UC Berkeley (Haas) to expand its undergrad business program to four years

BY Sydney LakeJuly 20, 2022, 4:23 PM
People walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus, as seen in March 2022 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It may be the second-oldest business school in the U.S., but the University of California—Berkeley (Haas) continues to find new ways to improve its business school offerings. On Tuesday, the school announced that its two-year undergraduate business program will become a four-year program, thanks to a $30 million donation—the largest the school has ever received. 

“Currently, Haas undergraduate students feel a sense of urgency to take advantage of multiple opportunities within a two-year timeframe,” Emma Hayes Daftary, assistant dean of undergraduate programs at Haas, tells Fortune. “The four-year experience will allow our students to focus on being students and learning, rather than devoting time to a very competitive application process halfway through their college experience.”

In recognition of the gift from Haas alumnus Warren “Ned” Spieker and his wife, Carol, the four-year undergraduate program will be referred to as the Spieker Undergraduate Business Program, with the first four-year cohort enrolling in August 2024.

Before this change, students applied to the Haas undergraduate program as sophomores and enrolled as juniors. Incoming students will now have the option to apply directly to Haas and enter as a freshman. For now, current UC Berkeley students and transfer students can still apply as sophomores.

“A four-year undergraduate business experience will provide remarkable new opportunities for students,” Ned Spieker, a Haas School Board member and founder and former chairman and CEO of Spieker Properties, said in a statement announcing the donation. “My hope is that this gift will help build a program that’s second-to-none in the world, cementing Haas as the top undergraduate business school for generations to come.” Fortune ranks Haas as having the No. 13 full-time MBA program in the U.S.. 

The application process and curriculum

While Berkeley Haas is doubling the amount of time spent in the business major for undergraduate students, the curriculum of the program will not change. Rather, the school is exploring the option to add on an upper-level capstone leadership course, Daftary says.

In addition to the traditional core curriculum, freshman and sophomore students will participate in co-curricular activities intended to help them acclimate to college, explore career options, and work on leadership development. 

Candidates for the program should “demonstrate an interest in business—whether that be through their extracurriculars or through completion of coursework that aligns with the business curriculum,” Daftary says. To earn admission to the program, applicants will be evaluated on academic performance and activities, but the university doesn’t consider standardized test scores, like the ACT or SAT.

Current UC students will be able to continue to apply for admission to the Haas undergraduate program, but as the school further transitions to the four-year program, there will be fewer spots for Berkeley students entering the major as juniors, Daftary adds.

How the gift is making impact

The $30 million gift from the Spiekers is five-fold: It will go toward scholarship development, academic advising, student experiences, co-curricular activities, and classroom technology.

In each undergraduate class, three or four students will be invited to the Spieker Scholars program, which provides additional scholarship money to students who may have “financial barriers” to attending the university. “For these students, the expansion of the program—and the financial support provided—will increase their opportunity for upward mobility through mastery of business fundamentals and access to internships and career opportunities through the Haas alumni network,” Daftary says.

The Spieker donation will also go toward expanding academic advising, business prep courses, mental health services, marketing and admissions, alumni outreach, and new student orientation. In addition, Haas will work to provide more experiential workshops, research opportunities, social gatherings, and conferences and competitions. Finally, the school will upgrade its undergraduate classrooms with new audio, visual, and media equipment. 

“This is a historic, game-changing investment in undergraduate business education,” Berkeley Haas Dean Ann E. Harrison said in a statement announcing the donation. ”We are so thrilled that Ned and Carol have made a commitment to Haas toward building the next generation of business leaders.”

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