How removing politics sped up the post office

 The Pendleton Act of 1883 shielded U.S. civil service workers from politics for the first time. A new study shows how this protection increased government efficiency and effectiveness.

A US Postal Service mail carrier climbs carrying mail climbs into a delivery van.
A USPS mail carrier in Fullerton, Calif. (Image: Matt Gush/AdobeStock)

A report on New York City’s post offices in the 19th century described the “incompetency, neglect, confusion, and drunkenness” of postal staff. Hundreds of bags of undelivered mail were scattered throughout one building, including a book addressed to the vice president of the United States.

It was a time of political patronage when civil service workers were offered jobs in exchange for partisan donations and allegiance. The passage of the Civil Service Reform Act in 1883—better known as the Pendleton Act—changed that by replacing discretionary appointments with rule-based hiring and abolishing mandatory political contributions.

New research by Berkeley Haas associate professor Guo Xu, with Abhay Aneja of Berkeley Law, demonstrates how these protections improved the quality and efficiency of the post office, particularly by dramatically reducing turnover.

“The introduction of civil service protections really works to limit political interference,” Xu says. “That in turn helps improve the quality of public good provision.”

While the research is historical, it offers lessons today as former President and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump calls for rolling back civil service protections.

Fewer errors, faster delivery

The postal service expanded rapidly in the 19th century, serving as a central clearinghouse not only for personal communication but also economic transactions, with businesses advertising and completing transactions by mail. By the 1880s, postal workers constituted 34% of the entire federal workforce.

Xu and Aneja looked at personnel records of federal government workers to understand what kind of people were recruited and hired by the U.S. Post Office before and after reforms. They also gathered information about delivery errors from the postmaster general. Because the Pendleton Act was rolled out in two phases—large cities in 1883, smaller cities in 1893—the researchers could study before-and-after pictures at two different times.

Comparing places that were covered by the new rules to places that were not yet covered, they found two key outcomes. Cities where the Pendleton Act was rolled out experienced a 22% reduction in delivery errors. At the same time, mail carriers, on average, increased the volume of mail they carried by up to 14%, which implies a more efficient postal service.

“We looked into what happened as the U.S. government moved away from a traditional patronage system based on discretionary political appointments,” says Xu, an economist and economic historian. “Nowadays, most governments consider civil service protection as a necessary firewall between politics and administration, yet there has been surprisingly little research on whether this policy improves the conduct of everyday government business. Our study confirms civil service protections as a good governance tool.”

“Nowadays, most governments consider civil service protection as a necessary firewall between politics and administration, yet there has been surprisingly little research on whether this policy improves the conduct of everyday government business. Our study confirms civil service protections as a good governance tool.”

Reduced turnover increases performance

Xu and Aneja expected going into the project that any improvements they saw would likely result from hiring more qualified employees, since the Pendleton Act required civil service workers to take competitive entry exams. The personnel records, however, told a different story: employees looked similar before and after the reforms, but turnover dropped dramatically, particularly during election cycles.

“In every election year before 1883, a large number of postal employees were replaced by new appointees,” Xu says. “Once reforms rolled out, these political cycles essentially vanished.”

The researchers also examined how the Pendleton Act influenced local politics. They used newspapers, which were largely partisan in the 19th century, to measure the strength of local political parties. They found that in a given city, the Pendleton Act reduced the number of partisan papers and increased the number of politically independent newspapers. Though Xu acknowledges newspapers aren’t a perfect proxy for local party power, this finding points to an important double dividend from civil service protections: Separating politics from the administration of a rank-and-file bureaucracy not only improves performance but also helps weaken the stranglehold of local partisanship.

A lesson for modern politics

Today, political appointees make up less than 1% of federal service workers, but this ratio is not a given as the civil service has come under renewed political scrutiny. In October 2020, the Trump Administration issued an executive order to reduce civil service protections—commonly known as Schedule F. While this order was subsequently rescinded by the Biden Administration, the question of civil service protections is likely to re-emerge again. “We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States,” Trump said at a recent rally in South Carolina.

Efforts to roll back civil service protections raise two concerns. First, appointments to top positions are already fraught and lengthy processes; expanding the pool of political appointees could lead to even more delays and vacancies in the federal government.

Second, hiring political loyalists to conduct the day-to-day work of government appears to be bad business. Within the post office, at the very least, history suggests this would make services both costlier and less effective.

“Reforms to limit civil service protections are typically proposed with the idea that it’s hard for politicians to control an independent civil service, and that’s often true. But the flip side is that having no civil service protections risks creating a bureaucracy staffed with yes-men who are replaced each election cycle. That means the bottom line for overall performance has so far been theoretically unclear,” Xu says. “On this question, we can contribute a partial answer: Better protections have direct consequences for personnel dynamics and, more generally, the performance of government.”

Read the paper:

Strengthening State Capacity: Civil Service Reform and Public Sector Performance during the Gilded Age
By Guo Xu and Abhay Aneja
American Economic Review, forthcoming August 2024

EWMBA students explore business in South Africa

Group of students in South Africa
EWMBA students participating in the Seminar in International Business (SIB) in South Africa, an annual Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program course.  

One day last March, I gathered with my fellow EWMBA students inside of a 20-story building overlooking Johannesberg to learn about the world’s seventh largest coal mining company.

Our group also toured Nelson Mandela’s red-brick “matchbox” in the Soweto heat and spent time absorbing city politics, noshing on the local cuisine and markets, and visiting small businesses—all part of the Seminar in International Business (SIB) in South Africa, an annual Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program course.  

SIB South Africa builds upon the relationships of professors Mark Rittenburg and Ingrid Gavshon, who have deep connections to South Africa through decades of work around coaching, communication, and media in the country, and Lecturer Janine Lee, EWMBA 14, who previously attended the trip as a student, the SIB faculty team built a curriculum to push students to become more global-aware leaders and communicators.

While labeled as a business class, business was one many windows we were able to peer into while visiting South Africa. 

Part of our class pre-assignment focused on South Africa’s history and politics. We discussed Nelson Mandela’s rise, the years of apartheid, the country’s democratic transition, and its current economy. Learning about its history reminded me that apartheid was not a relic of a forgotten past but indelible in the townships we drove past and part of what drives South Africa’s entrepreneurs toward change. 

Through the network of our professors, we had a unique week, highlighted by the hospitality of their friends and professional colleagues in intimate settings that helped us better understand companies. We visited ABSA, a banking conglomerate based in Johannesburg, and SASOL, one of Africa’s major energy companies, where we had a chance to speak to some of the senior leaders. 

Outside of traditional corporations, we also visited multiple non-profits in South Africa, including iHub, Harambee, and Rise Above Development, learning about the aspirations of South African youth. A highlight was a chance to collaborate on a crisis management role-play exercise with the students at iHub, giving them a glimpse of how things could work in their future careers. Between rounds of Nando’s chicken, a South African classic, we continued many conversations as part of an informal meet and greet, discussing careers, skill development, and passions. It was a lesson in hope, shared humanity, and, once again, perspectives you often won’t find in a standard business school class. 

a group of students sitting in a circle working on a project.
MBA students working on a project in South Africa. Photo: Ingrid Gavshon

Our most unique visit was with the deputy mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Eddie Andrews. A city the size of Boston that prides itself as one of the most beautiful places in the world, we got an inner glimpse into the workings of Cape Town. A former rugby player turned politician, Andrews was kind, patient, and enthusiastically answered more than an hour of questions, touching on everything from structure, sustainability, funding, national politics, and more. His mission to set an example of good governance for South Africa inspired us.

Layering on the many ways we interacted with different sectors of the South African economy, the class also allowed us to experience South Africa as tourists, from the grasslands of Kruger National Park to the iconic mountains of Coastal Cape Town. We took solemn tours of Mandela’s prison on Robben Island and the Apartheid Museum, where we spoke to Mandela’s former jailer. They all contributed to our growing connection and understanding of the country.

It’s hard to talk about SIB without mentioning the people. As with any other Haas class, having diverse experiences added dimension. As EWMBA students, we all come from different backgrounds with different motivations for the trip. Our industries span from technology, healthcare, real estate, and education to jobs in sustainability, sales, and clinical research. This spectrum was foundational to our visits, yielding new questions at every site that drew upon students’ unique curiosities.

We went on excursions and dined together, shared jokes while passing snacks on our bus, and spent time reflecting on the week’s fun, stimulating, and complex experiences. Our celebration dinner included emotional toasts, superlatives, and Polaroid memories. As part of the course, our faculty team prompted us to write a letter about our dreams and aspirations for the trip, which encouraged shared vulnerability that pushed many of us to the edge of our comfort zones.

Toward the end of our trip, many of us agreed that SIB had shifted from a class and transcended into something more abstract—an experience, a journey, an academic version of catharsis. 

Reflecting upon the best parts of SIB, I was reminded of one of the Berkeley Haas core Defining Leadership Principles: Beyond Yourself. In South Africa, we were forced to challenge our privilege consistently. There was nuance in everything there, from starting and investing in a company to advising young people who come from very different upbringings. In all of this, we saw ways to better ourselves, better our perspectives, and grow an inch closer to the ethos of leadership we saw as a symbol of Haas.

For many of us, it was our first time visiting South Africa. Thanks to this experience with Haas, it may not be our last.

Is it ethical? New undergrad class trains students to think critically about artificial intelligence

two sstudents in a Haas classroom listening intently
Berkeley Haas undergraduate students Hunter Esqueda (left) and Sohan Dhanesh (right) are enrolled in Genevieve Smith’s Responsible AI Innovation & Management class. Photo: Noah Berger

 

“Classified” is an occasional series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons being taught in classrooms around Haas.

On a recent Monday afternoon, Sohan Dhanesh, BS 24, joined a team of students to consider whether startup Moneytree is using machine learning ethically to determine credit worthiness among its customers.

After reading the case, Dhanesh, one of 54 undergraduates enrolled in a new Berkeley Haas course called Responsible AI Innovation & Management, said he was concerned by Moneytree’s unlimited access to users’ phone data, and whether customers even know what data the company is tapping to inform its credit scoring algorithm. Accountability is also an issue, since Silicon Valley-based Moneytree’s customers live in India and Africa, he said. 

“Credit is a huge thing, and whether it’s given to a person or not has a huge impact on their life,” Dhanesh said. “If this credit card [algorithm] is biased against me, it will affect my quality of life.”

Dhanesh, who came into the class believing that he didn’t support guardrails for AI companies, says he’s surprised by how his opinions have changed about regulation. That he isn’t playing Devil’s advocate, he said, is due to the eye-opening data, cases, and readings provided by Lecturer Genevieve Smith.

A contentious debate

Smith, who is also the founding co-director of the Responsible & Equitable AI Initiative at the Berkeley AI Research Lab and former associate director of the Berkeley Haas Center for Equity, Gender, & Leadership, created the course with an aim to teach students both sides of the AI debate.

Woman in a purple jacket teaching
Lecturer Genevieve Smith says the goal of her class is to train aspiring leaders to understand, think critically about, and implement strategies for responsible AI innovation and management. Photo: Noah Berger

Her goal is to train aspiring leaders to think critically about artificial intelligence and implement strategies for responsible AI innovation and management. “While AI can carry immense opportunities, it also poses immense risks to both society and business linked to pervasive issues of bias and discrimination, data privacy violations, and more,” Smith said. “Given the current state of the AI landscape and its expected global growth, profit potential, and impact, it is imperative that aspiring business leaders understand responsible AI innovation and management.”

“While AI can carry immense opportunities, it also poses immense risks to both society and business linked to pervasive issues of bias and discrimination, data privacy violations, and more,” – Genevieve Smith.

During the semester, Smith covers the business and economic potential of AI to boost productivity and efficiency. But she also explores the immense potential for harm, such as the risk of embedding inequality or infringing on human rights; amplifying misinformation and a lack of transparency, and impacting the future of work and climate. 

Smith said she expects all of her students will interact with AI as they launch careers, particularly in entrepreneurship and tech. To that end, the class prepares them to articulate what “responsible AI” means and understand and define ethical AI principles, design, and management approaches. 

Learning through mini-cases

Today, Smith kicked off class with a review of the day’s AI headlines, showing an interview with OpenAI’s CTO Mira Murati, who was asked where the company gets its training data for Sora, OpenAI’s new generative AI model that creates realistic video using text. Murati contended that the company used publicly available data to train Sora but didn’t provide any details in the interview. Smith asks the students what they thought about her answer, noting the “huge issue” with a lack of transparency on training data, as well as copyright and consent implications.

Student in class wearing blue and yellow berkeley hoodie
Throughout the semester, students will develop a responsible AI strategy for a real or fictitious company. Photo: Noah Berger

After, Smith introduced the topic of “AI for good” before the students split into groups to act as responsible AI advisors to three startups, described in three mini cases for Moneytree, HealthNow, and MyWeather.  They worked to answer Smith’s questions: “What concerns do you have? What questions would you ask? And what recommendations might you provide?” The teams explored these questions across five core responsible AI principles, including privacy, fairness, and accountability. 

Julianna De Paula, BS 24, whose team was assigned to read about Moneytree, asked if the company had adequately addressed the potential for bias when approving customers for credit (about 60% of loans in East Africa go to men, and 70% of loans in India go to men, the case noted), and whether the app’s users are giving clear consent for their data when they download it. 

Other student teams considered HealthNow, a chatbot that provides health care guidance, but with better performance for men and English speakers; and MyWeather, an app developed for livestock herders by a telecommunications firm in Nairobi, Kenya, that uses weather data from a real-time weather information service provider.

The class found problems with both startups, pointing out the potential for a chatbot to misdiagnose conditions (“Can a doctor be called as a backup?” one student asked), and the possibility that MyWeather’s dependence on a partner vendor could lead to inaccurate climate data.

Preparing future leaders

Throughout the semester, students will go on to develop a responsible AI strategy for a real or fictitious company. They are also encouraged to work with ChatGPT and other generative AI language tools. (One assignment asked them to critique ChatGPT’s own response to a question of bias in generative AI.) Students also get a window into real-world AI use and experiences through guest speakers from Google, Mozilla, Partnership on AI, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and others. 

All of the students participate in at least one debate, taking sides on topics that include whether university students should be able to use ChatGPT or other generative AI language tools for school; if the OpenAI board of directors was right to fire Sam Altman; and if government regulation of AI technologies stifles innovation and should be limited.

Smith, who has done her share of research into gender and AI, also recommended many readings for the class, including “Data Feminism” by MIT Associate Professor Catherine D’Ignazio and Emory University Professor Lauren Klein; “Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines” by AI researcher, artist, and advocate Joy Buolamwini; “Weapons of Math Destruction” by algorithmic auditor Cathy O’Neil; and “Your Face Belongs to Us” by New York Times reporter Kashmir Hill.

Smith said she hopes that her course will enable future business leaders to be more responsible stewards and managers of such technologies. “Many people think that making sure AI is ‘responsible’ is a technology task that should be left to data scientists and engineers,” she said. “The reality is, business managers and leaders have a critical role to play as they inform the priorities and values that are embedded into how AI technology is developed and used.”

Berkeley City Council Candidate James Chang, MBA 24, talks People’s Park, campus safety

man wearing a blue suit and tie
James Chang, MBA 24, is running for City Council inn District 7.

James Chang, Chief of Staff for Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett, thought he’d return to a private sector job after graduating from the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program this spring.

Turns out that’s not happening just yet.

Chang said his experiences in the MBA program inspired him to double down on his leadership skills and remain in the public sector, running for the open District 7 City Council seat in the April 16 special election. District 7 stretches from the UC Berkeley campus to five blocks south. Chang is running against UC Berkeley senior Cecilia Lunaparra.

Haas News recently talked to Chang, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in political economy from UC Berkeley, about his love of public service, his experiences at Haas, and his desire to serve Berkeley in a district where students make up the majority of the voting population.

You came to Haas planning to return to the private sector. Why did you change your mind and run for office instead?

I wanted to leave politics. But coming here renewed my passion for public service. I was a delegate in the Graduate Assembly, representing all three Haas MBA programs, and president of the EWMBAA (student) association. That is what made me realize that I want to really double down on public service.

As you approach graduation, what are some highlights from your time spent in the MBA program?

Taking core classes with my cohort and the deep friendships that you build. Also, placing second at the HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition. Being able to work with different people from the Real Estate development program, Berkeley Law, and the architecture program at Berkeley… If there’s anything I could recommend that Haasies do, it is case competitions with people from outside of your program. Meeting people from different majors and different walks of life is a beautiful thing. 

What made you decide to run for a seat on the City Council?

I’m running because I have a deep passion for public service and because I have a deep love for Berkeley. Berkeley is a place where I found the love of my life, Richard. But it goes a little deeper than that. I get to be authentically “me” here, whether that’s showing up at work at City Hall, or showing up authentically at Haas—being a leader on campus representing Haas, I have the opportunity to be who I am: fearless, not just in my identity, but also in my values and being able to speak up, even if it’s sometimes unpopular.

man speaking with students in front of Sather Gate.
James Chang, MBA 24, speaks with students on the UC Berkeley campus.

What are the core issues driving your campaign?

Fighting for affordable housing. I am concerned about housing affordability and availability and safety, which I know is a big concern for many of our students. Students deserve a nice place to live and an economically vibrant Telegraph Avenue business district. These are all things that I’m running on. The person who represents you—the job is to really serve you and bring back resources to the community, to make the community better, and I think I’ve shown I’ve been able to do that.

Do you support the UC Berkeley campus decision to build housing at People’s Park?

Yes. I think this is one of the reasons why Haasies should care about this election. The building project at People’s Park, to be clear, includes two-thirds green space. There’ll be housing for 1,100 students, and there will be over 100 housing units for the unhoused. We can either have that as an option, or an open-air drug market as the alternative. I know students overwhelmingly want housing. I think a lot of students are too afraid to speak up because, anytime we do anything to solve a problem that requires some form of public safety measure, it’s often vilified as a right-wing tactic or supporting right-wing policies. And I just really reject those notions.

We can either have that as an option, or an open-air drug market as the alternative. I know students overwhelmingly want housing.

How do you think your classes and community at Haas have helped you to be a better leader?

I think that all of my classes are founded on our Haas Defining Leadership Principles. Whether that’s going beyond ourselves, questioning the status quo, confidence without attitude, or students always, every single one of my classes has really grounded me. I have become a better leader, am open to different perspectives, ask the tough questions, and also just always want to learn and soak up different knowledge. I always say Haas is one of the most supportive communities that I’ve ever belonged in.

What do you love about your current job?

What I do best is I know how to deliver for constituents who are in need, as long as they’re patient with me and give me time. Most of the time, I am able to give them what they want within reason, whether that’s cleaning up a street, making sure that our unhoused people are compassionately served, or getting a traffic circle at the edge of our district, or making sure that their events get fully funded. Also, getting $9 million for the African American Holistic Research Center, and making MLK Way much safer. It’s still messy, but safe. That took seven years, and I am so proud of it. 

Four people standing in a room with banners
James Chang, MBA 24, supports the People’s Park housing project.

How would you make this area of Berkeley safer?

I think we need better lighting on and off campus. The campus “Warn Me” system needs to be a lot better. The city could do more to make sure that simple things like cracked shop windows are fixed, simple things like cleaner streets—this goes a long way. We are also working with merchants to install private cameras that work with the city. I am open to public cameras but I am always concerned with civil liberties, so I’m not ready to say yes or no to that. We should be working with business first. One of my biggest goals is economic growth on Telegraph. We know the No. 1 crime deterrent is more eyes on the streets, so that’s what I’m really hoping for.  

The special election will be held April 16 until 8 p.m. (mail-in ballots have been sent). Registration has ended, but eligible District 7 voters can register at the voting location, the YWCA Berkeley, 2600 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, before and on election day.

What’s age got to do with it? 76-year-old MBA student “having the time of my life”

MBA student holding microphone
Neurologist Peter Fung came to Haas for an MBA to gain new leadership skills and financial expertise.

At a time of life when many of his peers are well into retirement, Peter C. Fung is having “the time of his life” as a student in the Berkeley Haas Executive MBA Program

But for Fung, 76, a retired neurologist and self-proclaimed lifelong learner, retirement was never an option. It’s the reason he wanted to earn an MBA and why he connected immediately to Students Always, one of the four Haas Defining Leadership Principles (DLP).

“Age is not important,” said Fung, EMBA 24, who sits on the El Camino Health District Board of Directors and for a decade led the hospital’s stroke program, which is named after him. “When we’re using our brains in thinking or learning new information, neuronal pathways from neuron to neuron are formed. This is the best anti-aging therapy. Just like an old car, you have to keep it running to keep it from rusting.”

Developing leadership skills

As a physician, Fung, an advocate for health, wellness, and disease prevention, has spent more than 35 years improving health care quality and access. Now, he’s running for an open seat on the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, where he hopes to tap what he’s learned at Haas on the journey.

In the EMBA program, Fung said he’s developed leadership skills that he believes will help him stand out as a political candidate. He’s also gained new expertise in economics and data analysis—and a deeper understanding of organizational finance that he hopes to apply to overseeing the county’s budget and tackling the deficit.

group of MBA students in a classroom
Peter C. Fung (middle) said he is impressed that his classmates—busy with careers and young families—are all still learning new skills, pivoting to new jobs, starting companies, and helping each other.

He said he is impressed that his classmates—busy with careers and young families—are all committed to learning new skills, pivoting to new jobs, starting companies, and helping each other. 

“The cohort has been treating me as one of their own,” he said. “I was terrible with the computer, especially with Excel, when I started the program. But I was finally able to master this very powerful tool. I actually did quite well on my finals. I have enjoyed the challenge. It was a thrill.” 

Fung believes he brings something unique to the program. His classmates agree.

Abdus Sattar, EMBA 24, collaborated with Fung during a recent business policy immersion trip the cohort took to Washington D.C.  Their paper on “Medicare Drug Price Negotiation, “offered me an opportunity to delve into crucial healthcare topics,” said Sattar, who holds a PhD in electrical engineering. 

Saya Honda, EMBA 24, said that Fung “pushes us and encourages us to challenge ourselves.” She said Fung embodies all four of the Haas Defining Leadership Principles: He questions the status quo by being unafraid to ask questions; he shows confidence without attitude by using humor in public speaking; he’s a student always as the oldest person in the cohort and as someone who believes in the importance of education; and he’s questioning the status quo by running for county supervisor. 

A passion for learning

Originally from China and having grown up in Hong Kong, Fung came to the United States to study at the University of Michigan Medical School, where he became board-certified in internal medicine and neurology and also earned a master’s degree in neurochemistry and neuropharmacology. 

doctor at the hospital standing in lobby
Dr. Fung sits on on the El Camino Health District Board of Directors and for a decade led the hospital’s stroke program, which is named after him.

“His passion for learning is not only impressive but also infectious,” said Elizabeth Stanners, executive director of the Haas Executive MBA program.

When a professor recommended a PhD program, Fung’s wife, who missed living in Asia and warmer weather, balked. “She said, ‘We’re going to move to California.’ he said. “That pretty much was an ultimatum. So we came to San Jose, where I was the only neurologist in my area of the city.” 

For Fung, 1996 proved a turning point in life after his mother had a devastating stroke that left her paralyzed on one side and unable to speak. Fung managed to consult with the chief of the stroke program at Stanford about a new drug called tPA, which his mother received. “The next day, she asked, ‘Why am I here?’ Her arm was no longer paralyzed, and she was speaking fluently,” Fung recalled.

Running for supervisor

After that experience, Fung decided to study strokes, immersing himself in articles and at conferences for a decade. Along the way, he became the first physician in the Bay Area to be board-certified in stroke neurology. “I thought I would work as a stroke and vascular neurologist for the rest of my life,” he said. “But then, I started thinking about what else I could do.” 

Running for office was part of that plan, to expand his commitment to improving access to care for everyone. Earlier in his career, Fung served as co-director of the El Camino Health Chinese Health Initiative, to provide education and access to the Asian community. The initiative is now the largest nonprofit organization catering to Chinese patients in California. 

In 2014, he ran for the El Camino Healthcare District, which manages the budget for the district’s hospitals. The Santa Clara Board of Supervisors is the next step, where his work would have impact on a larger population.

If elected, he said he’d tap into the DLPs to help with decision making in critical areas that are top of mind for constituents: crime, safety, healthcare, inflation, education, and housing. “After thorough research and analysis, I would delve deeply into the issues at hand, engaging with fellow political leaders to gain diverse perspectives, and to develop well-informed and practical solutions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fung is looking forward to adding an MBA to a long list of accomplishments.

“If I’m the oldest student to graduate successfully from Haas, and I go on to make a meaningful life after graduation, that will be something to write about,” he said. “That’s my goal.”