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Q&A with Sheeraz Haji, new Cleantech to Market (C2M) co-director

Sheeraz Haji standing in front of digital screen in Cafe Think
Sheeraz Haji is the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) program. Photo: Jim Block

A passion to protect the environment began as a child for Sheeraz Haji, the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) Program at Berkeley Haas. 

“My dad was working in Africa for the World Bank, and we got to see how water pollution impacts peoples’ lives,” said Haji, who directs C2M with Brian Steel. “I ended up going back to Africa in college, and the environment just emerged as something that I became interested in.”

We talked to Haji, who began his career as an environmental engineer, about his varied career and his plans for C2M, a program that matches graduate student teams with entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize their climate tech solutions. 

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

All over the world, actually. My dad worked for the World Bank, so we lived in Washington DC, then in Algeria and then Kenya when I was between eight and 12. Africa was amazing; Nairobi was a peaceful, amazing city surrounded by stunning parks. My dad was born and raised in East Africa so it felt like discovering our roots. One of my big memories was kicking and screaming when my parents told my brother and I we had to return to DC, where I went to high school. We didn’t want to go.

How did living in Africa as a kid impact your world view?

Africa played a big role in shaping my world view. My dad’s work gave me exposure to development and sustainability projects. It hit me as a young person. I was like, ‘Oh, this is something to hold onto.’ It was a pretty strong focus coming out of college. Later I got interested in a lot of other things, including business and software.

 You’ve had an interesting career. What are some of the highlights?

There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues. I’ve had some twists and turns in my career, working at McKinsey in strategy and at startups, running software startup GetActive, which helped nonprofits raise money online. But certainly the environment and energy have been big themes. Recently, I ran a company called Cleantech Group which helps corporations and investors across the globe invest in sustainable innovation. I now focus on climate tech investing and corporate consulting through my own firm, zipdragon ventures.

There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues.

What interested you in C2M and this role in particular?

First and foremost, I’ve known Brian (Steel) for a while. We met back in 2013 when I became involved in the program as a guest speaker, a coach, and then as a judge last year. What interested me was just observing and admiring what Brian and (former C2M co-director) Beverly Alexander had built and the impact it had on the students and the entrepreneurs. They put a lot of passion into this program. When I talked to students last year it was clear that C2M was a transformative experience for many of them. Brian, Beverly and co-faculty Bill (Shelander) have also done a really nice job of also keeping other folks from Haas, from the Berkeley ecosystem, and from the industry involved. Also, I have always dreamed of teaching at a world-class institution such as Haas, which happens to be very close to my home in Berkeley.

What are some of the trends that you’re seeing as an investor in clean tech markets?

Investors have poured more money into climate tech in recent years than at any other stage in my career. Global enterprises are driving sustainability goals, and governments are seeking to adopt policies to accelerate transitions to a low-carbon economy. We have observed some big financial outcomes for climate tech startups – something we had not seen for a long time. For example, quite a few EV charging companies have been able to access public markets and provide big returns for founders and investors. In the larger picture, I see sustainability serving as a huge driver across every industry and every company. There’s a massive amount of investment and adoption of climate technologies like the ones we work on at C2M. It feels like a unique time across the globe to focus on clean tech. 

 Can you share immediate/long-term plans for C2M?

I think job number one is for me to learn the program. Job number two is to try to not to mess up a good thing. We’ve got amazing students and a great cohort of startups. We must execute. We’re definitely looking at the curriculum, trying to figure out if and where to adjust. We’ve had some interesting conversations around, ‘Okay, where could we go? Is it another cohort, perhaps? Doing a class in the spring versus just in the fall?’ Also, we’re trying to be creative, as in, ‘Okay, there’s a great set of relationships, both within and outside the university community, creating a wonderful foundation. What else could we do?’ We are very open to ideas, and would love to hear from the Haas community.

 

New undergrad, MBA, and PhD students arrive to start classes

MBA students jumping
New FTMBA students celebrate being together on campus. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas welcomed more than 750 new students in the full-time MBA Class of 2023, along with new undergraduates and PhD students to campus over the past week, kicking off the start of fall semester with a flurry of online and in-person events.

The new students, among the first to return to class in person since the COVID-19 pandemic, join the evening & weekend and executive MBA students who arrived earlier this summer.  

Full-time MBA Program

A total of 291 new full-time MBA students in the Class of 2023 arrived for Week Zero, five days of sessions on topics including academic life at Haas. diversity, equity, and inclusion, and career planning.  Second-year MBA students Vaibhav Anand, Jose Philip and Jessica Hwang served as Week Zero co-chairs. 

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the class at Andersen Auditorium during Monday’s kickoff. “Getting here is not easy,” said Harrison, who earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley with a double major in economics and history and served as a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics from 2001 to 2011. “You’ve selected the right school and you really belong here.” 

Dean Ann Harrison
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the new class. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Harrison said the MBA program would challenge students both academically and personally. “We know that every single one of you has what it takes to succeed in this program,” she said, noting that the smaller program gives students the opportunity to  get to know each other well.

Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions, discussed the meaning of resilience, quoting Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington, who described resilience as the ability to not only bounce back, but bounce forward.

“The fact that you are sitting here today shows that you have the capacity to bounce forward, and it’s a critical skill that’s going to enable you to be strong leaders now and in the future,” he said. 

Throughout the week, students met with cohort members, joined “ask me anything” sessions with professors, took a sunset cruise, and performed community service at the supportive housing community Alameda Point Collaborative and its social enterprise, Ploughshares Nursery.

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MBA students collaborate during a design thinking workshop. Photo: Jim Block

During orientation breaks, they gathered in the courtyard.

“It’s so nice to see everyone here,” said Anhelo Benavides, MBA 23, who grew up in Mexico and worked as a management consultant at Kearney in Dubai before coming to Haas. Highlights of orientation for her included meeting her cohort and hearing from Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar, who spoke to students about making their “house” at Haas into a true home. 

Bree Jenkins
Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar, shared some advice to the new FTMBA class. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Benavides added that she loved the heartwarming welcome video from Haas alumni around the world, who greeted the students with a “Welcome to Haas” cheer. “This video brought joyful tears to my eyes,” she wrote on her Linkedin page. 

A diverse group

The new MBA class is a diverse group composed of 38% women and 37% international students. About half the class are U.S. minorities, with 23% of the students identifying as underrepresented minorities (Black, Latinx, and Native American). Sixteen percent of the students are first in their families to attend college, and 14% of the class identifies at LGBTQ+.

The class is academically exceptional, with average GMAT scores of 726 and average GPAs of 3.67. 

MBA students in courtyard
New MBA students socialized in the courtyard between orientation sessions. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

With an average of 5.4 years of work experience—about 19% of the students are from the consulting industry; 16% are from banking/financial services; 12% are from high tech; 7% are from nonprofits; and 7% are from healthcare/pharma/biotech.

Tomoe Wang, who joins the MBA program from Australia, said she’s planning a career pivot at Haas, so she found the Career Management Group’s orientation panel useful. Organized by MBA Career & Leadership Coach Julia Rosoff, the panel was led by second-year MBA students Caroline Shu, Shane Wilkinson, Lisa Chen, Rachel Stinebaugh, and Kayla Razavi.

 “I had no idea what to expect with the hiring process, so it was good to have panelists walk you through it,” Wang said.

Haas students volunteering
FTMBA students help weed the gardens at the Alameda Point Collaborative. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Thirty-nine students are enrolled in dual degree programs in public health, engineering, and law, including 19 MBA/MPH students, 18 MBA/MEng students, and two MBA/JD students.

John Thompson, MBA/MEng 23, of Shrewsbury, Mass, said he’ll be taking his first engineering courses at UC Berkeley, alongside his business courses. Thompson said he’s looking forward to joining the Food@Haas club, and is interested in exploring the intersection of agriculture and technology as a dual MBA/engineering major. “It’s an area ripe for innovation and growth,” he said. 

Undergraduates

Undergrads in the courtyard
New Haas undergrads joined events held today in the Haas courtyard, including a team-building activity and a networking mixer. Photo: Natasha Payes.

Dean Ann Harrison and Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Undergraduate Program, gave a warm welcome yesterday on Zoom to the 457 new undergraduate students. The group includes 245 continuing UC Berkeley juniors and 101 transfer students.

Continuing students hold an average GPA of 3.79, and the transfer students’ GPA averages 3.91. The class was accepted from a total of 3,304 applicants.

New undergraduate students
Haas undergraduate students met in the courtyard to network today. Photo: Natasha Payes.

Joining orientation were 31 students in the undergraduate Global Management Program (GMP), a selective, four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018, along with 25 students in the Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship program. The Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology  (M.E.T.) program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, admitted 55 freshmen.

Orientation sessions on Zoom included a lecture by Distinguished Teaching Fellow Janet Brady, who discussed tools students need to be successful academically; an intro to career resources by Karen Lin, assistant director of career counseling; and an overview of the fall schedule.

Cohort events were held today in the Haas courtyard, including a team-building activity and a networking mixer.

PhD Program

The 2021 PhD cohort includes 12 students—seven women and five men. This year’s class includes two students in Accounting; three in Business and Public Policy;  two in Finance; three in Marketing—one in Marketing Science and two in Behavioral Marketing; one in Management of Organizations (micro) and one in Management of Organizations student (macro).

The new students are from the U.S., India, France, China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Canada.

The Berkeley Haas PhD program is a five-year, full-time, in-residence program, leading to a PhD in Business Administration. There are a total of 69 students in the program.

10 Berkeley Haas PhDs honored at commencement

Dean Ann Harrison (top, left) congratulated the PhD grads as Haas faculty, family, and friends joined commencement online.
Dean Ann Harrison (top, left) congratulated the PhD grads as Haas faculty, family, and friends joined commencement online.

Ten newly-minted Berkeley Haas PhDs were praised for their resilience during the 2021 commencement ceremony last Saturday, with Dean Ann Harrison noting “the incredible years of hard work” they’ve put into earning the advanced degree.

In full regalia, Finance Prof. Ulrike Malmendier, faculty head of the doctoral program, introduced Harrison, who virtually welcomed the students and their families and friends.

While the PhD is the smallest Haas program, it’s the program “that’s nearest and dearest to the hearts of our faculty, all of whom are PhDs and deeply committed to training the researchers and professors of the future,” said Harrison, who earned a PhD in economics from Princeton University.

Melissa Hacker, executive director of the PhD program, introduced each of the 2021 PhD graduates, who include Stephen Walker, Andres Gonzalez Lira, Thiago Scot, Mohammad Abbas Rezaei, Nika Qiao, Muhammad Yasir Khan, Byung Hyun Ahn, Vincent Skiera, “Harry” Zihao Zhou, and Gauri Subramani.

“Never, ever give up.”

Asst. Prof. Abhishek Nagaraj
Asst. Prof. Abhishek Nagaraj discusses Gauri Subramani’s disseration at commencement.

Harrison praised the students for their years of hard work. “In the midst of the most horrifying pandemic in 100 years you persisted in the program and in finding jobs,” she said. “We are so proud of you.”

She also offered three pieces of advice: stay in touch with your fellow graduates and faculty advisors; never be afraid of submitting your work or sharing it with others; and finally, never, ever, give up. “How well you do will depend entirely on your resilience and determination,” she said.

During the ceremony, faculty advisors, including Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas, Prof. Steve Tadelis, Prof. Ernesto Dal Bó, Prof. Gustavo Manso, Assoc. Prof. Dmitry Livdan, Asst. Prof. Abhishek Nagaraj, and Prof. Miguel Villas-Boas were called on to explain each student’s accomplishments.

Cheit Award winner Guo Xu.

The students’ dissertation titles ranged from “Machine Learning and Corporate Fraud Detection” to “The Impact of R&D Classification Shifting in High-Technology Industries” to “Essays on Quantitative Marketing Theory.”

Five of the students have accepted faculty jobs, while three will take industry positions. Two have not yet finalized their plans.

Asst. Prof. Guo Xu of the Business & Public Policy group was selected to receive the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching. Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the award, the top teaching honor at Berkeley Haas.

Five questions with Gauri Subramani, PhD 21, who researches the gender divide in innovation

As commencement approaches, we’re interviewing grads-to-be from different Haas programs about their experiences at Haas and future plans. We kick off our “five questions”  feature with Gauri Subramani, PhD 21, one of 11 Berkeley Haas PhD students participating in virtual commencement May 1.

Photo of Gauri
Gauri Subramani

Gauri Subramani studies the intersection between innovation and representation, specifically with respect to gender. She’s studied patents as a way to measure innovation in her research, examining the reasons for the underrepresentation of women in patents in the U.S.

This fall, Subramani will join the faculty at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. The first course she’ll teach to undergraduates is Leadership in Organizations.  (Watch a video about her research here)

Here’s our interview:

You majored in economics and English as an undergrad at Wellesley College and ended up working in the Office of Economic Policy in Obama’s Treasury Department after graduating.

Did the English major help?

Gauri Subramani with her parents at her undergrad commencement.

Economics got me in the door, but English helped me to write and to be a good communicator. I really benefited from doing both. This was my second job out of college, which I held for two years, and they were excited that I had a background in English. A lot of work goes into writing clearly about economic insights and the role of the Economic Policy team at the Treasury Department is to translate policy on behalf of the Treasury Secretary, President, and others in the administration. If you can’t communicate with others, you are working in a void.

You must have brought those same skills to your PhD research?

Yes, definitely. I feel that being able to write in an accessible way is really important, particularly as an academic. I’ve also learned from the work of researchers whom I respect a great deal. For example, (Harvard professor) Raj Chetty is an amazing economist and has written very readable papers exploring the drivers of inequality. Partly because of its accessibility, his work also gets a lot of attention in the policy world and in popular press. My favorite paper that he’s written is about who becomes an inventor in America (which explores the roles of family background and exposure to innovation by examining data available in tax records). It inspired the work that I’ve done.

You’ve researched how women and men differ when it comes to applying for patents. Why are so many more men granted patents over time?

To begin, women are less likely than men to apply for patents; roughly 86% of applications come from men or all-male teams. But even conditional on applying for a patent, women are less likely to end up receiving one than men. My coauthors and I studied this gap and found that female patent applicants are less likely to continue in the patent process after receiving a rejection, which is a fairly common event, and inventors can respond to these rejections and their application will continue to be evaluated.

To begin, women are less likely than men to apply for patents; roughly 86% of applications come from men or all-male teams. But even conditional on applying for a patent, women are less likely to end up receiving one than men.

We did find evidence that the gender gap is reduced for applications when an attorney is used or the patent applicant is affiliated with a firm. There are so many environmental factors that can contribute to gender disparities, including the type of support women get at firms, and how organizations invest in a male versus a female inventor. Our findings suggest that access to resources and information can help decrease the gender gap in patenting.

How did you decide to study patents? Was that your idea when you started the program?

I am broadly interested in understanding representation in innovation, and a project I spent some time on was exploring the underrepresentation of women in clinical trials and the impact that has on health outcomes. This project didn’t get off the ground because it was only semi-recently that companies were required to report data by gender and it’s hard to get data on the performance of a drug by gender. But that got me thinking about other areas in which to study the effects of inclusion on innovative outcomes. A popular and common way to measure innovation is to look at patents because the data is easily available, quite fine-grained, and updated regularly.

Abhishek Nagaraj
Asst. Prof. Abhishek Nagaraj of the Management of Organizations group helped Subramani “ask better questions and do better research.”

Which faculty have you worked with closely in your program?

I’ve worked most closely with Asst. Prof. Abhishek Nagaraj. I’ve learned a lot from him about how to ask better questions and how to do better research.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go into academia initially because I thought that “measurable impact” meant working in policy.

But then I saw how some faculty here bridge the gap, by helping to inform policy conversations and by talking to people in industry. I was a GSI for Abhishek in Entrepreneurial Strategy, a class he developed as an elective to bring research to practice. In the class, the students learn research-based frameworks that inform how one should develop an entrepreneurial strategy.  Abhishek brought speakers into the class and made an effort to make the course’s takeaways tangible to students, and to keep two feet in the real world.

 

Eleven graduating PhD students celebrate “insanely huge accomplishments”

2020 Phd graduates
PhD students slated to graduate in the Class of 2020 gathered remotely last Friday for a celebration with Dean Ann Harrison and Prof. Ulrike Malmendier. Photo: Maria Kurakina

Eleven Berkeley Haas PhD students, congratulated for “insanely huge accomplishments,” were urged to take a moment to reflect before moving to the next stage of their careers.

“Please take that time to think about your accomplishments—even if it’s not with the usual commencement music in the background,” said Finance Prof. Ulrike Malmendier, faculty head of the doctoral program, who dressed in full regalia for last Friday’s remote celebratory call. “You made it through, you showed your resilience, and found a starting point for the next part of your life.”

Melissa Hacker, the executive director of the PhD program, welcomed the students, many of whom thanked her personally for her help and emotional support.

Praising the class for its resilience, Dean Ann Harrison, who earned a PhD in economics from Princeton University, noted the students’ “insanely huge accomplishments.”

Harrison recalled working tirelessly during the third year of her doctoral program, after finally coming up with a dissertation topic. “I spent an entire summer in the basement of the computer center typing in numbers into a spreadsheet so I could have a database,” she said. “I’m getting tears in my eyes just thinking about what you’ve been through. You are all going on to do amazing things and I’m just so proud of you.”

You are all going on to do amazing things and I’m just so proud of you.

The PhD students slated to graduate include Christopher Lako, Dayin Zhang, Jieyin (Jean) Zeng, Luc Kien Hang, Margaret (Maggie) Fong, Maria Kurakina, Marius Guenzel, Michael Rosenblum, Oren Reshef, Troup Howard, and Xin Chen. Their areas of specialization include real estate, accounting, finance, business and public policy, marketing and management of organizations.

The graduates selected Prof. Ernesto Dal Bó, the Phillips Girgich Professor of Business, to receive the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching. Faculty are selected to receive the award—which is the top teaching honor at Berkeley Haas—by students in each program.

“We all made it.”

Nine of the grads are heading to jobs in academia and two landed in industry both in the U.S. and abroad. Guenzel, whose dissertation was on behavioral and corporate finance, accepted a job as assistant professor at Wharton, while Hang, who researched asset pricing, will work as a data and applied scientist at Microsoft. Zeng, who welcomed a baby boy with her husband during the program, is headed to the National University of Singapore as an assistant professor.

Students shared stories of late-night poker games, intense study groups, testing research questions on each other, and forging lifelong friendships along the way. The program was about experiencing something together with your friends, Zeng said. “The third year was hard but it was less hard because my cohort was experiencing the same thing and we all made it,”  she said. “I’m really happy with that.”

Howard, who will be an assistant professor at David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, recalled many “incredible, wonderful moments” during the program “and some tough ones as well.” He recounted heading into Hacker’s office three weeks into his first semester worried that he would lose his funding if he failed all of his classes, and that he wouldn’t be able to pay rent. “I wouldn’t have made it without a ton of support and friendship of the folks on here,” Howard said.

I wouldn’t have made it without a ton of support and friendship of the folks on here.

Hacker, who held back tears several times, responded that she remembered thinking that day, “He’s going to be just fine.”

Influential couples in economics

Zhang, whose wife is graduating with a PhD in economics from the University of Michigan, expressed his admiration for the “best couples in economics” at UC Berkeley, including husband and wife economics professors Christina Romer and David Romer, and Malmendier and her husband, Prof. Stefano DellaVigna. “This gives me a goal to achieve,” he said, of becoming another successful economics couple.

Reshef and his wife had two babies, a girl and a boy, while he was in the program, both of whom made an appearance during the call. Reshef, like other students, regretted that they couldn’t be together to celebrate in person, but vowed to reunite after the coronavirus crisis passes.

“It’s great to see everybody,” he said. “I hope we get to see each other again under different circumstances.”

 

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.