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Meet The Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2018

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In choosing a business school, most MBAs will tell you to look for a “fit.” For Kasey Koopmans, it came down to something more instinctive: “click.”

Koopmans wasn’t your traditional MBA candidate. Describing herself as “puppy energy meets long-game grit,” Koopmans has always taken the road less traveled. A two-time Princeton in Asia fellow, she had spent her career conducting field research in Nepal and Myanmar. A quantitative thinker, she was naturally skeptical of applicants who went by their gut. “I didn’t want to rely on mystic clicks,” she shares. “I wanted a formula and sure-fire reasoning.”

FROM BEACHES TO BEATNIKS, BERKELEY HAS IT ALL

That changed with a visit to the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. For Koopmans, the school checked all of the boxes. More importantly, she just clicked with the people and the values of the program. “It is a place I can be my unabashed self. I knew the people and program would challenge me in the ways I sought. More than any other school I considered, I believed the earnestness behind Haas’s commitment to help me find a career of meaning. Turns out it was a slam dunk.”

In fact, you’ll find similar epiphanies among many members of Haas’ full-time MBA Class of 2018. For Sal Parsa, who describes himself as “Afghan by birth, American by choice,” the click came after meeting the school’s admissions director, who’d taken the time to meticulously review his application. “At that moment,” Parsa says, “I realized that at Haas, I wouldn’t be just a number. I would be a person; I would be Sal.” JP Morgan’s Reginald Davis found choosing a business school to be a “difficult, confusing decision” until he experienced Haas first-hand. “You can go to any top business school to find a good job,” he explains, “but you come to Haas to find yourself and what drives you. Also, the students that I met on campus were the most talented, bright, and self-aware people that I have ever come across. Oh, and did I mention the weather?”

Berkeley overlooking San Francisco

Looking toward San Francisco from Berkeley

Ah, the weather. Besides being the most tight-knit and culturally conscious community west of Tuck, Haas is basically located in paradise. Picture the Mediterranean, with breezy 65-degree days in February and little rain except during the holidays. From the Campanile, you can gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge spanning a wall of fog, with San Francisco just a short BART ride from campus. To the north, you’ll find the rich vineyards of wine country. To the east, you can snowboard at Sierra Mountain resorts or hike along the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail. If you’re a surfer, Linda Mar Beach and Kelly’s Cove will stoke novices and gray bellies alike. One more thing: Silicon Valley is only about an hour away … just in case you’re interested in a high-paying job later on.

CLASS FEATURES A DIVING CHAMPION, COAST GUARD PILOT, AND CHEESE EXPERT

Such a remarkable place is bound to attract an equally eclectic and accomplished student body. Anna Braszkiewicz, a native of Poland, won multiple national championships in springboard and platform diving as an undergrad at the University of Utah. But that was just a start. “I even got to coach a group of celebrities on a TV show (Celebrity Splash) that was watched by 2 million people every weekend.” She isn’t the only celebrity in the class. David Middleton, formerly the chief pilot and operations officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in San Francisco, was a lead actor in a commercial that played on the jumbo screen in Times Square.

The class also boasts its fair share of adventurers. Not surprisingly, Koopmans heads the class there after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, in just 145 days. Perhaps she could take a trek with Davis, who spent the summer traveling across Europe, including a stint as a bartender in Croatia. Despite their world travels, the class eventually returns to the comforts of home. Take Parsa, an aspiring foodie. “As a person who has travelled to more than 22 countries and tried many different cuisines, I am proud to say that my favorite food is Burger King’s Whopper.”

Did we mention their diverse interests? Let’s start with Amanda Parker, who also goes by the name cheese girl. “I am one of nearly 600 Certified Cheese Professionals, industry recognized experts in all things cheese,” she notes. “I developed a national training program to equip other students to prepare for this certification exam.” In contrast, Camille Forde is a novice metalsmith who is finishing her first set of silver stackable rings. And Tareq Abdallat was so smitten with whitewater rafting that he learned how to do it before learning how to swim!

PARSA: FROM SELLING EGGS TO TRAINING FORTUNE 500 ELITE

The Class of 2018 racked up quite an impressive list of accomplishments before setting off for Haas. Just look at Middleton, who was given the responsibility of merging two Coast Guard Air Stations, which required him to work around the clock to expand operations to Southern California. “The increase in people, aircraft, and geographical area of responsibility presented daunting challenges, as this was the first time a Coast Guard Air Station would operate with a home unit and a forward operating base. Although we encountered many setbacks, the end result was a success.”

Parsa’s never-say-die attitude enabled him to transition into the communications field after college. It wasn’t as if the odds were stacked against him. “I spoke English as a third language; communications was not my major; and I had no prior experience in this field,” he explains. However, he had been honing his sales skills since he sold hardboiled eggs in Afghanistan as a boy. Soon enough, he found himself training Fortune 500 execs on communication and writing strategies — “while speaking English with an accent.”

Berkeley Haas MBAs can get class credit for managing a real-world portfolio of some 20 companies

Berkeley Haas MBAs can get class credit for managing a real-world portfolio of some 20 companies

That’s just the tip of the spear. Parker was responsible for opening 300 cheese shops in 30 states. At PwC, Forde partnered with BUILD Boston to launch the first school-based startup incubators in the city. Davis ranked among the top 10% of sales producers at JP Morgan. And De Clercq Wentzel climbed the ladder at Barclays, finally being named head of client capital management for Barclays Africa.

APPLICATIONS UP NEARLY 12%

Traditionally, Haas ranks among the most selective full-time MBA programs in the world. This year was no exception, with the program accepting just 11.8% of applicants, lower than any American school outside of Harvard and Stanford. In fact, the popularity of the program reached an all-time high in 2015-2016, as applications spiked at 4,031, 439 more than the previous year, for an 11% increase. The school also upped its enrollment from 246 to 252 students. Despite this increase, Haas remains the smallest full-time MBA program among the top 15 schools, which helps explain the close, long-lasting bonds among students.

The news was equally rosy in academics. Average GMAT scores rose from 715 to 717, with scores settling in the 680-750 range. The average GPA for incoming students was 3.64, nearly identical to last year’s 3.66 number. TOEFL scores came in at 110. However, the class did fall short in two key categories. For one, the percentage of women slipped from 41% to 38%. This trend bears watching, particularly after Haas just graduated its highest percentage of women in any class at 43%. The number of international students has also shrunk from 43% to 38% in the past two years, though you’ll still find students from 41 different countries in the class. The percentage of American minorities continued its freefall at Haas as well, plummeting from 41% to 32% in just the past two years.

The composition of Haas classes is also slowly changing, Last year, undergraduate majors in business, economics, and engineering comprised 69% of the class. This year, the number dropped to 60%, with economics taking a 5% hit (and business and economics both sliding down 2%). In their place, you’ll find more liberal arts majors. Social sciences majors account for 13% of the class, with the humanities jumping four points to 10%. Natural sciences experienced a 2% uptick to 7%. Like the previous year, 14% of the class holds advanced degrees.

No different than many business schools, consultants hold the largest number of seats at Haas. They number 22% of the class, a 2% decline from last year. You’ll find a similar 2% drop for finance and banking professionals (17%), as high tech (10%), consumer products (9%), and nonprofits (9%) also take up large blocs of the 2018 Class. The high-tech number is particularly relevant, as 37% of the 2015 graduating class moved into this sector, a tell-tale sign that Haas remains the top school for career changers looking to move into tech.

  • Racki Itwasthecat Jennings

    I randomly read the comments in a P&Q article and people are “debating” over whose program is better. #Shocking

  • Tesla

    Haas is not Wharton for Finance, NOT Harvard for management, NOT Stanford for tech entrepreneurship, NOT Kellogg for Marketing.. So, I completely understand the people who say it is strong school without identity.

  • Randy Magallon

    Which school do I have a higher chance of getting accepted between Haad and Sloan with these stats:

    24 yrs old
    Male
    B.S. Business Administration & Accountancy (5-year double degree program from the top 1 school in my country.
    1.209 GPA, Magna Cum Laude (narrowly missed Summa by .09)
    Haven’t taken GMAT yet, but am predicted to earn between 740 to 780 on mock GMAT exams.
    P&G running 3 years now.
    Interested (shifting career) in entrepreneurship and startups.

    Would appreciate all your comments. Thank you.

  • WESTern

    Oh jesus! I thought he is a nice guy !

  • Stuart

    Amazeballs, Red Layug, simply amazeballs. (sorry if my obtuse irony wasn’t noted — not to say anything about Yale per se, just the ridiculous posts about it….)

  • Red Layug

    I agree Yale SOM is excellent, too. I wouldn’t say otherwise.
    That said, I wouldn’t go far and say it is now a top 3 program, like what this troll has been claiming. Maybe it will get there someday. But, at the moment, it is ranging from number 10 to 20 in most major league tables. However, I would personally rank it number 6 or 7, behind HSW, Haas and Sloan. Maybe behind Columbia, too.

  • You do realize that the author is a pro-life absolutist who thinks the American penal system could learn much from the examples set by China and Saudi Arabia, right?

  • Thor

    In 3 or 4 years time, Yale will most likely close down SOM, bcoz it is an embarrassment to Yale University. It has served as the “backdoor” entry to Yale University. People with subpar stats are attending just so they can say they went to Yale. These same people who couldn’t have cracked the Top9 otherwise due to subpar or low quality qualification. SOM has been severely abused this way and Yale will probably close it down soon. 3 or 4 years from now, Haas will cement its standing in the top 5. All stats are now saying it is superior to Booth, kellogg and Sloan. That’s from admit rate to career placement and average salary of graduates. The new building will open next year. It’s grand and posh with a view of the bay and san francisco. Applications will surge up again to an all time high. SOM, by that, is just a thing of the past. That’s reality check for you, my friend.

  • Thor

    It’s mostly true that Haas is an alternative to Stanford GSB. But so are all the rest of the elite schools, save for HBS.
    Yale SOM, otoh, is an established known fact that it is just the dumping ground for the top9 rejects.
    The top 9 as well know are the M7+Haas&Tuck.
    YaleSOM is a tier 3 school. It competes with the likes of Duke, Ross and Darden. Though I admit it is now in a tier above Cornel and the like. But, again, plenty of elite MBA applicants are fully aware SOM is detached from Yale. Sort of just a milking cow program offering certificate courses, so no elite MBA aspirant treat it seriously.

  • Stuart

    gotta fact check you here: Yale is amazeballs.

  • Stuart

    It’s such a small school. It’s by far the smallest of the top-tier. I think that has something to do with it. I do think because the center of gravity has moved from the East to West Coast, it gets more attention, and will continue to do so. But I also think that if there is a Silicon Valley/San Francisco bust, it and Stanford will take a tiny bit of a hit.

  • somsquared

    Haas is a public school – no one considers it a top tier school – it’s the safety school for SGSB rejects. Yale is the #1 university in the world and its MBA is quickly catching up. It will be #2 or #3 is USNEWS very very soon, I know several people who chose SOM over Booth/CBS/Wharton/Sloan. It’s an ultra-prestige brand.

  • Thor

    Does Yale offer MBA?
    I did not know that they do.
    It’s not in most highly qualified MBA aspirants’ top list of business schools. Most top applicants look at HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Haas, Sloan, Columbia then Booth, Kellogg and Tuck. The rest are treated as “fall back” schools.

  • somsquared

    gotta fact check you here – Yale SOM outmarks Haas on every single metric – including GPA, GMAT, pay, placement into MBB/BB/PE/VC. SOM is top 3 or top 4, Haas is around 12 or 13 with Ross/Darden/Duke

  • Red Layug

    Personally, the Berkeley Haas MBA is a top 5 program, slightly behind HSW and tie with Sloan.
    All the rest of the top 10 are also great, but more of alternative programs to these top 5.

  • Red Layug

    I kind of agree there is something missing about Haas’ reputation. It is somehow detached to the globally famous, UC BERKELEY name. But i would personally attribute that to the lack of promotional and advertisement effort of the school. Somehow, the Haas admin, students and alumni do not know how to blow their own horn so they are put under the shadow of Stanford, HBS and even Sloan.

  • Drain the Swamp

    “The bad news: the percentage of women and international students fell for the second consecutive year.”

    What a bunch of liberal bullshit.

  • I’ve been on both campuses many, many times and have met dozens of students at Haas and at the GSB over the year. I can assure you there is no inferiority complex at Haas. The school has greatly benefited from exceptional leadership, people who are passionately devoted to the school, and a unique strategy that had made culture a differentiating attribute of the MBA experience.

  • Let it go

    Nope. The main problem is the deep need of Stanford cheerleaders to lurk on a post like this and suggest an identity problem. Don’t worry: you don’t have to look over your shoulder. Stanford Business is the head of the class, . And Haas is killing it, doing just fine. There is enough good to go around.

  • To in the minds…

    The main problem with Haas is the deep feeling of inferiority to Stanford.

  • In the minds

    In the minds of the by-the-numbers folks who want the predictable path. That’s my point: stick with schools that are sticking with the tried-and-true corporate plain vanilla. The action has been with the more innovative schools – and on the West Coast of the US. Great, you want that identity: seize it in all its mediocrity. Call the others out for an identity problem. But the corporate plain vanilla schools have been trying to imitate the schools with your so-called identity problem, not the other way around. No matter, though. When tech tanks, people can claim the plain vanilla is where it’s at again. Ha

  • In the minds

    In the minds…

  • The Poster Below

    “I am laughing that the poster below says it is irrelevant to business and the corporate word”
    I am too laughing my friend! But it is the truth that Haas has some identity problems.

  • Fairtosay

    I think it’s fair to say Berkeley (Haas) operates somewhat in the shadow of Stanford. But then it’s fair to say every other school does too. Stanford is the hardest get into and is the it school where people would most like to be. But Berkeley is right where it wants to be. It does really, really well in Silicon Valley. It trails Harvard, barely, which is also behind Stanford in being the hardest top program to get into. And for such a small school it has had some remarkable wins. It has fed the leadership levels of some of the coolest tech firms — and its graduates have founded others of these. And with new facilities coming online, it is right where it wants to be. I am laughing that the poster below says it is irrelevant to business and the corporate word. It’s spawned some spectacularly successful Silicon Valley careers. Who cares if traditional, hidebound firms don’t “get” Berkeley? They don’t — or didn’t — get Stanford either. I dare say both these schools are where people want to be, in terms of what they represent as innovative West Coast schools that are at the pinnacle….

  • WESTern

    very solid class. UC Berkeley is a world class university. But its business school always has that identity problem! I don’t know why? I just can’t understand why it is always seen as “strange” business school! Sometimes, I feel it is irrelevant to the business world, and many other lower ranked school seem and look very relevant to business and corporate world than Haas. Maybe because it lives in the shadow of Stanford!