Flexing a philanthropic muscle
Before coming to Haas, Julia Nechaieva, MBA 18, worked in the tech industry in her native Ukraine and later in Russia. She loved the field—although the pay wasn’t great and she yearned for bigger opportunities. Being accepted at Haas was thrilling but also daunting. “The idea of coming to a new country with no money and a huge loan was scary,” she says. But then she was awarded the Ulatowski Fellowship, which would cut her expenses in half. “My future instantly became brighter.” Nechaieva has since worked at Google, YouTube, and now as director of product management at Twitch in San Francisco.
Nechaieva’s fellowship was funded by Tomek Ulatowski, who earned his MBA at Haas in 1973 after emigrating to the U.S. from communist Poland. His time at Berkeley launched him on a successful career, first in the U.S. and later, after the Berlin Wall fell, in Poland where he invested in the country’s newly private companies.
“I was extremely grateful for the encouragement and support I received from Haas as a student and afterwards,” Ulatowski says. “I was a foreigner with no money, no visa, no work permit, and they gave me opportunities that produced all kinds of good things for me in life.”
Fearing the cost of Haas was deterring international applicants, Ulatowski established the fellowship to attract talented students who’d done their undergraduate work in Poland. Later, the scholarship was broadened to include students from Ukraine as well. His generosity speaks to the transformative nature of fellowships to uplift entrepreneurs worldwide.
Karolina Wezyk, MBA 20, a fellowship recipient from Poland, said the funding significantly reduced her anxiety about attending Haas. “A lot of my friends in the U.S., because of the credit card culture, are less sensitive to taking out loans, but in Poland people are very nervous about signing such a long-term commitment.” Not having to live under that stress has been a great gift, she says.
I was a foreigner with no money, no visa, no work permit, and [Haas] gave me opportunities that produced all kinds of good things for me in life.
In addition to funding the fellowship, Ulatowski has supported the construction of Chou Hall and recently made a generous gift to the EconHaas4Ukraine fellowship, an academic grant funded by Haas and the Department of Economics to help Ukrainian scholars continue their work amid the war. For Ulatowski, whose wife is Ukrainian and whose brother-in-law is in the Ukrainian army, the gift has deep personal resonance.
Giving meaningful gifts is a lesson Nechaieva has taken from Ulatowski, who has become a role model for her. “The fellowship has unlocked my ‘giving back’ muscle,” she says.