The Small And Mighty Haas Undergrad Program

Walker hugging a graduate at this spring's commencement. Photo by Jim Block

Walker hugging a graduate at this spring’s commencement. Photo by Jim Block

So that’s one component [of] how we’re really re-thinking liberal arts integration. The other aspect in terms of what’s new is how we’re bringing in experiential learning as being an integral part of all of this process. For what we’ve come to learn about millennial students is that, you know, it’s really all about customization, specialization, having an opportunity to try and practice and test things out. And so we want to make sure we also have a component that actually speaks to their learning styles.

We’re finding experiential learning really provides that. And experiential learning can be provided in a number of ways. It could be through simulations. It could be through the flipped classroom. It could be through digital education. Or it could be actual project-oriented things where students are going to be immersed in activities. And so what we’re starting to think more of that we’ve learned from our graduate programs here is immersion experiences. We’re thinking about how we can incorporate more immersion experiences into the classroom or to complement what’s happening in the classroom.

Another important aspect we’re paying attention to is research. So we’re a business school within a research institution—university—and we’re finding that because education is such a commodity, students are kind of going K through 12 and going right through college checking boxes. Saying, ‘OK, I’ve done that, I’ve done that, I’ve done that. Now I should be able to get this job.’ And from my experience, I’ve seen that students are losing sight of what it means to have an undergraduate experience. And, in part, we’d hope that more of our students would at least be exposed to the idea of research as a possible career as well. And so how do we begin to make connections between faculty research and undergraduate students? I think here at Berkeley, it is a natural thing. We have lots of options for students who want to do research. But not as often are our students really understanding what our faculty are researching.

And so one of the examples of a class we’ve started is our Haas travel study program. And the first course that was developed under that—and we’re trying to have multiple courses focused on different areas— is our open innovation course. And that is built around Henry Chesbrough’s research around open innovation. What we did was allow students to utilize the concepts and theories around open innovation and apply them to a particular city. In the first one, students traveled to India to use open innovation in frugal markets. It was really getting a chance to understand how can companies and communities share risks and rewards. You know, by sometimes companies having to forego what the immediate benefit will be for more of a longer term impact and reward that benefits everyone so it becomes a true win-win. It’s a different approach and what we do is we have students spend some time studying here, but then we actually have them travel to India to a particular city and they spend time just interacting with companies, having direct conversations with those that they are really working to provide some case solutions for.

And we also leverage our alumni network. So, this is another aspect of it. Again, when we’re talking about trying to provide more of a comprehensive experience for students, traditionally students will go to the career center to receive support around trying to find a job and honing in their marketable skills. They will go to alumni relations and the alumni association to then understand what their network is there and then maybe go to separate events. They go to class and they learn the academic preparation and then they have all of their co-curricular activities, which are all of the student organizations they are involved in. We’re thinking about how we can better integrate and blend some of that. Because students are no longer kind of working in these binary type of modes, they’re really looking at how does all of this fit together? And so again, students have been traditionally left alone to figure it out on their own and make their own connections. What I think is interesting and exciting about where we are now is that we’re helping to facilitate some of those connections, again, more intentionally.

So that was one of the examples of the travel program. The alumni network basically hosts the students when they’re out there and help share another perspective about what it’s like working. The students are able to test some of their ideas and they are able to provide feedback at their hosting receptions. So it gives them a chance to understand and fuse faculty research, classroom experience, outside of classroom experience, and leverage the alumni network. And so they walk away with a more whole experience. That’s been pretty exciting to see. And that class is only for business students. So we’ve been thrilled about that. And since we’ve partnered with the Gardner Center for innovation, they’ve helped support and sponsor the program.

Another example is not too different from what other schools are doing. We see cases. Understanding and learning cases is really important across the board in undergraduate and graduate programs. Something that’s been happening for, I’d say, probably the past two decades are international business case competitions. And you see it more at the graduate level now. Undergrads, as far as I know, have been doing it for the past 20 years. More and more schools around the world are hosting these competitions. You talk about experiential learning, I mean you’re really getting a feel in a more intensive way for what it may be like in corporate environments or any particular environment where you’re trying to move an organization forward and grow it.

And so students are receiving information about one case, a company, with multiple layers embedded in terms of problems or questions that are being asked and students have to think about it as a global leader. How does this impact the organization globally? And what might be key things that companies should be thinking about to move the needle? We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to participate in these every year and there are usually at least five competitions we are participating in. We’ve been receiving funding from a donor who’s allowed us to do this so students are able to travel. But, man, they’re walking away with strong connections to students from other universities around the world. And they’re only given between 24 and 48 hours to actually solve a problem. And some of the competitions only give them five hours. So they’re able to really understand what it’s like to work in teams.