Don’t let distance limit your choice of a top-ranked MBA program. Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA students in the weekend cohort commute to campus for Saturday classes. Students in the Flex online cohort attend classes from wherever they live and work.
Lauren, a wealth management business operations manager in Capital Group’s Los Angeles office, commutes to Berkeley for weekend classes. Lisa, a talent strategy and innovation manager in Deloitte’s Austin, Texas location, logs into online classes.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you choose a part-time MBA and specifically, why Berkeley Haas?
Lauren: Part-time was a tough decision for me, but ultimately, I didn’t want to take a two-year detour in my career. At the same time, I wanted the opportunity to explore topics that fascinate me, like the untapped opportunities to educate, bank, advise, and create wealth in historically underserved communities.
Lisa: I’m at a pivotal point in my career in terms of long-term growth. I also didn’t want to disrupt my life any more than necessary. I looked at part-time programs all over the U.S. I knew I wanted a top-tier school with rigorous academics, one where innovation is valued. Berkeley Haas is all of that.
What tipped the balance in favor of the weekend program for you, Lauren?
Lauren: I knew I wanted a campus experience. I love being on campus, surrounded by my classmates.
While I was looking at programs I talked with a lot of people: alumni, the Admissions team, faculty. Everyone here just exuded the four Defining Leadership Principles. I was impressed with the caliber of their thinking and their character. I also spoke with a lot of people in Southern California who had commuted. Everyone assured me that it was doable, and they are right.
Lisa, what drew you to the Flex option?
Lisa: I didn’t want to rearrange my whole life to get my MBA. With Flex, I can switch in minutes from being at work to attending a core class in a live session with a professor. I can choose from an array of electives on different days and times, online or in person.
It's exciting to be in the inaugural Flex cohort. In many ways, the students, professors, and Program Office are all figuring this out together. That’s why I wanted to be a class representative. It’s in my nature to reach out to people, and I enjoy being part of the feedback loop that is helping to improve the Flex option.
What has surprised you about your MBA experience?
Lisa: The diversity of my cohort. In addition to people from around the U.S., I have classmates in Egypt, Germany, Japan, and Singapore. We all bring our own cultural perspectives to the classroom, as well as perspectives from a range of industries. This makes for robust class discussions and is a huge highlight of the Flex program.
Lauren: For me, it is how valuable my study group is. We work together as a team, dividing up work so it is manageable with the demands of our careers. One member of the group, who waived out of Spring semester classes, still joins our weekly meetings to help us with our assignments. That is hallmark Beyond Yourself behavior.
Lisa: I absolutely agree. My study group is like the 3-D glasses in a movie; they have brought the entire MBA experience to life for me. I never would have anticipated that my study group would be such a highlight.
You can take electives in any of the Evening & Weekend schedules. Do you plan to switch things up and do that?
Lisa: In June, I will be in Mexico City for a one-week course, Building and Leading Conscious Enterprises, at EGADE Business School. That is thanks to Berkeley Haas being part of the GNAM community of top-tier business schools in other countries. It’s not realistic for me to study abroad for a full semester, but this will give me the opportunity to learn in a different country and meet students from other places.
Lauren: I’m tempted by online electives, if only to lighten up my travel schedule! It will depend on what is offered when and in which format. I’m looking forward to electives like Behavioral Finance, FinTech, and the entrepreneurial offerings.
How integrated into the Berkeley Haas community do you feel?
Lauren: I feel like a member of the community. I can attend weekday FinTech Club events via Zoom. The same is true for Women in Leadership, where I find support and inspiration. Even when I can’t participate—this semester has been tough—I like knowing those resources are there for me, and I am welcomed as a Haasie.
Lisa: While I certainly feel like a Haasie, the nature of the Flex option poses challenges to in-person participation. As one of the class reps, that challenge is something I can bring back to the Program Office. Haas has worked hard to create connectivity across cohorts and locations through Slack, and I’m hopeful we can increase opportunities for virtual clubs and engagements.
Overall, is your MBA experience living up to your expectations?
Lisa: Yes. Maria Carkovic is one of the best professors I have had. Ever. She brought Macroeconomics to life with relevant examples and insights. She is really invested in us as learners and as people. Being in the first Flex cohort, the school set itself a high bar, and overall, is succeeding.
Lauren: I agree about the academic rigor. My study group has been invaluable there. It’s hard to believe that just a year ago I was eagerly waiting on admissions decisions. Today, I’m fully immersed. I really appreciate the sense of community. The spirit is not cut-throat, but collaborative.
Still exploring your part-time MBA options? Read more about the distinctions between the Evening & Weekend MBA program and the Berkeley MBA for Executives program.