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?”
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.”
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.