Meet The Berkeley Haas MBA Class of 2018

Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley. UC photo

Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley. UC photo


What makes the Class of 2018 different? For Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions, the beauty of the class is actually how much they resemble past classes. “The Fall 2016 incoming class is similar to previous classes in average age, GPA, GMAT/GRE, and work experience. When surveyed, the students told us that our distinctive culture was the top reason they chose Berkeley-Haas over other programs that had offered them admission.”

In fact, Haas is very transparent about what defines their culture. Infusing business fundamentals with a counterculture ethos, Haas treats business as a force for good. Through its four guiding principles, the program clearly codifies its core values and sets a high bar for students to emulate: Question the Status Quo (Step outside the box and take risks); Confidence Without Attitude (Act on quantitative data in a humble manner); Students Always (Remain curious life-long learners who set an example for peers); and Beyond Yourself (Consider the impact of your actions and place others’ interests above your own).

The tenets are central to the admissions process. Even more, they tend to define the Class of 2018 as a whole. “Many of them have professional and life experiences in which they have questioned the status quo and acted beyond themselves to add value to their business organizations and community,” Johnson says. “As a group, they also embody the values of confidence without attitude and students always. Each new class seems to reinforce and build the culture that makes Berkeley Haas unique.”

Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

These unifying principles deeply resonated with Middleton. “The personal and professional leadership traits I learned both inside and outside the Coast Guard encompassed the defining principles. I wanted to be surrounded by those who also valued these same leadership and thought capacities.”


Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields is often credited with saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture is both Haas’ biggest advantage and biggest draw. In a 2010 interview with Poets&Quants, Liz Callahan (’11), a West Point grad and Blackhawk Helicopter pilot who currently heads transition strategy at Stanford Health Care, described the Haas culture this way: “We’re transparent, forward thinking, trusting, engaging, and unique. It’s a very welcoming environment and it pulls you in. We’re competitive on the outside, but collaborative on the inside. We’re here to work together as a team.”

Little has changed since then. In the 2015 Economist ranking, Haas earned the highest marks among all business schools globally for culture and the quality of classmates. In the 2015 Bloomberg Businessweek survey, the school posted the fourth-highest scores among both students and alumni. In other words, the hoopla around the Haas culture is real — and deeply personal for incoming students.

Parker, for example, was looking for a top academic program. While Haas ranks among the top MBA programs for marketing, finance, management, and entrepreneurship, she was more impressed by the school’s creative and collaborative spirit. “I felt immediately connected to the people I met at Haas, their incredible enthusiasm for every aspect of the MBA program, and to the school’s emphasis on impactful, selfless leadership and personal transformation.”

Sahinaz Safari, a Stanford grad and startup enthusiast, was drawn to Haas to fulfill her dream of breaking into Silicon Valley’s elite. However, she learned that Haas offered a far better proposition beyond simply sharpening her technical skills. “Self-awareness is the most important factor in personal and professional growth, and Haas is the safest, most supportive environment for the process of self-exploration,” she explains. “I felt instantly comfortable and at home when I visited Haas for the first time, but the feeling I have now, one week into the orientation, is 10x more!” Nahry Tak, who studied art history as a Berkeley undergrad, sums up Cal’s charm this way: “The more I interacted with the Haas community, the more I realized that this is a community that truly lives and breathes its Defining Principles.”


John Morgan in front of this semester's Game Theory course at Berkeley-Haas. Photo courtesy of Berkeley-Haas

John Morgan in front of this semester’s Game Theory course at Berkeley-Haas. Photo courtesy of Berkeley Haas

If there is a term that best describes Haas MBAs, it would be “problem-solvers.” After graduation, you can expect the program’s best and brightest to tackle the biggest issues. Braszkiewicz, for one, plans to channel her lessons at Haas into providing medicines to the neediest populations. “I would love to work at a nonprofit focused on neglected and orphan drug needs of the world — the indications that Big Pharma passes on because they may not be profitable enough for them,” she says. “How amazing would it be to work at a place that measures success not by millions of dollars made annually but by number of lives saved instead?”

Others were a bit vague about their plans, but knew the general direction that they’d ultimately go. “My dream job would be one where I work alongside people passionate about solving humanity’s challenges through the use of technology,” Wetzel notes. “I am especially interested in the applications of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Biomedical Engineering.” Koopmans, on the other hand, is leaning toward social and environmental impact — with a caveat. “My current hunch is to explore the clean tech space. However, I recognize that I’m in for a wild MBA ride. I’m excited to see how my self-awareness and direction evolve over the next two years.”

When it comes to how they want to be remembered, Forde offers a soliloquy that’s as true to Haas as the Guiding Principles. “I hope that my classmates will know me as a friend who helped foster an inclusive environment at Haas. I would like them to think of me as someone who shared my beliefs and life experiences with them while being open to learning from perspectives different from my own. I would want them to say I was willing to be uncomfortable and face my fears. Lastly, I hope they are able to say that I contributed to making their experience unforgettable.”


To read profiles of incoming Haas students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.

Tareq Abdallat / Amman, Jordan 

Anna Braszkiewicz / Warsaw, Poland

Reginald F. Davis / Columbus, OH

Camille Forde / Brockton, MA

Kasey Koopmans / Seattle, WA

David Middleton / Ramona, CA

Amanda Parker / Rye, NY

Sal Parsa / Heart, Afghanistan

Sahinaz Safari / Tehran, Iran

Nahry Tak / Los Angeles, CA

De Clercq Wentzel / Johannesburg, South Africa

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