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Admissions Director Q&A: Morgan Bernstein of UC Berkeley / Haas

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CA: What do you like most about your job as it stands today?

MB: I like so many things about it. For starters, I think I bleed blue and gold. Obviously I think having gone to the program, well I joke around about how I don’t just drink the Berkeley Haas Kool Aid, I basically swim in it. It surrounds me. Part of the reason why I get so excited about it, it’s not just personal. I really believe in what Berkeley Haas as an organization is trying to do. I believe in our values, I believe in our ambition and our goal to be sort of the archetype for a values-driven MBA, to differentiate ourselves based on culture. That is something that I can really get behind. And it is not something that we are just looking for in our students. It is something that is important for staff, for faculty, and for the entire campus community. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that I met my husband in the program, and that both my parents are also UCLA Berkeley alums, too. So Berkeley, and Haas in particular, is home to me. And it very much feels like family. But beyond that I really just believe in what the school stands for.

CA: It sounds like you are in the right place. What’s the single most exciting development, change or event at Haas in the year ahead?

MB: I think the really exciting thing is the increase in our class size. For the Class of 2017, we brought in a class of 282 students, give or take. This year, we are looking to bring in a class of 300. It will be the largest class that we have ever had. Due in large part to our new Kevin and Connie Chou building that was just opened. It is just a really exciting time of growth for this school.

I think over these last two years, growing the class from about 250 to 300, is really significant in terms of the energy on campus. You can even see it this year with the incremental 10 percent growth. I am really excited to have yet another 20 plus students on campus, with the energy that they bring, and the initiatives that they take advantage of. So for now, that’s what I’m the most excited about.

CA: Can you talk a little bit about the push and pull between a really small intimate class and some of the advantages of being able to grow a little bit? Is there a limit to the growth?

MB: Full disclosure, when we initially announced that we would be growing the class, I do think that there was some concern that came from both the current students as well as from alumni. What’s going to be the impact of that on the small community feel. Because I think part of the reason why our culture thrives so well is because of the small community. When you know everyone, and not just their names and where they sit in their class, but you know where they live, and what they stand for, and what they believe in, and what inspires them. When you really get to know them, that really is what facilitates the culture that is so unique.

I think what we have seen in this one year is people having very positive reactions to the increase in the class size. I don’t think that on a day-to-day basis, necessarily, people feel the impact of it, in the sense that structurally we still have four cohorts. The programming remains exactly the same as it did before. We just went from cohorts of about 60 to people to cohorts of 65 to 70 people. Then next year, we will have cohorts of 75. And within those cohorts, you are taking more or less all of your first year classes. So in that sense, from the student perspective, it is really only an increase of 15 people in their day-to-day courses.

The good news is that any concerns that students may have had about resources on the administration side have been addressed with hires for new staff members on the program side. We have additional advisors, and counselors, and career management team members, so that we are scaling appropriately on the administration side to support the students.

It all comes back to the energy on campus. It is great to see another 30 people walking through the courtyard and generating ideas for improvements that the students want to make, and so on.

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Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.