For Genevieve Wang, MBA 12, a job as a Jamba Juice marketing manager before business school, the social gaming craze, and Dow Chemical Co. have blended together into a powerful recipe for social entrepreneurship.
Wang and MBA 2012 classmates Sarah Friedman, Jamie Kong, and Galina Vlaeva won a $10,000 sustainability grant from the Dow Chemical Co. Foundation in April. This summer, Wang, Friedman, and Kong will develop a website and mobile application, called BetterUp, for users to challenge friends and colleagues to engage in healthy behavior and earn rewards.
"We are going to get that really exciting experience of starting a company, where we're assigning roles and responsibilities, creating an operating plan, establishing goals, and managing our budget," says Wang, who pitched the idea in her Entrepreneurship class.
BetterUp is the latest of more than 40 student and faculty projects to benefit from UC Berkeley's partnership with the Dow Chemical Co. Foundation. In 2007, Haas and the College of Chemistry developed the Sustainable Products and Solutions (SPS) Program with a five-year, multimillion-dollar commitment from the foundation. In 2010, Kimberly-Clark and Waste Management Inc. extended the program.
The draw for Dow was Berkeley's top business and chemistry schools and multidisciplinary approach to education, says Dave Kepler, chief sustainability officer at Dow and a Cal alum. Since earning his chemical engineering degree in 1975, Kepler has worked his way up at Dow into his current role, which also includes chief sustainability officer and executive vice president, business services.
"Dow is committed to developing our products with a focus beyond just performance or profit–to also create a positive outcome for society and the environment," says Kepler. "We feel investment in curriculum and research that address product capabilities and societal impacts at the same time can make a difference in how our world will prosper in the future."
Haas graduates also are playing a role in Dow's sustainability strategy by taking jobs with the company, a large global supplier of products for almost all business segments, from solar power to water purification to electronics. Kimberly Petska, MBA 11, landed a position at Dow as a global strategic business manager, working with a direct report in China and a team in Brazil. Her job will involve finding and providing technology solutions for large electronics and consumer companies.
"It's an exciting time because Dow is at an inflection point," says Petska, suggesting that Dow has transitioned from a commodities company to a firm known for developing technology solutions.
Tony Kingsbury is the face of Dow at Berkeley-Haas. Kingsbury, the Dow executive-in-residence in Haas' Center for Responsible Business, teaches courses on sustainability metrics while administering the Sustainable Products and Solutions Program. This spring, Sara Beckman, co-chair of the Haas School's Fisher Center for Management & Technology, and Visiting Scholar Omar Romero- Hernandez were on teams that won SPS grants for supply chain research.
Meanwhile, the BetterUp team won the Dow Challenge at Berkeley, one of seven universities worldwide to host a Dow competition. In October, Berkeley will host an event for the seven schools' winning teams.
And how exactly does BetterUp relate to sustainability?
"At the core, it's not sustainable for people to be consuming so much. It is contributing to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which leads to more heart attacks," explains Wang. "These unsustainable health habits are leading to serious health issues. We're helping people build longterm, sustainable, healthy habits."