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Summer 2003 CalBusiness  
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Smart, Ambitious, and Determined Haas Undergraduates Mean Business

Haas undergraduate business senior Michelle Wald is pretty calm for a 21-year-old who was just offered a dream job an hour ago at McKinsey& Co as a business analyst. After all, a McKinsey consulting job is about as prestigious as being called up to the major leagues for a pitching star. The news hasn’t seemed to sink in yet for the laid-back senior from Sunnyvale, Ca., a varsity basketball and field hockey player who starts her new job this fall. “I’m in awe of you,” says Tara Kramlich, a fellow Haas senior. McKinsey, which advises big corporations how to better run their businesses, is “everyone’s first choice,” confides Kramlich, who’s heading to her own plum job at Prudential Capital Group as a corporate finance investment analyst and offers sincere congratulations to Wald.

In many ways, that’s the spirit of the Haas School, as convivial as it is competitive.

The undergraduate program at the Haas School has become even more successful over the years, consistently producing a bumper crop of diverse, highly successful graduates, and it is now poised to expand this year to accommodate the ever-increasing demand for the program.

It’s also a program where the student body is outstanding, but as diverse as California itself. At Haas, students are likely to share classes with an Olympic swimmer, a Hispanic teenager who’s first in his family to go to college, or the daughter of a working class single mom who’s studying on a full scholarship. “It is not elitist, but it is top notch” says Stephen Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, a lecturer at Haas who is an alumnus and a partner at Greyrock Capital Group. “Our student body and the school represent the best of high school graduates and transfer students from California and beyond.”

Indeed, the undergraduate business program, founded 105 years ago, has never been stronger. It consistently ranks in the top four undergraduate business programs in US News & World Report. Its graduates move on to work at many of the nation’s top corporations such as Goldman Sachs, McKinsey&Co., Deloitte & Touche, Wells Fargo, Gap, and Cisco Systems. A survey of the Class of 2001 found that 86 percent of the class is working full-time, a percentage far higher than at all other undergraduate programs on the UC Berkeley campus. Most took jobs as analysts or consultants at salaries that averaged about $54,000. A string of better known Haas undergraduate alumni include Gap founder Don Fisher, BS 50; retired Bank of America President and CEO Rudolph Peterson, BS 25; former US Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal, BS 51; Dreyer’s Ice Cream President Rick Cronk, BS 65; and current US congressman Doug Ose, BS 77, (R-CA).

Alumni who have reaped the rewards from their education are increasingly answering the call to give back to the school. About two thirds of the money required to run the Haas School is now provided by private donations, a huge leap from when Stephen Etter was a student during the early 1980s and the state provided two thirds of the funding. “The challenge going forward is for us to continue to support public education privately,” Etter maintains.

Though Haas is the second oldest business school in the country, many credit the school for moving quickly to embrace change and, as a result, the school has built a curriculum for the 21st century. While other business schools mandate a heavy dose of business courses for their undergraduate majors—diving deep into areas such as marketing and finance with time for little else—Haas now seeks to cultivate a well-rounded student who enrolls in both business courses and classes in other campus programs.

“We want our students to learn about the history of Southeast Asia and read Moby Dick,” said Andrew Shogan, associate dean of instruction at Haas. Dan Himelstein, BS 83, executive director of the program, calls the strategy “a general management approach to the major. You can’t take 15 courses in just one discipline,” he said. “We’re trying to create future CEOs and leaders.”

One set of changes to the curriculum began in the 90s when the school responded particularly well to a general criticism of business education from business leaders and members of the media—their claim was that most undergraduate business schools failed to prepare students for the real world. Richard Meese, a former director of the undergraduate program who is now a managing director at Barclay’s Global Investors, was concerned that the school was training students to be good accountants, at the expense of teaching them to communicate and impress real-world employers. As director, he played a key role in changing the undergraduate business curriculum. For one, the school restructured UGBA 10, a business school class open to all undergraduate students, changing it from accounting to general management to help send a new message. The school also added a course in communications skills. “I think we got a lot of credit for the changes,” Meese says. “But the proof is in the pudding—what the companies who are hiring these students think.”

The approach is working. Demand for enrollment in the program is at a record high. Historically about half of the continuing UC Berkeley students who apply make it into the competitive program (that number is even less for transfer students), which, like the rest of the university system, is gearing up to meet Tidal Wave II. That name refers to the throngs of baby boomers’ children who are expected to flood the public university system in California until 2010. To accommodate the bubble at UC Berkeley, all programs in high demand on the campus were asked to submit proposals asking for the required resources to expand. As one of the impacted programs, the undergraduate business program is expected to expand from 550 students historically enrolled in the two-year program to 700 by the 2004-2005 academic year, providing more access to both continuing UC Berkeley and transfer students.

Part of the expansion includes summer classes. About 6 percent of Haas students have historically taken summer courses. Now, both continuing UC Berkeley students and transfer students enrolling in Haas will be required to start the program in a special summer session that kicks off this July. All new Haas students will be split into two cohorts and take two core business classes two afternoons and evenings per week for six weeks. Summer session will provide crucial bonding time for all new students, something the undergraduate program lacked in the past, Himelstein said. “MBAs go through almost everything together in and out of class,” he said. “We wanted to simulate that as much as possible.”

Part of the challenge is that students do not enter Berkeley as business majors. They generally apply to begin the program during junior year. Additionally, about 10 to 15 percent of Haas students are double or triple majors so their interests aren’t limited to business. Kramlich, for one, came to Berkeley not only for business, but to study German, one of the programs for which Berkeley is known. Older students with business career aspirations are also welcomed into the program. Derek Swafford, a 28-year-old senior and former Cal football player, credits the business school with opening a new door for him when his athletic career ended due to an injury. “They just polished me up,” said Swafford, who recently accepted a job as a credit manager at Wells Fargo and eventually wants to start a sports management company. “It was like I was being coached in business like I was coached on the field. They taught me about resumes, interviews, everything, you name it. I learned the stuff that I am going to use every day in life.”

Some students find coming to Haas gives them the chance to have a very rich extracurricular experience. Kinman Tong, a native of Malaysia who transferred into Haas from community college, is starting two new fraternities on campus. Tong’s aunt attended the Haas business school in 1995 and his parents, who still live in Maylasia, are both accountants. Tong, who will work at Deloitte & Touche after graduation, is hoping to return to Berkeley to get a joint MBA/law degree.

Like many students, Tong loves case studies. Anyone attending Haas knows about case competitions, which require students to huddle together to solve real world business problems. There are two types of case competitions: external competitions, where students compete against teams at other business schools such as Wharton and University of Texas, and internal ones held at the school. Major firms such as Goldman Sachs, Cisco Systems, and Deloitte Consulting, which employ many Haas alumni, get involved with the case competitions as donors, mentors, and judges.

For the competitions, students work in teams of four that include one student from outside of the business program. Finalists present their case to a panel of judges comprised of company representatives, teachers, and alumni. Annie Lai, BS 95, director of undergraduate admissions and operations at Haas, says the students put all they have into these cases, pulling all-nighters, and doing hours of case study work on top of regular class work. “The value they gain from it is just so amazing,” she said. “Through these competitions they get a taste for the complexity of real-world problems.”

For George Leng, BS 99, a programs manager at Cisco Systems, participating was so crucial to him that he now mentors students involved with the internal case studies, coming up with problems for them to tackle. “It really gave me a flavor for what the real world was like,” he said. “It’s really up to you to figure out the key issues. Students don’t get this from just taking tests. Under high-pressure situations, case competitions really mirror what students will find in business after they graduate.”

It’s these soft skills—working on teams, getting along with all sorts of people, and delivering quality work under pressure—that students and their future employers will value as highly as the knowledge of straight business and economic theories studied in books. And this balance is key to the Haas School Undergraduate Program.

Top of page

Michelle Wald
Michelle Wald, BS 03, whose nickname is Waldo, came to Berkeley because it was close to her Sunnyvale, Calif., home and because she was recruited as a star high school athlete. The 21-year-old juggles her
academic work at Haas, while playing field hockey and basketball. She has excelled at Haas. In fact, the honor society member was offered a coveted job in consulting with McKinsey & Co. after graduation.
Tara Kramlich

Tara Kramlich, BS 03,
23, loves German, which is her second language. She wanted to continue studying German along with business. So she enrolled at Haas and takes advantage of Berkeley’s language program, too. Kramlich, who hails from North Dakota, is a member of the alumni scholarship club and is a student mentor to west Oakland middle school students. She’s moving on to a job as a corporate investment analyst at Prudential Capital after graduation.

Kinman Tong

Kinman Tong, BS 03, who transferred into Haas from community college, swore he’d never become an accountant like his parents. A native of Malaysia, where his parents still live, Tong is eating his words. But that’s fine by him. An honor society and student government member who is involved with fraternity life on campus, Tong hopes to return to Berkeley to get a master’s degree in business and law. He’ll work in auditing at Deloitte & Touche after graduation.

Derek Swafford

Derek Swafford, BS 03,
28, was a varsity football player at Cal until injuries took him out of the game. Business school opened up a new door for the Ventura, Calif., native who played minor league baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates for five years after high school before returning to the football field. Swafford, who will work for Wells Fargo in credit management after graduation, wants to eventually own a sports management company.

Program at a Glance

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