News Release

New UC Davis MBA Immersions Focus on Food & Ag, Biotechnology, Sustainable Energy and Tech Finance
Top executives bring real-world challenges—and opportunities—to students

More than 40 top executives from leading corporations in the rapidly growing industries of food and agriculture, biotechnology, sustainable energy and technology finance will speak in a new series of Industry Immersion courses offered by the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

Together, the four courses to be offered in the 2018 winter quarter will combine the management school’s business expertise and corporate partner network with UC Davis’ global leadership in those areas. The Immersions will give MBA and graduate students from across the campus the opportunity to accelerate their knowledge of operations and practices, meet senior leaders and team up on real-world, hands-on company projects.

The Industry Immersions capitalize on UC Davis’ strengths and tap into Northern California’s innovation ecosystem. The goal is to better prepare the next generation of leaders in these key sectors..

“These Immersions will become the defining feature of our MBA program because there are no such experiences offered by any other program in the country,” says Unnava.

The Industry Immersion courses have been designed by both UC Davis faculty and industry executives to reflect the latest challenges in the industry. Classes will meet on Fridays and feature guest speakers who will take a deep dive into timely issues, then have students collaborate on developing solutions.

“We’re excited about this opportunity for our students,” says Mark Winey, dean of the College of Biological Sciences. “They get to work in multidisciplinary teams on real-world business challenges with business leaders.”

Helping to Feed a Growing World

As the No. 1 university in the nation for agricultural and plant sciences, UC Davis is a global leader blazing new trails in research in food systems, ranging from nutrition and agricultural economics to agtech innovation.

Campus researchers are on the front lines of efforts to feed the planet as the environment grows increasingly vulnerable, resources remain finite and the global population is expected to soar to 9 billion by 2050.

“There is no better place to be learning about the application of business principles to addressing and solving the pressing problems facing the food and agricultural industries,” says Julie Morris, academic coordinator for the Food and Agriculture Industry Immersion.

“New leaders need to be trained in effective ways to address these global challenges,” says Morris.

The Food and Agriculture Industry Immersion will benefit from UC Davis’ location in the agriculturally rich Central Valley near America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital of Sacramento, where state agriculture policy is made.

Morris has planned a diverse lineup of speakers that includes:

  • Ralph Jerome, vice president of innovation for Mars, Inc. 
  • Nancy Quan, global research and development officer for The Coca‐Cola Company 
  • Organic foods pioneer and UC Davis alumnus John Foraker, CEO and Co‐founder, Once Upon A Farm and former president of Annie’s Inc. 
  • Ned Spang, assistant professor of food science and technology and associate director of the UC Davis Center for Water‐Energy Efficiency 
  • Executives from HM.CLAUSE and McKinsey & Company

 “My favorite aspect of the class was meeting and working with master’s and Ph.D. students across the campus in developing solutions to the cases we were presented with,” said MBA student Benjamin Powers, who participated in a pilot of the Food and Agriculture Industry Immersion last spring.

“The relationships I gained from this class have been very instrumental in opening career opportunities for me within the food and ag space.”

“I am pleased to see the development of the industry immersion program as collaborations with our industry partners are essential to the global education we believe in here at UC Davis,” says Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. 

Disruption in biotech

Biotechnology today is a $400 billion global market with an estimated 77,000 companies. Continued growth in the industry hinges on scientific innovations and expert leadership and management.

The Biotechnology Industry Immersion will focus on innovations in pharmaceuticals, pathways to the marketplace, raising capital, regulatory processes, big data analytics and marketing new and future technologies within this highly disruptive industry. MBA students will work closely with graduate students and doctoral candidates in science and engineering.

“The students will gain valuable training in problem solving within a cross-disciplinary environment, as well as network with leaders in the biotech and pharma industry,” said Judith Kjelstrom, academic coordinator for the Biotechnology Immersion and director of the UC Davis Biotechnology Program, which covers 20 STEM disciplines.

Kjelstrom’s confirmed speakers include:

  • Sharon Barclay Kime, U.S. head of regulatory intelligence for Genentech
  • Glenn Nedwin, CEO and president for Second Genome, Inc.
  • Craig Shimasaki, president and CEO of Moleculera Labs
  • Chris Calderaro III, senior vice president for Global Manufacturing at BioMarin Pharmaceuticals

“Having our industry partners spend half-day interactive sessions with the students is such a gift,” said Kjelstrom. “Their real-life experiences are invaluable to our students.”

Beyond Fossil Fuels: Sustainable Energy Transformation

The increase in the global population, alterations in climate patterns, the possibility of exhausting fossil fuel reserves, the challenge to produce, store, and distribute energy while minimizing negative effects on the environment have all become critical to global development and security.

“The problems that face energy-intensive industries are complex and multi-faceted,” says Nicole Biggart, research professor at the management school and former faculty director of the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center. “Science and management both play critical roles in getting the best solutions.”

Biggart, an internationally recognized expert in the organizational theory and management of innovation, will partner with UC Davis MBA alumnus Benjamin Finkelor, executive director of the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center, to lead the Sustainable Energy Industry Immersion.

“Our main objective is to continue to build on the unparalleled reputation of UC Davis in sustainable energy and transportation by training students to examine problems comprehensively in interdisciplinary teams,” says Biggart.

Students will hear from global energy industry executives and policymakers, including: 

  • Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy at Walmart
  • Russell Read, chief investment officer of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.
  • Fong Wan, senior vice president of Energy Policy and Procurement at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company

“Many of our students are craving the kind of information and opportunities that the immersion program will provide, which links their technical knowledge with the business world,” says Jennifer Curtis, dean of the College of Engineering.

Preparing Agile Tech Company Finance Leaders

The CFO for Technology Industry Immersion will help bring students up to speed to meet the demands as a chief financial officer or similar lead finance role in fast-moving, nimble tech firms. Silicon Valley and other high-tech hubs are seeking more agile CFOs who can think fast and outside of the box, with less of the institutional establishment backgrounds.

Ayako Yasuda, associate professor of finance at the Graduate School of Management, will guide students through the unique facets of tech industry financial planning, forming ventures, fundraising stages, initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions.

“The roles of CFOs are evolving more generally in the economy as a whole, but in the technology sector that is happening much faster,” says Yasuda. “And being a part of that evolution is an interesting learning experience.”

Yasuda’s scheduled speakers include:

  • Mike Kourey, CFO of Medallia, Inc.
  • David Cole, vice president and head of integration at Intuit
  • Mike Coffey, senior vice president of Global Delivery and Assurance at AT&T
  • Brian Moriarty, CFO of twoXAR, Inc.
  • David Faugno, CFO of Qualtrics

About the UC Davis Graduate School of Management

The UC Davis Graduate School of Management is focused on preparing the next generation of inspired, results-driven and innovative leaders who are committed to making a positive impact. Its collaborative learning environment is distinguished by globally visible faculty members renowned for their research and teaching, entrepreneurial students and a bold and innovative MBA curriculum. With five prime locations in Northern California’s economic hubs, the School offers Full-Time MBA and Master of Professional Accountancy programs at the UC Davis campus, Part-Time MBA programs in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, and a Master of Science in Business Analytics program in San Francisco.