Haas Veterans Reflect on Student Life

The tight-knit group of veterans at Berkeley-Haas not only has combat training and military experience in common, but also shares a deep sense of gratitude to be studying at the business school.

With Veterans Day approaching, several Haas students who have served aboard Navy ships and led platoons on overseas missions took some time to contemplate their life at UC Berkeley, where to the surprise of some, they have felt welcomed by the mostly civilian community.

“Haas has been great about receiving veterans,” says Joel Gutierrez, BCEMBA 12. “Honestly, I think there is a major information gap that comes from the military that perceives Berkeley as an anti-military school. I personally don’t see it that way, and veterans need to know that UC Berkeley, and especially Haas, are very receptive to veterans and the military.”

Moti Sorkin, MBA 13, a U.S. Army infantry officer who spent 2 1/2 years deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, echoes that sentiment. “When I was applying to Haas, I sent an email to the [Haas] Veterans Club. I was amazed to get three separate responses — email and phone — within a few hours,” he recalls.

Now at Haas pursuing a general management position in the alternative energy sector, Sorkin has attended several networking events for veterans in the wider Bay Area.

In addition, the Haas Veterans Club recently participated in a panel with undergraduate veterans to discuss the graduate application process. And the club, which has 30 members, hopes to soon host a mixer with Berkeley Law veterans. Four undergrads at Haas also have served in the military.

Blake Coleman (right), MBA 13, an evening and weekend student who just returned from a flying trip for the Navy, said Haas has “greatly broadened my spectrum of experiences.”

“The business-school approach to problem-solving often comes from a very different angle than the rigid approach taken by the military,” explains Coleman. In his current Equity Valuation and Negotiation classes, for example, he has learned a more flexible approach to problem-solving and, particularly from Negotiations, that many problems have multiple solutions. As a military aviation man, Coleman feels he brings a mindset of having a goal, being objective, and “attacking the complex questions posed in class.”

What Coleman really enjoys is being asked questions about his military life by his classmates. “If anything,” he says, “their interest in hearing about Navy flying has forced me to work harder to solicit their insights.”

Dan Kanivas (top photo), MBA 12, is finding that his U.S. Army background, including the time he spent in Korea and Iraq, is helping him find his leadership style.

“The most effective leaders in the Army did not rule with an iron fist and they were well liked,” Kanivas says. “Even in the Army, you would invite dissent. But then, once the decision was made, everyone had to march to that step and follow along.”

Kanivas was a summer intern for the Prudential Capital Group in San Francisco, and even though there is no direct connection between fixed-income investing and the military, Kanivas says, “the interpersonal skills I learned in the Army are huge. You have to convince the customers to trust us and our team.”

Dan Kanivas (right), MBA 12, with Lt. Col. Eric Kail, his battalion commander in Korea