Larson scholars flex their ingenuity
In the fall of 2016, when Sarrah Nomanbhoy first arrived at Haas, hundreds of thousands of migrants were seeking refuge in Europe, most fleeing armed conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Nomanbhoy knew she wanted to apply the skills she’d learn at Haas to the intersection of forced migration and technology.
The next summer, she traveled to Greece, where she interviewed refugees seeking asylum. “The people we spoke to were facing a lot of information barriers,” Nomanbhoy says. “And they were desperate for assistance.”
Nomanbhoy, who earned her MBA in 2018, created Marhub to help refugees access crucial information. The online platform answers questions, screens refugees to determine eligibility for various pathways toward resettlement, and connects them with legal assistance and other resources.
“So far we’ve reached about 17,000 refugees,” Nomanbhoy says, and there’s been a 250% rise in efficiency for caseworkers at legal aid organizations—meaning they’re successfully processing more cases.
Nomanbhoy’s trip to Greece was pivotal to Marhub’s success, and it was made possible by the Jack Larson Scholarship, which aims to assist the next generation of innovators at Haas.
John “Jack” Larson, BS 73, a successful entrepreneur in the field of post-secondary education, established the annual scholarship in 2008 to help both graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurs.
“For MBA students, it’s a chance to take a risk and share an idea,” Larson says. For undergraduates, who are less certain about their career path, it can inspire them to test the entrepreneurial waters. “It encourages them to explore what they want to be,” says Larson. “I know it makes a difference in their lives.”
Nomanbhoy agrees. “The Larson Scholarship pretty much put me on the entrepreneurial path,” she says.
Rajavi Mishra, BS 22, began dreaming of launching a startup as a high school student in India. At Berkeley, her passion for entrepreneurship and tech led her to co-found AccelerateHer, which seeks to encourage young women to pursue startups.
Earlier this year, with the entire campus working remotely, Mishra and a collaborator, Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan, BS 21 (electrical engineering and computer science), created “study pact,” which helps Cal students find online study partners via the Berkeley Mobile app. Now, with the help of the Larson Scholarship, Mishra is researching her next venture—or ventures. She says she’s got several irons in the fire. “For entrepreneurs there’s always a financial crunch when you’re starting off, with development and user acquisition costs,” Mishra says. The scholarship will ease some of that burden and help her realize her entrepreneurial dreams.