The insiders joke that Berkeley’s Haas School is the business school for hippies. Truth is, that’s never been true, but it’s a nearly quaint way to refer to one of the hardest schools in the world to get into. If you’re interested in tech, entrepreneurship and innovation, Haas is one of the best schools in the world for an MBA.
The highly selective program, which enrolls a small class of 240 full-time MBAs each fall, is anchored by 12 required courses that promote a general-management perspective and that provide a framework for the more function-specific courses that follow. The first year of the program is divided into four quarters. The core curriculum is rooted in business fundamentals — including marketing, finance, and accounting.
Two years ago, however, the school put through significant curriculum changes to focus more on innovative leadership. In the overhaul, a pair of existing core courses, Leading People and Leadership Communications, had been restructured to offer additional leadership skills, such as the ability to influence others. And then a new and highly innovative course called “Problem Finding, Problem Solving” was added to the core to address what the school considers “underlying skill sets that are missing in a typical MBA education.” All of these various pieces fall under something dubbed Berkeley Innovative Leader Development (BILD), the connective theme that runs through the entire MBA curriculum to ensure that every student develops the skills required of innovative leaders.
The Problem Finding course is a prerequisite to Haas’ required experiential learning module. MBAs can choose one or more of these experiential courses from among ten programs, including Haas@Work, which assigns student teams to innovation challenges at a select group of companies that have included Cisco, Walt Disney, Visa, Virgin America, and Yahoo!
Haas Dean Richard Lyons had been instrumental in getting the course to be a required part of the MBA curriculum. “It is really not very helpful to tell people to think outside the box,” he says. “People don’t know where the box is. An important element of this course is developing a capacity in our students to be explicit about the typically implicit assumptions that frame opportunities and problems. That shows you where the box is, and allows you to move one side or the other to see solutions you wouldn’t have seen. We believe society needs more people with this skill.”
Berkeley’s Haas School started off the 2012 rankings year with a bang: A big six-place leap ahead in The Financial Times’ 2012 ranking, moving to seven among U.S. schools, up from 13th a year earlier, and even more impressive, to 14th globally from 25th. Unfortunately, though, the school closed out the rankings year with a loss that was just as big. Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s ranking saw Haas fall a full five places to a ranking of 13th in 2012 from eighth in 2010. That decline pretty much wiped out the improvement in the FT survey. The result was that in Poets&Quants’ 2012 composite ranking the school held onto its previous year’s rank of ninth.
In the two other most influential rankings of the year, the school maintained its exact same U.S. News & World Report ranking at seventh, and slipped just one place in The Economist’s 2012 ranking to sixth from fifth in 2011. Forbes, which did not rank schools in 2012 because it publishes its list every other year, has Haas at 13th on its list of the best U.S. schools.
It’s worth having a closer look at why Haas fell in the BusinessWeek ranking, which largely measures graduate and corporate recruiter satisfaction. BW gave Haas a tenth-place ranking for graduate satisfaction, down from fourth in 2010. The school slid two places in BW’s recruiter survey, to 13th from 11th two years earlier. The drop in student satisfaction was likely the result of new curriculum changes that require the test of time and slightly lower teaching scores which reflect the school’s emphasis on research productivity over masterful teaching. We suspect a change in BW’s corporate recruiter methodology had something to do with Haas decline because the more consequential fall in student satisfaction wouldn’t have resulted in a five-place drop. Those scores are so closely clustered together that it could not have triggered the decline. Because the recruiter poll naturally weighs more heavily on the overall result and Haas is a smaller school with a smaller base of recruiters, it was likely a victim of the change.
Nonetheless, satisfaction with the program remains high. As one Class of 2012 MBA told BusinessWeek on the open-ended portion of its satisfaction survey, “Haas is very unique because of the school and student body’s willingness to explore creative solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems by not accepting the status quo. Haas students generally lack the typical b-school attitude found at other programs, but still carry the same degree of individual confidence. For example, the programs offered in clean energy and non-profit careers are best-in-class.”
B-School Smack Down Reports:
MBA Program Consideration Set:
Haas School of Business has not published in its employment report its top employers, preferring to list all of the firms that hired the school’s graduates.
Note: MBA Program Consideration Set: If you believe you’re a close match to this school–based on your GMAT and GPA scores, your age and work experience, you should look at these other competitive full-time MBA programs as well. We list them by stretch, match and safety. These options are presented on the basis of brand image and ranking status as a general guideline.