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Haas Welcomes New Class with Multiple Week Zero Surprises

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Orientation week at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business—better known as Week Zero—was chock full of surprises for the 246 incoming students in the full-time MBA Class of 2017.  For starters, while working on their very first case study on Virgin America, the students got a shock when Virgin America CEO David Cush walked into the auditorium.

Who better to learn from about the company’s decision to enter the airline market? Discussing the move made by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson in 2007, Cush described the decision—which was based on Branson’s belief that airlines were poorly run and flights were too expensive. Amid intense competition and despite a rocky start, the company is taking on the big airlines and adding new destination cities, he said, and has moved from the bottom quartile to the top half of airlines. Students then got to quiz Cush on the company’s culture, how it hires, its strategy for innovation and the challenges it still faces.

Week Zero
Revolution Foods Co-Founders Tobey and Richmond

Additional Week Zero surprise guests included Revolution Foods Co-founders Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, both 2006 Haas MBA grads. Tobey and Richmond started their company—which serves healthy meals to public school students across the United States—with a network of Haas supporters, among them Adjunct Prof. Kellie McElhaney, Lecturer William Rosenzweig and angel investor Dick Beers, who invested $50,000 after Revolution Foods placed first in the Berkeley-​​Haas Global Social Venture Competition. “Every single piece of the equation we built here at Haas,” Richmond told the Class of 2017.

Investors early on told them their cost model was unsustainable, but the Haas defining principle of “Confidence Without Attitude” helped them stay the course despite doubts, Richmond said. Today, Revolution Foods has raised more than $100 million and served more than a million healthy meals.

Second-year students and program staff planned the packed schedule for Week Zero, which included a day focused on each of the Haas Defining Principles: Question the Status Quo, Students Always and Beyond Yourself and the aforementioned Confidence Without Attitude. Presentations by the MBA Program Office, Career Management Group and MBA Association were followed by an official welcome by Haas Dean Rich Lyons.

“From here on out, we co-own this school,” he told the students, a nod to the high degree of student involvement that characterizes the Haas MBA program. “It’s this sense of co-owning and leaning in to one another that makes us stronger.”

Beyond simply talking about the school’s values, the Week Zero roster of events also helped bring them to life. Activities such as Game of Teams and the Cohort Olympics focused on collaboration and community building. And this year, shifts in the programming were also implemented to better highlight and include the diverse Haas student body—which boasts 41 percent women and 40 percent international students. For example, the Cohort Olympics, which in the past has largely featured American sports and male referees, this year included cricket in place of football, led by a South African woman.

One morning was also devoted to volunteer service—with students working to beautify a children’s playground and gardens at the Alameda Point Collective, a housing organization that serves homeless and at-risk families.

“Week Zero created such a strong foundation for my success during my first year,” Isabelle Schuhmann, MBA 16 and Week Zero co-chair, said as part of an article on the Haas website.  “”I feel honored to have played a role in creating a strong introduction for the incoming class and helping to set them up for success.”

Learn more about Week Zero at Haas.