In January 2020, Prof. Omri Even-Tov and a team of Berkeley Haas students and alumni spent a Saturday preparing and delivering bagged lunches and hygiene kits to dozens of unhoused people living in Berkeley in Oakland. By day’s end, the 25 volunteers had delivered about 400 meals and 200 hygiene kits to the encampments.
“Our students and alumni walked into the [homeless] encampments with food and walked out with empathy and compassion for a population living amongst us, but seemingly invisible,” Even-Tov said.
Even-Tov is among 12 Haas teams who have received Berkeley Haas Culture Fund Awards over the past two years to work on projects ranging from removing trash from Berkeley streets to providing facilitator training to staff and students who want to lead race-related conversations.
Culture fund awards, which range from $1,000 to $5,000, are given to Haas students, faculty, and staff who come up with new initiatives or activities that promote and strengthen the school’s Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs) and have the potential to make a lasting impact on the school community, curriculum, or student experience.
The awards are administered by a group of faculty and staff–known as Culture Champions–and are made possible by Haas supporters who have donated more than $200,000 to promote the school’s DLPs. This will be the third year in a row in which Haas students, faculty, and staff can apply for grants.
With the help of the culture grant, Even-Tov and Haas volunteers were able to expand their reach and impact. In a span of a year, the group donated roughly 8,000 meals and 2,000 hygiene kits, half of which went to the UC Berkeley Food Pantry to support members of the Cal community.
“Haas volunteers went beyond themselves to help a community that may never be able to reciprocate, they questioned the status quo by refusing to accept the homeless epidemic in the Bay Area, they demonstrated confidence without attitude by showing humility and connecting with unhoused communities, and they embraced being a student always, constantly learning and evolving outside the classroom,” said Even-Tov.
Culture fund projects can have a short-term impact or jump-start an initiative that has potential to make a lasting impact.
“Think of the culture award as seed funding to launch a project,” says Jennifer Wells, program director of the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGAL), who applied for and received a $5,000 grant to create a database of diverse business cases called the DEI Case Compendium. The compendium includes 215 case studies with diverse protagonists and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) topics.
“Our goal was to support professors at Haas and globally to easily identify DEI-related cases that can be used in their classrooms as well as support students who wanted to see themselves represented as business leaders in their curriculum,” Wells said.
Since publishing the compendium online last May, about 1,200 people have viewed the compendium.
Other Culture fund projects that have made a lasting impact include:
Haas Changemakers: Students enrolled in Becoming a Changemaker, an undergraduate and EWMBA leadership course taught by professional faculty member Alex Budak, are given seed funding ranging from $50-$75 to launch a small project, activity, or product that has the potential to create an impact on a local or global scale. Budak says these grants, which are given to support students’ final “Changemaker Projects,” are intended to “break down the barriers of taking action.”
Here@Haas Podcast: An offshoot of the OneHaas podcast, the Here@Haas podcast tells the stories of current students, staff, and faculty. Since going live in April 2020, the podcast has been downloaded 15,000 times in 50 countries. Podcast host Paulina Lee, EWMBA 22, said the podcast has been a boon to the Haas community. “I’ve gotten to know so many people that I don’t think I would’ve met had I not joined the podcast team,” said Lee. “I love hearing other people’s stories and I’m deeply moved when students tell me that our podcast persuaded them to come to Haas.”