Berkeley Haas 2024 undergraduate class urged to invest in relationships, ‘stay connected to each other’

two men in graduation cap and gowns shaking hands
(L-R) Graduates Yassen Tarig Abdelfatah and Jacob Williams. Photo: Katrina Koski

Seek mentors of all ages, engage with discomfort, and invest in relationships were parting words delivered during the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Program spring 2024 commencement ceremony.

“Become a master relationship builder,” said Commencement Speaker Jasvinder (Jas) Khaira, BS 04, a senior managing director and founding partner of the Tactical Opportunities Group at Blackstone. “Seek out mentors early in your career, and contribute to the relationships by adding value to them. Be a mentor to others, no matter your age or title. Those relationships will give you context when you hit the inevitable lows in life, and they will remind you of purpose when you are hitting your highs.”

Courtney Chandler, senior assistant dean and chief strategy & operating officer at Haas, welcomed about 500 graduating students in the class of 2024, along with family and friends who gathered at the Greek Theatre.

(Watch commencement video below)

Erika Walker, senior assistant dean for instruction, congratulated students for completing their studies at the No. 2 undergraduate business school in the United States. Forty-three percent of the 2024 graduates are women, 47% earned a dual degree, and 22% are the first in their families to go to college, she noted. 

“We are so proud of you, as are your parents, mentors, and loved ones who supported you along the way,” she said, calling out all of the family members who flew from around the world to attend commencement. “Let’s give them a round of applause.” 

Walker added that no matter where life takes you, a Berkeley Haas degree will open doors.

“Stay connected to each other, help each other succeed,” Walker said. “You are now part of a global network of more than 43,000 and more than half a million Berkeley alumni.” 

three women wearing graduation gowns and caps
2024 graduates walking toward the stage to receive diplomas at the Greek. Photo: Kim Girard

Khaira shared advice, gleaned from his career and personal life, including thoughts on the toll that 9/11 took on his perception of safety as an Indian man “wearing a turban and a beard.” Calling his father after the Twin Towers fell, Khaira said he told him he wanted to run away. His father asked him where he would go.

“I told him, ‘I don’t know. Maybe India?’ And the next moment was a pivotal part of my life that I won’t forget. He responded, ‘There is nowhere to go. Even India, of course, has its own religious discrimination.’”

That’s when Khaira said he realized “this wasn’t going to be an easy fix. There was nowhere to run.”

“As you graduate from Haas and start your career people will disagree with you, you will feel disrespected, you will deal with conflict,” he said. “There is no gain in running away from it. There is no value in responding with rage or ignoring it. Coming to my own terms with discomfort has been one of the most important life skills I’ve had to wrestle with. How do I gain perspective by using empathy? Does this person really want to hurt me, or are they insecure? Can I successfully move forward knowing I control nothing but can still influence everything?”

three people at commencement, one wearing a cap
Left-right: Katrina Koski, director of inclusion & belonging at Haas, Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director of the M.E.T. Program, and Emma Daftary, assistant dean of undergraduate programs. Photo: Katrina Koski

Emma Daftary, assistant dean of the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Programs, presented awards to students and faculty, including:

  • Kevin Liao, Departmental Citation, awarded to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business. A graduate of the Global Management Program (GMP), Liao is heading to J.P. Morgan.
  • Question the Status Quo, Chen Dai: Dai is an entrepreneur, engineer, and the first international student from China to graduate from the M.E.T. program at Berkeley Haas.
  • Confidence without Attitude, Shivum Berry: Berry built a yo-yo company at age 14 and went on to create a course at Berkeley on building an e-commerce business.
  • Students Always, Sakura Kappel: A transfer and reentry student raised by a single mother in the Philippines, Kappel “exemplifies a student who likes to question established norms and explore diverse perspectives, even if it may ruffle feathers.”
  • Beyond Yourself, Norma Garcia Galvan: A first-generation student, Galvan values community building, mentorship, and uplifting marginalized communities, which stems from her upbringing in an immigrant Mexican household.
  • Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching for the Undergraduate Program: Haas Lecturer Mohammed Nadeem, who teaches marketing.
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor: Kunal Cholera (his second win as a GSI).

Celebrating her 22nd birthday, undergraduate student speaker Julianna De Paula shared the anxiety she felt before leaving her family in Brazil to study at Berkeley. “As soon as I stepped foot on this campus, all of the anxiety went away. After meeting my roommates, classmates, and professors, I finally realized that I’d found a new home very far from my own,” she said.

De Paula, who will join L’Oreal as a marketing management trainee after commencement, said it’s the sense of community and belonging at Haas that she will miss most, including “the friendships forged over group projects, the mentorships of our professors, and the shared triumphs and challenges that have united us as a class.” 

Summer Hua, the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) president for the 2023-24 school year, and a first-generation international student, thanked her professors and her HBSA team, the “unsung heroes advocating for student voices” and “friends who have turned into family.” 

four women, two wearing commencement cap and gowns
Graduates gathered in the courtyard after the commencement ceremony. Photo: Kim Girard

After students tossed caps, they headed to a post-commencement reception in the courtyard as the sun broke through the morning fog. Asked to describe her time at Haas in one word, graduate Rachel Sanchez said “friends.”