Two Berkeley MBA Alumnae Take Top University Leadership Roles

Beginning with the new year, two Berkeley MBA alumnae and senior Haas leaders are moving into new leadership posts.

Haas Chief Strategy & Operating Officer Jo Mackness, MBA 04, will take the top human resources role on the UC Berkeley campus, serving as Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources. Taking her place on an interim basis at Haas is Courtney Chandler, MBA 96 and Assistant Dean for the Evening & Weekend MBA Program.

Mackness and Chandler took a few moments to answer some questions on their new roles.

Jo Mackness, MBA 04

Why were you interested in taking on the role of Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources?

I’m a product of the UC system (my undergrad degree is from UCLA, my MBA is from Berkeley-Haas), and I’m both passionate about and dedicated to supporting the institution that has given me and so many others a rich springboard for professional and personal growth. I’ve always been committed to using my career to create positive social change, and because UC Berkeley is such a powerful social mobility engine, moving into a role that more directly supports the entire university was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

What will be your top priorities in your new role?

My first priority will be to lean on the Haas Defining Principles and do a great deal of listening (Students Always) and gathering of data (Confidence Without Attitude). While I have a bias toward action, and I plan to move forward on time-sensitive/urgent issues, I’ll be setting strategic priorities only after I get a better sense for the unique assets, areas of opportunity, and any gaps that may exist within the HR organization—and in the places where HR touches other parts of the university.

You’re a full-time Berkeley MBA alumna. How did Haas prepare you for this leadership role? What are some of the skills you gained from the program that you bring to the job?

The most important thing I learned at Haas is that culture matters, and working with people who share your values is the most important thing to look for in a company or organization. Even way back when I was admitted to Berkeley-Haas, before our Defining Principles were codified, Pete Johnson and his admissions team were looking for people who exhibited confidence, without any attitude, and they welcomed my unique voice (I wrote about my electric-blue wig—a “most prized possession”—in one of my essays!). I, and many of my classmates, sought and landed a Beyond-Yourself, social-impact role upon graduation. Haas, back then and today, reinforces that while we are all different, it’s that diversity of thought, cultural context, and experience that brings a richness to our community. It’s our shared values that create a safe place for people to show up as themselves—as Berkeley Leaders—to thrive as individuals, collaborate within and across teams, and contribute their very best to our organization. This is what I learned at Haas, and it underpins how I approach leadership and the type of organizational climate I try to create.

Courtney Chandler, MBA 96

Why were you interested in taking the Interim Chief Strategy & Operating Officer/Senior Assistant Dean role?

I am deeply connected to this school and believe wholeheartedly in what we do here. So, when (Dean Rich Lyons) presented the opportunity to me, I jumped at the chance to touch areas of the school in new and different ways. I am particularly interested in being part of the decision-making process school-wide, as well as problem-solving and generating big ideas for areas that need it. Finally, I am looking forward to working closely with our campus partners as UC Berkeley goes through this transitional period.

What will be your top priorities?

I am sure my priorities will change as I get further into my role, but a top priority now is to continue the momentum around our Strategic Business Plan. Jo has done amazing work on this and my goal is to continue to execute on our strategies. We still have many great things to accomplish as a school and I am excited to help make them happen.

Beyond that, I plan to be a student first and learn as much as possible. One thing that energizes me is bringing people together, whether in groups or across organizations. Having worked at all levels of the school in staff roles and having worked closely with faculty while running the EWMBA program, and having experienced Haas as student and an alum, I hope to bring a unique perspective to the dean’s office.

What are some of the skills you gained from the Berkeley MBA program that you bring to the job?

As an MBA student at Haas, I was incredibly fortunate to have amazing professors (Rich Lyons, Andy Rose, Jenny Chatman, Ben Hermalin, Richard Stanton, and David Vogel, to name a few), and extraordinary classmates (go Class of 1996!). So, my time as a student had a profound impact on me. I think most importantly it provided me the opportunity to gain new perspectives. My classmates and I were some of the first students to inhabit what we now know as our Berkeley-Haas campus, and having this wonderful space contributed to our strong community and culture. I know our new building will do something similar for our students today. While our Defining Principles hadn’t yet been articulated when I was a student, they were still very much a part of my experience and would absolutely describe the culture we had back then. This culture prepared me to take on new challenges confidently and tackle difficult situations by learning and listening.  Additionally, it helped me hone my creativity and fascination with new ideas while being able to create connections between seemingly disparate circumstances. My hope is to bring all of what I learned as a student and since graduating to my new role as Chief Strategy & Operating Officer.