On day six of an Andes climbing trek, a group of 10 Berkeley Haas students were descending from the peak of 17,800-foot Cerro el Plomo, near Santiago, Chile, when a powerful lightning storm rolled in earlier than expected.
The group rushed down the mountain, fearing they could be hit at any moment. “You could hear the (hiking) poles crackling,” said Harris Googe, the MBA student who was the team leader that day. After a day of climbing that started well before dawn, Googe thought that the hard part was behind them, only to realize the danger of being exposed on a ridge at such a high altitude. “My hair was standing on end out from my hood and standing straight up,” she said.
The descent — while more extreme than most — reflects what MBA students at Haas might experience in a new course taught by professors Jennifer Chatman and Omri Even-Tov. The two-credit class, Extreme Leadership, offers treks to either the Andes or Patagonia, and are designed to bring classroom learning to a new level, says Even-Tov, who joined the Andes trek.
“In class, you learn and simulate different situations,” he said. “But the outdoor experience allows you to apply those lessons and learn more about leadership in an intense environment. The outdoor experience is particularly critical for testing leadership attributes like empathy, sensitivity, collaboration, communication, and awareness during a real-life challenge.”