2011 UC Berkeley Haas MBA Admissions Q&A with Stephanie Fujii.

2011 UC Berkeley Haas MBA Admissions Q&A with Stephanie Fujii

Audio for Q&A with Haas’ Stephanie Fujii (Click to listen now, or right click and choose “Save As” to download and listen later.)

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Linda Abraham: Hello. Welcome to today's Haas Happening's Q&A. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today's chat.
First, I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today and I want to congratulate you for taking the time and effort to learn more about Berkeley's Haas School of Business. It is critical to your decision making process and your admissions chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to.

Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top business school. I also want to give a very special welcome to tephanie Fujii, Interim Executive Director of MBA Admissions at Haas and to Matt Salazar, member of the Haas Class of 2011.

I am going to be asking questions of both Matt and of Stephanie, but Matt, first I'd like you to start off by telling us a ittle bit about yourself. Specifically, what did you do before you came to Haas this summer, if you did an internship, and what do you hope to do after you graduate? Thank you to everyone for joining.

Matt Salazar: Well, thanks, Linda. Hello, everybody. My name is Matt Salazar, originally from Southern California and I'm now attending school here at Haas. Prior to coming to Haas I was working in economic consulting in the Bay Area. I went back to business school to really give a career switch, much like a lot of my classmates. I was able to do that. This summer I worked at Zynga. It's a social meeting company here in the Bay Area, if you are familiar with FarmVille, Café World, Mafia Wars. That was basically what I was working. It's quite an entertaining place to work at.

Linda Abraham: What do you want to do after you graduate?

Matt Salazar: Post graduation I'm looking toward digital media and entertainment, preferably with small companies, maybe doing a little bit of entrepreneurial work there.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. I think it is very appropriate. Accepted.com, as some of you know, is trying a new format for these Q&A/chats. For about the last 10 years, we've had text only chats where you would type in your questions and I would moderate or Accepted.com representative would moderate and a school representative would respond again via typing and text to your questions. This is the first time we are trying a different format. You will still type in your questions. I will still choose the ones I feel are most relevant to the larger audience or most interesting, and the difference is that Matt and Stephanie can now just speak their answers. So I think it will be a little easier for them and hopefully in total it will be a little faster and we'll cover a little bit more ground.

At this point in time, I'd like to encourage you to post your questions and I will start choosing them. I will choose, as I said, the questions that have the broadest application. While we will do our best to answer all the questions this morning, we do have a hard stop at 11:00 and we may not get to all. I appreciate your patience if we don't. You are also welcome to ask questions in an Accepted.com forum at forums.accepted.com if they are of a general nature. If they are of a specific nature to Haas, then I suggest you contact Haas Admissions and I am sure they will be more than happy to help you.

I am going to take advantage of my position as moderator and hostess and I going to ask the first question of Stephanie. I already asked Matt a question to give us a little background and I want to know, Stephanie, what is new at Haas? I know there is a lot. So you certainly have what to say here.

Stephanie Fujii: There is a lot. It's a very exciting time for us. We just welcomed our first year class. They had their orientation week last week and classes start today, and as part of that we are launching a new curriculum called BILD. It's Berkeley Innovative Leadership Development, and it's really a theme that's running through our core and elective classes, identifying the skills and capabilities required of an innovative leader.

So some of you may have heard that we launched our strategic plan in February, and as part of that we wanted to define the type of leader we wanted to develop at Berkeley and the model that we picked is really that of an innovative leader. It really fits with the reputation of Berkeley, not just the Haas School of Business but UC, Berkeley in general. The strategic plan was the results of an 18 month process of talking to our different stakeholders. So recruiters, alumni, facilities, staff, current students -- to really identify what is unique about our program, what stands out and as you see all of over our materials, innovation came out loud and clear.

So we wanted to take a step back and really identify how can we make sure that we are providing the formal opportunities so that every student who graduates, regardless of the type of organization, the role that they are able to be in, is an innovative leader. So some of those capabilities are experimentation, risk selection, leading without formal authority or influence and so really weaving that into the core classes so we still have the general management, the key business fundamentals of finance, marketing, accounting, strategy, but we've added a new core course called problem solving which will give all of our students the frameworks and the terminology to go through this whole innovative, leadership curriculum.

So problem solving is really looking at different ways to evaluate and solve problems. A new component is also our experiential learning opportunities. They have been extremely popular over the years and certainly a hallmark of our program, and now we are making it a required course for all of our students. We've got courses such as International Business Development Program, Haas@Work, and Social Sector Solutions.

I am happy to answer questions on any one of those, but basically, they are hands-on real world consulting projects where our students take what they are learning in the class room and apply it in real time with the client. That's now a required part of the overall curriculum.

There are a number of other changes. They've revamped the leadership course to really focus on again those skills required of an innovative leader. They've also revamped the leadership communications course. In the past it was heavily focused on public speaking, which is still an important skill, but now it's now taking a look at all the different types of communication required of a leader.

So it's very exciting. There were certain activities built into orientation week to really get this class integrated into this new build theme that's running through our curriculum. We are expecting great feedback. For those things that aren't working as well, we also know that we'll hear about that from our students, but it is definitely an exciting time for us to not only have this curriculum, but also our defining principles. I will talk about that and then open it up to questions. But as part of the strategic plan, we really distilled what we felt was unique about our culture into four defining principles, which are:

  1. Confidence without attitude
  2. Question the status quo
  3. Students always and
  4. Beyond yourself

There is a lot of information about this on our website but we really felt that these were four principals that reflected the culture, the students, the community here at Berkeley, and we've getting great feedback even from alumni who graduated 50 years ago who said these are right on the marks, so there was some great feedback there. We are building it into our admissions process even further as “fit” with our programs has always been a big part of our selection process. So there are a lot of exciting things happening.

Linda Abraham: That's great. Thank you very much. We have a lot of questions here. So I may intersperse some of my own questions as we move along, but let's start with the applicants' questions.

Angie asks the first question, "Does UC, Berkeley have any special attributes that they look for in all their MBA applicants?" I also see other questions related to older the MBA applicants. Prachi also asked, "What do you like to really understand of a deemed older applicants?" In his case, 10 years experience. Could you address those questions?

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely. Just to start off, age is not something that we consider because it would be illegal for us to do so, but we do look at people's work experience more in terms of the quality of the work experience than the quantity. Our medium years of work experience is five years, which tends to be a little higher than some other programs. It's been constant for several years and that's because we do see that to have the richness of experience to be able to come into our program and really contribute, that people need a certain amount of work experience.

The qualities that we look for in all of our applicants, regardless of the quantity of work experience that they've had, it's really trying to assess that richness of their experience. It is over the course of their career, how have they progressed over time? Had they had an increase in terms of their responsibilities? Have they been able to demonstrate leadership? What type of impact did they have on their team, on their organization?

For someone with more years of work experience, we would expect to see greater progression and greater leadership, but we also have candidates who have broader experiences, so maybe they had some careers switches over time. We're really looking at the overall, that theme of progression in leadership, but also how their experience to date really sets them up for the career goals that they're hoping to achieve after business school.

Linda Abraham: Okay, I am going to ask the audience something. I think we've been working too hard.
I'd like you to indicate if you have concerns, if you are concerned that you have too much experience / you are too old or if you have too little experience and are too young. Please raise your hand if you have either one of those concerns. This might just be interesting to see.

So about 1/3, 34% have one or the other concern. This is kind of interesting how that came out, and I guess it makes sense, 2/3 are in the middle. That is pretty much your good old bell curve.

Stephanie Fujii: I would just add, Linda, too that it really depends also on the industry and the company-- that there are certain companies and industries where it just takes time to progress and others where, for example, if you are working for a startup, after two years you could have an incredible amount of leadership and responsibilities. So we are really looking at everything when we evaluate that, the quality and the richness.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Now, back to the applicants' questions. Naveed asks, "What are the biggest differentiators that Haas offers?" And I would like to hear from both Stephanie and Matt the answer to that question. Maybe, Matt, go first.

Matt Salazar: Sure, one of the things that I really noticed was the close-knit culture of Haas, really just being able to know almost all of your classmates was really something that appealed to me, especially because of the type of people they were. It is a very close-knit culture and very collaborative. So one thing I was really looking for in a business school was a place where I could really push myself, but also have a lot of people kind of supporting me. I could support them as well because I think as you go into the higher echelons of education and a lot of these advanced positions, you really need to know how to rely on people and also rely on your mobility. So being able to leverage a great group of individuals that are smart and talented really just helps you advance a lot further in your career than if you are trying to do it yourself.

Linda Abraham: Okay, thank you and Stephanie, what do you feel are the differentiators at Haas?

Stephanie Fujii: I would echo a lot of what Matt has said. I think when we're talking to people about what makes the Berkeley MBA Program unique, oftentimes it does come down to the people and the culture. I think at any program you're going to get a great academic foundation, and career opportunities. I think that we're a small program, 240 students per class, and I think that's definitely shaped the culture and community.

When I talked about our defining principals earlier, we really took those things that we felt set us apart. This is feedback that we've gotten from many different sources, and I think that the more students and alumni that you are able to talk with about Haas, and hear their stories, you hear these themes of confidence without attitude of questions, status quo, and these are things that we really wanted to put a stake in the ground and say: These are the elements of our culture and the type of people that we attract that is really unique.

I would also talk about defining principals, our culture, and I do think that builds with this focus on innovative leadership, and also focus on experiential learning. That is something that definitely stands out in our program as an incredible opportunity for our students to really get that, that experience in the real world. It is not just sitting in a classroom and learning frameworks and theories and discussing cases, that's actually going out and working for clients who are coming to Berkeley because of our reputation for our innovation.

So Haas@Work, that is our flagship applied innovation program where there are companies who want to hear recommendations from students on either a new business model, a new product, or new revenue model, and so it's an exciting project for our students and for us to be able to have access to these companies and newly identify certain business problems that they want to look at.

For example, this past spring, Virgin America was one of our clients and they wanted a new business model. They said customers who are purchasing their plane tickets online, are looking at schedule and price, and we want to figure out is there anything that we can do to really change that experience to change our models so that it is not so commoditized.

So they came in and a team of -- there were 40 students who participated, working up into five teams, looking at things such as customer loyalty, new -- like pricing, customer acquisition, and the teams really end up researching into those areas answering specific questions about what the company can do in each of those areas. Basically, it culminated with the a one day presentation in front of the executive team of Virgin America where each team presented their recommendations, and on the spot the executive team gave a go/no-go decision as to whether they wanted to go with that recommendation or whether that wasn't going to work.

All five teams presented a total of eight recommendations and all were accepted. They brought in a team of, I think we have five students who interned there this summer to continue implementing those ideas. So it is a really exciting experience for our students not only to get that on the spot feedback from the executive team, but then to actually go in and see can these ideas work.

I think one of the biggest learnings that our students have found is it's not enough just to come up with that new and creative idea. To be innovative you actually -- you also have to make sure that you can implement these ideas so that they work. So that's just one example, but I think we have a lot of opportunities around that for our students.

Linda Abraham: Great, another question, "What is the scope of the EMT specialization in the US market?" I am not even sure what EMT is. Is it Entertainment and Media Technology?

Stephanie Fujii: I am not sure.

Linda Abraham: I don't know either. Ashish, do you want to clarify? Let's swing back to that one. Varun asks, "I had applied to Haas in 2009 but didn't make the cut. Since then I have tried to work on my overall profile in order to present a stronger application. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations?" And here I think suggestions and recommendations for reapplicants would be very helpful because there are a few questions along those lines.

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely. So I think he's already taken the right steps to really look at the class profile and identify which areas of his application can be strengthened. Sometimes it's a question of whether this person has leadership experience. It could be that they've had leadership experiences, but that it didn't really come through in their essay, so they should focus the essays on highlighting leadership opportunities. So it could be that there hadn't been a lot of leadership opportunities up until this point, so they should seek out those opportunities. That's just one example.

In terms of our competitive ranges for undergraduate performance and GMAT scores – where do you fall within that? I certainly understand you can't go back and change your undergrad performance, but is the GMAT an area where you could improve your performance? I think that is something that we tell people -- you really have to look at everything that you are working on in the application because we are certainly asking for a lot of pieces, and really prioritize where you want to spend your time and resources.

In some cases, it could be that the GMAT score is what it's going to be and so then you really need to focus on those essays. I think a missed opportunity for reapplicants is not submitting an optional essay. So you have that optional essay to submit a statement of how you've strengthened your application. It is very important for reapplicants to outline in that essay what they've done that makes them a stronger candidate.

Linda Abraham: Okay, I want to give Matt a question here. Why did you choose Haas? What did you address that when you were speaking about the differentiator at Haas? You've already slightly addressed that, is there is anything you want to add to that?

Matt Salazar: Sure. I can scope it a little bit more.

My career interests were particularly geared towards entrepreneurship, digital media, and technology. So I had a pretty specific focus on schools that I wanted to attend. One thing that really just drew me to Haas -- the first part of it was kind of what I mentioned before, the key difference with people; but secondly, they have all the resources available to me at Haas to really facilitate that career switch. Coming from consulting, I am going into a brand new industry. I was a little uneasy about how my skills would translate and how I could navigate to a position that I really wanted. So there are a lot of resources here at Haas that I saw when I was making my final decision on where to go that would really enable me to do so.

Linda Abraham: Can you talk about a couple of the most important resource that you found?

Matt Salazar: Absolutely. I think one thing that Steph already touched on was a lot of experiential learning programs. Something I made an active effort to do when I first got onto campus was to really build up my resume on the tech side because I have the consulting and a little bit of experience, but really nothing to show my career interest in technology.

One of the great things about Haas is that on the first day you step on the campus and there are so many opportunities. Experiential learning projects, independent study projects that are available to you and it's really up to you to just go in and grab it. While you are even doing core classes you are able to do these experiential learning opportunities outside. So by the time it gets to recruiting season in January, you are well ahead of the curve and you are well-positioned to really thrive in that kind of recruiting environment.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Thank you, Matt. Let's go back to the applicants' questions. Jennifer asks if you could speak about the MBA program. The Haas MBA program is focused on social entrepreneurship and non-profit leadership. How can applicants best reflect that interest in their application?

Stephanie Fujii: Sure. So to start with, in our program we have a number of opportunities both in the classroom and outside of the classroom for students to gain experience in social entrepreneurship and non-profit. We have two centers that are relevant to this. We have the Center for Responsible Business and the Center for Non-Profit and Public Management and both of those centers have elective courses that students can take, as well as extra-curricular activities that allow students to gain an equally rich and relevant experience.

In terms of social entrepreneurship, we have our Global Social Venture Competition which has grown to be quite large and it's a wonderful opportunity, I think, for students who are thinking of launching their own social venture. It's a business plan competition that not only looks at the financial bottom line, but also the social return of the business. But I think it is also a great experience for students who want to organize that and be able to meet with mentors in this sector to look through the business plan.

I think through that competition there are a lot of opportunities depending on the specific interests and goals of our students. We have a social sector solutions course which is one of the experiential learning opportunities. It is a partnership with McKinsey where you do a consulting project for a non-profit organization. So again, as Matt said, for somebody looking to switch careers, it is so important to be able to get that experience that you can put on your resume, that you can pop it out in an interview that directly relates to the field that you want to go into.

Linda Abraham: What is that program called again?

Stephanie Fujii: Social Sector Solutions.

Linda Abraham: Okay.

Stephanie Fujii: We also have the Board Fellows Program and for that you apply to be a board member of a local, non-profit organization. So again, that's a great experience for our students who are interested in non-profit management leadership. Even for our students who I think may not be going down that path, they recognize that they're going to be leaders in their community one day and so it's a valuable experience for them to have as well. So it's quite popular.

There are a number of other courses that we offer. I think for somebody who's interested in going into this field and is demonstrating interest, we want to see that there has been a common theme around this. So even if your work experience isn't directly related -- what types of activities have you been involved in? How does that translate into your specific goals? There are very different sectors and there are many different roles within each of them so I think being focused and understanding how you're going to make that transition at a specific program at Haas that will give you the experience that is to allow you to succeed in making that transition. That's important for applicants interested in this area.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Stephanie, Scott asks, "How does the admissions team view layoffs in regards to a candidate's application? Is it something that needs to be addressed or is it understood that layoffs are often out of the hands of the candidate?

Stephanie Fujii: Oh, certainly. I think especially given the past couple of years, we've definitely seen that. You know, it's something that if it happens, certainly tell us. I think as a general rule for our application -- don't leave any questions unanswered because we will make up answers and we can be quite creative in it and it won't always be in the applicant's favor. So just make sure that you are answering any questions that we might have.

With layoffs, we understand -- especially in certain sectors who've been hit really hard. What we're interested in is what you have been doing with your time since that layoff. I think especially for people who are thinking about switching careers, are you involved in activities? Have you done things that will really help you move in that direction? But I think honesty, and being upfront about anything that we might have questions about -- that's very important.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Abenna asks -- and this might be a question that perhaps Matt can address the first part and Stephanie can address the second part -- "Is it common for students at Haas to leverage the experiential learning opportunities to identify areas that aren't yet available within the curriculum? So how is this supported or pursued? For example, I would like to pursue a career in brand management but have a strong interest in researching multicultural marketing strategies."

Matt Salazar: True. So if I understand the question correctly, it's using the experiential learning projects to explore a career interest that is not in the core?

Linda Abraham: No, it's not in the curriculum currently. That's how I understand the question.

Stephanie Fujii: Yeah, I can answer this. So a lot of the experiential learning opportunities such as Haas@Work, International Business Development, Social Sector Solutions, they're very much client-driven so the types of projects and the types of organizations will depend on who is slated to be a client for any of those opportunities in a given year. So it's hard to predict whether a project will necessarily fit with that interest area, right?

Linda Abraham: Right.

Stephanie Fujii: It's possible that it could, but it's not a guarantee. One thing that we have developed as part of BILD is a team-initiated project. That sounds like what would fit with Abenna's question. What this project is, is it's developed by the student that requires a faculty sponsor. There's obviously a team and you put together a proposal for what the project would look like, but it would fulfill the experiential learning requirement and it is there to allow students who have a particular interest that may not be met by the slate of offerings in the other courses to really focus on that area.

So yes, there is that opportunity as something that we are launching this year. so we'll see how that goes, but certainly, we recognize the need to have that flexibility and to allow students the opportunity to focus on that area. I would say that in the past, students probably did a student-initiated project where they would do research with a faculty member. It would be a course that they took, but really focusing on a specific area.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Thank you. Another question for Stephanie. Mohit writes, "I'm an international applicant. Many business schools offer no co-signer US loans to students. Haas currently offers no such loan. Do you plan to offer international students loans without co-signers next year?

Stephanie Fujii: We actually do.

Linda Abraham: I thought you did.

Stephanie Fujii: Yes, yes, for this year we were able to secure a loan for international students that don't require a US co-signer. That information is available on our website. In the past when it was very difficult for schools to get those over the past couple of years, what we ended up doing is we actually had Berkeley MBA grants and Haas loans that we offer because we recognize the challenge for international students to finance their education. This past year we gave out over 5 million dollars in scholarships and grants, so it's certainly a focus of our program. It's important to us to help all of our students finance their education so it's something that we are committed to.
Linda Abraham: Wonderful. That's great. I was pretty sure that you had that. I'm glad you were able to clarify.

Stephanie Fujii: Yes.

Linda Abraham: Depak asks, and I think this is best for both of you and maybe if I can ask Matt to start first in terms of the response -- "Can you kindly describe how the four principles complement the courses at Haas?" I guess how the courses reflect the four principles.

Matt Salazar: Yeah. So I think it's something that really is very overarching and it's something that you don't really call out like, oh, in today's lecture they just incorporated principle no. 1, or like they're incorporating principle no. 2. I think that those key defining principle are really seen in characteristics of not only the students, but also the professors. I'll try to give one example.

I think one of the core principles is "Students always." One thing the professors really like to do in core classes is make it more a facilitated discussion. I think they understand that there's just an immense amount of experience in the room, so it might be a marketing case and we'll be talking about maybe -- I don't know -- Clorox. Of course, you're going to have someone who worked with Clorox on a particular project, so we'll ask them and leverage their background. So it's really that philosophy that students are always really leveraging everyone's knowledge and expertise and that recognition that we're all students and we all can learn from each other.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Stephanie, do you want to touch on that?

Stephanie Fujii: Yeah, I would echo what Matt said that the principles are really about the culture and the type of student, the type of person in the Berkeley MBA community. I think that's the mindset and the attitude -- that people come here to learn from each other, to identify new ways of looking at things, and that's really a reflection of the principles. I think what we've worked into the courses is really those capabilities that we've identified and required of an innovative leader. So I think that's easier to talk about.

For example -- our statistics course: In the past, it's very much been about how do I analyze this data? Or how do I do an aggression analysis? The reframing to really fit with the capabilities of an innovative leader is moving from a data consumer to a data producer. So really looking at an issue or a problem and asking what type of data do I need to solve this problem, to answer this question, and then identifying how then to go about getting that data and analyzing it. I think it's really that the courses have been aligned with the capabilities that we've identified for an innovative leader.

Linda Abraham: Okay.

Stephanie Fujii: And the principles again are reflected in the types of students who are here.

Linda Abraham: We also have an applicant ask about a second MBA, "I have a very good reason as to why I want to do a second MBA. Does Haas allow that and are there students in the current or incoming batch who are pursuing second MBAs?

Stephanie Fujii: Unfortunately, if you already have an MBA then you are not eligible to apply to our program.

Linda Abraham: Okay. This is a question for Stephanie. "When you look at an application and the numbers are in the ballpark, the basic requirements have been met, what makes one application stand out from another?" More specifically, what makes one stand out in a positive way?

Stephanie Fujii: [Laughter] Right. Good question. I think there are a couple of things that we're looking at when we're reviewing applications, and so I'll talk about it sort of at the macro level and then on an individual applicant basis. On a higher level we want to admit as diverse a class as possible, so we're looking for people who are coming from many different backgrounds, whether that's geography, industry, or functional area. So on that broader level we want to make sure that we have a lot of different perspectives and experiences represented, and you'll hear from our students -- and Matt can chime in if he disagrees -- but in the classroom, in your study groups, in all of the extra-curricular activities you'd learn so much when you are discussing things with people who have just a really different approach or perspective than what you have. So that's really important to us on sort of that higher broader level.

For an individual applicant, I think a lot of people make the mistake of, for example, in their essay questions writing the answers that they think will get them into business school or they think will excite the Admissions Committee, but I think when somebody's writing something that's not really their passion, that's not genuine and authentic, it definitely falls flat. We read hundreds and thousands of essays that fall into that category. So when I think about what makes an individual application stand out, it's that passion. It's the honesty of "This is who I am and this is what's important to me." We tell everybody to please do this in your essays because we do want to get to know who you are as a person. We find that our students who come here are passionate, and because of that passion they make things happen.

Now, they're all passionate about different things and over the years I can tell you things that I didn't realize somebody could be passionate about but they've proven me wrong. They've come here and they have leadership positions in clubs. They've started annual conferences. They've been successful in their careers. It's that passion that really drives them and that's what we're looking for.

But I think also consistency that you are telling us your story, and so it needs to make sense from beginning to end. I think a lot of the applicants don't focus on their career goals. They don't put as much thought into it as they might, especially if you're switching careers. I think that's something that's important that we want to see: Dream big. I love to read about those long-term goals that are really high in the sky, but have a realistic plan of how you're going to achieve your short-term goals and how that connects to not only your past experience but those long-term dreams.

Linda Abraham: Stephanie, may I ask a question?  If the long-term goals are dream big / pie in the sky -- do you want the short-term goals to be anchored?

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely.

Linda Abraham: Feet on the ground?

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely.

Linda Abraham: Okay.

Stephanie Fujii: Yeah. I think if you asked anybody else on our committee, they would give you a different answer. Some people may not love that big dream. I do because I think that when somebody is really sharing their dream, it is their passion and authenticity; but they have to be realistic about how they're going to get there, especially if it's a big career change. You know, I think that just by coming to business school it doesn't mean they are going to automatically make that switch. There are things that you need to do to build up your skills, to gain those experiences that are going to make you successful for that short-term and then the long-term goals.

We want to know that you thought through it. And people always ask, "How specific do I need to be?" You know, it's not that we need the name of the company or the city that you're going to live in and it's not that once you graduate we're going to pull out that essay and if you aren't doing what you said that you were then you won't get a diploma.

Linda Abraham: You wouldn't be graduating very many people.

Stephanie Fujii: Exactly. So many of our students are switching careers, but if you've gone through that reflective introspective process of really identifying – "What have I done so far, how does that transfer to these short-term goals, what are the steps that I need to take to get there?" -- if you've done that once we know that you can do it again if you switch gears.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Thank you. I have a question for Matt. What do you like best at Haas and what would you like to see improved?

Matt Salazar: Oh, gosh! There's a lot of things that I really love about this place. So full disclosure -- I am also a Cal undergrad so I really found a place up here in the Bay Area especially at this institution. You know, aside from -- again, I touch on the people and honestly that's a consistent part of my story. I just love going to class and talking to my friends every day -- but beyond that, it's really just kind of the broad set of interests across class. I love technology. I love entrepreneurship. I love coasting on those things and that's one thing I want to pursue, but I also love just having friends who have such a diverse set of interests.

I have friends who are going into non-profits, who are going into finance, who are doing the management consulting route, and for me, that's an environment I want to be in, really just being able to see how their career pursuits go and all the amazing things that they do. It's almost like you can live vicariously through them and everyone has all these great accomplishments and you kind of have this idea like, whoa -- they're in Haas and they're doing these great things and you're definitely sharing that sense of joy of their accomplishment. So having this kind of diversity of personalities and characteristics is really amazing.

Things I would like changed. Well, I think one thing I really appreciate about Haas is their ability to really take feedback and act on it very quickly. I'll give out just one example. Last year, there was one of the very popular experiential learning programs called International Business Development. Basically, that project is you do a consulting project for either a firm or an NGO throughout the semester and then at the end of the semester you spend three weeks doing on-the-ground research in a particular country. So it's a very popular program. I encourage everyone to read up on it on the website. So the year before I applied there was significantly more demand than there was supply, and that was a big concern for our class and the class before us, that since business school is only two years, you only really have one opportunity to participate in this program.

So that's the big feedback that they gave to the program director. They let the dean know. The dean was very receptive and for my year, they increased spots. I believe there were about 90 spots. They went to about 120 so half the class was able to participate. The acceptance rate was significantly higher and it's something that I don't think happened very easily. The program takes a significant amount of resources, so really just being able to see the dean and the executive director really rallied the cause, find additional sources of funding to make it possible for additional students to go on these trips was really encouraging. I think this kind of a general attitude that if there's something that people see that needs improvement everyone is very quick to act on it.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much, Matt. The next question is for Stephanie and this is asked by one of our guests, Abanne. "Stephanie, are there certain factors used in admissions to craft each year's class? Mix of industry, years of experience, geographic regions, etc.?"

Stephanie Fujii: We don't have quotas as I have mentioned earlier and as Matt has said as well. We certainly want a diversity of backgrounds, so we don't want to enroll a class where everybody is coming from the same industry. Again, we don't have quotas or fixed percentages of how much we'd like from each, but we want to make sure that we have a nice representation.

In terms of the qualities that we're looking for, the three main areas are academic performance, the professional accomplishments, and those personal qualities. I think that regardless of the industry, geographic background, any other demographic factors that there are that we're using to select our class, I think just to dabble a little deeper into personal qualities really fits with our program and embodiment of the defining principles that I mentioned earlier that those are the key driving factors of how we craft the class.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. We have two questions from people who will be coming with spouses or partners. One is from Therone and he or she writes that they are planning to apply together. The question is, "What are the chances for both of us to get admitted? Do we need to address the fact that we are applying together on the application somehow?"

The second one is from somebody who I think also has a spouse and only one is applying. It's from Hugo and he asks, "What are the activities for partners and can they attend some of the classes through the MBA classes?"

Just out of curiosity again, I'm going to ask the applicants in the audience to raise their hands if they're applying with significant others, partners, or spouses, either both of you are planning to apply or one is applying and the other one will be moving or coming along for the ride. So if you could raise your hand on that one.

Okay. About 25% of the audience does have a significant other or some stable relationship that's going to be a factor in their application. It went down to 20% but -- okay, you want to just address the two parties?

Stephanie Fujii: Yeah, absolutely. So I'll take the first question. I think Matt can talk about what's available for partners this year, but in terms of applying together we consider applications independent of each other. So we've had in the past applicants where they've disclosed that they were both applying together and others where they haven't. I think it's really up to the applicants as to whether or not they want to tell us that, but it's not something that we consider in the admissions decision.

Linda Abraham: Okay, and Matt, do you want to comment?

Matt Salazar: Sure. So there's a second point of helping partners interact with the Haas community. One great thing I think about Haas is there is a Partners Club here at Haas. The partners are very active in creating social activities for themselves whether it's kind of shared daycare, going out on Saturday outings, what have you. There is a vibrant kind of partners communit,y so one thing I always tell partners when I meet them for the first time, as much fun as the Haas student is going to have, you're going to have 10 times more fun, and that's really just because Haas is a very welcoming community.

So we welcome partners to all of the events whether they be career, a lot of the extra-curricular events, any of the outings that we go to, partners are always more than welcome. So if you think about it, as a partner, you get to have all these great friends, you have all the partners' friends, you all get to go to all these social activities. While the student is hard at work studying for that mid-term exam you can be out having a nice dinner with everyone else.

Linda Abraham: It sounds good. Sounds better to be a partner than a student, huh?

Matt Salazar: I highly recommend it. If I could, I would do it again as a partner. [Laughter]

Linda Abraham: [Laughter] Okay. We have a couple of questions here. One is from Ben and one is specifically about MBA math. "What is the value to you of MBA math in addressing either low grades specifically in quant courses or a low GMAT quant?"

Stephanie Fujii: Sure. So the two main areas that we are looking at to evaluate quantitative preparation is your undergraduate performance and your GMAT quant. I think that if either one of those is outside of our competitive range or not as strung then you would certainly hope that the other could compensate. If there's a case that both of those are not as competitive as they could be then we will look at additional courses that you've taken. We'll look at your work experience if any of it is quantitative in nature.

We prefer a calculus or statistics class but we also will consider MBA math. I think that we do look at your quantitative preparation, especially your first semester in the core. We want to make sure that you can come in here and be prepared to do the work. I think it's a detriment to the student and to the team that somebody is struggling. I think especially if you are not up to speed in terms of quantitative fundamentals than you're spending all your time focused on that and unable to take advantage of all of the other things that happen outside of the classroom. That's why we pay particular attention to that.

Linda Abraham: Okay. We have somebody here, Roxandra, who's asking, "What opportunities do the Haas MBA students have to pursue coursework in Public Policy and Administration at the Goldman School? You may also want to touch on, just in general, pursuing elective courses or a few courses outside of Haas and other schools in Berkeley."

Stephanie Fujii: Sure. 40% of the courses that students take at Haas are required, core courses but the other 60% are elective, so there is a lot of flexibility in being able to shape your curriculum to meet your needs. Included in that is you can take -- it's typically -- about two courses outside of the business school that will count towards graduation so those could be courses at the Goldman School of Public Policy or any other school at UC, Berkeley. It is possible to take more than that amount but you do have to go through an approval process through the Academic Affairs Department at Haas.

Matt Salazar: Let me just add to what Stephanie said. Being at Haas is a great opportunity to take classes outside of Haas and the Berkeley community. One great thing about Berkeley is that pretty much 29 of the 30 graduate departments are rated in the top 10. So wherever you go if you want to take classes outside of Haas, you still get that high quality education.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. Benjamin asks, "For those of us who are unable to visit the school, how would you recommend addressing the question regarding steps taken to learn about Berkeley MBA?" Either one of you or both of you can answer that.

Stephanie Fujii: Sure. We certainly don't expect that everyone can come visit. I think it's more to the benefit of the applicant and the student to be able to visit and see the community, see the culture, see the school in person, and I think you start to really get a sense of what it is to be here at Berkeley, at Haas. But we have a number of ways for you to learn about our program aside from visiting. We are traveling around the world -- in fact, two of the members of our team are in Latin America as we speak doing information sessions so we certainly try to get out as much as we can to share information about the program, about the admissions process.

We also have blogs and podcasts on our websites so that you can again get a sense of the community and specific aspects of the program. Matt is actually a member of our team of Haas Student Ambassadors and there a group of current students that work closely with admissions to organize our visitation program, but also to be that connection point between perspective students and our larger student community. So definitely get in contact with them if you have a specific career interest. They will do their best to connect you with the current student who can fix you up, and I think it's great to be able to talk to people about what they're currently doing, taking advantage of, what they wish was here. I think talking to as many people as possible is helpful and the Haas Student Ambassadors are your best way to do that.

Linda Abraham: Great. I'm going to ask a couple more questions. There are some that I wanted to ask because we're going towards the end of our hour. Matt, are members of the class of 2011 facing the hiring season with optimism or fear?

Matt Salazar: I'd say it's quite optimistic.

Linda Abraham: Great.

Matt Salazar: One thing we saw from the internship season over the spring was definitely an increase in activity over the year before. I know plenty of my peers who are coming through this season with multiple offers from companies that were their first picks, so it was really nice to see. I think we all are cognizant that this environment is still a bit uncertain, but I think there's a lot of promise with just the amount of volume of recruiters coming back to campus and as we're all for student organizers in clubs having a lot of companies reaching out to us saying that we want to get involved in events and so forth. So there's a very large amount of positive signs.

Linda Abraham:Great. Stephanie, what are you anticipating in terms of application volume this year?

Stephanie Fujii: That's a great question.

Matt Salazar: Yes. [Laughter]

Stephanie Fujii: Every year I wish that I had my crystal ball and could predict what's going to happen. I think just from what we've been hearing and seeing we expect applications to stay flat. Of course, I'm always taken by surprise every year, so who knows what will happen, but I think our applications were down slightly from last year. But last year was definitely the highest that it's been over several years. So we can get more -- we're going to stay flat, although it's still very early to tell. I think over the next couple of months we'll have a better sense from basically what we see with our events, and our first round application has moved up to earlier in October. So whatever happens with that -- but I know that GMAT test takers I think are down slightly so we don't expect to see that we've gone up in applications.

Linda Abraham: Okay. I want to thank you all for participating today. Special thanks to Stephanie and Matt specifically for joining us and for agreeing to be the gatekeepers with this new format. I would like a show of hands from anybody on the call including Matt and Stephanie, I don't know if you have the hand, but from all the attendees -- if you like this format, please raise your hand.

Great. Good. All right. We've got more than 50%. 58%. Good. Good. Thank you so much. I appreciate your feedback. Stephanie, we have a lot of questions on queue that we were not able to address. Do you want to provide either a phone number and e-mail address or URL where people can address their Haas specific questions?

Stephanie Fujii: We actually are going to have a chat that we're hosting next Wednesday at 9:00 Pacific Time so you can find all the information on our website but I will encourage you to join us on that chat and get your questions answered.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Sounds great. If you have more general admissions questions including if you would like tips on Haas, then you are certainly also welcome to ask them at our forum which is at forum.accepted.com. So please feel free to post your questions there.

We would like to see you at future Q&As. We're going to be having several in the upcoming months of this applications season. Upcoming chats:

Chicago Booth Q&A with Kurt Ahln & Julie Morton
Monday, September 13, 2010

Kellogg Q&A with Carla Edelston
Thursday, September 16, 2010

UCLA Anderson Q&A with Mae Shores
Monday, October 4, 2010

Notre Dame Q&A with Brian Lohr
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chat with Current Consortium Members and Alumni
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wharton Q&A with Julia Schreck
Thursday, October 14, 2010

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