Influencing national economic policy is not only about having the expertise, but also about being in the room at the right moment to be heard, two top economists who have served as government advisors told the audience a recent Dean’s Speaker Series event.
“I had this impression that there’s some deep thinking and careful preparation, and ultimately a bunch of guys get into a room, and later there’s a law,” said Professor Ulrike Malmendier, who in August was appointed to a five-year term on Germany’s Council of Economic Experts, which evaluates the government’s economic policies. The reality, she learned, is less concrete.
“I completely misunderstood politics and policy,” said Malmendier, Edward J. and Mollie Arnold Professor of Finance, in response to a student question. “It showed how if you are at the right place—if you can be in the room—you can help.”
Malmendier shared the stage by Professor Catherine Wolfram, who recently completed a term as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate and Energy Economics in the U.S. Department of Treasury. Wolfram and Malmendier were interviewed by Haas Dean Ann Harrison in a discussion titled, “In the Halls of Power: Berkeley Haas Economists on Advising World Leaders.”
Wolfram, an energy economist, and Malmendier, a behavioral economist, are internationally known in their respective fields. Both said they felt the call to step outside academia and use their expertise in the service of public good.
“Like a lot of my colleagues, I wanted to be relevant to policymakers, and I wanted to have my research influence decisions,” Wolfram said. “But I figured I really should understand what it’s like to be a policy maker and see how the sausage is made.”
Wolfram said that when Janet Yellen, a Berkeley Haas professor emeritus, was named Secretary of the Treasury in the Biden Administration, she reached out to her directly about a treasury position focused on environmental issues
“…Don’t wait for them to come to you. Life in DC is so, so hectic, they’re going a million miles an hour,” Wolfram said. “You need to raise your hand and say, ‘I’m ready. I’d like to be there.’”
“You need to raise your hand and say, ‘I’m ready. I’d like to be there.’” —Catherine Wolfram
Wolfram ended up having a front-row seat to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act—the biggest climate bill in U.S. history—and played a pivotal role in enacting a price cap on Russian oil. Malmendier has been on the front lines of helping her home country navigate a tricky economic period roiled by inflation, the war in Ukraine, and the resulting European energy crisis.
Hear more about their experiences and their leadership advice.
Classified articles spotlight some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.
It’s week four of the Climate Change and Business Strategy course at Berkeley Haas, and Senior Lecturer Andrew Isaacs kicks off with a slide that compares China’s CO2 emissions to those of the U.S. and other countries.
“What you notice right away is a three-fold increase coming from China,” he said, noting that the country’s blazing economic growth has come with a huge increase in demand for energy. “This is like nothing the world has experienced. China is the elephant in the room right now, even though the US still leads the world in cumulative emissions of planet-warming gasses.”
As class continues, Isaacs covers the different potencies of the main greenhouse gasses, presents a quick tutorial on the First Law of Thermodynamics—energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another—and posts graphs that show how much countries have warmed over time and track loss of ice and snow around the world. “There will be a September within your lifetime that sees an ice-free Arctic Ocean,” he tells the 51 Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students in the class at Chou Hall.
It’s a lot for students to take in. “I knew there was a crisis, but to see how it might play out is mind blowing,” said Harry Davies, MBA 23, who interned for Impossible Foods last summer and plans to pursue a career at the intersection of sustainability and food.
“I knew there was a crisis, but to see how it might play out is mind blowing,” – Harry Davies, MBA 23.
After launching the course two years ago, Isaacs’ worry about the planet’s fate has only escalated. “We’re only starting to grapple with these problems,” he said. “In the coming weeks of class we’ll look at the various solutions available to us. But if we get climate change wrong, it doesn’t matter what else we get right.”
One key to getting it right? Electrification—and moving away from the inefficiency of fossil fuels, particularly gasoline-powered automobiles, Isaacs told students. “If I’m driving to work in a gasoline-powered car, 10% of the energy in each gallon of gas I burn gets me to work, and the other 90% goes to heating up the air around the car. You wanted mobility, but you used something—an automobile —that instead is good at producing heat,” he said. “Our economy is built substantially on the inefficient and inappropriate use of resources.”
“Our economy is built substantially on the inefficient and inappropriate use of resources.” – Andrew Isaacs
Response to a wildfire
A geochemist who started his career as a scientist at NASA, Isaacs created the Climate Change and Business Strategy course after being forced to evacuate his home in Napa, California, during the 2020 North Bay wildfires. Isaacs didn’t end up losing his house. But the fire did lead him to examine how he could do more to educate students about climate change. Since introducing the course, he also helped Haas launch a summer minor in sustainability open to all UC Berkeley undergraduates.
The class has filled up every semester. It helps immensely that Haas Dean Ann Harrison and Sustainability Director Michele de Nevers have both supported it since its inception, Isaacs said.
“Drew’s course is critical to ensuring that our students graduate equipped to take on both the challenges and opportunities that climate change poses to business and our world,” de Nevers said. “A basic understanding of the fundamental science of climate change is critical to implementing and evaluating whether a business’s sustainability efforts are effective or just greenwashing.”
“A basic understanding of the fundamental science of climate change is critical to implementing and evaluating whether a business’s sustainability efforts are effective or just greenwashing.” – Michele de Nevers
The class covers a sweeping number of topics, including climate governance, carbon offsets, carbon capture and storage, greenwashing versus informed decision making, and investing in climate solutions. Students also examine corporate strategies, studying Apple’s climate roadmap, Tesla’s impact report, and Unilever’s progress. Guest speakers this semester include Peter Fiske, MBA 02, director of the Berkeley Lab’s Water-Energy Resilience Institute, and Phoebe Wang, an investment partner at the Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, who will discuss climate startups.
In April, Graduate Student Instructor Natàlia Costa i Coromina, who has taught the class since fall 2021, will teach a session, exploring a case she co-wrote with Isaacs that questions whether Gen Z’s climate knowledge matches its climate concern.
Costa i Coromina, a second-year student in the Master of Development Practice at UC Berkeley, said she wants students who enter the course with “radical passion and a willingness to learn,” and to leave not deflated by climate anxiety, but instead with an action plan and a systems change mindset.
“They learn how hard it is going to be, because climate change will be (and is already) impacting every aspect of our lives” she said. “We equip students with the science, from the Keeling Curve (a daily record of global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration) and GHG emissions to offsets and resiliency; and then their eyes open to what does this all means for business: that, in fact, every single department—marketing, supply chain, operations, finance, HR—has a role to play.”
Filling in the gaps
Students said they had a wide variety of reasons for enrolling in the class, from a desire to create more effective policies at work to exploring the science of climate change to making more effective changes in their personal and work lives.
Himanshi Arora, MBA 24, came to Haas after working as an operations manager at Procter & Gamble, where she considered how to make packaging more sustainable and delivery more efficient. “I’ve been thinking about getting deeper into climate change and sustainability for a while,” she said. “Climate change is such a huge problem that will impact every corner of the Earth, particularly people who are marginalized. I took this class because I want to know if my thinking (about how to make change) is right and to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.”
Some students, including Rathin Ramesh, EWMBA 23, enrolled in the course as part of earning the Michaels Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business, which includes nine units of sustainability coursework over the course of the MBA program. Ramesh said the course will help him to make more impactful decisions for his company, a cannabis delivery service. “All of my drivers use cars, and two of them have a Prius. In trying to apply this knowledge one of the first things you’d do is figure out how to electrify your fleet or implement more sustainable growing practices at the farms we work with.”
Joy Wang, MBA 23, who is from China and has lived in the U.S. for a decade, said the world—not just China—shoulders the responsibility for turning the climate crisis around. Wang, who will work at EY Parthenon after graduating, said many projects she worked on while interning at EY required a sustainability strategy. “One day, these projects will be a bigger part of my job, so I want to prepare,” she said.
For more than six years, Danner Doud-Martin helped lead the school’s progress in sustainability—from leading the effort to make Chou Hall the first zero-waste building on campus to planting pollinator gardens around Haas to leading volunteers planting hundreds of trees in the community. Now, Doud-Martin, former assistant director of the International Business Development (IBD) Program at Haas, has been named the first full-time director of campus sustainability.
In her new role, one of her first projects is tapping what she learned in a night course to build a carbon roadmap for Haas that will quantify what sustainability goals Haas has attained so far and what remains to be done. Haas News recently interviewed Doud-Martin about her plans for further reducing waste, making Haas more energy efficient, and working across the UC Berkeley campus to be a part of the overall strategy for achieving net zero by 2025.
Over the past six years, you’ve worn two hats as assistant director of IBD and the school’s zero waste/sustainability lead. How did you turn the sustainability role into a full-time job?
We were able to earn three critical certifications, WELL Gold, TRUE (Total Resource Use & Efficiency) Platinum Zero Waste and LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Platinum for Chou Hall after more than a year of efforts to divert over 90% of landfill waste. That recognition helped lend legitimacy to the work that I was doing. It certainly helps when the dean says that sustainability is one of her strategic pillars because all of a sudden that work is elevated and folks are looking at it and asking questions. I feel really fortunate that Dean Harrison has made this a priority because it meant that I was able to convince Haas senior leadership that this is a full-time role.
I feel really fortunate that Dean Harrison has made this a priority because it meant that I was able to convince Haas senior leadership that this is a full-time role.
What are your first priorities?
One of the things about having a team and a true strategic plan is that our Office of Sustainability can spend time thinking through not only what zero waste means but understanding the data—and what we’re diverting from landfill. We also want to understand what emissions we produce at Haas and how we can reduce our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Zero waste is a big part of our goal, but so is energy and transportation. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to understand Haas’ energy, water, and transportation data soon and that we will be able to tell the story of how Haas, within a huge university, is making significant reductions and changes.
What is Haas’s role in helping the UC Berkeley campus reach its zero waste goals?
UC Berkeley has committed to the strongest ban on plastic in the country and has mandated that we need to eliminate single-use plastic by 2030 Haas continues to be the place that the rest of campus watches. Zero waste is not only about Chou Hall but the initiatives that we’ve continued to roll out and/or pilot. The reusables (utensils, mugs, water bottles, etc.) program is one of them. We’re trying to think through how to make reusables work. There is a logistical piece: can they be washed on site or do they need to transported to be washed? What is the footprint? Are we really helping the environment with reusables versus a compostable?
How are you working now to eliminate plastic on campus?
This is about finding solutions to something as simple as eliminating single-use balloons and replacing them with vinyl reusable balloons that can be blown up many times. We’ve told our campus event planners about the vinyl balloons, so demand is up and we’ve expanded our inventory. We also want to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Haas, which is why we are planning graduation without plastic water bottles this year. We are all brainstorming on what we can provide to guests and graduates to replace plastic. Graduation gowns are another thing that we’re tackling. Haas has taken back graduation gowns for years and offers whatever is collected to next years’ students. We hope to scale this program to be able to eliminate single use gowns—and the UC Berkeley CAL Zero Waste team is trying to get it to happen campus-wide this year. They’re trying to turn it around fast. We’re really starting to put in these policies and find solutions.
We also want to completely eliminate single-use plastic water bottles from Haas, which is why we are planning graduation without plastic water bottles this year.
Haas moved away from plastics to “compostable” utensils years ago, and now your goal is to move away from these PLA single-use compostable utensils and clamshells made of materials like corn starch and sugar cane toward reusables. How compostable are the single-use “compostable” products?
You have to put all of it in a 40-day, high-heat commercial composting system. You cannot put it in your backyard compost.
Where do we send ours?
We send all of our composting to the Richmond Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where we recently planted 150 redwood trees as part of our efforts to offset our paper use through printing. We also planted trees at Verde Elementary School across the street from the MFR in an effort to green their school yard.
How does the reusables program work?
FoodWare, a student startup that we’ve been working with since last spring, helped us replace 4,200 clamshell food containers with reusable containers between spring and winter of 2022. Our goal for the next semester is 6,500. The Dean’s Speaker Series lunches are done completely with reusables. We are having conversations with all the different program offices about expanding reusables at their events. I’m also working with a student team that’s part of a course called Zero Waste Lab. They’re going to put together a lifecycle analysis for us that will show the environmental and financial footprint of a compostable clamshell versus a reusable one. Reusable cutlery is a dream of mine because those are the hardest things to break down.
How has the pandemic impacted support for the reusable strategy?
We’ve seen pushback with reusables, specifically because of fear of COVID. We’ve been slowly working to get both our catering and the cafe back to a place of comfort around health protocols and reusables. This semester, Café Think is taking reusable mugs and filling them with coffee drinks. Guests save 25 cents each time they refill a reusable. Haas also gave all full-time MBA students bamboo utensil sets this year, building on the water bottles and coffee mugs given out a couple of years ago. It’s all about behavior change. I keep my bamboo utensil set in my purse at all times. When you see people pulling out their own forks, you feel more comfortable doing it.
How do you inspire more people to make the changes you need them to make?
Lots of education and incentives. Fill It Forward, a company we have partnered with over the years, makes an app that works with barcodes to track when you refill your water bottle or coffee mug. It sends the information to a central hub and tracks your impact. Fill It Forward also has a mission to donate water to communities in need. As we know, students like to have things gamified and many of these apps offer prizes for engaging. Now that I’m in this role 100%, I can think about how to utilize more incentives and gamification to engage people more and create behavior change.
Can you talk about planned upgrades to systems in other campus buildings, beyond Chou Hall?
We’re trying to figure out how to make energy-saving improvements and whether we can install solar in our Faculty Services, Cheit, and Student Services buildings. But our first priority is the new Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Hub. As the hub is being renovated, we have to think about what we can do during the construction and operations phases to hit all of the sustainability points. Because this is a renovation rather than new construction, we won’t be able to have the same level of certification on this project that we had with Chou, but I’m looking at what we can do in a smaller building. Regardless, we want to push ourselves to make a significant impact wherever we can from a sustainability standpoint.
Merrick Robinson Osborne is the first postdoctoral scholar hired in a new Berkeley Haas program focused on racial equity in business. Osborne, who grew up in Portland, Ore., studies how organizations address (or don’t address) prejudice at work and how that impacts social hierarchy.
The new role was created through a $1 million gift from Allan Holt, MBA 76, in support of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) efforts at Haas, which include building a pipeline for new faculty who have a commitment to racial equity in business.
As a postdoctoral scholar, Osborne will research new ideas, collaborate with Haas faculty, and advise doctoral students. He received a BA in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before earning a PhD at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in 2022.
Osborne recently discussed how his family influences his work, his research findings, and his future teaching plans with Haas News.
Who are some researchers who inspired you?
At the beginning of my PhD program, I was fascinated by a lot of the work by Haas Professors Cameron Anderson and Jenny Chatman, and I’m still very interested in their work. But I also hold interest in how other fields of study speak to the work that I want to do. Recently I read Audre Lorde’s book Sister Outsider, which was provocative because it spoke to the way I’ve been seeing diversity efforts develop. She says that “Black and third-world people are expected to educate white people about our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade responsibility for their own actions”. I wanted to represent this in my field because I think it has a very practical application.
How do you see it applying?
There are a lot of social hierarchy-related questions in her book. How do white people see people of color explaining racism? How do these conversations that Audre Lorde describes lead to conflict? And how did that impact her status and power? I’m starting to see more intersections with my work outside of my own field, which is really exciting.
Your mom is an experienced social worker and therapist. Has she sparked any research ideas?
My mom, dad, and sister have all touched my research in different ways. My mom’s job as a licensed clinical social worker, and experienced therapist, is to dive under the surface and ask more about what her clients are experiencing. Part of what I want to do is understand the assumptions that we hold about the way our world operates and the way people operate together in the world. But I also want to challenge those assumptions. In talking with my mom, I get a sense for how I can start asking questions.
My dad had a career in corporate America, where he was the first and only person of color. While rising to an executive position, he had to navigate a lot of issues that play out in the work that I am doing. He’ll say,”Oh, that actually relates to this experience that I had or that relates to something that I saw somebody else doing.” An important question is how to make the workplace a better place, especially for people who experience it as a dangerous place, or at least a mildly unsafe place.
An important question is how to make the workplace a better place, especially for people who experience it as a dangerous place, or at least a mildly unsafe place.
My sister’s interests have also shaped my research. She graduated from Howard University, an HBCU, before coming home to work in Portland. Very white spaces are not completely alien to either of us, and I think she has been comfortable moving back. But within that comfort, she does experience some discomfort. And a lot of discomfort that we share comes with being asked to do diversity work at work. Talking to her about her experiences has helped inspire and motivate me to develop research that speaks to her experiences, because I know she is not alone in having them.
What did you focus on during your PhD program?
My dissertation was on confronting prejudice at work, and what happens to a disadvantaged group member who witnesses an advantaged group member confront prejudice and then asks for that person’s input. There’s a lot of depth to it. For example, two men and a woman are in a room. One of the men says something problematic and sexist. The other man speaks up, but then asks for the woman’s input on what she experienced. I was curious about how one disadvantaged group member views these confrontations—when a man speaks up before the woman even has a chance to—and how that woman feels about being drawn into these spaces involuntarily.
At a broader level, when there is a display of prejudice at work, people look for insight about how to address that display effectively and increase inclusion. And oftentimes, they don’t know whom to turn to so they turn to people who they think are best suited for addressing prejudice, which are usually the people who are directly impacted by the prejudice display. I think that can be good, and that can be bad. It’s just important for us to really dissect what happens to the people whose input is sought, and the outcomes they experience.
What will you be working on at Haas in 2023?
A lot of my work now for the next month or two is going to be finishing up my work from USC. I do want to explore more with the folks here on how disadvantaged group members view diversity efforts more broadly. I’m excited to do that through avenues like the Culture Center that Jenny Chatman co-directs, but also through the research and teaching of Drew Jacoby-Senghor and Sa-kiera Hudson, who co-teach the new core course called Business Communication in Diverse Work Environments. I think it’s really important and nice to see the work that’s being done here up close and in person.
How do you feel about racial equity efforts at Haas, compared to other academic environments you’ve experienced?
Something I realized a couple of years ago is that the onus is on academia to make it clear that these are spaces where it’s safe for a marginalized person to operate in. What’s becoming increasingly challenging is learning how to signal that effectively. Part of what I hope for as a postdoc is that I can be a Black man who experiences success here. I want to show other people of color and marginalized people that they can come here and experience success and signal that to other schools too.
Something I realized a couple of years ago is that the onus is on academia to make it clear that these are spaces where it’s safe for a marginalized person to operate in.
Do you plan to teach?
I did an introduction to organizational behavior class for undergrads at USC. I enjoyed it, but I realized that I just wasn’t excited about it in the way that I wanted to be. That was in very large part because I felt like I wasn’t talking about things that really interested me. The MBA classes here include some really stimulating material both for the students and the professors who teach it. So I’m hoping that if I work hard enough, I can put myself in a position next year to teach.
Having focused on real estate finance and city planning for her two master’s degrees, Abby Jo Sigal might not seem like the logical choice to lead talent and workforce development for New York City Mayor Eric Adams. But her career trajectory suggests otherwise.
“Investing in talent is central to a 21st century economic development strategy,” says Sigal. And her skill at intersecting real estate finance and city planning with research about models of employment, community needs, and growing industries is crucial for developing talent.
Sigal’s nearly 30-year career has reached multiple sectors, including community development and affordable housing. Most recently, she founded and led HERE to HERE, a nonprofit that aims to enhance career pathways for NYC youth from low-income families and help industry find local talent.
Her new role is an opportunity to create systemic change citywide to position NYC employers for success. “One of our tasks is aligning the talent, workforce, and education systems with growing industries in a way that isn’t always playing catch-up but in fact drives their competitive advantage,” Sigal says.
To this end, she led the creation of an executive order, signed by Mayor Adams in August, that streamlines the efforts of nearly two dozen city agencies and offices to administer programs to train, employ, and support workers. One new initiative will help place nearly 2,300 low-income workers in industrial and construction careers.
“[These are] the critical first steps to building a citywide strategy to fully tap this talent so that every New Yorker can contribute to—and benefit from—an inclusive, thriving economy,” Sigal says.
Haas alumni take on civil leadership
Loren Taylor, MBA 05, always knew he’d pursue a public service role in his home city of Oakland, California. It was the very community—of family members, teachers, coaches, and scout leaders—that exposed him to ideas and opportunities that led to his degree in engineering followed by a Berkeley MBA.
“As a black man growing up in Oakland, in America, I could very easily have been on a different path,” he says. “Because of my trajectory and how it was impacted by this ecosystem of supports, it was always a given that I would take the blessings that I’ve gotten and translate that back to others.”
But it was a matter of choosing the right time. He first spent two decades in the private sector as a biomedical engineer and a management consultant, developing strategies and opportunities for the healthcare, green energy, and telecom sectors. For the last four years, he’s been an Oakland city councilmember and this year ran for mayor among a field of 10 candidates. Despite losing an extremely close race and having to give up his seat on the city council, Taylor will continue working with the social impact consulting firm he launched in 2016 to help nonprofits and small businesses improve the lives of disadvantaged communities.
Public service, however, is not on everyone’s radar. Laura Parmer-Lohan, MBA 96, never imagined she’d run for political office. She was a successful marketing executive with her own consulting business. But the idea arose after her two teenage sons shared how discouraged they felt about climate change and the government’s seeming inability to do anything about it. Their disillusionment weighed on her.
“To have the next generation lacking confidence was deeply concerning to me,” says Parmer-Lohan. “My kids are my hope, and when I heard that they lacked hope, I wanted to figure out how I could lend my leadership skills to the community.” In 2017 she ran for and won a seat on the city council in her hometown of San Carlos, California. She’s since helped the city create a strong climate action plan with over 40 strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change.
The desire to find solutions to society’s biggest challenges is woven into the DNA of Haas alumni. And while most will leave their mark in the private sector, for some, public service offers an ideal way to go beyond themselves.
From private to public
For the Haas alumni interviewed for this article, the transition to civic leadership was relatively seamless. Many of the skills that make for success in business are just as essential in government.
Donna Colson, MBA 94, who was elected to Burlingame’s city council in 2015—and who was the city’s mayor in 2019—says she constantly calls on her business background, which includes real estate investment consulting, pension administration, and institutional investment management. In fact, much of what she does in city government relies on business school fundamentals.
“The ability to run through financial statements and read a balance sheet, to develop a budget, and to understand how pension funds work—just understanding the mechanics behind economic development, macroeconomics, microeconomics, accounting, and finance—these are things I use every day,” says Colson, who is also a member of the Haas School Board and a founding advisory council member for Haas’ Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership, which aims to reimagine business for an equitable and inclusive society. Her current city council assignments focus on her expertise in affordable housing, green energy and sustainability, fiscal responsibility, pension management, and economic development.
One of the first things Oakland’s Taylor says his business school training taught him was to consider optimal ways to allocate scarce resources. “And nowhere is the challenge of allocation of scarce resources more pronounced than in city government, where we have so many needs that are all high priority,” he says. Taylor recognizes that what’s good for communities is most often good for business, and vice versa, citing the problem of homelessness as one example. “When you have a business that’s trying to thrive but folks who are unhoused sleeping on the streets around it, that has a negative impact for the business.” Given this interconnectedness, he says, it’s in business leaders’ interests to look beyond the walls of their companies.
“Just understanding the mechanics behind economic development, macroeconomics, microeconomics, accounting, and finance—these are things I use every day.”
It’s also in cities’ interests to support their businesses. When the pandemic first hit and restaurants everywhere were suffering, Parmer-Lohan says it was up to the city to step in—and it did. San Carlos was one of the first on the peninsula to allow outdoor dining.
While a business background provides a good preparation for public life, Charles “Chappie” Jones, MBA 90, the vice-mayor of San Jose through 2022, emphasizes that the public and private sectors are not the same. “A lot of people from the private sector think they can come into the public sector and run it like a business and get good outcomes. But the two are totally different,” he says. “In the private sector, the goal is to either get market share or to make a profit and grow. But in the public sector, it’s all about delivering services to your community.” That requires a different decision-making process, he says.
Other ways to engage
At a time when democracy feels increasingly precarious, some people are feeling a new pull toward greater civic engagement. Taylor says he’s seen increased attendance at Oakland city council meetings. In part this has been aided by the pandemic, as meetings shifted from in-person to online. Still, he thinks the growing interest is real.
Attending city council meetings is just one of countless ways to become more civically engaged that don’t involve running for office. Taylor says the training and experiences acquired in business school and the corporate world can be applied at different scales and at varying levels of intensity and commitment. He suggests volunteering on a board or a commission or lending investment, finance, or technology skills in an area you’re passionate about. “Start having some coffee conversations with folks who are doing the work and see what opportunities there might be,” he says.
Colson did just that before being elected to the city council, serving on a county employees’ retirement association board, as a commissioner for the parks and recreation department, and on redevelopment committees. She advises subscribing to your city’s newsletter to learn about the multiple opportunities where you can apply your skill set. Colson also encourages people to get involved in campaigns. “Pick a person you like and help them run for office,” she says.
Small businesses can engage by getting involved in the chamber of commerce and business improvement districts and, of course, by sending volunteers or money to support particular efforts. Corporations can promote civic engagement by encouraging their employees to vote, giving them time off to do so, and even offering them paid time off for poll working. Some analysts suggest that good corporate citizenship is even good for the bottom line.
Choosing the right time
California’s newly re-elected Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, MBA 92, has made public service her legacy. Upon graduating from Haas, she moved to Sacramento and worked for the California Democratic Party before spending 18 years working for her family business. She then served as the U.S. ambassador to Hungary in the Obama administration before becoming the first woman elected lieutenant governor in California. But she’s the first to recognize that not everyone will—or needs to—make public service a permanent career in order to make a valuable contribution. In a work life that may span four decades or more, a period of public service might constitute a single chapter, and for some, getting involved in civic leadership makes sense after they’ve pursued other passions. “There may come a time,” she says, “after you’ve accomplished certain things when you take a pause and ask, ‘Now, what will be meaningful to me?’ And at that point, mid-career or toward the end of your career, getting into service is a great option.”
Vice-Mayor Jones first considered going into public service as an undergraduate, when his role models were big-city mayors and politicians like Willie Brown, Andrew Young, and Maynard Jackson. But more than 20 years passed before he acted on the desire. And now, after eight years in office, he’s decided to leave city government. He says there are many reasons for his decision but among them is the growing polarization and rancor he sees on a daily basis, which, he admits, take their toll. Yet he’s leaving office with no regrets. “I left the private sector, did my public service, and now it’s time to go to the next chapter of my life,” he says. “I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to serve and make a difference.”
When native Brazilian Henrique Ceribelli was accepted into Haas after working as a computer engineer for five years, he was eager for professional opportunities unavailable in his homeland.
But it almost didn’t happen. With no employer to fund his continuing education, the costs were daunting. Plus, bank loan requirements at the time demanded a co-signer, which Ceribelli found only by chance in a friend of a friend. He also received a fellowship from Haas earmarked for international students.
“People I didn’t know helped me,” says Ceribelli, a trend that continued when he was looking for a job post-graduation. Classmate Vijay Raghuraman, MBA 07, connected him with a product manager post at year-old startup Bill.com, a cloud-based payment platform.
Fifteen years later, Ceribelli is now senior vice president of product management and the company has since gone public and acquired three other startups. As Ceribelli’s professional life has blossomed, he’s never forgotten his good fortune. “The friends and network I had at Haas got me to Bill.com and the success that I have today,” he says.
Which is why Ceribelli is committing $500,000 over 10 years to support MBA fellowships for full-time students, with a preference for those who earned their undergraduate degrees in Latin America.
“I was lucky enough that Haas gave me a chance,” says Ceribelli. “I want to provide financial aid for those who are trying their luck and working hard, because they also deserve the chance.”
As a young economist, Dean Ann Harrison traveled the globe for the World Bank, lugging home reels of magnetic tape from mainframe computers that she gathered from census bureaus in developing countries. She poured over the data she collected, asking questions like: Does freer trade and globalization help or harm workers? Do wealthy multinational corporations help local economies by raising wages, or is it the reverse, and do they exploit cheap labor?
The academic work she produced, as a faculty member at Columbia University, Harvard University, UC Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, propelled her to become one of the foremost scholars in trade and development economics. She is now the world’s most highly cited scholar on foreign direct investment.
In 2019, Harrison took on a more public role with her appointment as dean of the Haas School, adding a new dimension to a career of serious scholarship that also included serving as director of development policy for the World Bank.
A new book, “Globalization, Firms, and Workers” (World Scientific Books 2022), collects Harrison’s path-breaking work on globalization, trade, and foreign direct investment into a single volume.
We sat down with Dean Harrison to hear more about her work.
Haas News: In the introduction to your new book, editors Keith Maskus and Jed Silver note that your work “shone a light on workers who were not the focus of academic studies in the past, including those in sweatshop industries or multinational firms that were pursuing low-cost labor around the world.” Tell us the backstory of how you came to this work.
Ann Harrison: I was always interested in international issues because I came from an international family. My father was American, my mother was French; I was born in France and French was my first language, and we always went back and forth between France and the U.S. As an undergraduate at Berkeley, I started off as a history major and I became fascinated by questions like: Why are some countries rich and other countries poor? Being a Berkeley undergraduate you naturally gravitate towards these kinds of questions. And then I became interested in the economics of these inequalities, and what we can do about them. By the time I graduated, my goal was to eliminate world poverty. I cold-called the World Bank, since that was their mission, and they told me the most effective thing I could do was to become an economist. So I got my PhD in economics and I started working at the World Bank.
You were working in developing countries at a time when data wasn’t all that accessible. How were you able to gather your data?
In the early- to mid-eighties when I started doing this research, you had to go to Washington and sit in Census Bureau offices to get national data. But as a World Bank staff member, we had more access to emerging market company data. The World Bank lends billions of dollars a year to emerging markets and we would go to countries to help them devise their policies. We supported them in their analysis, and they supported us in our research and data collection. That put me in a position where I was able to get access to census data sets that in the U.S. nobody had access to.
First I went to Caracas and visited their census bureau. I signed documents saying I wouldn’t release their data and they handed me reels of tape from mainframe computers. In some countries, the data sets weren’t so big, so I could get them on floppy disks. Later, they started making PCs, but they were really big and heavy, and I had to get on planes with these heavy computers. I would carry everything back to Washington and the technical people would help me figure out how to read the data. We worked on it for months and even years. I still have some of those tapes— in my basement and I might even have some in the storage closet in the bathroom of the Dean’s Suite.
How many countries did you visit for your research?
I don’t have a tally, but some of the places I went to are Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Argentina, Chile, and Jamaica. I spent my 30th birthday in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines—that was nice. I’m sure there are more.
What’s your dinner party answer when people ask you, as a trade economist, has globalization left us better off or worse off?
Economists usually just add up all the winners and subtract out the losers and if the answer is greater than zero, then globalization is good for you. And I think it is true that, on net, it’s been good for a lot of countries. It’s been good for China, which is much richer than it was before. It’s generally been good for the U.S. in terms of access to cheaper goods and more efficient supply chains and opportunities to buy and sell things that we couldn’t have done before. But it hasn’t been good for everyone.
The big mistake economists made is that they underestimated how difficult it would be to compensate those who lost out from increasing global competition. The benefits of globalization hinge on us being able to use the gains to help those who are hurt. But that part of the policy package was not well executed. What could have been good for everybody just ended up benefiting parts of society and hurting others.
The term “globalization” has become a dirty word, synonymous with the loss of the working class, erosion of manufacturing jobs, and rising inequality. Right now we’re seeing a rise of right-wing populist leaders—such as Italy’s Giorgia Meloni—lashing out at globalization, gaining support from workers who feel left behind. How much can we blame the decline of manufacturing and good working-class jobs on globalization?
Technology and automation are replacing people beyond manufacturing—think Amazon fulfillment centers. If you’re educated, you’re doing pretty well, but if you don’t have a college education, you’re doing worse and worse. That inequality is largely being driven by automation. There’s no question that trade did play a role in undermining manufacturing wages. The pain is real. But I found that automation played a much bigger role. We know that’s true because even in China the percentage of workers engaged in manufacturing is declining and people are being replaced by machines. I would say about 75% of the decline is from automation and technology and 25% is from globalization.
You had a counterintuitive finding in one of your papers about Mexico. The assumption was that free trade would benefit workers in Mexico, but it was only the most skilled workers who benefitted while low-skilled workers lost out.
Yes, that’s right, because in order to benefit from globalization you need a lot of knowledge, skill and education. What happened is that Mexico’s unskilled workers were undercut by even lower-wage workers elsewhere in the world. It was a race to the very bottom.
It’s a really interesting case because Mexico put a lot of weight on going global. The leaders really believed that globalization was going to make them richer. The jury is still out.
What are some of your other surprising findings?
Here’s one that is surprising—at least to proponents of globalization. When multinational firms went into a country like Venezuela, the multinationals took away significant market share of the local companies. It may sound obvious, but a lot of governments still welcome investment by foreign firms because they think it will make them better off. What some of my research showed is that this market-stealing effect could be really big and it could hurt you.
The Chinese government figured this out a long time ago. They decided to only let in foreign firms if they partnered with domestic companies. And then eventually policy makers phased out all the benefits that they accorded to the foreign firms. Today foreign companies get no benefits at all in China. So while China understood this from the beginning, a lot of other countries, including the U.S., provided all these benefits like tax subsidies to incoming multinational firms. We thought about the benefits of investment but we didn’t think about the costs in terms of the foregone market share for domestic firms.
You also studied sweatshops.
I did a series of papers on the anti-sweatshop movement. The question was: If you target global companies that set up “sweatshops” and shut them down, what happens to the workers? Are they better off, and is it possible to get to a win-win outcome? What my research showed is that a win-win is possible if you encourage the companies that are already making huge profits to share more of those profits with the workers. But if you force companies that are barely profitable to share more of the meager profits they have, they might go under and workers will lose their jobs.
Another unusual finding looks at what happens when you get rid of special protection for very small firms. In India, 80% of workers work in really small enterprises, and intuitively you would think that removing protection for those firms would not be good for employment, wages, and investment. But it turns out that removing protections was really good for employment and wages because the government had been protecting firms that were so small that they wouldn’t ever get to economically efficient sizes. There wasn’t enough employment growth, wages weren’t high enough, productivity was low. When these laws, called small scale reservation policies, were phased out, wages and employment overall grew.
That was a form of industrial policy, which is another area you’ve studied closely. What is your overall conclusion about industrial policy?
I think there are good kinds of industrial policy and there are bad kinds. You don’t want to promote declining industries. You want to promote the emerging growth areas that are going to create a lot of great jobs tomorrow. What China has shown is that if you systematically promote advanced industries, you can move much more quickly. And so what China has done is given a lot of sectors an artificial advantage. China is not trying to prevent its steel industry from going under. They’re thinking about what are going to be the leading sectors tomorrow and trying to get a leg up there.
You’ve managed a rare career combining serious academic scholarship with public service and leadership. How has your academic work influenced your leadership as dean?
Great question. It has turned out that my three top priorities, innovation, sustainability and inclusion—which I refer to it as my ISI agenda—are the very things I focused on in my research. I don’t think it’s by accident. A lot of the research that I did over the decades was about what happens to people’s livelihoods when they’re exposed to trade and globalization. Who’s helped and who’s hurt? So I’ve always been interested in this question of inclusion and that’s something I’ve brought to my role as dean by prioritizing DEIBJ.
My long fascination with companies is based on questions such as how to identify the companies that are successful, and how to measure innovation at the company level. How do you create something better? So this focus on innovation and the creation of new companies or better ways of doing things is something that I’ve brought to my role as dean.
Right now I am really prioritizing sustainability. When you travel, you see first-hand the huge environmental issues that we’re facing. Access to clean water and access to clean air are fundamental challenges that countries face. Earlier in my career, I became a professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources in Agricultural and Resource Economics. And before I became Dean, the last project I worked on looked at how you make environmental policies effective in emerging markets where compliance and enforcement are big challenges. I became interested in green industrial policy, which is industrial policy focused on sustainability and environmental economics. And then when I moved back to California, the first things I noticed were wildfires, drought, blackouts. That just reinforced the importance of sustainable policies. I’ve really taken all that research and background and I’ve used it here as Dean. I’ve gone back to my old contacts at the World Bank and the College of Natural Resources, and we’re partnering with them, and we are building sustainability into our core curriculum so that every Haas graduate can lead in this area.
You’ve talked a little bit about some of the mistakes that were made with globalization, and we’re now in a period of even greater inequality. Do you see any hope of reversing that?
That’s one of the reasons I took this job. I think public education is the solution. That’s the hope. We’re sitting on top of part of the solution right here.
When Mike Smith, MBA 98, was 16 years old he mapped out a plan that would help achieve his career goal of becoming a CEO of a public company by age 42. But after working for a dot-com startup that would later go bust shortly after its launch, Smith learned quickly that the best laid plan doesn’t always work out.
“These [career] journeys are super windy, they’re rarely up and to the right,” said Smith. “My advice is to embrace the zig zags.”
Smith said he’s grateful for those who helped him build his career as previous COO of Walmart.com and Stitch Fix, and now as general partner and co-founder of venture capital firm Footwork. He spoke with MBA students and the Haas community about his career successes and failures, talent management, and cultivating a workplace culture at a recent Dean’s Speaker Series talk held on Nov. 1. The event was co-sponsored by the Berkeley Culture Center.
In his current role, Smith, along with business partner, Nikhil Basu Trivedi, backs early-stage startups focused on consumer technology, many of which are founded by BIPOC entrepreneurs and women. Their portfolio includes Table 22, an online tool that helps restaurants build subscription models, and Cradlewise, a smart crib that helps babies and their parents get better sleep.
The former Stitch Fix COO also talked about his experience with leading diverse teams, hiring employees who have forced him to be an excellent leader, and the value of mentorship.
Watch the complete DSS talk here:
Kathryn Hall is the Founder and Co-Chair of one of the largest woman-led investment companies in the world, Hall Capital Partners. In 2021, Hall launched Galvanize Climate Solutions, a climate tech investment platform that will back companies from the seed-stage through private equity and project finance. The new fund will invest in companies and organizations around the world working to curb carbon emissions.
In a fireside chat, Hall discussed her experience as a female leader, the role of the private sector financial institutions in climate solutions, and advice for students who are interested in impact investing.
This is a Sustainable Futures event. Developing a sustainable, climate-resilient economy covers every aspect of business—agriculture, real estate, energy, finance, and corporations. All these aspects of business will need to be reimagined and redesigned to address the current environmental, social and economic crises. This event is co-sponsored by the Sustainable and Impact Finance Initiative.