New Dean: Berkeley Haas ‘Doesn’t Look Like The Rest Of California’

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Harrison cited other challenges faced by the school. For one, Haas’ ratio of students to faculty has widened for decades. “Business education is changing, it’s more experiential, and we haven’t had an increase in the number of ladder faculty either at Haas or the rest of campus in 40 years,” she said, “whereas the number of students has gone up 20% to 30%.” She said hiring more faculty will be a priority, particularly in three areas: entrepreneurship, data analytics, and environment and business.

“I would really like to take advantage of being in the middle of Berkeley, and take advantage of all the other degree programs. Rich (Lyons) has done an amazing job in starting that journey,” Harrison said. “He created, along with the rest of the faculty, some wonderful undergraduate programs — but at the graduate level we have a lot that we can do. So I want to work on that.”

Asked further about the Berkeley Haas culture, Harrison cited the school’s four defining principles: Question the Status Quo; Confidence Without Attitude; Students Always; and Beyond Yourself.

“One of the things that I’ve discovered in my first 30 days here is how important your principles are in leadership,” Harrison said. “I was told this over and over again, but I didn’t quite realize before how important it is to have a really rigorous set of principles. You’re being asked to make decisions every day that really test your very core.” Asked to name the one that best fits her personally, she said, “Students Always pretty much defines who I am, and I just love learning and that’s what I think is so wonderful about being at Berkeley and being at this university: Everyone is interested in learning constantly.” She added that she loves the ethos of Confidence Without Attitude, calling it a very California trait, then concluded that “Beyond Yourself is the one that resonates the most with me.”

MAKING A CLOSE STUDY OF TWO LEADERSHIP STYLES

Harrison is one of the most highly cited scholars globally on foreign investment and multinational firms. She is the author and editor of three books, including Globalization and Poverty and The Factory-Free Economy. In 2017, Harrison and her co-authors were awarded the prestigious Sun Yefang Prize by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The prize, given every two years, is considered one of China’s most important honors in economics.

Before joining the Wharton School in 2012, Harrison served as the head of the research team on international trade and investment at the World Bank, after which she became the bank’s director of development policy. It was in the latter role that she worked under two people she said she admires more, perhaps, than any other she’s worked with — and from whom she learned a great deal about leadership and decision-making: economist Justin Lin and Robert Zoellick, then president of the World Bank.

“Justin was the first Chinese economist that the World Bank had,” Harrison said. “He gets there and he discovers that his boss, the World Bank president, is a Republican appointee who believes that China is fixing their exchange rate. And he has to learn how to operate comfortably and happily, and he did it. So I watched the two of them in their very different approaches: Justin was extraordinarily patient, very much under the radar, but managed to get what he wanted very quietly, extraordinarily diplomatically, day by day working on his agenda.

“Bob Zoellick came in and he had a very different approach. He was very abrupt, didn’t believe  in social niceties, just wanted to get the job done — but he also was extraordinarily successful. … I love Bob Zoellick because he came in and saw that we had a very un-diverse leadership and decided to change it. Before Bob, when somebody would get appointed to be a director or vice president, the president would just automatically stamp their approval. But he realized that he had veto power — and he started vetoing candidates who weren’t diverse.”

Unfortunately for Harrison, Zoellick also vetoed candidates he thought might be too liberal — which he thought she, as a graduate of Berkeley, was. “When he got my appointment on his desk, he looked down at my CV and saw that I went to Berkeley — and he said, ‘No way, I am not going to approve this appointment,'” Harrison recounted to Tyson. But Justin Lin intervened and got her a face-to-face with Zoellick, at which she “dressed my conservative best, to dispel this image of a Berkeley professor.” Harrison, laughing, recalled how the first thing Zoellick asked was what she studied in college. ‘History,’ she told him.

“‘Really? I studied history too!’ And that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”

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