MBA teams competed for top prizes at the 5th annual Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition last Friday, pitching ideas to address issues of exclusion, marginalization, and belonging at the workplace and beyond.
The Berkeley Haas team, Firstly, pitched a virtual mentorship program that aims to help first-generation college students with on-campus recruitment and internship placement. The team tied for second place and won $5,000 in prize money.
Team members included Kevin Hu, Divya Vijapurapu, Elle Wisnicki, all MBA 22; Austin Long, MBA 23; Stacey Li, BA 15, and Leanne Do, BA 19 (both from UC Irvine).
Other winning teams included:
First place: Innerlytic Innerlytic offers an online assessment tool that helps people detect their inner-biases. The team included Jordan Rose, MBA 22, (Yale School of Management) and Vernae Rahman-Smith, MSW 20, (Howard University). The team won $8,000.
Second place: Firstly and Paraventures Paraventures provides outdoor excursions for people with disabilities. Team members included Yosuke Ochiai, Cassandra Christian, and Vincenzo Morla, all MBA 22, from IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. Firstly and Paraventures each won $5,000 in prize money.
Third place: Nema Nema is an AI and natural language processing (NLP) tool that aims to help businesses better understand and reach multicultural audiences. Team members included Mbere Monjok, Keyaira Lock Adewunmi, Braylong Gurnell, Carmen Del Valle, all MBA 23, from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. The team won $2,000 in prize money.
The competition truly embodies the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles, said Genevieve Smith, associate director of EGAL. “Our hope is that this competition will help move the needle forward in creating a more equitable society for all,” she said.
“Competitions like these are changing the way people are valued at work and how they show up at work,” said Ulili Onovakpuri, who served as one of the judges and is a partner at venture capital firm Kapor Capital. “Companies are beginning to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and are changing organizational structures.”
Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison urged the 79 Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) graduates at Friday’s commencement to “use their power wisely” as they are at the center of global change.
“Your work is at the heart–the very foundation–of business and governments around the world,” said Harrison who commended the MFE class of 2022 for completing one of the most rigorous financial engineering programs in the world.
“You are at the heart of the sea change in banking, the financial system, global supply chains, and so much more that is transforming our world.”
As parting words to graduates, Harrison encouraged them to lean into the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles whenever they’re at a crossroad and to never forget their 40,000-strong Haas family.
Jacob Gallice, program director of the MFE program, praised the tight-knit class who successfully navigated their program–amid a global pandemic–for their perseverance and their desire to better themselves professionally and personally.
“If this year has taught you anything, it’s that life will throw many challenges at you. It’s up to you how you respond to those challenges,” Gallice said at the ceremony held in person at UC Berkeley’s International House.
“I hope you will take with you the tools, lessons, and skills which you have learned this past year to navigate your lives with the same prowess you’ve shown during your time at Berkeley.”
Commencement speaker Robert Litterman, founding partner of Kepos Capital, spoke to the importance of investing in oneself by developing strong social networks, finding work that will engage one’s talents, and exploring ways to give back to society.
“Take what you’ve learned here, think deliberately about your financial and social capital, and give back to society,” said Litterman. “You will be richly rewarded.”
The commencement ceremony also included a tribute video to Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program, who established the program 21 years ago; a keynote from Jim Gilliland, MFE 02, president and CEO of Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel; and speeches from student speakers Joseph Yang and Edward Huang who reminisced about their class gatherings, including trips to Napa and Lake Tahoe.
Members of the class of 2022 will go on to work at leading global financial firms, including Barclays, Blackstone, Morgan Stanley, PIMCO, Goldman Sachs, Citadel, and Credit Suisse.
And now for the awards…
Award winners at commencement included:
Valedictorian: Sarthak Sagar
Salutatorian: Pradeepta Das
Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Professor Eric Reiner
Haas Graduate Student Instructor Award: Nicolas Corthorn
Embodiment of All Four Defining Principles: Dmitry Silantyev
Alumni Award: Wen Luo, Morgan Kidd, Paul-Noel Digard, Atanas Vanchev, Peisen Ma
Morgan Stanley Applied Finance Project Prize: Krishna Goel, Apeksha Jain, Alec Madayan, Shrey Samdani, and Dmitry Silantyev for Using Option-Implied Correlations for Derivatives Pricing and Alpha Generation. Advisor: Professor Kevin Coldiron. (The award includes a $5,000 to be shared among all team members.)
New class arrives
Meanwhile, the MFE class of 2023–a total of 79 full-time and seven part-time students–began classes today. Students in the incoming class come from 17 countries, including the U.S., Chile, China, France, Malaysia, Morocco, India, Lebanon, and Switzerland. Women make up about a third of the class.
Big Give, the annual 24-hour online campuswide fundraising campaign, brought in nearly $2.5 million in donations to Berkeley Haas this year.
With a total of 911 gifts from donors, Haas broke last year’s record of 830 gifts, raising $2,475,738. (The entire Berkeley community raised $20,739,038.) The event kicked off virtually on March 10 at 9 p.m.
In addition to placing third on the leaderboard for the most money raised by a department, college, or program, Haas also claimed prizes for:
Top fund with the most faculty and staff
Top fund with the most graduate student donors
Top fund with the most international donors during the designated challenge hours
Other successes included $295,000 in challenge matches given by The Robert W. Witter Family Foundation, Leah Sutton, Regie & David Eberhart, Mike & Linda Gallagher, Jerry & Melody Weintraub, Ellie & Tom Wehlen, Tad Freese & Brook Hartzell, Marc & Rowena Singer, Dean Ann Harrison, and an anonymous donor.
Throughout the day, undergraduate students, led by Armaan Ismail, BS 23, organized games such as Jenga and set up a photo booth in the courtyard to educate other students about the importance of philanthropy at Haas.
Big Give launched in 2014 to give the entire Berkeley community—alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends—the chance to support their favorite schools and programs and to help those schools and programs win prize money.
If you missed Big Give, it’s still possible to donate.
Healthcare inequities, provider burnout, and precision medicine to predict and treat disease are among the topics on tap for the upcoming Haas Healthcare Conference.
“Meeting this Moment in Healthcare” is the theme for this year’s event, which will be held virtually March 10-11. The annual conference, organized by the student-led Haas Healthcare Association, will span two days.
Conference organizers are Abhishek Gupta, Nick Helgeson, and Taryn Stromback, all MBA 22.
“COVID-19 has not only shined a light on gaps in the healthcare system, but it has also accelerated the funding and innovation in the industry needed to address those challenges,” said Stromback. “Our conference brings together leaders from across all healthcare sectors to discuss how the industry is using this momentum to drive change today, and how this will shape the future of health.”
Somesh Dash, BS 01, general partner at venture capital firm IVP, will kick off Thursday’s session with a fireside chat, followed by a panel discussion on growing early-stage startups and a pitch competition, where eight UC Berkeley and UCSF startups will present to healthcare venture capitalists.
Friday’s line-up includes keynotes from David Rhew, global chief medical officer and VP of Healthcare at Microsoft, and Heather Mirjahangir Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of Solv.
The day also includes panel discussions on addressing systemic healthcare inequities in the US; the power of precision medicine in predicting, preventing, and treating disease; provider burnout and the future of the clinician workforce; and why women’s health should be everyone’s issue.
The conference is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased here.
Increased family responsibilities and burnout are just a couple of outcomes brought on by the pandemic, pushing many women to reevaluate everything from relationships to family planning to work.
The 26th annual Women in Leadership Conference intends to carry that conversation forward and inspire attendees to redefine their professional and personal lives under this year’s theme “Re:set, Re:imagine, and Re:build.” The conference will be held March 5 in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum, with optional programming on Friday, March 4.
“Coming to Haas was my way of reimagining what my life would be like,” said conference co-chair Clara Pomi who left her job as a project manager at fitness company ClassPass due to pandemic-related layoffs. “I could have found a new job, but the pandemic forced me to reevaluate everything, especially my career.”
Organized by the Women in Leadership club, the conference is one of the longest-running and most well-attended events at Berkeley Haas. It is expected to draw more than 300 students, alumni, faculty, scholars, and other professionals to campus.
Conference organizers include Pomi, Emily Shapiro, Danielle Dhillon, Camila Rico, Pooja Bag, Charlotte Harris, Neha Dutta, Katherine Willcox, Bailey Daum, Julie Warshaw, Tess Krasne and Lily Sahn, all MBA 22.
The one-and-a-half day event will begin with a Story Saloon, a homage to Story Salon, a Haas tradition in which students share their lived experiences through storytelling, on Friday evening.
Saturday’s events include a welcome address by Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer Élida Bautista followed by a discussion with Kim Malek, co-founder and CEO of Salt & Straw, led by Dean Harrison. Breakout sessions focused on negotiating salaries, entrepreneurship, and allyship are also planned. Vicky Tsai, founder of skincare line Tatcha will give closing remarks.
Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
In honor of Black History Month, we spoke with Jordan Bell, MBA 23, an Oakland native who’s determined to rise to the C-suite and open doors for younger generations of Black youth interested in finance careers.
I was born and raised in East Oakland, California, the second oldest of three sons. My parents are college-educated, working-class people. They strongly believed in the value of getting a quality education as the way to change the future. They scraped every extra dollar they had to send my brothers and me to private schools. I went to St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, and after graduation, I went to Morehouse, a historically Black, all-male college in Atlanta, Georgia. To this day, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere other than Morehouse.
What led you to go to a historically Black college (HBCU)?
I wanted to go to a college outside of California where I could grow and learn more about being a Black man. I also wanted to study in a place where I was not a minority. For many Black people in the U.S., there’s this extra thought process that we go through whenever we leave our homes and enter public places. Things like, “Do I belong?” “Am I doing enough?” “Do I fit in?” “Am I assimilating into a society that is not really built for me?” All of these questions are burdensome. Studying at Morehouse alleviated that stress because almost every other person around me was an African American man. There is literally no place in America where an African American of any sex can see so many Black professionals in one setting other than at an HBCU.
I chose Morehouse specifically because it has an amazing history and legacy of producing Black leaders. I think about the alumni who came before me—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., actor Samuel L. Jackson, civil rights activist Julian Bond—and I think about all of the barriers they broke through to lay the groundwork for future generations of young Black men. They inspire me to be the greatest I can be. There’s no excuse but to be great.
What led you down a career in finance, and why did you choose Haas?
During sophomore year at Morehouse, I attended a speaker series featuring former CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein. He spoke about how going to college and choosing a career in finance changed the trajectory of his life. His speech convinced me to explore the world of corporate finance and capital markets.
After college, I landed a full-time job at J.P.Morgan as a capital markets research analyst. There, I learned the importance of networking and honed my technical, presentation, and client-facing skills that are transferable to any industry. Two years later, I moved west to work at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco as a financial regulator. I worked my way through the ranks from a junior to a senior examiner. After seven years, I was at a crossroads: Should I keep going down the financial regulator path, or should I go to business school? I chose the latter. Haas was one of the best decisions I ever made. I appreciate how collaborative Haas is. While business schools can feel very competitive or cutthroat, there’s a different kind of competition at Haas. We bring out the best in each other. We rise together is how I see it.
While business schools can feel very competitive or cutthroat, there’s a different kind of competition at Haas. We bring out the best in each other. We rise together is how I see it.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month means recognizing the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans. It allows us to tell our own narrative on our own terms. Black people were brought and enslaved here. We didn’t come here voluntarily like other cultural groups. And yet, we survived and are thriving. Our collective stories make me feel so proud to be a Black man. I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a Black man. During the month, I celebrate by reading a story daily about a historical figure, or I talk to the elders in my family to soak up their wisdom, especially the Black women in my family. They’re the strongest people that I know and the structural glue of my family.
Our collective stories make me feel so proud to be a Black man. I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a Black man.
What are your goals, and what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
In the short term, I hope to become a senior product manager or fintech strategist. My long-term goal is to be in the C-suite. I want to be a chief executive officer for a technology or financial services company. I want little Black boys and girls to see that there are Black people performing at the highest levels in executive positions. I want to show them that it’s possible to occupy these spaces.
KwikKart, a smart cart that allows customers to scan and purchase items from a smartphone while shopping, took first place; The Blue Box, an at-home urine test that can detect breast cancer, placed second; and PWR WMN, a women’s blazer company, nabbed third. Cleo, a THC and CBD gummy startup, won Audience Choice.
Eight out of the 14 teams that completed the three month accelerator program made it to the finals, where they pitched to VCs and angel investors. LAUNCH, now its 7th year as an accelerator, aims to transform early-stage startups into fundable companies.
Rhonda Shrader, executive director of BHEP, which oversees LAUNCH, said this fall’s cohort was exceptionally diverse, with eight underrepresented founders and 11 women founders. “Every year our cohorts get more diverse and reflect more diverse thinking around solving the world’s biggest challenges,” she said.
KwikKart, co-founded by Aaron Gyure, BS 20, and Sean Houlihan, BS 20 (electrical engineering and computer science), netted $25,000 in prize money; PWR WMN, led by two Texas A&M University grads and Ana Martinez, EWMBA 23, won $10,000; and Cleo, co-founded by Haas students Andrea Berrios and Spencer Perron, both MBA 22, landed $5,000 in prize money. The Blue Box, led by UC Irvine grad Judit Giro, won $15,000.
Each year, more than 200 startup teams, which must include one UC-affiliated member, apply for a coveted spot in the accelerator. During the program, teams get to test their products with customers, connect with industry experts, receive guidance from Haas mentors, and get the chance to pitch to investors on Demo Day.
LAUNCH has helped build more than 150 companies, including Haas’ first unicorn, Xendit, co-founded by Moses Lo, MBA 15. Lo, who joined Demo Day for a Q&A, spoke about his entrepreneurial successes and challenges.
LAUNCH Demo Day is now available to stream via YouTube.
An AI-powered software that automates visual inspections and provides data analytics for utility lines and energy grids earned the top prize at the 12th annual Cleantech to Market Symposium. The event was held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum last Friday.
Cleantech to Market (C2M) is a 15-week accelerator course that brings together graduate students, industry leaders, and researchers to pitch cleantech innovations from existing startups, government-sponsored programs, and incubators.
Five student teams–including 31 MBA and UC Berkeley graduate students from law, policy, and science–pitched emerging technologies aimed at addressing everything from fossil-fuel reduction to carbon dioxide capture to non-flammable batteries.
Buzz Solutions, the AI-powered company that provides power line and energy grid inspections, earned the Hasler Cleantech to Market Award, named after former Berkeley Haas dean William Hasler.
Team members included Chelsea Boyle, EWMBA 21, Dinara Ermakova, PhD 22 (nuclear engineering), Federico Cueva Salas, MBA 22, Han Le, PhD 24 (chemistry), Luis Felipe Gonzalez, MBA/MEng 22, Preston Suan, MBA 22, and Sean Mandell, MBA 22.
Dean Harrison kicked off the symposium with a keynote, emphasizing the need for more cleantech solutions to address climate change.
“This is no longer a problem that our grandchildren will face. This is a crisis that we’re dealing with now,” said Harrison, pointing to recent catastrophic events, including California’s wildfires and extreme heat waves worldwide. “Our planet is out of its comfort zone, which is why this symposium and the development of cleantech solutions is so crucial.”
Other notable guest speakers included James Zahler, associate director for technology-to-market at Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E); Liam Berryman, CEO of Nelumbo; Miguel Sierra Aznar, CEO of Noble Thermodynamics; and Kristin Taylor, CEO of Radical Plastics. All three CEOs participated in previous C2M symposiums.
“I’m so proud of our students and what they have accomplished in the last 15 weeks,” said Brian Steel, director of C2M. “They’ve spent nearly 1,000 hours speaking to experts and investigating a wide range of market opportunities for cleantech startups that are tackling the most pressing issues of our time.”
As an undergraduate, Ibrahim Baldé, BS 20, said he faced many challenges on top of managing a rigorous course load. They included battling imposter syndrome, experiencing microaggressions from peers, and feeling pressured in class to be the spokesperson for his race as he was often the lone Black student.
After speaking with friends and classmates who also identified as Black, Baldé learned that they faced the same hurdles. A 2019 campus-climate report published by UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity, and Inclusion also confirmed Baldé’s experience, which found that many Black students experienced exclusionary behaviors from peers, including being stared at or singled out to represent their race.
Wanting to improve the Black student experience at Berkeley, Baldé co-founded Blackbook University, a website and mobile app that provides educational and professional resources to help Black undergraduate and graduate students navigate their journey at Berkeley. Blackbook’s other co-founders include Nicholas Brathwaite, Chase Ali-Watkins, both BA 20, Nahom Solomon, BA 21, Farhiya Ali and Imran Sekalala, both BA 23.
The app, which launched Nov. 18 and is a revival of a Black student handbook published in the 1980s and 1990s, includes a calendar with extracurricular and career-related events, a student-alumni-faculty directory, a live chat feed for users to interact, and a scholarship and internship database. The website features student profiles and an internship program for students interested in entrepreneurship and tech.
Brathwaite manages product development, Ali and Sekalala handle data analysis and design, Solomon serves as the director of operations, Ali-Watkins is the chief marketing officer, and Baldé is CEO.
The son of an imam, Baldé was instilled with a “beyond yourself” mindset at an early age. Growing up in Alameda, Calif., Baldé knew that he wanted to combine his three passions: social impact work, business, and tech. Once at Haas, Baldé took Haas Lecturer Alex Budak’s leadership class called Becoming a Changemaker.
“That class allowed me to think about my mission and purpose and to understand that leadership isn’t a defined trait,” Baldé said.
Following that class, Baldé began to lay the groundwork for Blackbook University. He teamed up with his co-founders and formed an advisory board of faculty and staff across campus, including Budak, Marco Lindsey, associate director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Haas; Miya Hayes, BA 92, associate director of Campus Partnerships & Engagement; and staff from the African American Student Development Office.
Baldé surveyed about 150 Black Berkeley and Haas students to assess if he had a winning idea. The answer was a resounding yes.
While Slack and GroupMe are useful networking tools, 90% of surveyors reported that it was important to have a tool that was designed for them.
“Students can’t take ownership of Slack and GroupMe, but they can take ownership of Blackbook,” Baldé said.
Successes and challenges
Baldé and his team have had some successes. They participated in UC Berkeley’s Free Ventures pre-seed accelerator, allowing them to test and tweak their business model. They also were one of the Big Ideas Contest grand prize winners, earning $10,000 in prize money.
But they’ve also had some setbacks, including finding the best developer who could deliver the app they envisioned. Another setback was validating their business model to potential investors. Currently, Blackbook is free to download.
“We just tune out the noise,” Baldé says. “We’re driven by our own mission and that is to build community and to make our resources and networks available to Black student communities.”
Despite the hurdles, the team continues to press on. Their goal is to make customized versions of the app for Black student communities at colleges and universities nationwide.
Faculty and staff advisors praise Baldé and his team for creating a sense of belonging on campus.
“I’m inspired by how Ibrahim can readily imagine a better future and then rally the people and resources needed to turn these ideas into reality,” said Budak. “We talked about how one of the greatest acts of changemaking is creating the opportunities for others that we wish we had for ourselves and Ibrahim is doing just that.”
Hayes agreed. “I’m in awe of their innovation–taking both the best and most challenging aspects of their time at Berkeley to create something that sustains and nourishes our sense of belonging,” she said. “They’re giants in their own right.”
Converting an office building into a life science center to lease to medical and biotech companies landed a team of Berkeley Haas MBA students a first place win at the 2021 UT Austin Real Estate Competition.
The competition was held Thursday, Nov. 18 and hosted by the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.
Team members include Carson Goldman, Andrew Johnson, Ian MacLean, Alex Dragten, all MBA 22, Fukang Peng, and Travis Kauzer, both EWMBA 22.
Haas bested 19 other teams from top U.S. business schools including Columbia, Yale, Wharton, NYU Stern, and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and won $10,000 in prize money. This is Haas’ third first place win at this competition in the last four years.
MBA teams were tasked with creating a business plan for a building with a single tenant whose lease was about to expire. They had to consider maximizing risk-adjusted returns and demonstrate an understanding of macroeconomic trends, including the effects of inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Haas MBA team decided to convert the building into a life science center to attract multiple tenants and maximize high returns.
Team lead Carson Goldman credited the team’s win to practicing case presentations every week this semester and to work they did with their faculty advisors.
“Our coaches Bill Falik and Abby Franklin provided constant feedback and guidance and were wholly committed to this competition,” Goldman said. “Our alumni were just as important as they had volunteered weekly to judge our practice cases and offer constructive criticism,” he added.
“It’s very gratifying to see our students progress over the semester and to win first place,” said Haas Lecturer Bill Falik. “We’ve had victories, but to win first place in three out of the four years at this national competition–this has never been done before.”
Driverless trucks and electric air taxis are generating a lot of buzz. But are these new modes of transportation worth the hype?
Second-year MBA students Jon Wan, Sam Bauer, and Thomas Fantis hope to tackle that question next week at the second annual Berkeley Haas Mobility Summit.
“Cutting Through the Hype” is the theme for this year’s summit, which brings together students, faculty, alumni, and industry leaders to explore sustainability, equity, and commercialization challenges that may arise from adopting new mobility technologies.
The summit, organized by the Transportation & Mobility Club, will be held Nov. 19, from noon to 4:30 p.m. in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. Conference organizers include Wan, Bauer, Fantis, Marcus Brandford, Graham Haydon, Ryota Soshino, all MBA 22, and Yiannos Vakis, MBA 23.
“There’s a lot of optimism around these new technologies that promise pollution and traffic reduction in cities, for example, but we haven’t seen much of the benefits yet,” said Fantis. “We hope to create some dialogue about the implications of adopting autonomous and electric cars and how to apply these technologies responsibly and equitably.”
Bert Kauffman, head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Amazon’s autonomous car startup Zoox, will kick off the half-day conference with a keynote address, followed by panel discussions on the future of ride hailing, the scalability of electric vehicles, solving supply-chain challenges via autonomous trucking, and the creation of electric air taxis.
Other notable guest speakers include Nick Matcheck, MBA 20, partnerships manager at Hyundai Urban Air Mobility; Jeff Sharp, MBA 21, government operations associate at Joby Aviation; Misha Cornes, MBA 01, UX research & strategy leader at Lyft; Shana Patadia, BS 10, director of Business Development at Chargepoint; Nick Silver, MBA 11, head of Marketing for US and Canada at Uber; Haas lecturer Molly Turner; and UC Berkeley civil and engineering professor Susan Shaheen.
“We hope this summit will serve as a guide for students interested in joining the mobility industry and that they find companies that are making the greatest impact in terms of sustainability and equity,” Bauer said.
“Our goal with this summit is to establish Haas as the center of mobility and put it on the map as the best school to attend for this [mobility] field,” Fantis added. “When prospective students look for MBA programs that offer mobility courses and clubs, we want Haas to be at the top of their search.”
When Élida Bautista arrived at Berkeley Haas as director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2018, she found a community “ready to do the work and not just pay lip service” to diversity.
Since then, she’s worked alongside that community, building the school’s first five-year DEI strategic plan and creating a culture shift toward one of greater belonging—or, as she puts it, “a place where people can see themselves.” This week, Bautista—who came to Haas after spending 15 years developing programs focused on social justice, diversity, and inclusion for UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry—became the first woman and Chicana/Latina to be named chief DEI officer at Haas.
We spoke toher about her most pressing priorities, how the pandemic impacted her work, and the diversity-related initiatives she plans to work toward over the next five years.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your interim DEI chief role at Haas in the past year?
One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is getting input from the community to implement our DEI strategic plan. Last year, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team started off with listening sessions across Haas.
We wanted to learn what teams were accomplishing, how they were integrating DEI in their work and to give people a space to feel heard. Those listening tours helped us refine and implement a Haas-wide DEI strategic plan and positioned us as thought partners in helping teams carry out their own DEI initiatives.
As we launched, it was important to be transparent with our community. We publicly shared the plan on our website, and shared regular updates about progress on our deliverables on our website, something that had not happened before. That was meaningful to our community because it allows everyone to get involved and to see our progress as well as any delays.
Beyond the DEI plan, what broad initiatives are you working on that dive deeper into DEI?
We are looking to continue creating a DEI culture shift at Haas. But we’re not just thinking about diversity as scholarships and increasing admissions and representation. That’s an important part of it, but we must simultaneously build a place where people can see themselves. We’re thinking about how we get more diverse folks in the door, but also about their experiences once they’re here in the classroom or the workplace.
We must…build a place where people can see themselves.
We are creating a sense of belonging through a variety of offerings, including co-curricular educational and professional development activities, as well as community social events.
We also need to invest in pathways toward making our faculty more diverse. One way we’re doing this is by creating a postdoctoral fellowship through a gift from Allan Holt, MBA 76. Postdocs offer the opportunity to bring scholars into the faculty pipeline who might not otherwise pursue a faculty career at a university where there is a very high level of research activity. We also set aside part of the funds to integrate DEI into the curriculum.
What are your most pressing goals in the new role?
As a chief diversity officer who sits on the management team, my pressing goals are focused on partnering with our associate deans of academic affairs to increase diversity in faculty hiring, support retention and promotion efforts for our underrepresented faculty, and support DEI curricular offerings. At a strategic level, my goal is to support our dean and our senior managers in effectively addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging-related challenges, and collectively continuing to make progress on our strategic plan. Additionally, I will be involved in providing feedback to the chairs of the search committees about the diversity of our faculty candidates. Over time, our postdoctoral fellowship will be an additional source for increasing the diversity of the faculty pool.
How has COVID impacted your job during the pandemic?
COVID magnified a lot of existing disparities and social injustices—everything from who had to keep going to work in-person to who had access to health insurance to treat COVID if they got sick. We also saw a rise in visibility of violence targeting some communities. This increased the sense of vulnerability that needed to be integrated into our team’s offerings and approach.
Initially during the pandemic, a lot of our work was about holding space for community members to reflect, as well as offering managers tips to understand how to support staff who might be having a different experience during this time. We asked: How do we extend empathy at a time when everybody is feeling overwhelmed and stretched?
How does it feel to be back on campus?
Now that we’re back on campus, there’s a renewed sense of connection that we all need. Being back allows people to engage in a more authentic way with each other, which makes my work a little bit easier when we’re talking about learning across differences. Being online made these connections more challenging. For example, if everyone is off camera and one person is talking and nobody’s clapping or smiling or affirming, it’s unclear if your message has resonated with anyone.
What would be a major achievement for Haas in the next five years in DEI?
I think we’re well on our way, but a major achievement would be to make Haas the leader among business schools in reputation regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, based on our robust offerings, the skills our students gain while at Haas, and the type of leaders we produce.
Another major achievement would be to make meaningful gains in the representation of women among our students across degree programs and among our faculty, including more women of color, LGBTQIA+ women, women veterans, and women with disabilities.
Also, as UC Berkeley continues to advance toward becoming a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by 2027, a major achievement would be to align Haas with the recommendations of the HSI task force and position ourselves to serve the needs of Latinx/Chicanx and underrepresented communities on campus.