MBA grads: Be brave, embrace your power to change the world

Berkeley Haas MBA students in the Class of 2019 were urged to be brave and embrace their power to make significant contributions to improve the world at Friday’s commencement.

The commencement was held under sunny skies at the Greek Theatre, where Dean Ann Harrison welcomed parents, friends, and family of evening & weekend MBA and full-time MBA students. “All of you have been transformed in some profound way. That is, after all, why you came here,” she told them.

Watch the video of 2019 MBA commencement.

Commencement speaker Patrick Awuah, MBA 99 and founder of Ashesi University in Ghana, told graduates the story of how he arrived at Berkeley Haas in his early 30s, with a new baby, having quit his job at Microsoft. He had a singular goal to prepare himself to start a successful university, and he built his plan for Ashesi during his entire time at Haas.

Patrick Awuah, 2019 MBA commencement speaker
“At Ashesi (University) today I see echoes of Berkeley.” – Patrick Awuah, MBA 99 and 2019 MBA commencement speaker. (Photo: Noah Berger)

“Ashesi started here, and I recognize the fact that there are not many places where this could have happened,” said Awuah, whose school has grown from 30 to 1,000 students. “We all had hope that it was going to be a remarkable institution, but it has exceeded even our loftiest dreams…At Ashesi today I see echoes of Berkeley: In our classrooms and the curriculum that we teach and the values we share; in the open embrace of equitable access to the opportunity for learning and development. I see echoes of Berkeley in how our community works and in our corporate culture. I see echoes of Berkeley in Ashesi’s people and leadership.”

Full-time MBA student speaker Bree Jenkins, who is co-founding the Hayward Collegiate Charter School, shared a personal story of feeling powerless as a teen.

FTMBA student speaker Bree Jenkins
FTMBA student speaker Bree Jenkins (Photo: Noah Berger)

“Age 15, days before my birthday, on a bitter December night, my mom leaves for a tour in Iraq. I honestly don’t know if she will ever come back. When this feeling of powerlessness grabs hold of you, it is usually dark. And you’re typically alone. Your whole body clenches. Palms sweaty. There’s a tightening of your stomach as you realize there is nothing you can do.”

Jenkins said the transformation from powerlessness to power has many faces. “As a new graduate of the Haas School of Business, it has your (face),” she said. “And as a black woman who represents just 1% of her class, yet has the privilege of speaking on your behalf, it has mine. Right now, we have power. And with this power, we share an incredible responsibility to this world and to one another.”

EWMBA student speaker Nancy Hoque (Photo: Noah Berger)

Calling out classmates by name, Nancy Hoque, student speaker for the Evening & Weekend MBA Program, addressed why they were brave for different reasons: for risking it all in changing a career, for joining her in protesting the immigration ban at the San Francisco Airport, for traveling across the world to help Syrian refugees, and for organizing female students to wear white on their commencement caps to symbolize the strength and unity of women who completed the program.

“Yes, absolutely they were all brave, because bravery entails taking a chance,” she said. “Grabbing onto that door which is cracked open and, regardless of the obstacles and unknowns, walking through it.”

MBA grad wtih flowers around his neck
Evan Krokowski, who graduated from the evening & weekend program, celebrates. Photo: Noah Berger.

Commencement Awards

Full-Time MBA Program

Student speaker Bree Jenkins (center) surrounded by the Defining Leadership Principles award winners
FTMBA student speaker Bree Jenkins (center) surrounded by the Defining Leadership Principles award winners. (Photo: Noah Berger)

Academic Achievement Award: Somiran Gupta

Full-Time MBA Defining Leadership Principle Awards:

Question the Status Quo: Tam Emerson; Confidence without Attitude: Somiran Gupta; Students Always: Mariana Lanzas Goded; Beyond Yourself: Matthew Freeman Hines; The Berkeley Leader Award: Bosun Adebaki

The Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Adair Morse

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Margaret Fong


Evening & Weekend MBA Program

Evening & Weekend Program Defining Leadership Principles award winners.
Evening & Weekend Program Defining Leadership Principles award winners: Tess Peppers, Eppa Rixey, Michael Toomey, and Melanie Akwule.

Academic Achievement Award: Eppa Rixey

Defining Leadership Principles awards:

Question the Status Quo: Tess Peppers; Confidence Without Attitude: Aimee Bailey; Students Always: Eppa Rixey; Beyond Yourself: Michael Toomey; The Berkeley Leader Award: Melanie Akwule

The Earl F. Cheit Awards for Excellence in Teaching: Prof. Ross Levine (for weekend program) and Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki (for evening program)

Graduate Student Instructor: Zachary Olson for the Data & Decisions course