I recently chatted with Peter Johnson, Director of Admissions at the Haas School of Business, about the new curriculum that Haas announced a couple of weeks ago. Peter clarified specific aspects of the new curriculum and also discussed with me its impact on applicants. This post is a summary of our discussion.
Linda Abraham: How does the new curriculum differ from Haas’ previous focus on Leading Though Innovation? Is it window dressing or is it really new? Is it evolutionary or revolutionary?
Peter Johnson: The new curriculum represents more of an enhancement than a revolutionary change in direction or values. With our new curriculum we are continuing to sharpen our focus on innovative leadership without abandoning a thorough grounding in business fundamentals in our core courses.
The new curriculum initiatives include:
- A total rewrite of our leadership communication course and our “Leading People” core courses.
- Expanded experiential learning opportunities
- Berkeley Innovative Leader Development (BILD), which teaches an approach for managing innovative processes.
LA: Could you provide a little more information about BILD?
PJ: BILD provides the framework that students will use throughout their time at Haas and beyond. Haas alumni will be able to use it when approaching any innovative process, whether business process redesign, strategic redesign, product development, technology innovation, or any other innovative course of action in the business realm.
The BILD approach will be incorporated throughout the MBA curriculum, both in core and elective courses, and will include a coaching component. It will teach in a practical sense problem-finding, problem-solving, and ideation skills; it ultimately nurtures a thought process that will complement the solid core business fundamentals taught at Haas, and prepare our graduates to lead in a dynamic, fluid business environment.
LA: How do Haas’ four defining principles fit with the new curriculum? [The principles are: 1) Question the Status Quo. 2) Confidence without Attitude. 3) Students Always. 4) Beyond Yourself.]
PJ: These cultural principles aren’t new. Let me give you a little background: Over the last 18 months, Haas has gone through an extensive period of reflection and examination. We asked many members of our extended community, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and recruiters, about the Haas culture. What makes Haas different? We assessed our values and our strengths, analyzed the results, and distilled it all into these four actionable principles.
LA: What are the implications for applicants of the new curriculum, BILD, and the explicit statement of the four defining principles?
PJ: We don’t expect applicants to come to the Haas MBA program knowing BILD. We do expect them to want to learn it. We are going to teach this approach to innovation throughout the MBA program.
We will, however, seek applicants who share Haas’ commitment to the four defining principles before they set foot on campus. And by stating them explicitly, we intend people to pay more attention to them. If you aren’t interested in representing those values–that is, if you don’t share those values—then this isn’t the place for you. We seek applicants who identify with the four defining values, live according to them, and want to deepen their commitment to them while at Haas.
LA: Since Haas is stating so clearly and succinctly what it cares about, are you worried that you will get a lot of talk about lifelong learning, commitment to the world outside yourself, questioning the status quo, confidence without attitude—in other words, “keyword stuffing” in applications?
PJ: We will look for evidence that the applicants can walk the walk as well as talk to the talk. We want to see evidence, not just words. We will seek ways to make those values demonstrable through our application.
However, I would advise applicants to be realistic about themselves and our expectations. We don’t expect them to have had massive impact with a few years of full-time work experience. Meaningful examples don’t have to be at the enterprise level. Substantive examples can relate just to your task and your boss in your department or team. Some applicants are afraid they haven’t done anything compelling, but more often than not they have, and if they can effectively communicate those examples in the application process, they will do fine.
- UC Berkeley Haas B-School Zone
- Leadership in Admissions, a free, special report.
- “Shhh…I’m Going to Tell You a Personal Statement Secret!”
Graphic by Sarah Abraham (c) 2010 All Rights Reserved