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Real Humans of MBA Admissions: UC Berkeley Haas’s Morgan Bernstein

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Morgan Bernstein is currently in her first year as executive director leading the full-time MBA admission team at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, having taken over last March for Stephanie Fujii, who held the role for four years before that. “I’m excited about growing my team, learning, figuring out what I know and what I don’t know,” she told us last week while taking a break from reading applications. “Stephanie left some big shoes to fill.”

But Bernstein is by no means a stranger to the school or its admissions process. Indeed, she was part of the admissions team for five years before stepping into her current role, and she knows things from the other side as well. A successful applicant herself, she graduated from Haas with her MBA in 2009 (and married a fellow alumnus to boot). 

Morgan Bernstein
Bernstein with her husband, also a Haas alum, and her two children

Bernstein is leading Haas admissions at an exciting time, just as a brand-new building nears completion and the school gears up to increase its class size by 10 percent. (Haas Dean Rich Lyons shared that news in a tweet last week.) “It’s an exciting challenge for me to think about going from a class of 250 to 275,” she says, although finding more applicants interested in Haas shouldn’t prove much of a problem. Application volume was up about 12 percent last year, and Round 1 volume suggests that interest is healthy this year, too, she says.

To start, we’re sharing Bernstein’s answers to our Real Humans of MBA Admissions questions to give you a sense of the person in charge of evaluating your candidacy. But stay tuned—we also quizzed Bernstein on the overall application process, how she approaches essays and more, and we’ll share those answers in an upcoming post.

Real Humans of MBA Admissions: UC Berkeley Haas’s Morgan Bernstein

Morgan Bernstein
Bernstein with her children

Coffee or tea?
Definitely coffee, many times a day

Beach or mountains? Definitely the beach. I am a quarter Hawaiian and still have a lot of family in Hawaii. In fact, I’ll be spending two weeks there at the holidays.

Morning person or night owl? Both. Having two little kids I am a morning person, but I also tend to get a lot of work done at night.

Pet peeve? Dirty dishes in the sink

Guilty pleasure? Zinfandel from the Healdsburg region

Favorite virtue in others? Sense of humor—it’s one of the things I value most about my husband.

Worst habit? Not folding my laundry—I am guilty of letting it stay in the hamper and get all wrinkled until I end up having to wash it all over again.

Happy place? In my bed curled up with my kids on the weekends

Comfort food? I have a sweet tooth, so at the moment I would say it is probably something called Leonard’s Malasadas, a type of fried, yeast-leavened donut from Hawaii. I make sure to pick some up anytime I go home.

Go-to cocktail? Rye Manhattan

Proudest moment? Without a doubt, giving birth to my first child

Biggest regret? Not doing IBD—International Business Development—while a student at Haas. It is the most popular class on campus, and I don’t think I realized how life-changing it could be.

One thing you would change about how you were raised? I wish we had more traditions. I was just asking colleagues what their Thanksgiving traditions were. We traveled around a lot when I was younger, and I am super grateful for that opportunity. But now, being a mom to a young family, I yearn for traditions.

Superpower you wish you had? Just this morning I dropped off my two-year-old son and turned to his teacher and said, “I wish I could freeze time.”

Favorite fictional hero/heroine? The first thing that comes to mind—and you can tell where my head is at these days—is Mickey Mouse. “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” grants me 30 minutes of quiet time at least a couple times a week.

What schools, if any, rejected you? (And if you were rejected, how did the experience impact how you interact with those who you must say no to?) Oh gosh, I got rejected by plenty of schools. For undergrad I applied to at least 10 schools, and most of the Ivy League schools rejected me. I ended going to Williams College, which was not initially high on my list, and everything worked out fine. I think that experience impacted how I think about outcomes. It gives me comfort knowing that, in the end, everything works out for people. I trust in the admissions process—in that if they didn’t think I was necessarily the best fit or that I was ready for them, I know now not to take it personally and know that it all works out. Williams turned out to be a great fit for me, even if I didn’t recognize it at the time that I applied.

It is always hard to say “no” to candidates. But these are all talented, ambitious people who are going to land on their own two feet somewhere.

Which part of the Haas process would you most like to skip if you were applying today? Without a doubt, the GMAT. I am not a standardized test taker—I took the GMAT twice and still to this day wonder how did they let me in.

What’s the best thing you read/watched/listened to recently? Just this morning, inspired by one of the applications that I read yesterday [which asks candidates to name their favorite song], I sought out and listened to Mozart’s Symphony Number 40. I don’t do a lot of TV watching, but every now and again I do like indulging in Netflix, and some of the series I’ve caught up on recently include Game of Thrones and Stranger Things.