MBA student looks for exploratory intersections of new ideas, people

By Susan Petty

Matt Dunn, EMBA 19, is always picking up new things to learn and seeking to expand his world with new people and ideas. During his time at Haas, this impulse has crystallized into a dependable modus operandi through immersion experiences, coursework, and service opportunities. In fact, his participation in the Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Immersion week with Professor Toby Stuart was a key part of his learning.

“That particular immersion week was great," he says. “Toby teaches that new ideas and opportunities arise when you put yourself at the crossroads of flows of interesting ideas and people. It takes some practice to learn to notice these ‘exploratory intersections’ in our lives, but it's worth it.”

Prior to his current job at Cordis, Matt served seven years as an officer in the US Navy, both deployed on a submarine and as a controller for operations in Europe and Africa. He sees parallels between his work there and pursuing the executive MBA, a 19-month program which consists of five field immersions and course “blocks” (three-to-four-day class sessions that convene once a month) over five terms.

"On the submarine, you're in a high-pressure environment for long hours, and you have to pay close attention the whole time,” he says. “It's a similar type of mental stamina needed in the executive program.”

Part of what Matt has learned about himself during his time at Haas is that he wants to focus the energy of his day-to-day work on leadership and strategy rather than product or processes. He seeks to take a big-picture view in business. He was inspired in this by Professor Peter Goodson's Turnarounds: Effective Leadership in Crisis course.

“Peter taught us how to come into a business situation, understand what's causing the chaos, and move in a strategic direction to mitigate that,” Matt says.

His participation in the Berkeley Board Fellows program, a seven-month fellowship that pairs MBA students with nonprofits around the Bay Area to serve as board members, has also shaped Matt's macro perspective. He started last October with Sweetwater Spectrum, an organization that provides housing solutions for autistic adults; the partnership was so successful that he was asked to continue on the board beyond the April end date.

“Working with Sweetwater has been a fantastic practical experience,” he says. “I've gotten the chance to apply what I've learned straight from the classroom to the boardroom, and to think about business problems from different angles.”

Haas itself is an exploratory intersection point, and studying here has allowed him to better define his own career trajectory as well as learn from his peers. It also offered a unique family bonding experience. Matt’s wife and two young children journey with him from their home in Fremont every month to enjoy their own Berkeley block adventure, visiting museums, campus, and local parks while he's in class.


“The whole cohort experience has been special,” he says. “There's this base layer of learning the disciplines of finance, economics, and operations, but there's also the challenge to discover what's important to you and to bring your best self to the table—while also appreciating what others have to offer. Haas has helped me investigate how to incorporate broader themes like social impact and entrepreneurship into my work life, and has encouraged me to pursue what energizes me.”

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Posted on November 14, 2019
Susan Petty
Susan is Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program. She has nearly twenty years of experience in marketing and advertising, having worked in several different industries including technology, travel, healthcare -- and many others from her media planning days at J. Walter Thompson where her clients included Chevron, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle, and Ford. She enjoys advising prospective students and guiding them through their personal MBA experience.