared toward disrupting traditional finance. 

While at Haas, hyphen labs was accepted to the UC Berkeley SkyDeck accelerator cohort, and was the first MFE-founded startup to make it into the Techstars accelerator program. Kim and Mohammad, who launched hyphen in November 2022, are now heading to Miami and Boston to raise a seed round.

In this interview, they discuss what led them to Haas, the experience of launching a fintech startup, and the challenges ahead.

Haas News: Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to Haas?

Tarek Mohammad: I have a unique story because I come from a unique place. I studied economics and actuarial science as an undergraduate in Lebanon. However, starting in 2019, Lebanon experienced huge economic turmoil. The government defaulted on its government bonds, and then the banking system defaulted. I lost all my personal savings. By that time, I was working for KPMG as a consultant. Then Covid hit. During that period, the ammonium nitrate explosion hit the Port of Beirut in August 2020. The KPMG office was five minutes walking distance away from the explosion and one of my managers died.

With all of this change and turmoil, I decided to create a fintech startup. I quit KPMG. By then, I’d decided that the banking system needed to be fixed, and the only way to do it was through blockchain because with blockchain, there are no intermediaries. Then I applied to the Master of Financial Engineering program at Berkeley Haas and arrived in the states in March 2022. During my studies, I won the Franklin Templeton Blockchain contest in Palo Alto. After this, Jin and I decided to partner on a venture together and never looked back.

I’d decided that the banking system needed to be fixed, and the only way to do it was through blockchain. — Tarek Mohammad.

Jin Kim: I am from South Korea and worked in AI research as a machine learning researcher. That got me interested in trading with AI algorithms and a professor at my school. I started and ran a small hedge fund focusing on U.S. equity and crypto investments using AI. Though trading was still my thing, crypto trade got me more into the blockchain itself. So, I went to work as an investment analyst intern at the VC arm of Dunamu, the biggest crypto exchange in Korea. Since I liked finance trading, algorithms, and crypto, I thought I should attend a master in financial engineering program. The best program out there happened to be Berkeley, which is also near Silicon Valley. It fit both of my goals: to get a bit more academic and hands-on experience in the field and exposure to people who like to take risks and try new things.

What does the company do?

Mohammad: What we’re trying to do is build an infrastructure for institutions to be able to get crypto exposure, specifically on DeFi. So, if say, BlackRock wants to access the DeFi infrastructure or trade on crypto on DeFi, they can use us because we provide a solution. We hold custody of their assets and provide them with a DeFi interface and infrastructure that provides some compliance and comfort. 

When did you realize that your idea was unique and could work? 

Kim: It wasn’t a simple “aha” moment. We interviewed our potential clients every day to hear what they needed and found that every client is different, so their respective needs are also different. It helped us greatly to pause every now and then to review what we learned. With these quick pauses and iterations, we saw a pattern emerging with many people dealing with a problem that was worth looking at. Then we had a feeling about what would work. 

We saw a pattern emerging with many people dealing with a problem that was worth looking at. — Jin Kim

What are some of the challenges that you all are facing while building a startup?

Mohammad: It’s a perfect time to be a builder, but it’s a challenging time for fundraising, especially over the last few weeks with the banking meltdown. On the personal side, we also have unique challenges. As international students, it isn’t easy with our visas. Many international classmates immediately go to work after graduating for visa reasons instead of going into entrepreneurship directly. But running a startup, we needed to consider our visas while we figured out the payroll, hiring, and acquiring talent. Moreover, we also needed to figure out the product itself. I’m talking to customers every single day. 

What did it mean to get accepted to Techstars, and how has the experience been?

Mohammad: It’s really a great community. It’s a hub for entrepreneurship, one of the biggest hubs in the world, and one of the biggest funds. Of course, the process was challenging, with a low acceptance rate. But it’s an ecosystem. You’re surrounded by people you can relate to, people who are builders and ex-founders. So, it’s more of an ecosystem for us. It’s a lifetime membership.

What are some ways in which the Berkeley Haas community has helped you throughout this process?

Mohammad: We worked within the MFE network and the broader Haas alumni network. We get a lot of answers regarding our product and our company’s direction from talking to these people. So mostly, we think about this from the networking side and how existing students and MBAs with industry experience can help us shape our direction.

What was something that really attracted you to Berkeley Haas and how has being in Berkeley helped you in your pursuits? 

Mohammad: Maybe it’s a cliche, but some of the greatest startup companies come from Berkeley—firms like Intel, Tesla, and SanDisk. These companies are considered the north stars in their respective industries. Being in the Berkeley ecosystem pushes you every day to create and innovate. Beside Techstars, we got into SkyDeck, the incubator batch. This allowed us to connect to founders on campus. School for us was not just a place to study, but also a workspace to meet fellow founders and innovators. Finally, the campus location near Silicon Valley in the Bay Area boosted our reach outs and accelerated our product discovery. And I think that the international aspect and diversity here helps. On the mentor side, we are lucky to have Linda Kreitzman, founder of the MFE program and a current lecturer, and Professor Christine Parlour as mentors. 

School for us was not just a place to study, but also a workspace to meet fellow founders and innovators.— Tarek Mohammad

Kim: Berkeley was such a great place to connect with people from faculty to alumni. So many people helped us out or referred us to people who could be of help. It was a humbling experience. We often ask whether we deserved all this help. We hope to do the same for other Berkeley founders, peers, or alumni to pay it forward.

2023 Master of Financial Engineering class tosses caps

Male graduates in a huddle lifting up another male graduate. All are smiling.
Class of 2023 MFE grads celebrate. Photo: Jim Block

The graduating Master of Financial Engineering Class of 2023 was urged to work together and use finance to solve the biggest global problems—from pandemic to climate change.

Commencement Speaker Ben Meng, MFE 03, executive vice president and chairman of Asia Pacific, head of Global Private Equity, and the executive sponsor of Sustainability at Franklin Templeton, told the class to use their finance careers to change lives for the better. “Do well and do good at the same time,” said Meng, the former Chief Investment Officer for the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). During the COVID 19 pandemic, the private and public sector came together, Meng said, and through the combination of innovation and capital, the world dealt with the crisis.

Graduating Class of 2023 seated in large auditorium.

He also urged the grads to lean on their loved ones, their Haas and Berkeley networks, and their relationships formed with each other during the MFE program, noting that a “healthy support system increases the chance of success.”

During the ceremony, held in Andersen Auditorium, Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison said that the 80 MFE grads will join those alumni who are using what they’ve learned at Haas to benefit the world.

“We have MFE alums at the highest reaches of the financial system,” said Harrison, who conferred degrees with MFE Program Director Jacob Gallice. “You will be the next generation of highly valued analysts, thinkers, consultants, and contributors.”

Female MFE graduates smiling while holding bouquets
2023 MFE grads. Photo: Jim Block

Award winners at commencement included: 

Valedictorian: Nathan Sheng

Salutatorian: Wenhao Luan 

Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Professor Johan Walden

Haas Graduate Student Instructor Award: ​​Yao Zhao

Defining Leadership Principles Student & Alumni Awards:

Student: Artem Shuvalov 

Alumni: Sandra Vedadi, MFE 10, Coco Tsai, MFE 22, Mayank Garg, MFE 20

Morgan Stanley Applied Finance Project Prize winner:

Ruchir Sharma
Sandeep Singh
Kaiyuan Tan
Somanshu Dhingra
Ayush Agarwal
Project title: “Compressing Macro-economic Time Series w/ a LSTM Network”
Advisor: Ali Kakhbod

Ann Harrison reappointed to second term as Berkeley Haas dean

Woman standing with arms crossed in multicolored sweater
Dean Ann Harrison. Photo: Noah Berger

Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison, lauded for keeping the school’s six business programs ranked among the world’s best and significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the faculty, has been appointed to serve a second five-year term.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin announced Harrison’s reappointment today. Her new term begins July 1, 2023. 

“Please join us in congratulating Ann on her reappointment and her many accomplishments,” they said in a campus announcement. “With a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability, and DEIJB (diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging), her bold and transformative vision for the future of Haas will continue to set it apart from other top business schools.”

Harrison said she is thrilled by the reappointment and the opportunity to continue supporting student learning and well-being, growing the faculty and providing them with the necessary resources to conduct groundbreaking research, teaming up with the superb staff, and strengthening the school’s finances and reputation.

Dean Ann Harrison sitting in a chair in the Haas courtyard
Dean Harrison in the Haas courtyard, where the school’s Defining Leadership Principles (including Confidence without Attitude) are etched in stone. Photo: Noah Berger

“As a public university, our mission is to transform the lives of as many students as possible and lead the world with path-breaking research,” Harrison said. “I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”

“I am so proud of our faculty strengths across so many different areas—from real estate and finance to strategy, economics, marketing, and management. Haas graduates are transforming business to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Advancing the mission

Harrison is the 15th dean of Haas and the second woman to lead the school. Her new book, “Globalization, Firms, and Workers” (World Scientific Books, 2022), collects her path-breaking work on globalization and international trade. She is now the world’s most highly cited scholar on foreign direct investment.

Harrison earned her BA from UC Berkeley in economics and history, and her PhD from Princeton University. She held previous professorships in UC Berkeley’s College of Agricultural and Resource Economics as well as at Columbia University and the Wharton School, where she was the William H. Wurster Professor of Management.  

At Haas since January 2019, Harrison has advanced the school’s mission in a number of critical areas, including:

  • increasing the size of the faculty, which allowed for diversification and the creation of new faculty groups. Since she arrived in 2019, Harrison has led the hiring of 33 new professors; 52% are women and 52% are people of color.
  • creating the first Flex online MBA cohort at any top business school. Haas applied learnings from the pandemic, using new technology to make the MBA available to expanded groups of international students and working parents who require flexible schedules.
  • raising a record $200 million over the last four years, including a record $69 million last year. Under Harrison, Haas secured the largest single gift in the school’s history$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66to turn the undergraduate program into a four-year program.
  • committing to making Haas a more inclusive school by creating a more diverse Haas Advisory Board; employing extensive resources to diversify the student body; rethinking faculty and staff hiring; and incorporating anti-bias training for senior leaders, staff, and students.

Harrison said she will continue to work with her team to strengthen academics as well as the student experience at Haas. One important goal is to ensure that the school’s six degree programs remain the best in the world. In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record high for the program. US News & World Report ranks both the highly-selective Haas Undergraduate Program and the Evening & Weekend MBA Program #2 in the U.S. The Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE) Program is also ranked #2 globally. 

In its 2023 b-school ranking, announced today, the Financial Times named the Full-time MBA Program #4 in the U.S. and #7 worldwide, a record-high for Haas. 

Three priority areas

She also plans to continue work in her three priority areas: sustainability, DEIJB, and entrepreneurship. 

“Business plays a critical role in mainstreaming everything from fighting climate change to creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces,” Harrison said. “Haas is preparing students to lead in those areas.” The school’s Accounting Group, for example, is assessing SEC proposals to increase financial disclosure requirements for climate risk, she said.

In sustainability, Harrison brought in Michele de Nevers, a top sustainability expert, from the World Bank, whose team has worked to combine the existing sustainability curriculum with new courses. By the end of 2023, all core courses at Haas will be on track to incorporate cases, topics, and assignments that will empower students to address climate change and other sustainability challenges through business. Haas is now set apart as the only school that offers depth and breadth across all of the key sustainability areas aligned with the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education: energy, food, real estate/built environment, corporate social responsibility, and impact finance. 

In diversity and inclusion, Harrison oversaw the building of a team led by Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista, which includes four full-time staff and a part-time diversity expert who is working with faculty on curriculum and teaching. This past spring, the school launched its first-ever core course on leading diverse teams.

Known for its strength in entrepreneurship and innovation, Haas will be breaking ground on a new entrepreneurship hub this spring. In partnership with UC Berkeley, which is the #1 public institution for startup founders (as reported by Pitchbook), the hub will bring together students from across campus to network and innovate. On the faculty side, Harrison oversaw the creation of the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation faculty group in 2020.

Dean Ann Harrison with Kimberly Mendez, Nicole Austin-Thomas, and Almaz Ali, MBA 21s, at the Berkeley Haas Consortium student welcome event in 2019.
Dean Ann Harrison with Kimberly Mendez, Nicole Austin-Thomas, and Almaz Ali, MBA 21s, at the Berkeley Haas Consortium student welcome event in 2019.

Cross-campus collaboration

Harrison, who has deep relationships with leaders across UC Berkeley, has also prioritized cross-campus collaboration, increasing the number of academic programs offered by Haas. She worked closely with the Berkeley School of Public Health and School of Law to bolster their joint programs and launched the Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program with the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, the MBA/MEng degree with the College of Engineering, and the summer minor in sustainable business and policy with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. 

She is currently developing a concurrent degree program for a  joint MBA and master’s degree in climate solutions with the Rausser College of Natural Resources.  


Q&A: Yue Chen, BS 20, MFE 23, pioneering Division 1 women’s basketball player, aims to be a Triple Bear

photo of Yue Chen
Undergraduate alum Yue Chen, BS 20, is currently studying in the Berkeley Haas MFE program and plans to enter the MBA program in 2025.

Yue Chen, BS 20, MFE 23, is the first-ever Chinese national to play on a NCAA Division 1 Women’s basketball team. At 6’6” and the daughter of professional basketball players, Chen played center for the women’s team at Cal for five years before returning to China to play professionally for 18 months.

Now, the pioneering athlete is back at Berkeley with sights on becoming a Triple Bear. Chen is studying in the Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) program, among a record 32% women in the Class of 2023, along with a diverse group of students from 17 different countries. This fall, Chen will intern as an associate at

After Chen finishes the MFE degree, she plans to begin the full-time MBA program in 2025, accepted under Accelerated Access, which allows students to apply as seniors and defer for several years. We talked to Chen recently about her basketball career and why she chose to do three degrees at Haas.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?

Yue Chen: I was born in Beijing and spent my first 18 years there. Both my parents met in college. They used to be professional basketball players in China so I was born into a basketball family. I started playing basketball when I was a little kid and it was a big part of my life. During high school, I was facing the decision of either going to play pro or going to college. It was always a dream for me to come to the States and to play ball and also pursue academics simultaneously.

When was the first time that you visited the U.S. ?

I was fortunate to attend a Junior NBA camp when I was 12. Three teams played each other from Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. The winning team got the opportunity to come to the States and watch the All Star Games. I played for Beijing, the winning team, and we came to the States to watch the All Star Games in Dallas. That was my first time in the US. Kobe Bryant was there and people were truly enjoying basketball with others and celebrating. That was really a culture shock, and I was like, “Oh, I want to stand on this course one day, and also play here.” So that’s always been a dream, a goal, from then on.

How did that experience lead you to Cal?

In high school, I needed to choose a college. I looked at places like Berkeley, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and did official visits as an athlete. Of these three schools, Berkeley was my first choice. While the others are definitely great universities, I felt like the culture, the people here are just awesome. The coaches and players were warm and welcoming. I said, “Oh, I’m coming here.” I still keep in touch with a lot of the staff and coaches.

Yue Chen playing center for Cal Women's basketball
Yue Chen played center for the Cal Women’s Basketball team for five years as an undergraduate before playing professionally in China.

You were among the first group of students to apply for the Accelerated Access Program at Haas in 2020. Then you decided to do an MFE degree before the MBA. What led to that decision?

Berkeley has one of the top MFE programs in the world. As an undergrad, I was a double major in statistics and business administration and those subjects have been a passion for me. I’ve loved math since middle school and I’m really good at it.  The MFE is a really interesting intersection of mathematics, statistics, and finance. So that’s how I came to the program. It’s a perfect combination of my interests.

Yue Chen with Cal Basketball teammates
Yue Chen (right) with Cal Women’s Basketball teammates at senior night.

How are you finding the MFE program so far?

The class material is really hard. The professors are great and you are surrounded by talented, smart students. So it’s just awesome to be with them, to learn with them, and to learn from them. Every day I’m improving at something and that feels really great.  This semester, I am taking a class on Fixed Income with Professor Richard Stanton, who has won Haas’ Cheit Outstanding Teaching award three times. He is enthusiastic and engaging, sharing not only his knowledge about knowledge but his experience in the financial industry. 

Yue Chen with Alibaba's CEO
Yue Chen meeting a role model, Alibaba CEO Joseph Tsai. “He’s someone I really look up to when I envision my future.”

A great mentor for me at Haas is Stephen Etter, a finance lecturer for 10 years. He respects the potential of all students from diverse backgrounds.I met him when I was 17 when I first visited Cal and he’s been a great support both on and off the court—with my professional career, my Haas application, and career development.

Why did you choose to combine the MFE with the MBA degree?

It’s really hard for undergrad students to say what they want to do in the future. We’re really young. So the deferred MBA program gives us time to try out different things, and to gain different experiences to be sure about what I really want to do for the future. This gives an option to come back to Haas and make more connections and improve my skills and see how business is run from a leader’s perspective.

What kind of career are you thinking about?

After just finishing my basketball career, I’m trying different things right now and the MFE is preparing me to enter the finance career path. I’m looking forward to gaining more experience in the finance world and eventually, maybe, doing some business involving sports. Someone I really look up to is Joe Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, who owns the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Liberty basketball teams. He was a student athlete at Yale and played lacrosse, and he’s a really successful businessman. So he’s someone I really look up to when I envision my future.

Do you still play basketball?

Although I’m not playing sports anymore I am still close to Cal Athletics. I hope I can help out and offer support to young student athletes. I want to use what I’ve learned on my journey, and what I’ve gained here at Berkeley, to help young people who are facing challenges—so that they will be able to celebrate their journey at Cal long after they graduate.

Faculty, Graduate Student Instructors honored with 2022 Cheit Awards

Collage of the Cheit Award winners from 2022 commencement
Clockwise from top left: Cheit Award winners Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Panos Patatoukas, Veselina Dinova, Richard Huntsinger, Eric Reiner, Ned Augenblick, Max Auffhammer

Seven faculty members and five Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) were honored at 2022 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: Max Auffhammer (evening cohort), for Data and Decisions, and Ricardo Perez-Truglia (weekend cohort), for Macroeconomics
  • Full-time MBA program: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick, for Strategic Leadership
  • Undergraduate program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Richard Huntsinger 
  • PhD program: Accounting Professor Panos Patatoukas 
  • Master of Financial Engineering (MFE): Finance Lecturer Eric Reiner
  • Executive MBA program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Veselina Dinova
  • Graduate student instructors (GSIs): Paige Wahoff (undergraduate)  Griffin Grail-Binghman (FTMBA), Kimberlyn George (EWMBA), Nicolas Corthorn (MFE), Jonathan Wong (EMBA)

MFE Commencement 2022: ‘You are at the heart of sea change’ 

Six graduates donned in academic regalia jump in the air
Graduates of the MFE Class of 2022. Photo: Jim Block.

Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison urged the 79 Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) graduates at Friday’s commencement to “use their power wisely” as they are at the center of global change.

“Your work is at the heart–the very foundation–of business and governments around the world,” said Harrison who commended the MFE class of 2022 for completing one of the most rigorous financial engineering programs in the world. 

“You are at the heart of the sea change in banking, the financial system, global supply chains, and so much more that is transforming our world.” 

As parting words to graduates, Harrison encouraged them to lean into the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles whenever they’re at a crossroad and to never forget their 40,000-strong Haas family. 

two men and one woman dressed in academic regalia
L-R: Commencement speaker Dr. Robert Litterman, Jim Gilliland, MFE 02, and Linda Kreiztman, executive director of MFE program. Photo: Jim Block.

Jacob Gallice, program director of the MFE program, praised the tight-knit class who successfully navigated their program–amid a global pandemic–for their perseverance and their desire to better themselves professionally and personally. 

“If this year has taught you anything, it’s that life will throw many challenges at you. It’s up to you how you respond to those challenges,” Gallice said at the ceremony held in person at UC Berkeley’s International House.

“I hope you will take with you the tools, lessons, and skills which you have learned this past year to navigate your lives with the same prowess you’ve shown during your time at Berkeley.”

Commencement speaker Robert Litterman, founding partner of Kepos Capital, spoke to the importance of investing in oneself by developing strong social networks, finding work that will engage one’s talents, and exploring ways to give back to society.

“Take what you’ve learned here, think deliberately about your financial and social capital, and give back to society,” said Litterman. “You will be richly rewarded.”

About 10 master of financial engineering students standing on balcony
Members of the MFE class of 2022. Photo: Jim Block.

The commencement ceremony also included a tribute video to Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program, who established the program 21 years ago; a keynote from Jim Gilliland, MFE 02, president and CEO of Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel; and speeches from student speakers Joseph Yang and Edward Huang who reminisced about their class gatherings, including trips to Napa and Lake Tahoe.

Members of the class of 2022 will go on to work at leading global financial firms, including Barclays, Blackstone, Morgan Stanley, PIMCO, Goldman Sachs, Citadel, and Credit Suisse.

And now for the awards…

Award winners at commencement included: 

Valedictorian: Sarthak Sagar

Salutatorian: Pradeepta Das

Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Professor Eric Reiner

Haas Graduate Student Instructor Award: Nicolas Corthorn

Embodiment of All Four Defining Principles: Dmitry Silantyev

Alumni Award: Wen Luo, Morgan Kidd, Paul-Noel Digard, Atanas Vanchev, Peisen Ma

Morgan Stanley Applied Finance Project Prize: Krishna Goel, Apeksha Jain, Alec Madayan, Shrey Samdani, and Dmitry Silantyev for Using Option-Implied Correlations for Derivatives Pricing and Alpha Generation. Advisor: Professor Kevin Coldiron. (The award includes a $5,000 to be shared among all team members.)

New class arrives

Meanwhile, the MFE class of 2023–a total of 79 full-time and seven part-time students–began classes today. Students in the incoming class come from 17 countries, including the U.S., Chile, China, France, Malaysia, Morocco, India, Lebanon, and Switzerland. Women make up about a third of the class. 

Two Haas programs ranked in top five by TFE Times

The Berkeley Haas MFE Program ranked #1 again among financial engineering programs in The Financial Engineer (TFE) Times for the seventh year in a row. In a separate ranking TFE Times also ranked the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #5 among MBA programs in the U.S.

TFE Times’ MFE ranking methodology is primarily based on data provided by participating schools and its ranking weighs admissions components (55%), career outcomes (40%), the number of courses available, and research expenditures (2.5%). 

The full-time MBA program has ranked #5 for the last two years of TFE’s Best MBA Program Rankings. The methodology for the MBA ranking is similar to that of the MFE ranking and applies 60% to admissions components and 40% to career outcomes.

Master of Financial Engineering Program ranked #2 by Quantnet

The Berkeley Haas Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) Program returned to the #2 ranking in this year’s Quantnet survey of US financial engineering programs. It ranked #5 for the two prior years.

Higher employment scores and starting salaries for the March 2021 graduates were key factors in this ranking.

Quantnet bases 55% of its ranking on employment outcomes, including employment rate at graduation (10%), employment rate three months after graduation (15%), average starting salary and sign-on bonus (20%), and an employer survey score (10%). Student selectivity accounts for 25% of the ranking, and a peer assessment score for 20% of the ranking.

Find a full report at Quantnet.com. In comparison, the Berkeley Haas MFE continues to rank #1 in TFE (The Financial Engineer) Times.

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
  • Graduate student instructors (GSIs): Atusa Sadeghi (EWMBA); Devan Courtois (FTMBA); and Sooji Kim (undergraduate); and Maxine Sauzet and Nick Sanders (MFE)

MFE team wins 2021 Morgan Stanley Applied Finance Prize

Portrait MFe students
From left to right, top to bottom: Jerry Qinghui Yu, Hao Guo, Anshul Lakhani, Vaibhav Barnwal, and Sanket Ahuja, all MFE 21.

A team of five Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students won the 2021 Morgan Stanley Applied Finance Project Prize for examining how California’s insurance industry “misprices” fire risk in California.

The winning team, announced March 12, includes Sanket Ahuja, Vaibhav Barnwal, Hao Guo, Anshul Lakhani, and Jerry Qinghui Yu, all MFE 21. They worked with Prof. Nancy Wallace, the Lisle and Roslyn Payne Chair in Real Estate Capital Markets, on the project.

The team examined how California’s insurance industry miscalculates fire risk and the relationship between complex weather patterns and the risk of property damage caused by wildfires in southern California.

They found that the risk to property was significant in regions with mountainous terrain, dry climate, and high vegetation and forecasted that these areas could expect annual property damage worth about $6 billion with tail damages—or damages reported after a claim is filed—of up to $10 billion.

Read more about the students’ findings here.

MFE commencement 2021: ‘Think big and never compromise on your values’

MFE students dine at restaurant
MFE students and MFE Executive Director Linda Kreitzman gather for lunch before the pandemic.

If there was one thing that Linda Kreitzman wanted the Berkeley Haas Master of Financial Engineering class of 2021 to remember, it was this: “You will not be remembered as the pandemic class, but as the class of inspiring heroes.”

Kreitzman, who’s served as the MFE program’s executive director for 20 years, praised the 96 MFE graduates at Friday’s commencement for their humility, grit, kindness, and “setting a new standard” for the program during a turbulent year. 

“We are in awe of what you have accomplished and of your success. It’s been awesome leading you,” she said, before showing a tribute slideshow that captured festive moments during the academic year—including graduates dancing to Beyonce’s “Formation” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” carving Halloween pumpkins, cooking competitions, and preparing Thanksgiving meals.

six students dance on rooftop
Six MFE roommates dance to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”

In opening remarks, Dean Ann Harrison thanked the spouses, partners, parents, and children of graduates as well as the MFE staff for going beyond themselves to help students get through “one of the most difficult years” they’ve ever experienced.

Harrison went on to commend graduates for mastering the rigorous financial engineering program—which consistently ranks #1—and for joining a community whose students and alumni embody Berkeley Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

“These principles certainly reflect who you have been as students, and I hope they will be among your most precious assets as you move through your careers, serving as anchors during times of turbulence and guideposts at the crossroads,” Harrison said. 

She also reminded members of the class of 2021 that they will be joining a vast alumni network and encouraged them to “stay connected, hire Haas, and give back.”

White male in white button shirt gives speech
Tomer Amit was the 2021 MFE program’s valedictorian.

Valedictorian Tomer Amit noted how quickly the year has gone by and talked about how professors, the MFE staff, and his culturally diverse classmates helped make a magical graduate experience, in spite of a global pandemic.

Amit advised his fellow classmates to “think big. Never compromise on your values, and things will turn out just fine.”

Jerry Qinghui Yu and Renee Reynolds, president and co-president of the Financial Engineering Student Association (FESA), also recognized MFE staff for going above and beyond to support students this year. Among those efforts included delivering care packages to students in-person and being available at all times.

Qinghui Yu quipped that not only does the Berkeley MFE program prepare students for financial engineering roles, but it also typically produces at least three couples every year. That includes his own relationship to fellow MFE graduate, Camilla Guo. 

He added that this year challenged him academically, socially, and professionally, but it was one of the most rewarding years of his life. “This year taught me a lot about resilience, and if there’s a takeaway for me, it’s that for every hardship, there’s an opportunity.”

Dr. Leda Braga, founder and CEO of Systematica, gave this year’s commencement speech.

Here are this year’s commencement award winners:

Salutatorian: Aman Dixit 

Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Prof. Nancy Wallace

Haas Graduate Student Instructor Awards: Maxine Sauzet and Nick Sanders

Question the Status Quo: Renee Reynolds and Manish Chalana

Confidence without Attitude: Paul Noel Digard and Camilla Hao Guo

Student Always: Shreya Vontela and Vishal Tripathi

Beyond Yourself: Loic Diridollou and Bandile Mbele

Embodiment of All Four Defining Principles: Tomer Amit and Veronica Ruobing Tang

Financial Engineering Certificate: Henry Keyton and Harrison Shaw

Alumni Award: Nicolas Corthorn and Elena Gorskaya

MFE graduates are moving on to jobs at Goldman Sachs, PIMCO, UBS, Citadel, Millennium Management, and many other firms.

After saying goodbye to the 96 graduates Friday, the MFE program welcomed a new class of 80 students on Monday. They hail from 14 countries, including China, Argentina, India, France, Mexico, and Morocco.

A video recording of Friday’s commencement can be viewed here.

Berkeley Haas MFE #1 in ranking

The Berkeley Haas Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) Program was ranked #1 again in the TFE Times 2021 Best Master’s of Financial Engineering ranking.

The TFE Times’ U.S.-based ranking is based on:

  • 25% Mean GRE scores
  • 25% Mean starting salary and bonus
  • 15% Mean undergraduate GPA
  • 15% Acceptance Rate
  • 10% Full time graduates employed at graduation
  • 5% Full time graduates employed 3 months after graduation
  • 2.5% Total number of distinct courses available
  • 2.5% Total research expenditures

Separately, the MFE program ranked #5 again in both the 2021 Quantnet ranking that was published last November and the recent Risk.net ranking.

According to Risk.net, the MFE program had an outstanding employment year in 2020 with just over 99% of the class placed and, at $115,132, earning the second-highest average starting salary of the programs being ranked, in spite enrolling the largest class of 96 students. With only 17% of the application pool accepted, Haas also ranked 4th in terms of the number of accepted students who enrolled.

These Haas couples found love in a pandemic

Finding love in ordinary times is hard enough. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we talked to two Berkeley Haas couples—Jerry Qinghui Yu and Camilla Guo, both MFE 21, and Gary Yin and Aileen Lu, both MBA 22—who found love during a pandemic. Here are their stories.

Jerry Yu and Camilla Guo, MFE 21, exploring wine country in Napa.
Jerry Yu and Camilla Guo, MFE 21, exploring wine country in Napa.

When Jerry Qinghui Yu and Camilla Guo, MFE 21, found love in their class of 96 Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students, it wasn’t a secret for long.

“The program is small, so news travels fast,” said Jerry, who met Camilla at the start of the year-long MFE course.

They shared a sense of humor and similar childhood experiences in China. They both love a good pun, too, particularly if it’s cross-cultural. And Camilla is passing on her passion for cooking to Jerry, who texts photos when he masters one of her complicated recipes.

Ask the pair who is smarter, he’ll swear that she is. Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program, agreed, but added that “they’re both brilliant and they’re fun together.”

“Jerry is very serious and Camilla really draws out that fun side of him,” she said. “He’s been funnier since he’s been with her.”

Jerry is very serious and Camilla really draws out that fun side of him. — MFE Executive Director Linda Kreitzman

The couple, who became avid local hikers since arriving in Berkeley, plans a road trip for Valentine’s Day, to California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park or maybe Yosemite. “We bought hiking shoes for the hills,” Camilla said. “We love to hike when we’re not busy.”

Next up, Jerry, who earned an undergraduate degree in financial economics, computer science, and mathematics from the University of Toronto before coming to Haas, will head to Boston where he’s landed a job at an asset management company.

Camilla, who holds an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Tsinghua University and has worked in derivatives and cross-asset structuring, plans to join him there after graduation in March.

During such a rigorous academic program, only complicated by the stress of the pandemic, it’s nice to have each other, Guo said.

“Since we are in the MFE he understands what I’m learning and we have more to share,” she said. “I don’t have to explain a lot. With friends, I sometimes have to share the background of things. With Jerry I can tell him how I feel right away.”

Gary and Aileen
Gary Yin flew to to London to meet MBA classmate Aileen Lu, who was waiting for a visa to come to Berkeley.  They visited Windsor Castle during their trip.

For Gary Yin, MBA 22, finding love during a pandemic was about taking a leap of faith—and getting on a plane.

Gary met Aileen Lu, MBA 22, in September 2020, when both volunteered as moderators during the virtual Berkeley China Summit. Gary was in Berkeley at the time, and Aileen was 16 hours ahead in Shanghai, waiting for a visa to fly to the U.S. and join her classmates.

The pair got to know each other during a conference on entrepreneurship, a shared passion. Both had started education-related companies before enrolling at Haas and had plans to continue working in the startup world.

Gary, who was born in China and grew up outside of Chicago, got to know Aileen in their shared cohort, chatting constantly on Slack and Zoom. But they both thought there might be more to their relationship.

“I found Gary to be a pretty genuine person and when we talked it was natural to open up and share personal stories,” Aileen said.

“The best part of my day was Slacking with her,” Gary said.

Gary and Aileen cooking
Gary Yin and Aileen Lu cooking in London.

As the weeks passed, Aileen, who earned an undergraduate economics degree at Berkeley in 2015, was still unable to get a visa. Frustrated by the closing of the U.S. Embassy in China, she decided to fly to London to try to get a visa there. Surprisingly, Gary offered to meet up with her, and he boarded a plane out of San Francisco with just five other international travelers.

“I thought ‘If Aileen doesn’t get the visa, this might be my one chance to see her during the pandemic,’” Gary said.

“We both took a leap of faith after knowing each other for two months,” Aileen said.

Over three weeks during the holiday break, they met up with friends and explored London. Since Britain’s coronavirus rules weren’t strict at the time, the couple were able to explore places like Windsor Castle and enjoy the holiday lights throughout the city.

When Aileen’s visa finally came through, the couple flew back to California together. They’ve been together since, living a few blocks apart in downtown Berkeley.

Starting out in two countries

Both are deeply involved in entrepreneurship at Haas. Aileen co-chairs the Berkeley LAUNCH accelerator and is working with Berkeley Female Founders, a campus group that brings founders and funders together. Gary is a Pear VC fellow and co-runs the Haas Startup Squad, a group that helps match Haas students to startups at Skydeck, UC Berkeley’s incubator program. He also organizes Startup Marketplace, a program that connects UC Berkeley grad students with top faculty and researchers for National I-Corps projects.

In their free time, the couple enjoys walking the campus, Aileen pointing out the buildings that have changed since she was an undergraduate. “All of our friends have found it pretty amazing that we’re together,” Gary said. “Things have worked out even though we started in two different countries and met in a third. We’re really grateful for that.”


Berkeley Haas remains strong in rankings

Photo: Noah Berger

The Full-time MBA Program ranked #8 for the third year in a row in Poets & Quants’ meta ranking, published in December. 

Poets&Quants’ ranking is based on five influential rankings published in U.S. News, The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, and The Economist and combines them assigning weights based on Poets & Quants’ assessment of the soundness of each publication’s methodology.

Since Bloomberg Businessweek and The Economist did not publish rankings in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was little change in the results of this year’s P&Q ranking.

Among Financial Engineering Programs, the Berkeley Haas MFE recently ranked #5 in Risk.net

The MFE program had an outstanding employment year in 2020 with just over 99% of the class placed and, at $115,132, earning the second-highest average starting salary of the programs being ranked, in spite enrolling the largest class of 96 students. With only 17% of the application pool accepted, Haas also ranked 4th in terms of the number of accepted students who enrolled.

Risk.net bases its ranking on 20% admissions, 10% ratio of industry-affiliated lecturers, 30% employment rate six months after graduation, 25% average starting salary, 5% faculty research based on the number of citations of the five most cited instructors in the past four years.

In comparison, Haas ranked #5 again in the 2021 Quantnet ranking that was published in November.

For the love of math: Bandile Mbele’s journey from South Africa to the Berkeley MFE Program

Bandile Mbele, a student in the master of financial engineering program at Haas, was the top math student in his undergraduate program at the University of Cape Town. He’d never traveled outside of South Africa before he arrived at Berkeley in March. Photo (in Berkeley): Brittany Hosea-Small.

Bandile Mbele landed at San Francisco Airport from South Africa in early March, just before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic.

“Everything was just weird,” said Mbele, who had traveled outside of South Africa for the first time in order to join 95 students in the 2021 Master of Financial Engineering Program class at Berkeley Haas. “I just sat for an hour at the airport and took it all in.”

For the 25-year-old, who had grown up in a township in Newcastle, South Africa, coronavirus was just another challenge. When the pandemic continued longer than he ever expected, Mbele relied on the same resilience that led him to the top-ranked Berkeley MFE program.

It’s not been easy for Mbele (pronounced “M-bay-lay”). For the first three weeks he struggled to catch up with online coursework and prepare for internship interviews. “I was learning the material but it wasn’t sticking in my head,” he said. But by April 15—he remembers the exact date—there was a shift. “I woke up and everything started clicking. Things were much more calm.” More relief came when he landed a coveted 12-week internship with Morgan Stanley, which starts in October.

The journey to Berkeley Haas

Mbele attended the University of Cape Town, where he earned both an undergraduate degree in actuarial science and a master’s degree in mathematical finance. Yet he might not have continued his studies at Haas if not for his former undergraduate classmate, Gary Finkelstein, MFE 20.

Chatting one day, Finkelstein told MFE program Executive Director Linda Kreitzman about Mbele, whom he considered a perfect MFE applicant. “I asked him, ‘Is he as good as you?’” Kreitzman said. “Gary said, ‘He’s even better than me at math.’”

Always searching for students who can meet the program’s rigorous quantitative requirements, Kreitzman made it her mission to bring Mbele to Haas. She asked Finkelstein, now an energy trader in London, to help.

One June night, Finkelstein called Mbele, who was playing PlayStation after a day of work at his job at insurance company Old Mutual. The two chatted, and then the conversation got more serious. Would he be interested in applying to the MFE?  Finkelstein mentioned the possibility of a scholarship that Kreitzman had established through the family of Kyle Carlston, MFE 06.

Suddenly, the idea of coming to Berkeley became real.

“Numbers since the day I was born”

Bandile "has great humility and depth of character that I haven’t often seen in my life," says the MFE executive director Linda Kreitzman.
Bandile “has great humility and depth of character that I haven’t often seen in my life,” says the MFE executive director Linda Kreitzman, who worked with South African MFE alum Gary Finkelstein to bring Mbele to Haas.

Before Mbele could accept a place in the MFE program, he had to convince his mother, Patricia, a teacher in a juvenile detention center in Durban, South Africa, that he’d be okay in America. From the start, his mother had played a role in nurturing his love of math, hanging the numbers 1 to 100 in different colors in his room when he was a baby, Mbele said adding “All of my toys had numbers on them.”

His mother helped him move from Newcastle, where he lived alone for a time with his older brother, to Durban, where he could attend good public schools.

In 7th grade, math became a more serious pursuit for Mbele, who was honored as the class’ top-ranked math student, “a game changer that made me realize I had potential,” he said. Later, at Westville Boys’ High School in Durban, he continued to excel academically, which led him to the University of Cape Town. There, he became the top undergraduate math student in a class of 400. “I’m just so passionate about math,” said Mbele, who has tutored students in math for years. “I think I love abstract thinking and the power that comes with that level of thought. I feel like I can understand almost anything.”

I’m just so passionate about math. I think I love abstract thinking and the power that comes with that level of thought.

Mbele finally convinced his mother that the MFE opportunity was too good to pass up—with the help of Kreitzman, who told him that she planned to meet his mom at Mbele’s graduation, if she’s able to attend.

“I was lucky to work with him.”

In the MFE program, Mbele joins students from around the world who are just as passionate about financial skills as he is, coming together for an intense year-long program of quantitative finance and data science coursework and industry projects that will lead many of them to top quant jobs at Wall Street banks and investment firms. (Impressively, about a third of the class, including Mbele, already earned a master’s degree before arriving at Haas.)

Aside from academics, making friends in the program has proven challenging for some of the students without the usual in-person parties and study groups. “The most difficult part was getting to know people over Zoom, especially on a deeper level,” said Mbele’s classmate Renee Reynolds, who added that one-on-one meetings that the students do on the Donut Slack app are helping.

The most difficult part was getting to know people over Zoom, especially on a deeper level. — Mbele’s classmate Renee Reynolds, MFE 21

Mbele and classmate Shamai Zhang got to know each other through lengthy study sessions during the summer semester, typically the MFE’s most difficult due to the daunting Derivatives: Quantitative Methods course. “I was lucky to work with him on that course because he was responsible and effective,” she said. “When I took a look at his work it was so nice, the format, the code, the solutions, and interpretations.”

“A humility and depth of character”

Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program, is “like my mom who has a lot of kids that she takes care of,” Mbele said.

While it’s sad that students can’t all be together in person, Kreitzman said she tries to unite them with riddles, puns, and games for prizes, and phone calls to check on how they are coping. The students planned weekly online poker games during spring semester, which fell off as the course load got heavier in summer.

Kreitzman said she has no regrets about bringing Mbele to Haas, noting the doors that will open for him with his MFE degree.

“Bandile is a very special young man,” Kreitzman said. “He has great humility and depth of character that I haven’t often seen in my life. He is pure kindness and truly embodies our four Haas Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.”

Mbele said he’s always been grateful for what he has—adding Kreitzman to that list now. “She’s like my mom who has a lot of kids that she takes care of,” he said.

After graduating, Mbele said he’s hoping to stay in the U.S., depending on his visa situation, to work for a few years, meet people, and embrace different cultures.

“I’m open to anything,” he said.


MFE Class of 2020 told to build the future, embrace failure

MFE students toss caps
“We are a very close-knit group, an MFE family, and this is what we are going to remember today,”  said Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program.”This program is about resilience.” Photo: Noah Berger

A total of 93 students in the 2020 Master of Financial Engineering class graduated March 13, as commencement speaker Rachel Schutt, a BlackRock managing director, urged them to plant seeds to build the future—and embrace failure.

“The reason why I want you to think about your relationship and beliefs about failure is that it goes hand in hand with the risks you are willing to take, what success means to you, and whether you will try things even if there’s a chance that you might not succeed,” said Schutt, who is head of BlackRock’s AI labs.

Dean Ann Harrison thanked spouses, significant others, parents and friends of the graduating students who watched via livestream.

“We are facing the most challenging health and global crisis that I have personally encountered in my own lifetime,” Harrison told the graduates. “Yet I feel comforted and optimistic in the fact that you brilliant and caring Haas grads are going out in the world to fix our problems and I know you can do it.”

MFE grads
MFE grads celebrate after the ceremony. Photo: Noah Berger

Watch the full video of MFE commencement.


Two MFE students honored at Moody’s competition

Two Berkeley MFE students holding awards
Berkeley MFE students received awards for helping to design new financial tools while interning at Moody’s Analytics. From left to right: Yashoraj Tyagi and Akshay Gupta.

A new technology to help companies assess climate change risk and a financial tool to help insurance companies invest in the best portfolios netted first-place wins for two Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering students participating in a competition at Moody’s Analytics. 

Yashoraj Tyagi and Akshay Gupta, both MFE 20, each took home $500 and received awards for helping to design new financial tools while interning at Moody’s Analytics this past winter.

“It’s rare for an intern to win, especially when you’re competing against actual Moody employees,” said Tyagi. “It feels good to win.”

Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), an artificial intelligence that helps computers and people communicate with each other, Tyagi helped design a new technology that aggregates information about a company, including annual filings, news articles, and climate disclosures, and evaluates a company’s risk to climate change. Investors could use the evaluation to determine whether a company is a safe or risky investment bet.

Gupta helped design a financial tool that assesses the risk level and expected returns of investment portfolios by analyzing millions of data points, including GDP, stock performance, and current events. This new tool would help insurance companies optimize their financial investments, especially when faced with economic challenges such as low interest rates and increased demands for improved credit modeling.


Master of Financial Engineering program ranked #1

Haas MFE Graduation

The Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering Program ranked #1 for the fifth year in a row, according to The TFE Times’ ranking of Master’s of Financial Engineering programs published on Feb. 3, 2020.

This ranking is based on data provided by participating US schools and focuses primarily on the quality of the applicants. The rankings components are weighted as follows:

25% Mean GRE Scores

25% Mean Starting Salary and Bonus

15% Mean Undergraduate GPA

15% Acceptance Rate

10% Full Time Graduates Employed at Graduation

5% Full Time Graduates Employed 3 Months after Graduation

2.5% Total Number of Distinct Courses Available

2.5% Total Research Expenditures

The TFE ranking rates a variety of finance degree programs hosted in disciplines ranging from business schools to mathematics, engineering, and statistics.

More on the methodology.



Haas Team Wins First Place in West Coast Citadel Datathon

Four students holding a check.
Berkeley Master of Engineering students win the West Coast Citadel Datathon. (From left to right: Weipeng Shao, Ying Jin, Yili Wang, and Raymond Ji.)

Deciding on the best place to build a new bike-sharing station in New York City based on ridership data landed a team of Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering students first place in the Citadel West Coast Datathon. The competition was held at the San Francisco Marriott Hotel on January 25. 

Team members: Raymond Ji, MFE 20, Yili Wang, MFE 20, and Weipeng Shao, MFE 20,  working with Ying Jin, PhD 24 (statistics), of Stanford University.

The Field: Twenty-three teams from top U.S. universities on the West Coast, including Caltech, Stanford, UCLA, University of Southern California, and the University of Washington, competed for $20,000 in prize money and the chance to move on to the Citadel National Data Championship in April.

The Challenge and Team’s Plan: The team had to decide where to build a bike-sharing station in New York City based on current and future ridership, demographics, proximity of public transportation, and the popularity of ride-sharing alternatives. Using those data points, the team built a regression model that accurately predicted South Brooklyn as the best location for a bike-sharing station.

The Secret Sauce: “Our wide skill set as well as our extensive preparation set us apart from the other teams,” said Raymond Ji, MFE 20. “Our ability to dig well in depth into a topic question while still covering a broad range of aspects and techniques helped us win the competition.”

The Haas Factor: The students said Prof. Martin Lettau’s Empirical Method in Finance course and Prof. Laurent El Ghaoui’s Finance Data Science course provided useful knowledge for the competition.