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MBA Admissions Brief: Berkeley / Haas

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This edition of MBA Admissions Brief takes us to California, where Assistant Dean of the Full-time MBA Program and Admissions, Pete Johnson, walks us through opportunities and features of the MBA at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Pete Johnson, Assistant Dean, Full-time MBA Program and Admissions, Berkeley Haas School of Business

Johnson previously served in Berkeley MBA Admissions for 11 years, including as associate director, director of international admissions, and as executive director of MBA Admissions through 2010.  He then headed to Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, followed by acting as the vice president for enrollment & international programs at Dominican University.  He rejoined the Haas staff as assistant dean in 2016.

The culture at Berkeley Haas centers around four defining principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself.  The MBA curriculum emphasizes experiential learning and problem-solving in order to help students become innovative leaders. Read on to learn more about the program and best strategies for admission from the assistant dean.

What would you say to someone who’s applying next fall and just getting started in the MBA application process now?
Signing up for boot camp is a good idea. It’s an eight-step process put together by the admissions committee to help make applying to business school, whether that’s Haas or elsewhere, a little less intimidating. The boot camp includes checklists, it includes questionnaires to help people think about their personal brand, and includes thought questions to do candidates’ own self-reflection. Allowing candidates to think about why they want an MBA and what are the criteria that are most important to them as they consider business school. We have a template that candidates can provide to their recommenders to help them talk through how they might reflect on some of those questions as well.

What’s the one thing MBA candidates should know about selecting a recommender?
Select individuals with whom you have had considerable professional interaction, such as your supervisor or a major client.

The title or status of those you select is not important. What does matter is how closely your letter writers have worked with you and whether they can attest to your value as an employee, your professional accomplishments, and your personal qualities and interpersonal skills in an organizational context. For this reason, we strongly discourage academic references.

Sit down with recommenders well in advance and talk to them about your MBA dreams, career goals, and ambitions. Give them an updated copy of your resume, go over past performance evaluations, and remind them of your contributions. Make sure to give them six to eight weeks to write the letter.

What’s your program’s most exciting change, development or event coming up in the year ahead?
Haas is in the process of developing additional interdisciplinary dual degree programs that leverage some of the other outstanding graduate programs at Berkeley. In fact, we’re announcing a new dual degree this month.

Of the big trends in business education right now (tech, globalization, analytics), what are you doing or innovating in one (or all) of these spaces?

  • Analytics: Haas has developed a new Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics, designed for MBA students aspiring to leadership roles involving business decision-making informed by data. It will expose students to the challenges of working with data as well as to the tools and techniques for data analysis and presentation including machine learning, data mining, and visualization. The Graduate Certificate can be earned by taking the right set of electives within the two-year Full-time MBA program.
  • Globalization: Our signature Applied Innovation course, International Business Development (IBD), has provided opportunities for MBA students to gain international consulting experience for over 25 years. We have an entire suite of courses that engage students in strategic projects for companies and organizations around the world in many fields, including Cleantech, social impact, hedge fund strategies, real estate, and sustainable business. All of our students take at least one of these AI courses, which are often cited as among their most valuable experiences in the program.
  • Blockchain: Berkeley Haas in spring 2018 started offering its first cross-listed class to business, engineering and law students called “Blockchain and the Future of Technology, Business, and Law.” The course provides an overview of the technology behind blockchain and explores the huge range of current and potential real-world applications. In 2019, we launched the Berkeley Haas Blockchain Initiative, a new program funded by a grant from blockchain industry leader Ripple.  Eight graduate students and seven faculty members from across UC Berkeley received the first round of grants for blockchain related research through the initiative.

What would you like to highlight about your post-MBA career placement success?
Our grads have achieved great job placement success, accepting positions at top companies within many industries. From the Class of 2018, 94.4 percent of grads received job offers and 93.4 percent accepted jobs. The average base annual salary was $127,571, with an average signing bonus of $29,212 (70 percent of grads received signing bonuses and 40 percent received stock options). Our top employers who hired three or more of our grads include: Adobe, Amazon, Deloitte, Kraft-Heinz, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Co., The Clorox Company, McKinsey & Co., PWC, Google, Tesla, Ideo, Parthenon, and EY.

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.