Part II of our Q & A with Berkeley EMBA Assistant Dean Mike Rielly


Assistant Dean for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program Mike RiellyWhen we last spoke with Berkeley MBA for Executives Assistant Dean Mike Rielly, we focused on the program’s commitment to experiential learning through its five immersion weeks. This time, we talk about other aspects of program curriculum, as well as what most surprises students, what is most important for them to know up front, and the best ways to assess program fit.

What should prospective students know about the Berkeley EMBA’s curriculum?

 Our promise is to develop leaders who are equipped to deliver innovation at scale. We build executive-level fluency in business fundamentals through our core courses, strengthen that with elective coursework, and, once each term, take learning into the field for experiential immersion weeks. Twenty-five percent of our curriculum is experiential – it’s important to note there is no other MBA program so deeply committed to this incredibly effective learning model.

Tell us more about elective courses.

We offer what we call anchor electives, which focus on the key areas of executive skill we believe students need to complement their core, and to be increasingly capable of delivering this innovation at scale: leadership, entrepreneurship, strategy, and finance.

Anchor electives include very popular courses such as Negotiations, Executive Leadership, New Venture Finance, Corporate Finance, Global Strategy and Turnarounds. To add more breadth, we also cross-list special-interest electives, such as a new Food Venture Lab, Game Theory and a blended Marketing course, with our other MBA programs. This is one distinct advantage of an EMBA program that’s integrated into a larger campus community.

Berkeley-Haas Professor Jennifer Chatman

Independent study is another way to go deep on a niche topic. Many of our EMBAs take advantage of relationships developed with faculty in this way, engaging with Sara Beckman on design thinking, Dana Carney on leading people,  Maura O’Neill on venture finance and Toby Stuart on entrepreneurship and innovation, for example.

What are student/faculty relationships like in this executive MBA program?

EMBAs are our most professionally experienced student population. Along with the unique nature of block scheduling (three intense days about every three weeks), the experience our students bring to the classroom leads to an incredibly engaged dynamic.  Our faculty love this dynamic – their research and teachings are challenged by real world examples that students bring to class, and they know students are applying their learning in the workplace in real time.

In other words, EMBA classrooms are lively. Our faculty often receive standing ovations at the end of the term and are often engaged again for independent study, teaching an advanced elective in their subject matter, and/or for professional advice as the students' careers progress.

We also arrange intimate student-faculty dinners each block, and during our field immersions there is intense 24/7 student-faculty engagement in places like Napa, Silicon Valley, Chicago, Washington D.C., Brazil and Singapore.

in a Berkeley MBA for Executives classroom

What most surprises students about the program?

The quality, diversity and depth of each cohort. An absolutely consistent observation among all our students is, “Wow, this admissions department did a great job. This is an incredible cohort—and personal and professional network.”

What might be most helpful for them to know before starting the program?   

That the program is intense, accelerated, and requires stamina and the ability to compartmentalize to really excel. Expect to feel it right out of the chute, but know that students work through it by the end of the first term.  

They’re typically ready for Block 1, borderline overwhelmed by Blocks 2 and 3, and relieved and proud to finish Block 4 in better shape than expected. Then it's off to the Leadership Communication Immersion, which is when we see the character of each cohort emerge, significant personal growth, and a big moment of, "We did it!  We're all still here and ready to keep rolling."

Along the way, early in the program, they start making more informed choices and adjustments in all areas of their lives that facilitate greater comfort with and success in the program.

Also, it’s important to know up front that there’s a zero‑tolerance policy for missing courses and immersions, unless there's a personal or family emergency.  We provide all prospective students with the full schedule through the end of their program, and ask them to clear any personal or professional scheduling conflicts.  This is because the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program is a significant investment of their time and money, and requires a full commitment in order to experience maximum return on that investment. 

How can prospective students best assess program fit?

By really taking the time to get a sense of the student experience. Come to admissions events, sit in on classes, talk with students, meet the faculty, meet the program office, and see what it’s really like.

We have a lot of confidence in who we are, and we believe that the more prospective students get to know our program, our promise, and our  distinctive school culture, the more they'll come away with a clear sense, either way, that "This place is for me," or, "This place is not for me."

Hopefully, they’ll get a sense of the transformations undergone by many of our students and of how the Haas community—from faculty and fellow students to alumni and staff—supports those transformations.  It’s amazing what you can do when surrounded by people who have your back—personally and professionally—during the program and for the rest of your life.”

Want to learn more about the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program? Request information, and we'll keep you updated on special events and the latest news. 

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About The Author

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.