A Haas Employee’s ExecEd Experience


A Conversation with Avni Kansara, Director of Student Experience, Haas School of Business

Headshot of Avni Kansara

Avni is no stranger to the UC Berkeley campus. Her current role as Director of Student Experience, Haas School of Business, focuses exclusively on the student experience. She partners directly with students attending evening and weekend courses, helping them successfully navigate their MBA programs. She also oversees four Haas signature events and leads a high-functioning team that supports student experience initiatives and program strategies. Avni is a Bay Area native and in her spare time enjoys writing fiction novels and spending quality time with her family.

We recently sat down with Avni to hear about her learning journey.

"My boss, Jamie Breen, first told me of a unique opportunity to experience UC Berkeley Executive Education’s premiere #ManagingMillenials program. I felt really excited; and the topic was of great interest to me. A lot of our students are millennials, and since I manage students on a daily basis – that’s my full-time job – I wanted to learn more about them, to better support them on a daily basis. I happen to also be a millennial, so what better way to know myself and my peers better? I’m at the tail end of the age group, a millennial elder!”

#ManagingMillennials, Learning A Generation’s Approach to Work

“The #ManagingMillennials program focused on how my generation thinks, how we behave, and what our rationale is. The professor, Holly Schroth, was an amazing teacher. I knew from working with students as a staff member that her courses were wildly popular. Now I see why. She’s dynamic, smart and kind, and the course challenged participants to look at things in new ways. It opened my mind to how I can better interact and support people of this age group. Taking the class was also very convenient for me as the classrooms are across the street from my office. I feel fortunate to have also received an employee tuition discount!”

“Not long after completing the program, I was promoted into a director role, my current position. I was initially hesitant about the new role because I hadn’t managed a team before. I talked to my supervisor about my desire to learn and grow as a manager, and that’s when I enrolled in Executive Education’s New Manager Bootcamp. I wanted to be the best director possible.”

New Manager Bootcamp: Leadership Styles in Action

“New Manager Bootcamp was eye-opening for me. It helped me look closely at my own leadership behaviors. During the program, we were instructed to have five of our colleagues assess and rate us as leaders. I was surprised by the results. There were certain areas where I thought I was a good leader, but saw through the eyes of others that I had some room to improve. We learned about the five leadership styles: Coercive, Visionary, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, and Coaching. One of the key learnings for me was going through the scenarios of when to apply each style – and when not to. That was immensely helpful and ever since then, I have become more thoughtful in how I approach everyday situations with my team.”

Real Tools to Use in My Day Job

“Another learning from the New Manager Bootcamp was the importance of cross-training team members on each other’s jobs, to help avoid a single-point-of-failure in the event of an absence. We’ve started doing bi-weekly cross-training staff meetings, and are in the process of sketching out everyone’s responsibilities. We have a lot of work to do to build this framework, but I believe it’s an important takeaway that I am now implementing.”

“I am also looking at ways to be a more strategic thinker and visionary leader. The program focused on the importance of having a vision – and communicating that vision effectively to a team. I’m excited for what’s possible as I learn and grow in this area.”

Connections – A Growing Network of Professionals

“Both programs were facilitated and organized in a way to provide ample opportunity to make connections and grow a professional network. Each day we were instructed to sit next to new people, to spur new conversations and connections. It’s impossible not to grow your network in Exec Ed programs.”

The Faculty

“As a Haas staff member, I’ve worked with Exec Ed professors from the staff side of things, and now I’ve had the benefit of learning from them in class. Engaging with them from both vantage points has only deepened my respect and fondness for them. Now when I communicate with participants in the course of my work, I share first-hand knowledge because I lived it. I can give new participants tangible, real-life examples of what to expect. It brings more value and authenticity to my daily job.”

“It’s regularly stated that Berkeley Exec Ed has the best and brightest professors. I hear that all the time as a Haas employee. And now, to have actually participated in several of the classes as a student, I can back up that statement with an even deeper conviction.”

Excited to be a Student Again

“Being a participant in these programs was fun – it was exciting to be a student again. I have an MBA, but had been nearly seven years since I was in the classroom as a student. I love learning and engaging in discussions and using my mind. I’m constantly trying to expand my knowledge and learn new techniques and procedures to be better at my job. It’s great to have access to a program like Exec Ed. I encourage anyone who can to take full advantage of it to give yourself that gift.”

Investing in Yourself

“Exec Ed has been one of the best investments I have made in myself. The programs helped me continue growing as a person and as a professional, and sparked my mind with the joy of learning. I consider myself a lifelong learner, what better way to do so than with bright professionals and brilliant faculty. I am so lucky!”

Go Deeper

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New Manager Training Course & Leadership Training | Berkeley ExecEd