Read the latest campus information on coronavirus (COVID-19) here →

Why the tech layoffs offer opportunity for a reset: Q&A with Saikat Chaudhuri

Portrait of a man with glasses and blue suit jacket
Saikat Chaudhuri (Photo: Copyright Noah Berger)

While tech employment remains strong, a wave of layoffs is shaking up the industry. According to the tracking site layoffs.fyi, about 137,000 people have lost their jobs since layoffs started ticking up in May. 

To find out more about what is driving this shakeup, we spoke with Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director of the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (MET) Program and of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. Chaudhuri, an expert on corporate growth and innovation, mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing, and technological disruption, says the upheaval offers the opportunity for a reset and a chance to pursue growth in emerging areas.

The economy and labor markets are going strong. So why are so many tech companies laying off workers? 

Many people are confounding two different things. We should not mix up the events specific to the tech industry with all the other issues that are going on in the broader economy due to the challenges of macroeconomic shocks, like Russia’s war on Ukraine, the aftereffects of the pandemic including supply chain problems, and the general inflationary pressures. The technology industry is also affected by those events, but there are additionally more fundamental factors at play.

“I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas.”

What’s happening in the tech industry is really a natural shakeout after over a decade of phenomenal growth. It is not unlike when the dotcom bubble burst in 2001. The sector was overheated and it could not continue as it had. The same is true now, as many startup and unicorn valuations skyrocketed over the last years, especially because the pandemic accelerated the growth to record levels as the deployment of technology and digital transformation became necessary everywhere. On the bright side, it’s actually not all bad. While I recognize that layoffs are painful for many people right now, the industry as a whole needs this adjustment to bring us to a path of more sustainable economic growth in tech. Because what was happening, especially with hiring over the last few years, was just completely unrealistic.

Meta laid off 11,000 workers in November, or about 13% of its workforce. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

How did we get here?

During the pandemic, we went more digital. People worked remotely and they could work from anywhere—Hawaii, the countryside, anywhere. Tech became a big factor as the economy shifted entirely online: online retail, online banking, online instruction, online meetings, online therapy. It brought significant disruption to all industries. 

We need to keep in mind that the pandemic was a different kind of economic crisis. Usually in an economic crisis, everybody loses, but that didn’t happen here. Some industries actually gained significantly, especially most of the technology sectors. The growth rate that they experienced, whether hardware, software, e-commerce, healthcare apps, fintech, crypto—you name it—was completely unsustainable. Just take a look at tech hiring last year: Tech job postings hit their peak in March 2022 and have been declining sharply since. We hit the point where the trend reverses. It was going to happen, either now or a year or two from now. It coincides with what’s going on in the overall economy and world politics, leading to a perfect storm. 

“Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.”

This situation also poses a great excuse for employers. They say: A recession is coming. I will have to let people go.” Once that first domino falls, it is easy for others to follow.

Are you saying there was an inflation of the workforce inside the tech industry?

Yes. The reason for this is very simple: You don’t get penalized for growing your workforce while the sector is growing so fast. Everybody knows it will have to stop at some point, but there’s no penalty for riding the wave. 

In fact, there’s a loss for your firm if you don’t ride the growth. If you said, “We should be more prudent because some sort of adjustment is going to happen,” there’d be no gain and you’d be losing out on the potential benefits—profits, funding, talent. Because when the correction happens, you can simply lay people off by the thousands. Two years later, the same people who got laid off will come back to the industry (whether at the same kinds of firms or new areas that emerge), and the same VCs will invest. There are no consequences for these actions. That’s just the way of Silicon Valley and the tech world, as they go through cycles. 

 

In November, Amazon cut its corporate workforce by 10,000 people. (AP File Photo by Michel Spingler)

Is this correction just a tightening of the belt, or is the industry reorganizing itself to make room for a new wave of technologies that require new skills or a reallocation of resources?

There will be some reorganization happening, because some areas are growing faster than others. For example, Amazon decided that not all of its devices are doing so well. Companies have been carrying losses in some areas for a while. But it didn’t matter because there was so much growth overall, and they didn’t want to miss out on that wave. It is not unlike the dotcom bubble, where for instance network equipment companies were investing in an array of optical networking products that never properly worked, because regular routers and switches were minting money. 

“A re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role.”

Moreover, re-evaluation of talent needs will also play a role. I’ve been puzzled for a while about all the anxiety surrounding the shortage of software developers, and the salaries they were being offered in the mad scramble to secure such talent. So much basic programming work has become well-defined, codified, and routine that those skills can be learned at scale by a wider base of employees. If you think about it, thousands of software developers, even at companies like Microsoft and Google, are engaged to implement enhancements to products such as adjusting fonts or updating visuals or adding simple features—not product design or creation of new functionality. Those jobs don’t require computer science graduates, as IBM realized five years ago, when they began hiring non-college graduates with programming experience, at that time out of necessity. 

In fact, there are tools now that can automate basic code writing, which are already being deployed. It won’t stop there, because we now also have algorithms which can do many sophisticated tasks; just look at Open AI’s ChatGPT, which is writing essays, poems, lecture notes, speeches, and other creative pieces at the click of a button!

Why now? Is there anything in particular that started this domino effect this year? 

Now, with increased scrutiny from investors and others who look at a firm’s financial viability, this overstaffing approach is getting reined in. There have been excesses in view of rosy projections and seemingly limitless valuations. Now the bubble has popped, as it does in every tech cycle, and it’s been a great opportunity (and excuse) for firms to make adjustments, tighten their belts, and reduce their workforce.

photo of five students who won top award at C2M
The winning Cleantech to Market (C2M) teams celebrate after making their presentations on Dec. 2. C2M is a partnership between graduate students, startups, and industry professionals to help accelerate the commercialization of leading cleantech technologies. Over 15 weeks, each team and their subject matter experts spend nearly 1,000 hours assessing these leading-edge technologies and investigating a wide range of market opportunities.

Where do you see opportunities?

The next wave of growth will come from emerging sectors, like cleantech and green tech, new materials, breakthroughs in the life sciences, and novel products and services resulting from the maturation of general purpose technologies like AI. Just like the dotcom era was about the internet and all that it spawned—cloud services, big data, the internet of things, and other advances in information technology—there will be a wave of new technologies that will disrupt a lot of different sectors. 

In many industries, the disruption has just begun and exciting new transformations are taking place that’ll unfold over the next decade—whether in education, healthcare, finance, automobiles, or aerospace, just to name a few. I am not worried about the jobs coming back. What we are seeing are structural changes. The jobs will be shifting, and will grow in up-and-coming areas. 

“If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches.”

What does that mean for the students at Haas, and those considering an MBA? 

For our own graduates, it would be healthy to see this as an opportunity. The most entrepreneurial people are the ones who look at these situations and say, “Change is good, and uncertainty has two sides. It’s what creates the opportunity for new things.” 

Instead of defining your career in terms of a particular job at a particular company, you could think about which problem you want to solve. That is where you will find the opportunity to lead and to make a real impact. 

It’s great to aspire to work your way up to an executive job at a large firm, and many of our graduates will do that and be very successful. Others will go against the grain. They will be the ones we hear about, because they actually change how Goldman Sachs works or McKinsey works or Google works for the next era. And of course there will be the entrepreneurs who will pursue startups that will redefine entire industries. 

Take Stuart Bernstein, BS 86, former Goldman Sachs managing director and partner who shook up investment banking with his passion for clean energy and the environment. A true leader by definition changes things. That’s why we pay attention to them and learn from them.

A lot of our students come in wanting to make an impact early in their careers. What does it take to get there?

If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this: Don’t get sidetracked by group think and FOMO. To become a leader, you’ll need to be comfortable charting new paths and challenging conventional approaches. Leaders have confidence, without attitude—confidence in their vision and in their ability to make it happen, and the humility to learn and acknowledge challenges and risks.

The good news is, you don’t have to be born with it. An MBA program like Berkeley’s gives you the opportunity to develop that kind of confidence. You can train yourself to see the opportunity in ambiguity, embrace serendipity, and take intelligent risks. 

Along the way you also learn key the business skills—finance, marketing, management, operations, and so forth—that you will need as a leader. All that will help you develop this vision for your path to make an impact, and the confidence and network to make it happen. 

Winners of this month’s LAUNCH Startup Accelerator Demo Day.

What opportunities are there at Haas and Berkeley to get ahead of the next wave?

As part of our strategic priorities, we are building a new entrepreneurship hub at Haas that will be a game changer for our students and students across Berkeley. It will draw people from all over the campus. The great thing about Berkeley is that it has so many top-rated departments, and we will be able to bring them to one place to talk to each other and collaborate. So many of our Haas signature programs are about this kind of cross-pollination. Take Cleantech to Market’s partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, or the Berkeley Skydeck accelerator, or the dual degree programs we have with Public Health, Engineering, Law, and that we are developing with the Rausser College of Natural Resources. 

The most pressing problems of global society today require interdisciplinary perspectives. The hub we are developing will not only allow diverse people to connect, but it will provide them with the space and resources to create community, build their ventures, and be discovered by investors. What is novel is that we will not only support those who have a good sense of the entrepreneurial path, but also those who simply would like to be exposed to what it’s all about—the “entrepre-curious,” as we call them. And anyone from around the university will be able to drop in to simply ask an expert for guidance on how to navigate the vast innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Berkeley based on what they need.

“While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well.”

What’s your big-picture advice?

Silicon Valley is our backyard. While the tech industry is doing a reset, it may be a great time for you to do a reset as well. Beef up your skills, develop your leadership potential, build your network, and embrace your inner entrepreneur.

Salaries, employment rates jump for FTMBA 2022 Class

Employment rates and average base salaries jumped for the full-time Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2022, with the consulting, technology, and financial services industries again drawing about 75% of the graduates.

“What made this year so exciting is the extraordinary demand for our MBA graduates and the appetite for their skills, including an ability to lead and innovate in a changing, diverse world,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management and Corporate Partnerships. 

photo of Abby Scott
Assistant Dean Abby Scott

Some highlights from this year’s employment report:

  • Salaries reached new heights, hitting an average base salary of $152,831, nearly $10,000 more than $143,696 in 2021. About 74% of the class received an average signing bonus of $33,418 and 43% of our graduates received stock grants or options as part of their compensation packages. Consulting pays the highest average salary at $166,637. 
  • Within three months of graduation, 93% of the class of 320 students accepted job offers. With these results, Haas returned to some of our highest pre-pandemic levels of job acceptances. 
  • Amazon, Bain Consulting, and McKinsey & Co. were the top three hiring firms, followed closely by Adobe, BCG, Deloitte, and Google. 15% of the graduates joined startups and 16 students (or 5% of the graduating class) started their own company at graduation. And 18% of the graduates who accepted jobs reported that their position had a “social impact component,” commonly in industries including healthcare, cleantech, sustainable real estate and investing.

“As our graduates enter the workforce, we look forward to seeing what they do next,” Dean Ann Harrison said.  “We know they are well equipped to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. We see our graduates innovating to create inclusive and sustainable businesses.”

Finding the right fit

There were small shifts in industries where students accepted jobs this year. Thirty three percent of the class joined the tech industry; 28% accepted jobs in the consulting industry, and 13.7% went into financial services. There were also small increases in the number of students taking jobs in real estate and the transportation/mobility sectors.

Chase Thompson, MBA 22, a global strategist with Samsung, said he came to Haas knowing that he wanted to work in the tech industry, but unsure about what role would best suit him. 

After interning at Adobe, he discovered an interest in global business, which led him to recruit with Samsung. “Fortunately, Samsung’s global strategy group fit squarely in the criteria I was targeting, so it made logical sense as the best next step for me post-MBA,” he said. 

Thompson said his job provides incredible exposure to high-level Samsung management, travel opportunities for company research at subsidiaries in Korea, Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America, and a clear leadership pipeline. 

Portrait of Tess Krasne
Tess Krasne, MBA 22, is a senior associate at Alante Capital.

“I am working directly with EVPs on projects, and the output of our work is leveraged for long-term decision making within the organization, oftentimes informing multi-billion dollar decisions,” he said.

Tess Krasne, MBA 22, said an interest in the intersection of business and climate brought her to Haas, and ultimately to become a senior associate at Alante Capital, a women-led firm that invests in technologies that enable a resilient, sustainable future for apparel production and retail.

Krasne interned at Alante after she was introduced to its founder through Haas’ Strategic and Sustainable Business Solutions class. After completing multiple internships with different companies during her MBA program, she accepted a full-time position after graduation with Alante,

“I came to Haas wanting to be part of a new wave of change,” she said. “I love that I get to work with such great co-workers and mentors and that I get to meet with 10 entrepreneurs a week to see what they’re building as I think about what the future might look like in the apparel space.”

Read the full 2022 employment report here.

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 

DSC00808
t-shirts MBA
DSC05417
DSC02136
DSC03462
DSC03915
DSC04231
DSC02531
DSC02342
DSC04361
DSC04798
DSC04293
DSC01002
DSC05244
DSC05066
DSC05671
DSC05954
DSC05685
DSC06048
DSC05501
DSC06211
DSC06566

(Photos by Jim Block)

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

International student at MBA orientation at Haas
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

Undergraduate students shaking hands in Spieker Forum
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.

new undergraduate students cheering
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):

Undergrad1
Undergrad10
Undergrad11
Undergrad12
Undergrad2
Undergrad3
Undergrad4
Undergrad6
Undergrad7

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)

EW7
EW8
EW6
EW5
EW2
ewmba skit
EW4
EWMBA 12
EWMBA 13
EW11

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

portrait of new PhD students
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.

A record-breaking 2022 for fundraising at Berkeley Haas

student walking toward faculty building at Haas with campanille in back
Berkeley Haas raised $69 million from more than 4,300 donors in fiscal 2022. Campus photo: Noah Berger

The Haas School of Business announced its best fundraising year in the school’s history, raising $69 million from more than 4,300 donors in fiscal year 2022. 

The banner year was anchored by a $30 million gift to transform the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Program.

This year’s efforts bring the total raised for the past two fiscal years to a record $116 million, the most ever raised in two consecutive years.

“So many alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends went beyond themselves this year, providing unbelievable support for Haas,” Dean Ann Harrison said. “Their generous gifts will be used to do important work within our community, work that will help Haas build the next generation of Berkeley leaders, stay connected to and support our alumni community, and remain a top business school. We are truly grateful.”

Fundraising highlights from the past year:

  • $69 million raised from donations by 4,339 alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends.
  • A $30 million gift, the largest single donation in the school’s history, from Ned Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BS 66 (political science). Their gift will be used to launch the four-year Spieker Undergraduate Program in Fall of 2024.
  • The addition of seven new Builders of Berkeley—donors who given at least $1 million to Berkeley—including Haruki, MBA 12, and Mikiko Satomi, Kevin, BS 82 JD/MBA 85 and Eileen Shields, John Hokom, BS 59, MBA 60, Steve Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, Roshni and Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90, Joanne and Jon Goldstein, BS 82; and the Liang-Kuo Family.
  • The 2022 one-day Big Give campaign, which raised $2.475 million from a record 911 gifts.
  • A record number of gifts of $2,500, the new gift level for the Haas Leadership Society.
  • A record $4.86 million raised for the Haas Fund, the most raised in one year. Gifts to the Haas Fund are used for scholarships and program enhancements, as well as our Alumni Network podcasts, lifelong learning, and alumni programming.

Alumni engagement highlights from the past year:  

Alumni engagement also thrived in 2022, with a record-breaking group of nearly 1,700 alumni returning to campus for their makeup and in-person MBA reunion weekend celebrations. Together, the MBA reunion classes of 2020 and 2021 donated $2.2 million and gave 11 lead gifts. At the annual Alumni Conference, the combined virtual and in-person events allowed alumni from all over the world to tap into Haas thought leadership. In-person events fostered community-building and connections.  

More alumni engagement highlights:

  • Alumni affinity groups increased programming for women graduates as well as programming in real estate and growth industries like cryptocurrency and blockchain.  
  • Alumni sourced and shared 474 jobs with the school as part of the Hire Haas campaign.  
  • More than 3,700 alumni accepted a call to action, volunteering for Haas by assisting with admissions, meeting with students for career conversations, serving as guest speakers or panelists, or leading and arranging events and programs for fellow alumni.  
  • The OneHaas Alumni Podcast produced 42 podcasts featuring alumni in conversation about their Haas experience and career trajectories.
  • Three new mentoring programs were launched to support student career planning and help build greater alumni connections.
  • A self-paced alumni lifelong-learning management platform was launched which provides video content curated for intellectual curiosity. The first two courses focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources for alumni. 

For more information about investing in the schools priorities and/or becoming a volunteer please contact Howie Avery, assistant dean for Development & Alumni Relations, or the Development and Alumni Relations office.

Largest gift in Berkeley Haas history will transform undergraduate business program from two to four years

Berkeley, Calif.— The Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, today announced that its top-ranked two-year undergraduate business program will expand to become a four-year program, supported by the largest single gift in the school’s history.

In recognition of the $30 million gift from Haas alumnus Warren “Ned” Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BA 66, (political science), UC Berkeley will name the Haas School’s four-year undergraduate business program the Spieker Undergraduate Business Program. The first four-year cohort of students will enroll in August of 2024.

Haas alum Ned Spieker
Ned Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, gave a record $30 million to Haas to transform the undergraduate program. Photo: Karl Nielsen

“A four-year undergraduate business experience will provide remarkable new opportunities for students,” said Ned Spieker, a Haas School Board member who is founder and former Chairman and CEO of Spieker Properties, one of the largest owner-operators of commercial property in the U.S. “My hope is that this gift will help build a program that’s second-to-none in the world, cementing Haas as the top undergraduate business school for generations to come.”

“This is a historic, game-changing investment in undergraduate business education,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann E. Harrison. ”We are so thrilled that Ned and Carol have made a commitment to Haas toward building the next generation of business leaders.”

Historically, students have applied to the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Program as sophomores and enrolled as juniors. Now, prospective Berkeley students will have the option to apply directly to Haas and enter as freshmen, giving them an additional two years for deeper learning, including career development, study abroad opportunities, entrepreneurship programs, capstone projects, mentorship engagements, and internships. While the majority of undergraduates will enter as freshmen in the future, continuing UC Berkeley and transfer students may continue to apply for acceptance to the program as sophomores.

Delivering impact

The Spiekers’ gift will be used to deliver impact in five areas critical to supporting the program, including:

  • Endowing a new scholars program
    The new Spieker Scholars Program will attract the best and brightest undergraduate students. These students have challenged themselves academically throughout their high school experience and demonstrated exceptional leadership skills through athletic and co-curricular pursuits, their commitment to creating a positive social impact in their communities, and their curiosity for learning outside of the traditional academic setting. Spieker Scholars, three to four chosen per class, will receive significant financial support and enrichment opportunities. In addition to the Spieker Scholars Program, this gift will fund an expansion of the scholarships available for students who may have financial barriers to attending UC Berkeley.
  • Building outreach and support
    Outreach efforts will be expanded to ensure that high-performing students from all backgrounds consider Haas. A first-year academic advisor will work with admitted students, providing the knowledge and resources required to navigate the university system. Students will also have access to preparatory courses that will build their foundational knowledge around business concepts and strengthen their quantitative skills.
  • Creating a life-changing student experience
    Haas will increase staffing for academic and admissions advising, mental health services and support, marketing and admissions, alumni outreach, and student orientation. These additional touchpoints will ensure that undergraduate students are maximizing their time within the ecosystem of Berkeley Haas and developing deep relationships with the alumni community.
  • Providing new co-curricular opportunities
    Funds will be used to support student activities such as experiential learning workshops, international research, travel opportunities, social gatherings, student conferences and competitions, and additional leadership opportunities.
  • Enhancing classroom technology and infrastructure
    To provide students a state-of-the-art learning experience, classrooms in Cheit Hall, where many undergraduate students take classes, will be upgraded with the latest audio, visual, and media equipment.

A crucial role in campus planning

Ned Spieker, who is also founder and chairman of Continuing Life communities, which operates large-scale communities for seniors in California, met his wife, Carol, at UC Berkeley. Their four children are Cal grads. Carol Spieker, an Emeritus Trustee of the UC Berkeley Foundation, has served on the governing board of Filoli, a National Historic Trust property, and as chairman of the board of Sacred Heart Schools.

For years, Ned Spieker has played a crucial role in Haas campus planning, convincing the administration of the importance of maximizing its campus footprint. Spieker served as a catalyst and champion for the construction of Haas’ newest building, Chou Hall. Recently, Spieker shifted his efforts to the undergraduate program.

The undergraduate program has added three multidisciplinary programs and one minor outside of the core program over the past several years. The new programs include:

Early support

The expanded four-year undergraduate program has also received a number of gifts from other generous supporters, which helped bring the total raised so far to more than $45 million (including the Spieker gift). Early supporters include Janelle Grimes, BA 86, (political science), and Michael Grimes, BS 87, (electrical engineering and computer science). Michael Grimes, the M.E.T. program’s founding donor, played an instrumental role by working with Berkeley Haas as a founder of the four-year undergraduate program. Additional program supporters include Steve Etter, BS 83, MBA 89; Maria and Gene Frantz, BS 88; Joanne and Jon Goldstein, BS 82; Melissa and Clif Marriott, BS 99; Adria and Brian Sheth; Roshni and Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90; and Melody and Jerry Weintraub, BS 80, MBA 88.

The Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Program was founded in 1898, the same year the business school (then called the College of Commerce) was established. As the second-oldest business school in the United States, Berkeley Haas provides research, thought leadership, and talent development to lead the way to a more inclusive and sustainable future.

Read an FAQ about the new program here.

 

Solve the world’s seemingly insurmountable problems, Berkeley Haas MBA grads told at 2022 commencement

MBA grads at the Greek Theatre
MBA students gather behind stage at the Greek Saturday before commencement. (Photo: Natasha Payes)

Exuberant grads tossed beach balls and danced salsa in the aisles of the Greek Theatre at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening and Weekend MBA Class of 2022.

It was a moment of unfettered joy, as speakers rallied the graduates for the challenges ahead.

“The world right now has lots of  huge unsolved problems—from political polarization to climate change to artificial general intelligence to augmented humanity to disease to inequality—so you have lots of big problems to choose from,” commencement speaker Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, told about 600 graduates, who gathered under blue skies and sunshine. “Pick one that you have passion for, that you can’t help but want to spend all your time day and night on even if others think it’s too idealistic, too big, or too unsolvable. You’re Berkeley MBAs now. You don’t need to settle.”

Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90, speaks at MBA commencement at podium
Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, speaks at MBA commencement. Photo: Jim Block

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed Singh, an entrepreneur who in 2010 co-founded battery technology company QuantumScape. She acknowledged how special it was to be together for the first in-person MBA commencement in two years. 

“This felt like the best closure for a two-year process that has been life changing,” said Ignacio Solis, MBA 22, an international student from Chile.

Harrison praised the students for their resilience during their program, noting that those experiences will serve them well throughout their careers. “Because of who you are—your fierce intelligence and your deep understanding of the forces that drive business– you will have power,” she said. “Power is not always about how many people report to you or whether you have the CEO’s ear or whether you are the CEO. Power is the ability to make a difference—one day at a time; one project at a time; one function at a time.”

Evening & Weekend grads: “Pause and savor”

Noting how many life events happened for the EWMBA class during the program, Harrison said that 32% of the class was promoted, 41% of the students changed jobs, 13% got married, and 30 babies were born.  

MBA students behind stage in cap and gowns at the Greek Theatre
MBA students at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Natasha Payes

Evening & Weekend program student speaker Paulina Lee, a marketing director at Procter & Gamble, told graduates to stop and consider how much they’ve changed at Haas.

“What Haas has afforded us is the opportunity to redefine ourselves, to explore the edges of our comfort zone, and that’s why as we end this chapter and start our new paths to our own definitions of success we are faced with so many different emotions,” she said. “Joy, anxiety relief, excitement to move on to the next thing, get on with it, but perhaps we shouldn’t. At least not right away.”

Lee asked students to pause for a moment and savor, after spending the last three years on a sprint. “The first ask (from me) is to pause, really pause, and see the space that school used to take up and protect it,” she said. “Now that you have become the person you are today, reevaluate, sit down with yourself and honestly seek to understand who you have become.”

Full-time MBA: The opportunity to “fail and learn”

The 2022 full-time MBA class is the most diverse ever,  Harrison told the graduates, including 39% women, 50% U.S. minorities,  8% veterans, and 10% first-generation college students. 

Kokei Otosi, MBA 22, student speaker at MBA commencement speaks
“For two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try,” Kokei Otosi, MBA 22. Photo: Jim Block

Full-time MBA student speaker Kokei Otosi, who will join IBM as a senior consultant in August, opened her speech by thanking her classmates. She also expressed thanks for the time that the MBA program gave her to explore. 

“What I know now is that the MBA is a sandbox,” said Otosi, a Bay Area native-turned-New Yorker whose parents are Nigerian immigrants. “When you leave you may still not know what you want to do, but for two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try. We may not get that kind of freedom again.”

Throughout the ceremony, speakers paid tribute to classmate Nadeem Farooqi, who died in fall 2020.

Otosi said the shock and grief the class experienced over his death was palpable. “Nadeem, we cannot believe you aren’t here with us celebrating today, but we haven’t forgotten you,” she said. “We miss you.”

Honors for both MBA programs

Dean Ann Harrison hands a student an MBA diploma
Dean Ann Harrison congratulates an MBA student. Photo: Jim Block

Harrison asked all students with GPAs in the top 10% of their classes to stand and be honored for their achievements. 

Here are the EWMBA program honors:

Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Laura Jacobson

Defining Leadership Principles awards:

Question the Status Quo: Eleanor Boli   

Confidence Without Attitude: Cheick Diarra   

Students Always: Steve Odell

Beyond Yourself: Nana Lei 

The Berkeley Leader Award: Nana Lei  and Frances Ho

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, weekend MBA program: Ricardo Perez-Truglia, for macroeconomics

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, evening MBA program: Professor Max Aufhammer, for data and decisions

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Kimberlyn George

MBA grads sitting in the Greek Theatre during commencement
Photo: Jim Block

FTMBA program honors:

Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Jon Christopher Thompson

Question the Status Quo: Aliza Gazek  

Confidence Without Attitude: Casey Dunajick-DeKnight  

Students Always: Mathilde De La Calle  

Beyond Yourself: Kevin Hu

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Griffin Grail-Binghman

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick for Strategic Leadership

PhD commencement

Earlier this month, seven Phd candidates participated in a hooding ceremony. 

2022 Berkeley Haas PhD graduates
PhD graduates, left to right: Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, Shoshana Jarvis, Kristin Donnelly, Łukasz Langer, Young Yoon, Petr Martynov

The PhD program at Haas stands out among all six academic programs, Harrison told the graduates. “It is our smallest, but it’s also the program nearest and dearest to the hearts of our faculty, all of whom are PhDs and are deeply committed to training the researchers and professors of the future,” she said. “This is a core part of my mission, and of all of our faculty’s mission.” 

Graduating students included Kristin Donnelly, Shoshana Jarvis, Łukasz Langer, Petr Martynov, Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, and Young Yoon. The Cheit award for excellence in teaching in the PhD program went to Professor Panos Patatoukas of the Haas Accounting Group. 

Watch the MBA commencement video here:

‘We did it!’ Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Class of 2022 shines at commencement

undergraduate woman in cap and gown cheering
Photo: Noah Berger

As the sun pushed through the morning fog today, the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Class of 2022 was more than ready to celebrate four years of hard work, persistence, and overcoming unprecedented challenges.

“Class of 2022, congratulations, we did it,”  student commencement speaker Saahil Shangle, BS 22, said as students, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of family and friends, cheered. “We just completed one of the best undergraduate business programs in the country.”

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the graduates and wished them well on their new lives and careers. “The great skills you have mastered during your time at Berkeley go beyond those of a bachelor in business,” Harrison said. “In addition to accounting, marketing, strategy, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, you have learned how to persevere against the strongest headwinds, how to keep your spirits high when the world around you was struggling, and how to achieve your goals during a global pandemic.”

A group of students stand in front of balloons that say GMP
The Berkeley Haas Global Management Program graduated its first cohort this year. Photo: Jim Block

Most of the 475 undergraduate students who were eligible to graduate this year attended Monday’s ceremony. The 2022 class included several firsts: the first Global Management Program (GMP) cohort included 33 students, 10 who graduated a year or semester early. And the inaugural Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program (LSBE), a partnership with the Molecular Cell and Biology Major, graduated its first cohort of 10.Harrison also pointed out that more than half the class (51%) are women; 47% of the students earned a simultaneous degree in another college and major; and 17% of the students are first in their families to graduate from college.

Josue Vallecillo, BS 22, said his degree means everything to him. “My parents have worked so hard to make sure that I get to where I am and I know that I’ve had to sacrifice so much,” he said. “This degree is not just a culmination of four years but a lifetime of hard work and dedication.” 

“How can I help others succeed?”

Commencement speaker Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, an entrepreneur, corporate leader, speaker, and author, recalled his days as a Haas student—with highlights including the $1 noodle deal on campus and the “coolest device that everyone wanted”: the Motorola Razr. “YouTube was a few months from being invented, and you folks were still in pre-school,” he said.

 Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, undergraduate commencement speaker holding up a Motorola Razr
Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, undergraduate commencement speaker holding up a Motorola Razr. Photo: Noah Berger

McDaniel urged students to be flexible in life, to never quit before considering every option, and to help others always. “Don’t ask yourself ‘How can I advance my career?’” said McDaniel, who teaches entrepreneurship at Haas. “Ask ‘How can I help others succeed?’”

A founding partner at Grow Scale, a commercial real estate private equity firm, McDaniel praised Barbara Felkins, director of academic affairs, Sojourner Blair, admissions director, and Dresden John, student experience manager, who are retiring from the Haas Undergraduate Office this year, for helping students succeed and for working together to keep Haas a top business school. 

McDaniel told students to try to avoid choosing one thing or the other in life. “There’s a way to have or be both,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be nature or nurture, Coke or Pepsi….Failing and succeeding, profiting and positively impacting society. We don’t live in an either or world. We live in an “and” world.”

Two women and two male student athletes dressed in academic regalia.
Berkeley Haas student athletes gather backstage before the commencement ceremony begins. Photo: Natasha Payes

“Do not delay happiness”

Shifting to a more serious tone, Anna Shim, BS 22,  president of the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA), spoke poignantly of losing her 25-year-old brother, who died three months ago in his sleep. She shared what she learned while working through her grief.

“Do not delay happiness,” she said. “Life is short, so live every day like it’s your last.”

Chosen by his peers as the student speaker, Shangle reflected on how the people at Haas made his time special—from courtyard conversations they shared to Taco Tuesdays.We are transfer (students), veterans, underrepresented minorities, international, first generation, athletes. We are leaders, creators, social media celebrities and everything in between,” he said. “Best of all, we’re a team.”

Shangle, who said his younger brother will be a UC Berkeley freshman this fall, also thanked the Haas faculty and staff. “We deeply appreciate all the time, passion, and knowledge you all share with us every single day.”

Woman shakes hands with a young man.
Dean Ann Harrison  congratulates a Berkeley Haas undergraduate on stage at the Greek. Photo: Kim Girard

Honors at commencement

Those honored at undergraduate commencement include:

Department Citation (for most outstanding academic achievements): Josh Greenberg

Question the Status Quo: Vanshika Sapra

Confidence without Attitude: Jeena Chong

Students Always: Anna Katharina Giebel

Beyond Yourself: Anna Shim (GMP program)

Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching for the Undergraduate Program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Richard Huntsinger

Outstanding Graduate School Instructor (GSI): Paige Wahoff

two students hugging at undergraduate commencement
Photo: Noah Berger

MBA Classes of 2020 and 2021 get official sendoff

Graduates of the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 reunited at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre last Friday for in-person commencement.

The graduates crossed the stage and celebrated with classmates, family, and friends in downtown Oakland and on campus. (The ceremony coincided with Haas’ MBA Conference and Reunion.) The in-person events followed separate virtual commencement ceremonies held in May 2020 & 2021.

Here are some highlights from Friday’s ceremony:

MBA Commencement_2020_2021
Graduates from the MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 gathered at Oakland's Paramount Theatre for their belated in-person commencement. The ceremony was held on April 29, 2022. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
Evan Wright, MBA 20, hugs a fellow classmate. COVID-19 restrictions prevented graduates from having in-person commencements for two years. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
Members of the class of 2021 take photos outside of Oakland's Paramount Theatre. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
Graduates take a few photos before commencement begins. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
"If you ever doubted whether you could lead through a crisis, overcome impossible odds, break through barriers, you have your answer," said Dean Ann Harrison who praised both MBA classes for completing one of the most rigorous MBA programs in the US during a pandemic. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85, gave this year's commencement speech. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
"Haas taught me to show up as my most authentic self and to tear down my own walls and invite people in," said commencement speaker Joe Sutkowski, MBA 20. "Let's all continue to invite people into our lives and make this world a little bit smaller." Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
Student speaker Fede Pacheco, MBA 21, urged classmates to remember the joyous moments of their MBA program and to reach out to one another whenever life gets tough. Pacheco also received the Confidence without Attitude award. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
David Brown-Dawson, MBA 21. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
MBA Commencement_2020_2021
Graduates of the MBA class of 2020. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.

Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2020:

Academic Achievement Award: Brian Shain, the MBA student with the highest GPA.

Question the Status Quo: Evan Wright

Confidence without Attitude: Celeste Fa’ai’uaso 

Students Always: Nina Ho

Beyond Yourself: Benny Johnson

Berkeley Leaders: Molly Zeins & Ezgi Karaagac

Haas Legacy Award: Santiago Freyria and Francesco Dipierro

Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2021:

Achievement Award: Devan Courtois

Student always: José Ramón Avellana

Beyond yourself: Kendall Bills

Question the status quo: Fayzan Gowani

Confidence without attitude: Fede Pacheco

Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois

U.S. News ranks all three Berkeley Haas MBA programs in Top 10

All three Berkeley Haas MBA programs ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. News & World Report 2023 Best Business Schools rankings, published today.

U.S. News ranked the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program #8, tied with Columbia Business School. The Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program ranked #2 for the fourth year in a row. And the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program rose one spot to #7 among exec MBA programs. 

Here is how Haas fared in the Business School Specialty Rankings:

#3 in Real Estate

#5 in Entrepreneurship

#4 in Nonprofit

#6 in Business Analytics

#8 in Finance 

#7 in Executive MBA

#9 in International (tie)

#9 in Management (tie)

#11 in Marketing

#15 in Information Systems

#16 in Production / Operations (tie)

The full-time MBA rankings are based on data provided by participating U.S. schools and on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs, as well as surveys of corporate recruiters and company contacts. The peer and employer polls account for 40% of the score. The other 60% consist of placement success and starting salary (35%) and student selectivity (25%).

The score for the part-time MBA rankings is calculated from the peer polls (50%), student selectivity (27.5%), work experience (10%), and percent of MBA students who are enrolled part-time (12.5%). The specialty and the executive MBA rankings are based entirely on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs.

Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison named to AACSB board

Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison has been elected to the board of directors of the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), the accrediting organization that reviews leading business schools worldwide.

Founded in 1916, AACSB  has 1,700 members in 55 countries. The nonprofit organization reviews more than 900 accredited business schools worldwide.

“I am so honored to be elected to serve on the board of AACSB,” Harrison said. “My thanks to this organization for the work it does every day to bring together the best in business education to accelerate positive change.”

Harrison became dean of the Haas School in 2019 and is the second woman to lead the school. A renowned economist, she has dedicated much of her career to creating inclusive and sustainable policies in development economics, international trade, global labor markets, and now in higher education. At Haas she is refocusing her work on evolving business school education to meet the needs of a diverse, rapidly changing world that is facing the existential threat of climate change. 

Harrison arrived from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where she was a professor of multinational management and business economics and public policy. Before joining Wharton in 2012, she was the director of development policy at the World Bank, where she co-managed a team of 300 researchers and staff.

Salaries, bonuses edge upward for 2021 FTMBA grads

Average salaries for the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Class of 2021 edged up $9,000 this year, with the consulting and technology sectors again luring more than 60% of graduates.

photo of Abby Scott
Abby Scott said Haas alumni went “beyond themselves” to help grads find jobs.

“I’m so pleased to see this jump in starting base salary and strong employment outcomes, which represent the continuing strength and confidence in our students and the Berkeley MBA,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management & Corporate Partnerships. “This is particularly encouraging, given the pandemic and slower reopening of the California economy. The effort that our grads put into their job searches and the help of our alumni who went beyond themselves really helped this class land jobs.”  

Of the total class of 283 students, 239 students were seeking jobs. Within three months after graduation, 90% received job offers and 88% of the class—or 211 students—accepted, up slightly from 87% for the class of 2020.

A few highlights:

  • Starting base salaries are up to $149,000 median from $140,000 last year. 
  • 72% of students received a sign-on bonus and 42.6% received stock options or grants, adding significantly to long term compensation. The average sign-on bonus was $33,775, up from $31,000 last year.
  • Tech dominated employment outcomes at 34%; about 28% of the class went into consulting, up from 25% in 2020. 
  • About 12% of students took jobs in financial services; 10% went to startups; 6.6% landed in healthcare & biotech, 6.2% went to CPG/retail companies, and about 3% are employed in the energy industry.

This year’s top employers—companies that hired three or more graduates—included Amazon, Boston Consulting Group, Google, McKinsey & Company, Deloitte, Bain & Company, EY Parthenon, Adobe, Facebook, LEK, Microsoft, PwC Strategy and Samsung. Consulting was particularly strong this year, Scott said, with McKinsey and Deloitte hiring “the largest number of graduates we have ever seen.”

“One of a kind” Silicon Valley network

Photo of David Bolivar
David Bolivar, MBA 21, is a senior treasury analyst at Google.

David Bolívar, MBA 21, landed a job at Google as a senior treasury analyst after interning at Uber while at Haas.

Throughout the recruiting process, he spoke with over a dozen Haas alumni who work in tech, including several Haas alumni who work in Finance at Google. “The Haas network in tech in Silicon Valley is one of a kind,” said Bolívar, who credited Haas Career Management for its help providing key points of contact and coaching him on how to deliver impactful personal stories as an international student during interviews. “The Haas MBA gives you access to a unique network of alumni and faculty who become such valuable resources for your career.”

Bolívar said he was drawn to Google’s commitment to culture and to supporting its employees professionally and personally. “Google is a consensus-driven, flat organization, which is great if you are the kind of person not looking to operate under the mandate of traditional hierarchies.”

For many students like Bolivar, connecting with Haas alumni helped ease the recruitment process. Terence Mullin, MBA 21, who works in corporate strategy and strategic finance at Epic Games, said a fortuitous connection with an alumnus helped him find his career path.  

Terrence Mullin
Terrence Mullin, MBA 21, works in corporate strategy and finance at Epic Games.

Mullin, who returned to playing video games in his spare time during the lockdown, realized how much he loved games. That led to a eureka moment: “I thought I could do this as a job,” he said.

Mullin started connecting with Haas alumni who work in gaming, and talked with Roland Luk in Haas Career Management about finding internships. The day after he talked to Luk, Chris Kavcsak, MBA 17, who works in strategy at Epic Games, reached out to Luk about an internship in strategic finance at the company, the maker of the blockbuster multiplayer game Fortnite.

Mullin, who had been working on a game pricing project independently, studying Epic’s business model, accepted an internship working for Kavcsak. “Chris took me under his wing, and three months on they let me know things were going well—and then I came on full-time.”

Choosing a startup

Other students have found internships and jobs through a collaborative online effort called Hire Haas. The program, which generated 250 jobs from alumni in 2020, doubled that number to nearly 500 job postings from alumni in 2021.

Eduardo Bustamante, MBA 21, found his MBA internship at e-scooter and e-bike startup RidePanda through Hire Haas, which connected him to Ridepanda’s co-founder and CEO Chinmay Malaviya, MBA 18.

Bustamante said he came to Haas expecting to work in consulting or tech—but his Ridepanda experience led him to interview at Canoo, an electric vehicle startup that went public in December 2020.  “I got to wear different hats (at Ridepanda) and learn many things,” he said. “I liked the way it worked at a startup. That’s why I joined Canoo.” 

In his role as program controller in operations and finance, he’s working on the company’s new product rollout, a lifestyle vehicle that is scheduled to launch in late 2022.

View the 2021 employment report here.

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.

‘A place where people can see themselves’: Élida Bautista, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer

Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista.

When Élida Bautista arrived at Berkeley Haas as director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2018, she found a community “ready to do the work and not just pay lip service” to diversity.

Since then, she’s worked alongside that community, building the school’s first five-year DEI strategic plan and creating a culture shift toward one of greater belonging—or, as she puts it, “a place where people can see themselves.” This week, Bautista—who came to Haas after spending 15 years developing programs focused on social justice, diversity, and inclusion for  UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry—became the first woman and Chicana/Latina to be named chief DEI officer at Haas.

We spoke to her about her most pressing priorities, how the pandemic impacted her work, and the diversity-related initiatives she plans to work toward over the next five years.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your interim DEI chief role at Haas in the past year?

One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is getting input from the community to implement our DEI strategic plan. Last year, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team started off with listening sessions across Haas.

We wanted to learn what teams were accomplishing, how they were integrating DEI in their work and to give people a space to feel heard. Those listening tours helped us refine and implement a Haas-wide DEI strategic plan and positioned us as thought partners in helping teams carry out their own DEI initiatives.

As we launched, it was important to be transparent with our community. We publicly shared the plan on our website, and shared regular updates about progress on our deliverables on our website, something that had not happened before. That was meaningful to our community because it allows everyone to get involved and to see our progress as well as any delays.

Beyond the DEI plan, what broad initiatives are you working on that dive deeper into DEI?

We are looking to continue creating a DEI culture shift at Haas. But we’re not just thinking about diversity as scholarships and increasing admissions and representation. That’s an important part of it, but we must simultaneously build a place where people can see themselves. We’re thinking about how we get more diverse folks in the door, but also about their experiences once they’re here in the classroom or the workplace. 

We must…build a place where people can see themselves.

We are creating a sense of belonging through a variety of offerings, including co-curricular educational and professional development activities, as well as community social events. 

We also need to invest in pathways toward making our faculty more diverse. One way we’re doing this is by creating a postdoctoral fellowship through a gift from Allan Holt, MBA 76. Postdocs offer the opportunity to bring scholars into the faculty pipeline who might not otherwise pursue a faculty career at a university where there is a very high level of research activity. We also set aside part of the funds to integrate DEI into the curriculum. 

What are your most pressing goals in the new role? 

As a chief diversity officer who sits on the management team, my pressing goals are focused on partnering with our associate deans of academic affairs to increase diversity in faculty hiring, support retention and promotion efforts for our underrepresented faculty, and support DEI curricular offerings. At a strategic level, my goal is to support our dean and our senior managers in effectively addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging-related challenges, and collectively continuing to make progress on our strategic plan. Additionally, I will be involved in providing feedback to the chairs of the search committees about the diversity of our faculty candidates. Over time, our postdoctoral fellowship will be an additional source for increasing the diversity of the faculty pool.

How has COVID impacted your job during the pandemic?

COVID magnified a lot of existing disparities and social injustices—everything from who had to keep going to work in-person to who had access to health insurance to treat COVID if they got sick. We also saw a rise in visibility of violence targeting some communities. This increased the sense of vulnerability that needed to be integrated into our team’s offerings and approach. 

Initially during the pandemic, a lot of our work was about holding space for community members to reflect, as well as offering managers tips to understand how to support staff who might be having a different experience during this time. We asked: How do we extend empathy at a time when everybody is feeling overwhelmed and stretched? 

How does it feel to be back on campus?

Now that we’re back on campus, there’s a renewed sense of connection that we all need. Being back allows people to engage in a more authentic way with each other, which makes my work a little bit easier when we’re talking about learning across differences. Being online made these connections more challenging. For example, if everyone is off camera and one person is talking and nobody’s clapping or smiling or affirming, it’s unclear if your message has resonated with anyone.

What would be a major achievement for Haas in the next five years in DEI?

I think we’re well on our way, but a major achievement would be to make Haas the leader among business schools in reputation regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, based on our robust offerings, the skills our students gain while at Haas, and the type of leaders we produce.

Another major achievement would be to make meaningful gains in the representation of women among our students across degree programs and among our faculty, including more women of color, LGBTQIA+ women, women veterans, and women with disabilities.

Also, as UC Berkeley continues to advance toward becoming a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by 2027, a major achievement would be to  align Haas with the recommendations of the HSI task force and position ourselves to serve the needs of Latinx/Chicanx and underrepresented communities on campus.

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 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, which is 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.

Students in design thinking class at Haas
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 [email protected] 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.

Same Berkeley MBA without the commute: Berkeley Haas now offers flexible online option

Berkeley, Calif. — UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced a new flexible online option for its top-ranked, part-time Evening & Weekend MBA Program. The new Flex option offers the same curriculum and faculty and the same Berkeley Haas MBA degree in a highly customized and flexible online and on-campus format. 

Students enrolled in the Flex option will take their core MBA courses online. After completing their first three semesters of the core curriculum, students can take their elective courses either in person on the Berkeley Haas campus or online.  

Applications for the Flex option will open on August 17 through the Evening & Weekend MBA Program (EWMBA). The first group of about 60 Flex students will enroll in July of 2022. 

The Flex option will be part of the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program, which is ranked #2 among part-time MBA programs by U.S. News. The program typically takes three years to complete, with some students completing their degree in just 2.5 years. 

“Students in the Flex cohort can get a top-ranked Berkeley Haas MBA from anywhere, without the commute to campus every week,” said Dean Ann E. Harrison. “They will have flexibility in how they complete their MBA program. Yet they can also enjoy the in-person and campus experience, giving them the ability to access the extracurricular experiences Berkeley and Haas have to offer.” 

The Flex option is designed for high-achieving and ambitious professionals with five or more years of professional work experience who seek additional skills to advance in their careers or to change jobs. They will join a network of 41,000 Haas alumni around the world.

In the Flex option, 40% to 60% of the online core courses will be delivered synchronously to create a robust, cohort-based learning experience. The significant percentage of synchronous content ensures that Flex students have the same opportunity for discussion and feedback as students in on-campus courses. Students will be assigned to study teams that are carefully selected for diverse skills and backgrounds, ensuring that students learn as much from each other as they do in the classroom. 

Given the importance of community in our EWMBA program, the Flex option also includes five in-person events:

  • WE Launch, the required orientation over a long weekend (Friday through Sunday) in late July on the Berkeley Haas campus. 
  • Leadership Communication, a required course taught on the Berkeley Haas campus as a weekend immersion (Friday through Sunday) in the second half of the second semester. 
  • RE Launch, an optional weekend immersion on the Berkeley Haas campus in October of the third semester. 
  • Business Communications in Diverse Environments, a required weekend immersion (Friday through Sunday), taught typically at a resort site in Napa Valley on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in January of the fourth semester. 
  • WE Lead, an optional weekend celebration and reflection on the MBA experience held in May of the graduation year. 

“In this fast-changing environment, our MBA experience provides professionals not only with a rigorous management education but also with an understanding of how innovation, inclusion, and sustainability will shape the future of business,” said Dean Harrison. “Our innovative courses will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions.”

In 2022, Haas will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its part-time MBA program. “We think the creation of this new Flex cohort reflects our commitment to innovation and UC Berkeley’s mission,” said Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean, MBA Programs for Working Professionals, who oversees the new Flex option.

As the second-oldest business school in the United States, Berkeley Haas has been questioning the status quo since its founding in 1898. It provides research, thought leadership, and talent development to lead the way to a more inclusive and sustainable future.

More at https://ewmba.haas.berkeley.edu/academics/flex

Media Contact:
Ute Frey, Executive Director of Communications
[email protected]
O: (510) 642-0342
M: (510) 301-9184

Haas welcomes new evening & weekend, exec MBA classes to campus

70 students sit on steps at Haas
New EMBA students take a break from orientation to pose for a group shot. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas welcomed 354 new students in the MBA for Executives and Evening & Weekend MBA programs for in-person orientation in July, the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

These working professional students, along with Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students who returned in June, are the first cohorts in 16 months to kick off the semester on campus.

Executive MBA (EMBA) Program

During orientation, held July 16-18 in Spieker Forum, a total of 71 EMBA students participated in bonding activities and workshops, including a scavenger hunt, a diversity and equity session led by Kellie McElhaney, executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership, and a condensed version of a popular MBA class called The Science of Productivity and Performance, which focuses on strategies to yield high-performance at work and school.

Women make up 30% of the class and 17% have either served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. Members of the class represent 64 companies including Google, Facebook, Deloitte, Chevron, and Oracle and have an average of 13 years of work experience.

Emma Daftary, executive director of the 22-month EMBA program, praised students for choosing Haas and reassured them that they have what it takes to successfully complete the program. 

“If you hear a little voice called imposter syndrome, tell it to be quiet because you belong here,” Daftary said. “You’re here with people who are going to push you to be your best selves and we’re here to support you every step of the way.”

Susan Petty, director of EMBA admissions, noted that this class was the most geographically diverse cohort in the program’s history. Sixty-five percent of students live outside of the Bay Area, including Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., and Brazil, and about a third of the class were born outside of the United States, hailing from Ukraine, China, India, Japan, Uzbekistan, and Taiwan.

Why an MBA?

When Cassie Dickerson, EMBA 23, was applying to b-schools, a friend from her undergraduate days at Ohio State, Isaiah Samuel, EMBA 20, suggested she add Berkeley to her list. Dickerson attended a diversity event at Haas last fall and fell in love with the people and culture.

Light-skinned Black woman with curly hair
“Everyone I met exemplified Haas’ DLPs,” said Cassie Dickerson, EMBA 23.

“Everyone I met exemplified Haas’ DLPs,” Dickerson said, a technology business strategist for GoHealth. “People showed up as their authentic selves and that deeply resonated with me.”

Naveena Gopinath, an IT database consultant at OptumServe, said it was her father’s entrepreneurial spirit that inspired her to pursue an MBA.

“My dad was an entrepreneur who owned many businesses, including a real estate and an exporting business in India,” said Gopinath, EMBA 23. “Seeing him pursue his passions pushed me to pursue mine.”

Johnny Zaragoza deferred for a year to take care of his family during the pandemic.

Gopinath had her choice of top business schools, but ultimately decided to attend Haas because of the people she met and the school’s Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs). She had worked in a mission-driven workplace before and wanted a similar MBA experience. Now that she’s at Haas, she can only imagine how the DLPs will transform her, she says.

Johnny Zaragoza, EMBA 23, was accepted to Haas last year, but decided to defer for a year to take care of his family during the pandemic. 

Zaragoza, a controller at San Francisco-based management firm White Oak Global Advisors, said he chose Haas because he had a transformational experience during Block Zero. “The support you get from the program office, career management group (CMG), and your peers, is bar none.”

Evening & Weekend MBA Program (EWMBA)

291 students sitting on steps at UC Berkeley
The Evening & Weekend Class of 2024 gathered for their group shot on campus. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas’ newest EWMBA class also arrived on campus for WE Launch orientation July 23-26.

Collectively, the 283 students have an average of eight years of work experience and represent 213 leading global companies, including Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Uber, Microsoft, and Chevron. Women make up 40% of the class, a record high.

The class of 2024 is also geographically and internationally diverse. Forty-three percent were born outside the U.S. and speak 17 different languages. Almost a third of the class reside outside of the Bay Area, hailing from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Japan, and Singapore. 

Student hula hooping while balancing a ball on her chest.
Students hooping during the Cohort Olympics. Photo: Jim Block

During orientation, students participated in workshops focused on leadership communications, inclusive leadership, and case-study methods. They also heard from Career Management Group (CMG) staff and received an introduction to [email protected], an academic program designed to build stronger team outcomes. 

In his welcome speech, Prof. Don Moore, the associate dean of Academic Affairs, commended students for pursuing an MBA at a time when society is grappling with so many global challenges. 

“There is no better place to be than a dynamic university like Berkeley that has always been on the forefront of scientific and social progress,” he said. 

Moore added that Haas’ culture helps develop business leaders that the world could benefit from—leaders who question the status quo, who have confidence to create change but do it without attitude, who go beyond themselves by taking the long view in their decisions, and are students always. 

“We have such a diverse and accomplished class this year,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of the MBA Programs for Working Professionals. “And it is so great to have our second year students on campus for the first time as well. These are the leaders that business and society need.”

Members of the EWMBA 2023 class led many WE Launch events. Photo: Jim Block

Culture plays big role

After listening to the Haas podcasts, attending a diversity event last fall, and speaking with students and alumni, Dominic Williams, EWMBA 24, said he was “all in” and applied only to Haas.

Light-skinned Black man wearing navy shirt.
Dominic Williams, EWMBA 24, said he was “all in” and only applied to Haas.

“The school’s DLPs and its focus on inclusion resonated with me,” said Williams, a program manager for consumer goods at Google. “Now that I’m here, I feel compelled to share my perspective to advance the Haas community. I don’t think I would feel this way anywhere else.”

The school’s culture was also a big draw for Christy Tormey, EWMBA 24, who works as a lead strategic planning analyst at Chevron. 

“Question the status quo deeply resonates with me. As a woman mechanical engineer who works in an oil refinery, I challenge the status quo every day,” she said. “I’ve worked hard to gain a seat at the table and even harder to keep that seat. I hope to encourage and inspire all women to do the same, no matter what field of study or industry.”

Tokyo bound: Four Haasies to compete in summer Olympics

After a year of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer Olympics are here—and four Haasies are in Tokyo to compete in golf, swimming, and water polo.

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad are scheduled from from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021. The group of competing Haas athletes includes:

Collin Morikawa

Collin Morikawa, BS 19, joins Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau on the men’s U.S. golf team.

Collin Morikawa holding trophy
Collin Morikawa holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park in 2020 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The U.S. will have have more golfers represented than any other nation during this year’s Games, according to Golf magazine.  Pro-golfer Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship in his first-ever attempt last year.

When he enrolled at UC Berkeley, Morikawa had a single-minded focus to learn how he could succeed as a professional golfer, treating the endeavor as much as a job as a sport. “If you look at big professional athletes, they’re running their own business, which is their name and their brand,” he told Berkeley Haas Magazine. “I wanted to invest in my future and learn as much as I could so when I turned pro I would be ready for the outside world.”

Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy, swimmer
Ryan Murphy, BS 17, backstroker, is heading to his second Olympic Games.

Ryan Murphy, BS 17, is competing in his second Olympics, qualifying again in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke.

In 2016, Murphy won gold in both the 200m and 100m backstroke, and swam to victory in the 400m relay medley with Olympic legend Michael Phelps, Cal alum Nathan Adrian, and Cody Miller. “I honestly didn’t think I’d win the 200m backstroke, but that’s the event I really trained for,” he told Berkeley Haas News at the time. “The 100m back comes a little more naturally to me, so the 200 is the one I have to really work for. It’s the one that meant a lot because I know what’s gone on behind that whole race and what I did in coming up with the best strategy to win it.” This year, he’s serving as an Olympic team captain for USA swimming.

Johnny Hooper

Johnny hooper
Johnny Hooper, BS 19, is Cal’s #2 all-time leading scorer. (Cal Athletics photo)

Johnny Hooper, BS 19, a 6’2″ attacker, qualified for Tokyo as a member of the Men’s Senior National Team, USA Water Polo. Hooper is Cal’s #2 all-time leading scorer with 245 goals, and he helped lead the squad to the 2016 NCAA Championship. The team trained remotely during the pandemic, and Hooper, along with many of his teammates, spent part of the last year playing professionally in Europe.

 

 

Alicia Wilson

Alicia Wilson
Alicia Wilson, BS 22, will swim for Great Britain. (Cal Athletics photo)

Alicia Wilson, BS 22, qualified for a spot on Great Britain’s swim team to compete in the 200-meter individual medley, a technically challenging race involving equal parts backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, and freestyle. Wilson, a rising senior from England, had an incredible 2021 season, capturing the 2021 Pac-12 crown in the 200-yard individual medley.

Wilson said her inspiration started in 2012 when the London Olympic games “were literally on my front doorstep.” Read an interview with Wilson here.

Speaker to 2021 MBA grads: ‘Become more than you can even imagine’

Grad in front of the bears statue
A total of 276 Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA students and 167 Evening & Weekend MBA students graduated last Friday. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

Commencement speaker Soyeon Yi, MBA 14, South Korea’s first astronaut, congratulated the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend classes last Friday for making it to the finish line, sharing her own challenge in space that almost took her life.

Yi, who survived a near-fatal landing in 2008 after her spacecraft flipped upside down upon reentry to earth, urged the students to learn from their experiences during the pandemic. 

Soyeon Yi, South Korea’s first astronaut, gave the commencement speech.

“Like my landing, you’re passing one big challenge now,” Yi said. “There will be many more challenges ahead of you, even if we face the most unluckiest situation again. The most important thing we should do is ask how we can go through it and what we can learn from it.”

A total of 276 Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA students and 167 Evening & Weekend MBA students graduated last Friday with virtual ceremonies that included congratulatory videos from Dean Ann Harrison, student speakers, and alumni. (Watch the FTMBA video here and the EWMBA video here.)

Harrison praised the graduates for their academic achievements, along with their empathy, and leadership. The students not only continued to pour energy into clubs and conferences held online during the pandemic, but also called attention to racial injustices and helped small businesses stay afloat through many volunteer efforts, she said.

“This required more thought, more ingenuity, more dedication than in any prior year,” Harrison said. ”But you persevered and you became stronger leaders for it.” 

‘This is our unique story’

Some Haas grads joined grads across campus last week, crossing the stage at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the Full-time MBA program, commended the class for its accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom.

I’m honored to play a role in celebrating everyone’s success today, including the family and friends of these graduates,” Johnson said. “This is your celebration too.” 

Fede Pacheco, the full-time MBA commencement student speaker, talked about one of the darkest days of the pandemic, when wildfires brought an apocalyptic orange sky to the Bay Area, and the photos he took to mark that day.

Pacheco urged students to savor the good times and reflect on the moments when they found creative ways to lean on each other, in spite of the unprecedented year they all endured. 

“This is not a beautiful story, but it’s our unique story. We are our unique story,” he said. “We found each other, we have each other. We have to hold onto each other.”

An MBA grad celebrates commencement with her little bear. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

‘Become more than you can even imagine’

Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, said that the students in the EWMBA program continued to balance school, work and their personal lives with “grit, grace, and energy,” during the pandemic.

Commencement student speaker Kate Hughes, EWMBA 21, noted that members of her class arrived at Haas with a unique set of “brands” or labels that influenced their identities such as gender, family status, and lived experiences. They are leaving the school as Haas graduates, another distinctive brand, she said.

“We’ve been pushed to lead with authenticity, harnessing our backgrounds to foster a different way of creative thinking,” she said. “As we step into this new chapter of our lives, I challenge you to become more than you can even imagine. I challenge you to embrace everything that we’ve learned at Haas to create a new brand of leader. One that can make a profound impact at a time when our country and planet need it the most.”

Haas alumni, who ranged from recent grads to veteran business leaders, also sent their well wishes and encouraged grads to tap into their network regularly. 

Graduates hugging
Celebrating with family and friends on campus. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Among those alumni were Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe; Scott Galloway, MBA 92, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business; and TubeMogul founder Brett Wilson, MBA 07; Abhishek Sharma, MBA 16, founder and CEO of Shake the Cosmos; Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar; Jessie Tang, MBA 20, principal and head of strategic initiatives at Gratitude Railroad; and Liz Rockett, MBA/MPH 10, director of Kaiser Permanente Ventures.

Haas faculty also bid farewell to graduates and told them to stay in touch as they start the next chapters of their lives. Among those faculty were Prof. Ross Levine, Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki, Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas, Rebecca Portnoy, a professional faculty member, and Mark Rittenberg, a continuing professional faculty member

Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2021:

Achievement Award: Devan Courtois

Student always: José Ramón Avellana

Beyond yourself: Kendall Bills

Question the status quo: Fayzan Gowani

Confidence without attitude: Fede Pacheco

Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois

Haas lecturer Jenny Herbert Creek, who teaches finance, won 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.

Award winners for the evening & weekend MBA class of 2021:

Achievement Award: George Pradhan

Student Always: Lindsey Hoell

Beyond Yourself: Kyle Cook

Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Farrelly

Confidence without Attitude: Kate Hughes

Berkeley Leader Award Winner: Anna Lee

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Atusa Sadeghi

Prof. Panos Patatoukas, who teaches financial information analysis, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in the evening cohort and Prof. Ross Levine, who teaches macroeconomics, won the Cheit Award in the weekend cohort.