Despite Covid, Berkeley’s Incoming MBA Class Has Already Bonded. Here’s How

Amanda Wonnell is an incoming candidate in the full-time MBA program at UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business. Courtesy photo

The summer before the start of the UC-Berkeley Haas MBA program for incoming students is a hectic one. Once you have been accepted into the full-time MBA program at the Haas School of Business, everything starts moving pretty quickly. We have all held jobs for the last several years, so we suddenly feel the anxiety of no longer making a steady income, working through a plan of relocation with loved ones, packing up our lives, and moving to the Bay Area. Our class had the additional dilemma of being the first virtual class — forcing students to make difficult decisions on timing or whether to move at all this fall semester. For many international students, there was the further complication of visa delays and uncertainty.

Yet through all of this nerve-wracking uncertainty, there is still a palpable eagerness and excitement from incoming students as we begin to meet our classmates. I quickly realized that there is something very special at Haas.

It is stimulating to have a collection of intelligent, friendly, and driven people sharing perspectives from their diverse experiences, both professional and personal. Haas students are known for over-committing to activities, and not even coronavirus could stop that — as the volume of posts on our class Slack proved. One such post immediately captured my interest: an opportunity to work with a group on a Facebook-style “hack-a-thon” to create Instagram filters for the start of the semester.


In my career, I am looking to transition to the tech industry from a background in project management in oil and gas. I have enjoyed project management, but I was not excited about the projects I was leading: installing new facilities and equipment at Shell refineries and chemical plants. There is little new or exciting in my former work; instead, I am looking to transition to the technology industry to work on improvements to products that people use every day, which I see as exciting, new, and different work. An MBA is a great way to make such a career pivot, but it is still important to get as much experience as possible to help make yourself prepared and marketable for the all-important internship recruitment season.

I saw the post about creating Instagram filters and I thought it would be a fun way to get to know some of my fellow classmates, work to do a bit of logic programming and development with some tech industry-created software, and help develop fun filters that might connect our class as we started in a virtual environment. When I met the team for the first time, what struck me most was the diversity of the members. We had members on the team living in China, India, Singapore, Germany, Vietnam, and multiple time zones in the U.S. Talk about diversity! It was a true cross-section of the Haas MBA Class of 2022.

Once we found a meeting time that worked for everyone, we met weekly and developed a plan to roll out the filters — fun additions to photos and videos like word balloons saying “Go Bears!” or bear ears, filters both specific to the Haas School of Business and general to the greater UC-Berkeley community. There were definitely a few challenges, foremost that no one had prior experience making Instagram filters or using Spark AR software. But through online tutorials, individual efforts, and group problem-solving, team members were able to develop and refine the filters.

The next challenge we faced was publishing our filters. Facebook/Instagram has many guidelines around the use of logos and effects which required us to make major changes to some of our original ideas. The review process was also seemingly random, with the same filter accepted or rejected depending on the reviewer. However, by repeatedly reviewing the guidelines and through much trial and error, we were finally able to successfully publish our filters.


I had a great time getting to know my fellow classmates across the globe and really started getting excited about the school. It is really fun now to see classmates using the filters and taking screenshots to share with the rest of the class. We are actively promoting the filters across the school through different groups and school-sponsored social media platforms, and their use continues to expand.

The process of making the filters was a blend between logic programming, graphic design, and working with the team to decide what types of filters to make, how to market them, and set a schedule for completion. The effort was a sneak peek into the MBA experience and what can be accomplished in just a short period of time when driven and intelligent individuals work together on a common goal. I am proud of the filters that we created and think it was an inspired idea to connect the school with some “virtual swag” as we start our MBA journey.

I am so excited for what lies ahead as we kick off the school year, and I can’t wait to see what else we can accomplish as the Berkeley Haas Class of 2022.

Amanda Wonnell belongs to a group of 10 people hailing from six time zones across the world who worked together to create Instagram filters for Week Zero, Haas’s orientation week, promoting mask-wearing and social distancing — and flaunting school spirit. 

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