Haas welcomes more than a thousand new students to campus

photo of the new MBA class
The new full-time MBA class! Photo: Benny Johnson

Haas welcomed new students in the full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD programs to campus this month for orientation and the start of fall semester. New students in the evening & weekend MBA program arrived earlier this summer, beginning classes July 29.

Full-time Berkeley MBA Program

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Photos of the Cohort Olympics by Jim Block.

The theme of diversity and inclusion in business ran throughout orientation, also known as Week Zero, for the 283 new students in the full-time MBA class, with sessions on diversity and leadership led by Director of Inclusion & Diversity Élida Bautista, and new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer David Porter.

“We chose the diversity and inclusion theme intentionally this year and we wove it throughout the week,” said Peter Johnson, assistant dean full-time MBA program and admissions. “We want to help our students better understand the business case for diversity and the importance of becoming leaders who are able to effectively guide a diverse and inclusive organization.”

The week kicked off with alumni speaker and Cisco executive Nikita Mitchell, MBA 15, and continued with a business case reveal Tuesday and surprise visitors: executives from global investment management firm BlackRock (students had read a case about BlackRock’s diversity efforts before arriving). Weijian Shan, chairman and CEO of PAG Group, launched the fall Dean’s Speaker Series, discussing his new book “Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America.” (Watch the video of Shan’s talk here.)

Class members also met their study teams, worked together at an urban farm at the Alameda Point Collaborative, and competed in the annual Cohort Olympics.

Photo of BlackRock's Frank Cooper, who surprised the MBA students
Frank Cooper, global CMO of BlackRock, makes his way to the stage, as surprised students react to BlackRock’s visit. Photo: Benny Johnson

The incoming class of MBA students is comprised of 37% women. U.S. minorities are 30% of the class overall, and underrepresented minorities comprise 14% of the class (or 22% of just the U.S. students). They include a total of 41 African American, Hispanic American, and Native American students—a sharp increase from last year, when they were 7% of the class (11% of the U.S. students). The group is 35% international, hailing from 39 countries; India, China, Brazil, Peru, Canada, Japan, and Mexico are the top represented countries.

Dean Ann Harrison photo by Jim Block
Dean Ann Harrison: “We have really high expectations of you.” Photo: Jim Block

Dean Ann Harrison, addressing her first entering MBA class as dean, urged students to take time to really get to know each other, and to take advantage of the Haas alumni and broader UC Berkeley network. “This place is awesome, and it’s also awesomely demanding,” she said. “We have really high expectations of you. How hard you work this year will immediately pay off.”

Students in the class have an average of five years work experience, 20% in consulting, 17% in finance and financial services, and 11% in the nonprofit world. The class includes 24 veterans.

Morgan Bernstein, executive director of full-time MBA admissions, called out many students by name during a reception, including Manny Smith, who competed at the Team USA World Sprinter Championships and was the Armed Forces Men’s Track Champion in 2017; Randall Nixon, a Division 1 football college quarterback; Margie Cadet, a trained doula who helped expectant mothers; Jung Bahk, a back-up dancer for K-pop singers; and Daniela Kurinaga, who helped give 600 small & medium enterprises their first access to credit at Banco Credito del Peru.

MBA students break into study groups to get to know each other.
MBA students met their study groups during orientation. Photo: Jim Block

Students said they are excited to begin classes.

“If Week Zero is a representation of what the next two years at Haas will be like, it will likely be the best two years of my life,” said Soniya Parmar, MBA 21, who is from India.

Undergraduate Program

The new class of undergraduate students—an international group of music lovers, cooks, speakers of multiple languages, athletes, travelers, and photographers—kicked off orientation Tuesday in Spieker Forum in Chou Hall. Dean Harrison welcomed the students, professional faculty members Todd Fitch and Krystal Thomas led a discussion on thriving in the Berkeley Haas community. Chief DEI Officer David Porter and Derek Brown, a Berkeley Haas PhD candidate, steered sessions on team building and leadership.

Of the 362 incoming undergraduate students, 265 are continuing UC Berkeley students and 97 transferred into the program. Continuing students held an average GPA of 3.67 and transfer students’ GPA averages 3.89.  The class was accepted from a total of 2,663 applicants.

In addition, 49 undergraduate students in the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology program (M.E.T.) started this week. The program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, grants graduates two degrees—in business and in engineering—in four years, with the goal of providing deep leadership and technology skills.

Over the summer, 28 new students arrived in the undergraduate Global Management Program, a selective, four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018. On top of an already demanding undergraduate curriculum, students must fulfill a language requirement, study abroad their first semester, and take specialized global business courses.

“We’re so proud of this international, talented new class,” said Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Haas Undergraduate Program “They’ve achieved amazing feats academically and are going beyond themselves in so many ways inside and outside of the classroom. We can’t wait to see what they do.”

All of the new undergrad students received new Berkeley Haas backpacks.
Entering undergrad students show off their new Berkeley Haas backpacks. Photo: Dinko Lakic

Evening & Weekend MBA Program

The 279 new students in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program gathered for their WE Launch orientation July 26-28 at the Doubletree Berkeley Marina, where they were assigned to a cohort of 70 to 75 students for their core courses.

Students in the EWMBA program balance their classes while working full time. Class members work for a total of 216 companies—23% in high tech, 11% in computer related services, and 9% in consulting. The top job role is engineering (18%), followed by marketing and sales (15%).

New evening and weekend students gather
The 279 new students in the EWMBA class participate in We Launch orientation before starting classes. Photo: Jim Block

Seventy-nine percent of the class lives and work in the Bay Area, although the students hail from 21 countries. More than a third of the class are women and the median student age is 30.

A few fun facts: one student was an extra in the 2011 Steven Soderbergh movie “Contagion,” while another founded the Bay area’s Greenfoot Hiking Club, which has more than 350 members. The class also includes a former pro baseball player and an opera singer. Many of the students are multi-lingual (one even speaks seven languages).

PhD Program

Twelve new students began the PhD program this year, bringing the total number of the students in the program to 71.

New PhD student photo of the class
The new class of PhD students. Top row, left to right: Top row, l-r: Pavel Bacherikov, Yixiang Xu, Shoshana Jarvis, Charlie Townsend, Jaeyeon Lee, Yunhao Huang. Bottom row, l-r: Morgan Foy, Saqib Choudhary, Sandy Campbell, William Ryan, Summer Zhao, Konhee Chang Summer Zhao. Photo: Jim Block

The new students are international, hailing from China, Russia, Korea, and India and from universities including Carnegie Mellon, Higher School of Economics Moscow, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Duke, UC Berkeley, and Tsinghua University.

Their research areas range from the impact of gender bias on women to why people make systematic errors with certain types of choices. “It’s always so exciting to follow our students as they work their way through this rigorous program, to learn about their fascinating research, and ultimately how it contributes to their field,” said Melissa Hacker, the program’s director of student affairs.

Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman honored with graduate student mentoring award

Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman
Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman is honored for her work mentoring graduate students.

When Rachel Dzombak’s PhD advisor, beloved engineering Professor David Dornfeld, died unexpectedly in 2016, she was not sure what would happen next.

“That morning was a nightmare,” said Dzombak, now a postdoctoral researcher at Haas and at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. “I came back to the lab after receiving a text from a peer to see Sara sitting on the couch, comforting students.”

“Sara” is Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman, who co-taught a course with Dornfeld, the founding faculty director of the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation. After his passing, Beckman served as Dzombak’s advisor until she graduated with a PhD in civil and environmental engineering in August 2017. Dzombak credits Beckman with not only comforting her through her grief, but helping her unite the disparate parts of her research.

Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman with Rachel Dzombak, PhD 17.
Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman (left) with Rachel Dzombak, PhD 17

“She digs into the details,” Dzombak said. “She provides constructive ideas and, if she doesn’t know how to navigate a problem, she’ll connect you with three people who might. She never settles.”

That experience led Dzombak to nominate Beckman for the 2018 Carol D. Soc Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award for senior faculty. Beckman, who teaches innovation and design at both Haas and UC Berkeley’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, will receive the campus-wide award at a ceremony April 12.

Fiona M. Doyle, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate division of the Donald H. McLaughlin Professor of Mineral Engineering, said Beckman’s nomination stood out from the pool of numerous nominees.

Solving complicated problems

Beckman, who joined Haas in 1988 and is the Earl F. Cheit Faculty Fellow, is perhaps best known among MBA students for Problem Finding, Problem Solving, a pioneering course that has been part of  the core curriculum since 2010 to teach students how to recognize and solve complicated problems using design-thinking, systems-thinking, and critical-thinking techniques. Students often cite the course as making the difference for them in competition wins and consulting projects.

Beckman also teaches Applied Innovation Immersion Week, Advanced Innovation, Creativity & Leadership, and Collaborative Innovation.

Much of Beckman’s work has included years of hands-on research-based mentoring and coaching of PhD students, getting into the thick of highly interdisciplinary work. Beckman said she’s thrilled to receive the award.

“I know that the way that I’ve crafted my research work at the university, reaching across disciplinary boundaries to work on interesting problems in the design and innovation space, is a bit outside of the norm,” she said. “It’s gratifying for me and for many of the PhD students I’ve worked with over the years to know that kind of work can be honored.”

Many people wanted to contribute to her nomination and tell stories of how Beckman played a definitive role in their Berkeley experience. Dzombak, the lead nominator, spoke with current and former students, as well as faculty, from Haas, the College of Engineering, the College of Environmental Design, the College of Letters and Sciences, and the College of Natural Resources, for Beckman’s recommendation.

“The message told to me was consistent: Sara changes students’ lives,” Dzombak wrote.

“Sara electrifies students with possibilities”

Haas lecturers Marymoore Patterson, MBA 09, and Barbara Waugh, an executive in residence at both Haas and the College of Engineering, praised Beckman’s commitment to interdisciplinary teaching. Working across departments, as Beckman has done over the years, has posed challenges. But gradually Beckman’s choices made her a “hero to students and faculty who want to partner across the boundaries,” they wrote in their nomination letter.

Sara Beckman teaching Problem Finding, Problem Solving
Sara Beckman teaching Problem Finding, Problem Solving

“Sara electrifies her students with possibility,” they wrote. “She fearlessly tackles wicked problems, constantly modeling how. She begins each day herself with the ‘beginner’s mind’ that she aims to instill in her students.”

Engineering Prof. Alice Agogino called Beckman “a mentoring artist” who steers students with “insightful framings of their research.”

Doctoral students mentored by Beckman include Assoc. Prof. Eric Masanet of Northwestern University, PhD 04, whom Beckman helped evaluate data from case studies in sustainable design; Corie Cobb, PhD 08, now an associate professor at the University of Washington, whom Beckman assisted with a number of papers dedicated to understanding the impact of her course in New Product Development; and Kimberly Lau, who researched the role that diversity plays in effective product development team performance.

Lau, who also wrote a nomination letter for Beckman, recalls how she pulled her back into the PhD program, even after she quit to take her dream job at Disney. “Dr. Beckman refused to give up on me,” she said. “She continually encouraged me to finish and she always made time whenever I had questions… She persisted with me for three years beyond my expected completion date, with no hesitations, and I finally graduated.”

Dzombak and Beckman continue to work together today, conducting research on the future of higher education and the innovation processes of Nobel Laureates. Together, they launched a one-unit course for graduate students called Designing a Life. The goal is  to help other students navigate career and personal challenges.

Beckman’s award, which includes a $2,500 prize, will be presented at a ceremony on Thursday, April 12, from 4-6 pm, at Anna Head Alumnae Hall.  Not surprisingly, she says she will apply the award toward supporting her graduate students.