How Haas’ Part-Time Program Stays On Top

Berkeley Haas EWMBA students will gather for orientation during the weekend of July 28-30 for a series of terms-building exercises and other events

Jamie Breen stresses that all of the opportunities at Berkeley Haas can be experienced by full-time MBAs and EWMBA students alike. But there’s another element at work here: Unlike most part-time programs that are entirely online or “blended” with some on-campus requirement, Berkeley Haas’ is entirely on-campus, reinforcing the “sameness” between the full-time and part-time programs and cementing that cohort bond. (It helps that 78% of EWMBA students live in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.)

“What we’ve tried to do with the EWMBA is emphasize that it’s the same degree,” Breen says. “It’s the same curriculum and the same core requirements, same faculty, and we also try to do as much as we can to make it the same kind of experience. We try to build that sense of community.

“Our academic advisers stay in touch with students for years, building that sense of community. People come here and look at us like family, and they become family with us and with each other.”


Jamie Breen, Berkeley Haas assistant dean

The tinkering and tweaking is never done, but a handful of Haas EWMBA signature programs have become cornerstones over the last few years. They include WE Launch, begun in 2015, in which all newly admitted students attend a July orientation where they hear from various partners who direct and help with the part-time program, get to know each other before starting classes, and bond over fun events. Students in their third year get back together one last time before commencement for WE Lead, a retreat that gives them a chance to celebrate bonds they have built with classmates, reflect on their time at Haas, and set goals and plan for what lies in their futures.

Among the other core events that help students “maintain momentum” in their part-time studies is the Mid-Program Academic Retreat, a weekend retreat that culminates the core-curriculum Applied Innovation course and gives students a chance to pull everything they’ve learned together while taking on a current challenge faced by a top company like Autodesk, Citi Ventures, PayPal, or Kaiser Permanente.

Momentum is vital, Breen tells Poets&Quants, especially for part-time students who have to balance work, school, and family. Sometimes students want to accelerate their studies, and sometimes they lose momentum and need to “stretch things out.” Berkeley Haas is amenable to either approach, allowing students to take as long as five years to get their degree. “If they’re having a really busy time at work or there’s a lot of pressure or they’re traveling a lot, we can work with them,” Breen says.


Haas EWMBA alumni include some tech luminaries, such as Shantanu Narayan, CEO of Adobe, and Isabel Mahe, head of Apple in China. Haas alum Brett Wilson co-founded and led TubeMogul, which Adobe bought in 2016 for $540 million.

EWMBA grads are making waves in the startup world, too. Among them are Megan Mokri, Class of 2016, who started San Rafael-based Byte Foods, which raised $5.5 million in seed funding for its smart vending machines and delivery service; Shuai Jiang, Class of 2016, who along with classmates started uCella, which received $1 million last year to make a smart mailbox and app for securing packages when away from home; and Yi Lin Pei and Thulasi Narayan, both Class of 2017, who co-founded InnoWaste, a digital platform aimed at improving efficiency in recycling while generating social value. Current students Shannon Herline and Faith Kirkpatrick, Class of 2018, founded Lyme.Dot for Lyme disease patients to track and store health data, match with patients experiencing similar symptoms, and share the data with their healthcare practitioners.

Being at the nexus of the startup world helps Berkeley Haas, certainly, Rahul Sampat says. But there’s something indefinably special about the place, too, that has helped its part-time program – like its full-time program, which U.S. News hasn’t overlooked, ranking it seventh this year — thrive, and thrive consistently. Call it Berkeley magic.

“A big piece of this is being in the Bay Area and being the only part-time program in the Bay Area,” Sampat says. “But that will only take you so far — you have to have the other pieces to go with it: the access to a whole range of opportunities, the ability to work with different schools within Berkeley, the ability work with fellow students are passionate about Haas.

“And then, it’s true, there’s a certain magic in Berkeley. Everyone who comes here feels it.”


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