UC Berkeley Rolls Out Revamped EMBA


For starters, the program directors made Leadership Communications mandatory – it was an elective under the old curriculum – and added a course on building trust-based relationships. They also introduced Applied Innovation, led by Haas Professor Sara Beckman and Stanford’s Michael Barry, a Silicon Valley Immersion Week and a trip to Washington, D.C., led by economist Laura Tyson, a former advisor to President Clinton.  The program culminates with an international seminar in Shanghai headed by Asia Business Center Director Teck Ho. Kaplan says the courses were engineered to build off one another.  “There’s a connectedness throughout the program, and I think the students are really going to see that,” he says.

The core classes constitute 60% of the curriculum, leaving students free to explore electives during their last two terms.  Students vote on their elective options, which range from the routine, Investments and International Business, to the novel, High Tech Marketing and Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility.


The first class, which boasts a startup CEO from Korea, several senior military personnel and a veterinarian, will arrive on campus for orientation on May 15.  The roughly 60 students have a median of 12 years of work experience and will travel through the program as a cohort. Roughly a quarter of the students will travel from outside the Bay Area to attend, some from as far as Texas and Virginia. Haas’ executive director of admissions, Marjorie DeGraca, says the profile of the ideal candidate hasn’t changed much from the Berkeley-Columbia program. “I’m sure Columbia and Berkeley have slight nuances and things that may be more highly scaled as important, but in general the type of profile we would have looked at is going to be very similar,” she says.  “We’re looking for highly experienced people who are going to be valuable to their classmates and have the academic capability to be successful in a rigorous program.”

The directors also expect to amp up Berkeley’s unique culture – a defining attribute of the experience, they say. “There always had to be that sort of balance between the two schools,” Kaplan explains. But now the admissions committee can shine the spotlight on the school’s core principles: question the status quo, confidence without attitude, students always and beyond yourself.  “We screen for it in the interviews and we ask for it in the essays, so it’s really integrated,” DeGraca says.


Berkeley’s first class of Executive MBAs can also expect to see an improved student experience.  Kaplan changed Students Affairs to Student Experience and brought on Michael Rielly as the student experience director for the part-time and executive programs.  Rielly has pledged to make campus resources available to EMBA students during nontraditional times, including extending career services and financial aid office hours.  “We are absolutely committed to allowing these students to not have to navigate closed doors or complicated answers as to why the computer lab isn’t available on Saturday or why they would have to walk across campus for lunch on Saturday afternoons,” he says.  He’s also charged with coordinating student activities, including football game tailgates, tours and hiking trips. For their first event, students will be welcomed to campus with an outdoor lunch under Berkeley’s iconic Campanile bell tower where a historian will brief them on its history.  The class is also expected to elect a president and officers to help guide their experience.

Berkeley’s redesigned executive program won’t be entering an Executive MBA vacuum. The Bay Area’s finest business minds are already being courted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which has a San Francisco EMBA offering, and the Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA program, which holds classes in nearby San Jose and San Bruno. DeGraca says Berkeley’s culture and the program’s smaller size set the Haas EMBA apart.  Wharton’s EMBA class has 212 students, and Cornell-Queens has two sections of approximately 80 students, for a total of 160. DeGraca also contends that Berkeley’s executive program attracts a more experienced cohort, as business professionals with fewer years under their belts are diverted to the school’s part-time MBA program.

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