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Berkeley Haas welcomes nine new professors

New Berkeley Haas faculty members 2022
From top row, left to right: New Berkeley Haas assistant professors Tanya Paul, Ali Kakhbod, Carolyn Stein; Sa-Kiera Hudson, Ambar La Forgia, Sytkse Wijnsma, Sarah Moshary, Matthew Backus, and Valerie Zhang.

Nine new assistant professors have joined the Haas School of Business faculty this year, with cutting-edge research interests that range from illicit supply chains to unequal social hierarchies; from financial crises to the incentives that shape innovation; and from health care management to decentralized finance to marketing and the demand for firearms.

The nine tenure-track hires are the result of a concerted effort by Dean Ann E. Harrison and other Haas leaders to expand and diversify the faculty.

“We are thrilled to welcome this wonderful, diverse new group of academic superstars to Berkeley Haas,” says Dean Ann E. Harrison. “We clearly are bringing the best to Haas, increasing the depth and breadth of our world-renowned faculty, and reinforcing our place among the world’s best business schools.”

The new faculty members have hometowns throughout the U.S. and around the world, including Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois; Iran, the Dominican Republic, China, and the Netherlands. Seven of them are women; one is Black, and one is Latinx.

“This is our most diverse cohort of new faculty ever, each one a rock star in their own right,” says Jennifer Chatman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management. “We are very proud that we were able to lure them to Berkeley Haas.”

The new faculty members start on July 1, with most beginning to teach in spring 2023. They bring the total size of the ladder faculty to 88, up from 78 in 2020-2021.

Meet the faculty

Matthew Backus
Matthew Backus

Assistant Professor Matthew Backus, Economic Analysis & Policy
(he/him)

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

Education: 
PhD, Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BA, Economics and Philosophy, American University

Research focus: Industrial organization

Introduction: I’m an economist with broad interests. Most recently, I’m interested in how we can use the tools developed by the industrial organization community to understand inequality and the distributional effects of policy.

Teaching: Microeconomics and Antitrust Economics (MBA)

Most excited about: After spending a year visiting, I’m most excited about the economics community at Berkeley.

Fun fact: I have a border collie, who is in training as a herding dog.

 

Sa-Kiera Hudson
Sa-Kiera Hudson

Assistant Professor Sa-kiera (Kiera) Tiarra Jolynn Hudson, Management of Organizations 
(she/her)

Hometown: Albany, NY

Education: 
PhD/MA, Social Psychology, Harvard University
BA, Psychology and Biology, Williams College

Research focus: I study the psychological processes involved in the formation, maintenance, and intersections of unequal social hierarchies, with a focus on empathic/spiteful emotions, stereotypes, and legitimizing myths.

Introduction: I am a social psychologist by training, focusing on the nature of intergroup relations as dominance and power hierarchies. I have studied several psychological processes, including the role of legitimizing myths in justifying unequal societal conditions, the role of group stereotypes in the experience and perception of prejudice, and the role of empathic and spiteful emotions in supporting intergroup harm. My work is multidisciplinary, incorporating quantitative as well as qualitative methods from various disciplines such as political science, sociology, and public policy.

I am a fierce advocate for building community, providing mentorship, and supporting authentic inclusion for everyone. I believe it is a moral imperative to be present as a vocal, queer-identified Black women in academe, given the lack of representation, and I’m excited to see how I can contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Haas.

Teaching: Core Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (MBA)

Most excited about: I identify UC Berkeley as my intellectual birthplace. It was during a summer internship program through the psychology department in 2010 where I first became interested in studying power structures and intergroup relations simultaneously. My overall research interests haven’t changed since that fateful summer. Being a faculty member here is truly a dream come true!

Fun fact: I love organizing and planning, so much so I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign to create my own planner. I am also an avid foodie and cannot wait to check out the Bay’s food and wine scenes.

 

Ali Kakhbod
Ali Kakhbod

Assistant Professor Ali Kakhbod, Finance
(he/him)

Hometown: Isfahan, Iran

Education:
PhD, Economics, MIT
PhD, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS), University of Michigan

Research focus: Information frictions; liquidity; market microstructure; big data; and contracts

Introduction: I am a financial economist with research interests in financial intermediation, liquidity, contracts, big (alternative) data, banking and financial crises. A common theme of my research agenda is to study various informational settings and their financial and economic implications. For example: When does securitization lead to a financial crisis? Why is there heterogeneity in the means of providing advice in corporate governance? How does information disclosure in OTC (over-the-count) markets affect market efficiency? My research has both theory and empirical components with policy implications.

Teaching: Deep Learning in Finance (MFE)

Most excited about: Berkeley Haas is the heart of what’s next with world-class faculty working on exciting and innovative research. Given that my interdisciplinary research interests span finance, economics and big data issues, I could not ask for a better fit.

Fun fact: In my free time, I like to ski, sail, hike, and enjoy the outdoors.

 

Ambar La Forgia
Ambar La Forgia

Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia, Management of Organizations
(she/her)

Hometown: I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but I grew up in Washington, DC and São Paulo, Brazil.

Education:
PhD, Applied Economics and Managerial Science, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BA, Economics and Mathematics, Swarthmore College

Research focus: Health care management; mergers and acquisitions; firm performance

Introduction: My research studies the relationship between organizational and managerial strategies and performance outcomes in the health care sector. In particular, I use quantitative methods to study how the strategic decisions of corporations to merge, acquire, or partner with other organizations can change managerial processes in ways that impact both financial and clinical performance. A secondary research strand studies how health care organizations adapt their service delivery and prices following changes in state and federal legislation. 

Before joining UC Berkeley, I was an assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. I am excited to continue to explore issues of healthcare quality, equity, and cost, while digging deeper into the management practices and organizational structures that could influence these outcomes.

Teaching: Leading People (EWMBA)

Most excited about: It is an honor to join the world-class faculty at Haas, and I am so excited to learn from and collaborate with my MORs colleagues on both the macro and micro side. Since my research is interdisciplinary, I also look forward to connecting with scholars in the School of Public Health.

As a self-proclaimed “city girl,”  I am excited to get out of my comfort zone and explore the natural beauty of Northern California.

Fun fact: My hobbies include yoga, urban gardening, adopting animals and stand-up comedy.

 

Sarah Moshary
Sarah Moshary

Assistant Professor Sarah Moshary, Marketing
(she/her)

Hometown: New York City, NY

Education:
Phd, Economics, MIT
AB, Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Marketing and industrial organization

Introduction: My research interests span quantitative marketing, industrial organization, and political economy. I am currently working on projects related to paid search advertising, the pink tax (price gap in products targeted to women), and the demand for firearms. Before joining Haas, I worked at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Teaching: Pricing (MBA)

Most excited about: I am excited to get to know my future colleagues!

Fun fact: My two hobbies are running and pottery—though I am more enthusiastic than talented at either 🙂

 

Tanya Paul
Tanya Paul

Assistant Professor Tanya Paul, Accounting
(she/her)

Hometown: Murphy, Texas

Education:
PhD, Accounting, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BS, Economics, Statistics and Finance, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Research focus: Standard-setting and financial reporting; the determinants and consequences of voluntary disclosures

Introduction: After getting my PhD, I spent a year at the Financial Accounting Standards Board learning about contemporary accounting issues and understanding the types of questions that standard setters are grappling with. I hope to continue working on research that is helpful to standard setters in coming up with standards that ultimately improve financial reporting.

Teaching: Corporate Financial Reporting (MBA)

Most excited about: ​​I love how interconnected the area groups are within Haas. There are so many potential learning opportunities, especially for a newly minted researcher like me.

Fun fact: In my free time, I love to read and play the piano—I had learned it as a child and am trying to relearn it now as an adult.

 

Carolyn Stein
Carolyn Stein

Assistant Professor Carolyn Stein, Economic Analysis & Policy
(she/her)

Hometown: Lexington, Mass.

Education:
PhD, Economics, MIT
AB, Applied Mathematics and Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Economics of science, innovation, and applied microeconomics

Introduction: I study the economics of science and innovation. My research combines data and economic theory to understand the incentives that scientists face and decisions that they make, and how this in turn shapes the production of new knowledge.

One thing I love about economics is that it’s less of a narrow subject area, and more a set of tools and principles that apply to a stunningly wide array of topics. I’m excited to work with Haas students to help them understand how economic principles can improve their decision-making, both in their careers and in other areas of their lives—maybe even in ways that surprise them!

Teaching: Microeconomics (EWMBA)

Most excited about: I’m excited to be part of a large and superb applied microeconomics community—at Haas, and more broadly at Berkeley as a whole.

Fun fact: I am an avid cyclist and skier, and I was on the cycling team at MIT. Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve loved the hills and mountains in the area. I’m working on taking my riding off road (gravel and mountain biking) and skiing off-piste (backcountry).

 

Sytske Wijnsma
Sytske Wijnsma

Assistant Professor Sytkse Wijnsma, Operations and IT Management
(she/her)

Hometown: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Education:
PhD, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
MPhil, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
BSc & MSc, Economics and Finance, VU University, Amsterdam

Research focus: My primary research interest is designing supply chain and policy interventions that help solve real-world challenges with social and environmental impact.

Introduction: I am very excited about my projects on illicit supply chains and how they undermine social and environmental goals. The context of these projects spans a wide range of areas, from illicit waste management to illegal deforestation. I am also excited to deepen and expand ongoing research collaborations with governments and industry to investigate these issues.

Teaching: Sustainability in Business (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: Many things! Berkeley Haas, being at the forefront of sustainability, has a unique position that combines the same ideals that drive my research with opportunities for collaborative research with serious impact. The amazing colleagues and close connections to industry make it even more exciting to join this community!

Fun fact: My first and last name originate from Fryslân, a northern province in the Netherlands, where it is still tradition to name your children after family members. So although my name is quite rare in the rest of the world, in our family it crops up in every generation!

 

Valerie Zhang
Valerie Zhang

Assistant Professor Valerie Zhang, Accounting
(she/her)

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Education:
PhD, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BCom, Finance and Economics, University of Toronto

Research focus: Information dissemination; information cascades on social media; retail investor behavior; decentralized finance

Introduction: I am passionate about doing research or working on personal projects that can express my creativity. I enjoy merging disjointed ideas and working on interdisciplinary research. My dissertation combines two literatures: one in computer science on information cascades on social media, and another in finance and accounting on the effects of disseminating financial news. I am also very curious about emerging technologies that are reshaping the financial industry. Since I work on areas that are new to the research community, I sometimes feel like a lone traveler exploring completely new territories. It is terrifying but also extremely rewarding!

Teaching: Financial Accounting (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: I look forward to inspiring my students to be entrepreneurial and to come up with creative business ideas or projects.

Fun fact/hobby: I write short stories. The one I am working on has an alien and a squirrel in it.

Berkeley undergrad student team wins global venture capital final; EWMBAs take 3rd

Undergrads holding check at VCIC finals.
The UC Berkeley Undergraduate student team took first place at Global VCIC: Victor Li, David Wang. Carol Xie, Allen Wang, and Blair Wu.

A group of UC Berkeley undergraduate students’ stellar startup-vetting skills netted them first place against a field of 120 teams at the Global Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) finals.

Members of the winning team that competed at University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School on April 8-9 included Berkeley Haas student David Wang, BS 22, (Business & Chemical Engineering); Victor Li, BS 22, (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science), Carol Xie,  BA 22, (Computer Science & Statistics); Allen Wang, BA 23, (Economics & Data Science);  and Blair Wu, BA 24, (Economics & Biology).

A team of Berkeley Haas evening & weekend MBA students took third place, including Andrew Celin, John Eastman, Shenshen Hu, Terrence Tse, and Georgia Wright-Simmons, all EWMBA 22.  

Photo of EWMBA team
The Berkeley Haas EWMBA team, left to right: Georgia Wright-Simmons, John Eastman, Terrence Tse, Andrew Celin, and Shenshen Hu, all EWMBA 22.

“I’m blown away by these wins,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). Shrader, who accompanied the students, said she was pleased that VCIC returned as an in-person event this year. 

More than 120 university and graduate school teams compete at VCIC. The competition has a two-fold mission: to make students VCs for the day and allow startups to jumpstart their fundraising. Since the competition’s inception in 1998, more than 800 founders have received 1,500 practice term sheets from student investment teams.

At the finals, the Berkeley undergraduates performed due diligence on three startups. After writing up term sheets, the team recommended a $5.25 million investment in agriculture technology startup Atira. Atira is developing an indoor system that promises to grow vegetables 40 percent faster without energy waste or pesticides. 

“The business has a lot of potential,” said Wu, who took a gap semester off to work at a venture capital firm last year and met her teammates through Berkeley’s Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs (ACE). “They’d already acquired patents and had a strong team. Their product was solid and there’s strong market demand.”

Photo of the undergrad team at worka
The UC Berkeley undergraduate team at work during the competition.

David Wang, BS 22, said he believes that two key factors helped with the win: team dynamics and mentorship. “We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship,” he said. 

“We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship.” —David Wang.

Wang also credited Haas MBA alumnus Elan Tye, a principal at JAZZ Venture Partners, and Matt Kirmayer, a partner at law firm Perkins Coie, for spending “countless hours preparing us for the competition…We could not have done it without them,” he said.

Shrader said the team “crushed” its partner meeting round, nailing both the startup valuation and the Q&A session.

“Everybody had a role and everybody spoke at the finals and you could see that their emphasis was on team work,” she said.”This team definitely had confidence without attitude.”

OCHO Candy

How one alum’s hard choices and strong relationships led to confectionary success

Cross-sections of five different Ocho candy bars stacked atop one another.

Scott Kucirek, MBA 99, co-founded OCHO Candy with Denis Ring in 2010 with a mission to make chocolate bars from responsibly sourced organic ingredients.Scott Kucirek, MBA 99.

The pair self-financed at first to slow early development and allow them to strategically choose equity holders. Local Whole Foods stores were early customers, and within nine years, OCHO was a multimillion dollar business, producing bars for national drugstore and grocery chains in a cutting-edge facility in West Oakland that employed previously incarcerated individuals from the local community.

But OCHO’s fast growth followed by the pandemic nearly melted its sweet success—nearly! The story of OCHO is one of navigating growth and unprecedented challenges and speaks to the importance of building trustworthy relationships. Here, some key moments in OCHO’s evolution.

2010

OCHO (which stands for organic chocolate) is born. Initial flavors include chocolate-covered coconut and peanut butter.

2015

50 employees work 24/7 making the tempered-chocolate bars with thick shells and soft centers by hand, but OCHO still has to turn away clients.

2018

Now with a custom-built manufacturing facility that’s revolutionary for its tempering and molding process, OCHO expands its eight varieties to national markets, like Walgreens and Target.Ocho coconut bar.

2019

Early

Sales are up 50%.

August–November

OCHO’s explosive growth threatens to drain the company of cash. Kucirek seeks emergency funding from his carefully selected investors and raises $2 million in 30 days. Meanwhile, he shifts strategy to finding a manufacturing partner.

2020

March

Kucirek and Ring court four investors. When COVID hits, all but one, a confectioner from Trinidad and Tobago, back out. OCHO’s distributor deprioritizes moving chocolate. Inventory builds as sales diminish.

August

On the verge of bankruptcy, OCHO closes the deal with the investor from Trinidad and Tobago, who will handle manufacturing in the Caribbean. Kucirek provides job-search support for all employees and bonuses for those who stay to the end.

2021

March

U.S. production ends, but a wave of COVID halts the factory setup in the Caribbean.

October

Production finally begins, just in time for holiday runs.

2022

January

OCHO opens a new facility in Oakland for front-office staff and is on track to have a record-breaking year.

Boba dreams: Undergrad student to open Aura Tea in downtown San Francisco

Photo of Kashish Juneja, BS 22
Kashish Juneja, BS 22, is opening Aura Tea shop in downtown San Francisco at the end of March.

Kashish Juneja, BS 22, is learning about running a business in real-time as she prepares to open startup Aura Tea’s first shop in downtown San Francisco on March 27. In between juggling a mid-term and going to class she’s taking calls from her contractor and interviewing for counter help at the shop that will serve boba tea with a twist: It’s sugar free, made with plant-based milks, and under 100 calories. 

“It’s insane from the operational side,” said Juneja, whose first shop is strategically located on Spear Street across from Google and Databricks offices, where employees are starting to trickle back. “We need to make sure there’s a demand and that we’re making sure the product is good enough so that people will continue showing up.”

In many ways, Aura Tea has been a team effort from the start. Juneja recruited 22 interns from the UC Berkeley community who help with marketing, TikTok, and Instagram, where she’s drawn support from NFL players to local musicians. Students and Cal athlete ambassadors helped her host on-campus events that offer “boba for de-stressing”—and she recently held a pop-up on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, giving away Cal-themed boba tea drinks.

Aura Tea space on Spear
Aura’s new shop will open March 27 on Spear Street in San Francisco. Photo: Kashish Juneja.

Kaitlin Dang, BS 24, an intern who serves as business growth lead at Aura Tea, said her favorite Aura flavor is mango pineapple.

“Before I started working here I was an avid milk tea connoisseur, trying new places,” said Dang, who is in  her second year of the Berkeley Haas Global Management Program. “My taste has changed from sweeter teas and now I drink a lot of fruit teas. Most fruit teas are very sweet and not refreshing. Aura tea has a refreshing taste.”

Solving her own problem

Juneja, who grew up in Cupertino, has always loved boba. “Our high school was boba central, with a boba shop across the street that was open during lunch every day,” she said. “I played tennis every day so it balanced out.”

Photo of Kaitlin Dang drinking boba
Kaitlin Dang, a sophomore in the undergraduate Global Management Program at Haas, is Aura’s business growth lead.

Her boba addiction continued at Berkeley, but drinking those 500 extra boba calories without her usual tennis playing led to an unwanted 30-pound weight gain. Aura Tea, she said, was founded in part to solve her own problem.

The idea to start making healthier boba tea emerged during a Plant Futures course that she took with Will Rosenzweig, the faculty chair of the Center for Responsible Business at Haas who co-founded the Republic of Tea.

She’d already taken an entrepreneurship bootcamp and was interested in starting a company. Plant Futures, a collaboration between Berkeley Haas, Public Health, Engineering, Public Policy, and the Berkeley Food Institute, pushed her idea forward.

Throughout the pandemic, Juneja could be found crafting tea in her apartment, testing different oat, almond, and pea milks, which make her tea drinks vegan, and sweeteners, using fresh loose leaf green and black teas from the grocery store. (Boba pearls are naturally vegan, as they’re made of tapioca starch, which comes from cassava root.)

Juneja tested her teas on friends and classmates. In the early recipe days, she conducted a blind taste test: her milk tea against the Boba Guys’ tea and others. (Boba Guys was co-founded by Andrew Chau, MBA 11.)  “We didn’t win but it was a good start,” she said. “Our taste was nowhere that it is now.” 

It took time to get Berkeley-based impact investor David Jiang to take a chance on her venture, she said. Jiang’s wife’s father was a tea farmer in China, and they all shared an interest in tea. “There was a lot of making it and taking it back to them,” Juneja said. “I was taking what I learned in class and bringing them my tea and my pitch deck.” 

I was taking what I learned in class and bringing them my tea and my pitch deck.

Valuable startup experience

The shop, which will take to-go orders online, will offer a combination of grab-and-go and fresh-brewed drinks with boba tea in flavors including strawberry, matcha, pineapple, and mango. Aura will offer coffee drinks, too, and a masala chai with infused with spices and CBD for relaxation. (Aura’s boba pearls are made by US Boba Company in nearby Hayward, Calif. Her tea is sweetened with Purecane, which she says she chose for its lack of an aftertaste.) 

Students drinking boba at an Aura Tea rooftop party.
Students sample the tea on a campus rooftop last week during Aura Tea’s launch party.

Dang said she’s getting valuable experience working for Aura. “There’s a lot of creativity involved,” she said. “I have the space to try the things I want to try. We’re appealing to a certain wide demographic: corporate employees, health influencers, healthcare professionals, and foodies. I like to try things I’ve seen work in other industries, casting a wide net.”

Juneja, who will work in the shop part-time until graduation, said she’s grateful to her entire community of classmates, professors, and advisors for all of their help with Aura’s creation.

 “When I wrote my essay to get into Haas I said I wanted to solve a problem,” she said. “My dream came true.”