Berkeley MBA for Executives grads urged to embrace adversity, “go beyond yourself”

"Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself," Dean Harrison told the graduates.

“Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself,” Dean Harrison told the graduates. (Left to right) Audrey Ng, Katherine Mlika, Shalaka Kharche, and Rohini Panjrath. All photos: Jim Block

Be open to risk, embrace adversity, and go beyond yourself were inspiring messages delivered to 69 students in the Berkeley MBA for Executives (EMBA) Class of 2018 who graduated last Saturday.

“We live in challenging times,” said commencement speaker Tootie Tatum, EMBA 15, CEO of Blackhawk Genomics. “There’s no shortage of tribalism, cynicism, or discord. You are truly empowered to change that tide in the world because if you don’t, who will?”

At a ceremony packed with students’ friends and family in Hertz Hall, Dean Ann Harrison praised the class for persevering through 19 months of a rigorous management and leadership curriculum—all the while managing demanding jobs, and maintaining active family and social lives.

“Many of you traveled long distances to take classes,” said Harrison, who presided over her first commencement as new dean. “This wasn’t always easy. Finding ways to balance all of these commitments is nothing short of remarkable, and we applaud you. After this, you can accomplish anything.”

Dean Harrison with Valedictorian Jim Griffin.

Dean Harrison with Valedictorian Jim Griffin who “excelled in the program and encouraged others to excel as well.”

Jessica LaBounty, chosen as the class student speaker, described the support that her classmates provided each other. “Our cohort family has become a new and powerful kind of mirror,” she said. “In this mirror, we have the opportunity to see ourselves not as our families see us, not as our work colleagues see us, and certainly not as we see ourselves. This Haas mirror has the remarkable ability of showing us who we are capable of being. This mirror, this faith we have in each other, is full of optimism and bravery.”

Together, the group experienced the Haas School’s unique brand of experiential learning, which comprises 25 percent of the curriculum. At the heart of this EMBA format are five immersive learning experiences led by Haas faculty on location: leadership communications in Napa, applied innovation in San Francisco, entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, business and corporate social responsibility in Copenhagen, and policy in Washington DC.

Distinguished Teaching Fellow Veselina Dinova received the Earl F. Cheit Award For Excellence In Teaching for her instruction.

“In (the course) Financial Information Analysis, Veselina made the fine print of financial statements come alive with her infectious enthusiasm for this characteristically dry topic,” Jay Stowsky, senior dean of instruction, said before presenting the award.

The award for outstanding graduate student instructor went to Auyon Siddiq, who was the GSI for Prof. Lucas Davis’ Data & Decisions course.

Grads were surrounded by friends and family at Saturday's EMBA commencement.

Graduates were surrounded by friends and family at Saturday’s commencement.

Stowsky also delivered the Valedictorian Award to Jim Griffin. “Our valedictorian award goes beyond celebrating the student with the highest GPA,” he said. “It also celebrates the student who excels in an intense and accelerated environment. Not only did Jim excel in the program—he encouraged others to excel as well.”

The ceremony included Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles Awards, which went to Michael Guimarin (Question the Status Quo), Kate Mansalis & Ron Sasaki (Confidence Without Attitude), Jim Griffin (Students Always), and Laura Hassner (Beyond Yourself). A 5th Principle award, for embodying all four principles while always choosing graciousness, went to Wendi Chiong and Brian Tajo.

Tatum, who holds a PhD in biomedical sciences and has made her mark in genomics, urged graduates to be open to risk, and welcome adversity with open arms. But she also noted that there’s a safety net available to them if they fall.

EMBA Class of 2018

The EMBA 2018 Class

“Know that this Haas fellowship that you are now a part of is for a lifetime,” she said. “Everyone here who has come before you, we are really your safety net.”

Harrison closed the ceremony with a reflection on Martin Luther King Jr.

“Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself,” she said. “In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrated on Monday: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?'”

Chris Larocca and Trevor Buehl chaired this year’s EMBA student campaign, raising almost $60,000 to support faculty and student excellence at Haas.

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