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Welcome Bears! New Berkeley Haas students begin classes

Undergraduate students in the Haas courtyard
New undergraduate students gathered in the Haas courtyard. Photo: Noah Berger

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 

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(Photos by Jim Block)

Spirits were high among the entering full-time MBA students who gathered for the traditional Week Zero orientation Aug. 15-17. School and student leaders (including Week Zero Co-Chair Dingmi Gong, MBA 23) and Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs, welcomed the group, who throughout the two days participated in sessions on diversity, equity and inclusion at Haas, productivity and time management, and an introduction to the case study method.  They also met their study groups for Teams@Haas, a program that’s celebrating its 10th year in the MBA curriculum with lessons on collaborative leadership.

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International MBA students had a separate orientation session to learn about careers, financial aid, and housing— and just ask questions. Photo: Jim Block

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. 

Undergraduate Program

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Berkeley Haas undergraduate students participated in ice breakers throughout orientation day in Spieker Forum. Photo: Noah Berger

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.

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Students cheered the news of a plan to eliminate the “Haas Curve” grading policy for undergraduates. Photo: Noah Berger

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):

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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)

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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.”
  • Among the students is a professional water polo player, a Formula One race car driver, and the general manager of a minor league baseball team
  • 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.

PhD

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Top row (left to right): Ockemia Bean, Amol Singh Raswan, Simoni Jain, Karin Li, Edgar Sanchez-Cuevas, Jacob Moore, Analexis Glaude, and Rui Sun. Bottom row (left to right): Sylvia Chin, Bernardo Lembi Ramalho Maciel, Patrik Räty, Silvia Farina, Minghao Yang, Dingzhe Leng. Photo: Jim Block

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.