By Belinda Lyons-Newman
For 15 years, Nicole Sanchez worked in the non-profit sector leading youth leadership and educational equity organizations around the country, including working on achievement gap issues as executive director of Berkeley Alliance.
As Sanchez took on increasing responsibility in her career, she decided she needed more organizational development expertise to make a deeper impact on the communities whose lives she was working to improve. With a full-time job and two school-age children, Sanchez did not see herself quitting her job to return full-time to school.
Then Sanchez heard about the Evening & Weekend MBA (EWMBA) program at the U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business and she knew it was the right place for her, just as I knew it was the right place for me.
The Berkeley EWMBA program is a three-year part-time MBA designed for working professionals. Students graduate with the same MBA as those in the full-time program, but students in the EWMBA (median age 32) generally have more work experience than the full-time students. They also bring their diverse professional lives into the classroom every day.
“The Evening & Weekend MBA Program offers you the opportunity to apply directly your learning,” said David Gent, the program’s executive director. “You take the concepts you learned on a Tuesday night about market entry and apply them the next week in a pitch to your boss. Business school learning is real-world.”
Many students in the EWMBA program, like me, have families. There are two part-time schedule options either on weeknights or Saturdays.
Beyond the convenience and location right here in Berkeley, Haas is a top-ranked business school with a stellar reputation. The Berkeley EWMBA program offers a rigorous general management curriculum geared for leaders of any type of organization, including global firms, start-ups and nonprofits. Beyond the fundamental core curriculum, students can customize their degree with electives in technology, entrepreneurship, real estate, energy and clean energy, or nonprofit.
Like Sanchez, I, too, was ready to deepen my skills but I thought it was too late for me to go to graduate school. When I heard about this program, it seemed like a perfect fit. I loved that it was right here in Berkeley and it offered the opportunity to continue my career while earning my MBA.
When I applied to the program, I was the executive director of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, a 60-year-old health advocacy nonprofit organization. I wanted to do the EWMBA program to learn about innovative information, research and practices in the nonprofit sector.
The core curriculum teaches students to have confidence without attitude, question the status quo, think beyond themselves , and seek to always continue learning. Students learn basic business skills and tools, but Haas also teaches students how to become innovative and responsible leaders who will strive to contribute new ideas to the major challenges of the world.
UC Professor Mark Rittenberg’s course, for example, focuses on what he considers “a global crisis of leadership and self-confidence.” By bringing in people to speak about various aspects of leadership, including self-development, managing people, building teams, and organizational leadership, students are trained in effective communications skills and leadership presence.
Although most students come to Haas from traditional business backgrounds in finance, technology, marketing or other fields at large corporations, Haas’ culture supports and attracts students from a variety of backgrounds. “I definitely did not (and still don’t!) consider myself a traditional business school student,” said Sanchez, now the EWMBA student association vice president. “I am a mom, an activist, and I have spent my career running non-profits. But I knew that I needed to learn the language of the private sector to have a significant impact on society.”
Juggling work, school and family was one of the hardest things I have ever taken on, but I have never regretted it. My experience in the Berkeley EWMBA program has changed who I am as a leader and has connected me with ideas, people and training that will benefit me for a lifetime.
Belinda Lyons-Newman lives in the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto with her husband Dan and two-year-old daughter, Ella. She is a nonprofit consultant and a student in the Evening and Weekend MBA program at the Haas School of Business.
Read the student blog, Ten Things I Learned at Haas.