“The world needs more leaders like you,” 2024 Berkeley Haas EMBA grads told

two women in cap and gown hugging
A joyful EMBA class graduated June 1. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

During a joyful commencement ceremony, 72 students in the newly minted class of Berkeley Haas Executive MBAs were urged to continue to draw on the great people in their circles and pursue their true life passions.

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed students, their families, and friends to 2024 commencement on June 1 at Hertz Hall.

“You have conquered one of the world’s top EMBA programs,” she said. “You did it! In your student lives, your work lives, and your personal lives, you have learned and led with authenticity, collaboration, and inclusiveness.”

Harrison noted more than half of the class came to Haas having already earned an advanced degree, eight are U.S. service members, and more than half are parents, altogether with 79 children. “Having juggled spreadsheets and sleep training, you deserve your own category of MBA: master of balancing acts,” Harrison said.

man carrying child on commencement stage
More than half of the EMBA class are parents. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

She added that Haas will now always be a part of students’ journeys.

“Your classmates, your professors, and, of course, your alumni network. …They will be some of your biggest champions throughout your professional life,” she said.

Student Speaker Lee Helms, director of Innovation Programs at the the San Francisco Opera, told the class that when he first thought about what an MBA experience would be like, imposter syndrome set in.

“Imposter syndrome, in fact, is not uncommon,” he said. “Many of us have talked about it. But what I learned at Haas is the things about me that I thought made me an imposter are the very same things that give me strength as a leader.”

Commencement Speaker Richard Wilson, EMBA 15, senior vice president at Astellas Pharma, noted that an MBA, at its core, is a leadership credential.  “We are in a moment where the world needs more leaders like you who can lead with empathy, clarity, and tolerance, with a focus on others over self and the ability to never take oneself too seriously,” he said. “If you do this right, your job becomes to not just become a singular leader, but to create other leaders in turn and get out of their way.”

five people wearing regalia in front of the Campanile
Dean Ann Harrison (middle) before EMBA commencement. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Elizabeth Stanners, executive director of the EMBA Program, announced the Earl F. Cheit Award winners and student awards, including:

  • Steven Huff, the faculty Cheit Award winner. Huff has taught graduate courses on marketing strategy, digital marketing, and creativity and problem-solving for more than 14 years across four universities, comprising more than 50 courses and reaching more than 2,000 students.
  • Lokesh Mandava, the graduate student instructor Cheit Award winner.

Afsheen Iftikhar was the EMBA 2024 valedictorian, having earned the highest GPA during the program.

Defining Leadership Principles award winners included:

  • Michelle KofflerQuestion the Status Quo Award.
  • Dennis Worden, Confidence Without Attitude Award.
  • Peter Fung, Students Always Award.
  • Eric Koo, Beyond Yourself Award.
  • Audrey McGrath and Dennis Worden, Berkeley Leader Award, given to students who represent all four of the DLPs.

Before handing out degrees, Stanners acknowledged the many people “supported our EMBAs throughout this extraordinary and transformative journey.”

“In recognition of this support, every student will be presented with two yellow roses, symbolizing gratitude, to offer those that have aided them along the way,” she said. “These roses, given to students, will be shared with those individuals who supported them, symbolizing the shared journey and gratitude for their unwavering support. that they will give to those that helped support them.”