The Small And Mighty Haas Undergrad Program

Graduates at this year's undergraduate commencement. Photo by Jim Block

Graduates at this year’s undergraduate commencement. Photo by Jim Block

Not only in their Berkeley application, but certainly when they’re applying to the business school, we’re looking at leadership. We’re looking at their involvements in addition to the academic criteria. We really want to see someone who has a strong sense of themselves and who fits within our Haas culture. Our four defining principles are important to us. We really think about how we shape our students while they are here and hope that it’s a continued aspirational growth around the defining principles as well. So we want students who are willing to come and be challenged and to be coached and to push their ideas but also be willing to learn from others. We want students who aren’t arrogant. Students who understand how to step back and make informed decisions and learn from everyone and value everyone’s opinion.

I think some of the newer nuances as we talk about the Millennial generation is how do we help them with self-development and personal and professional development as well. Where it used to be only relegated to clubs and activities or the career center, we’re thinking back to how we can better integrate that so it’s more comprehensive. Our office, we really work in partnership with the career center and alumni relations. So when we have orientation, for example, it’s all three of us coming together to develop an orientation. It’s not just to pass the baton, and now you’re next and have yours on a different day. We’re talking about how do we make sure that our messages have a common thread and that it all makes sense for the students so that they understand it’s truly comprehensive advising and support.

So I think passion is key. Knowing yourself. And being willing to take those risks. Another point I wanted to make in terms of the Millennial generation: Because we’re so high tech, students aren’t necessarily spending a lot of time with one-on-one connection as much as we had to rely on in the past. And so interpersonal development tends to suffer. And working in teams can be a little more challenging. It’s not the same as working in teams via Playstation and remotely. It’s actually sitting in front of someone and having to listen, face-to-face, and manage your own mannerisms, your own body language, and reading another person. But I would say one of the larger challenges just tends to be around feedback. Students learning to give and receive feedback is huge. It’s so surprising to me in many ways.

Again, when I was an undergrad — aside from the fact that you’re still developing your own identity and really understanding yourself within this world of so many others — it never struck me as being such a challenge then for me as an undergrad as it is now. Where students really struggle is with their own self-management of feelings, of their emotions, and understanding how to separate personal from really trying to get to the heart of a particular problem or whatever it might be. And since students have a tendency to personalize so much the work they’re doing as they’re learning it — as they’re forging new relationships with their peers — we’re seeing that peer evaluation, receiving direct feedback from someone else, is a big challenge.

And so we’re trying to be very thoughtful in how we incorporate that into our leadership model, into students’ understanding and being more self-aware about that and helping them to bridge who they are as a person with who they want to be as a professional. Those have been some really interesting nuances. It’s not just about learning the theory behind leadership or organizational behavior — or how to maximize your, you know, gain. It’s also about your own self-brand management and I think that applies in a number of disciplines. You don’t have to be a business major to have value in that. You could also be in the arts or perhaps in entertainment or whatever it might be where that’s going to be important to you. We’re thinking about that too in terms of these adaptations and really responding to our students, more of keeping them at the center and balancing what we know to be very important and integral as part of business education, really just trying to bring it all together.

P&Q: How is parent involvement in the application process and do parents ever push boundaries?

Walker: Well, you probably see that more in trying to get into Berkeley in general. By the time the students get to Haas, they’ve had time to be more independent. So we see less of that during the application process for Haas. With transfer students, you typically see more re-entry students, so they’re older and have had their own work experience. So we see less of that around admissions at Haas. But we certainly see it for incoming freshmen who are first stepping foot on campus and they’re really trying to get a sense of everything and they’re coming into the office and saying, ‘OK, I want to be a business major, what do I need to do to make it happen?’ And often you’ll see the parents right there, leading the conversation, where their child is kind of watching and listening in.

I think what we experience is where students have had an opportunity to really branch out on their own and experience some of the coursework, experience the student activities, and the college environment. By the time they come to us, they’ve really had a great chance to put themselves forward on their own. I think that students are still largely shaped by parent opinion and thought. I think they value their relationships in ways that, when I was a young student I didn’t really have that same [relationship]. We were a lot more independent with what we wanted to do. That’s been very interesting to see and a very interesting dynamic where students continue to have regular conversations with their parents about what they’re wanting to do about where their interests are. And when options or paths have to change for them, they’re going back to their parents for feedback and for ideas and suggestions. And so, we see the parents are still very much involved in that regard.

By the time they graduate, I would imagine that changes a bit. But I think because of the nature of education and how it’s been from K through 12, in this last couple of decades, parents have been near and active all the way through. K through 12 education is requiring parents to be way more involved. And so by the time they get to college, the expectation of the student is solely independent and the parents are no longer able to be involved is a shock in many ways. So I think we will continue to see parent involvement in some respects but in terms of admissions to Haas, we don’t see it as much.