New Bear Cubs club offers support and fun to MBA student parents

The new Bear Cub club at their kick off party
The new Bear Cubs club at their kick off party

Jamil Bashir, MBA/MPH 19, got two pieces of very important news on the same day last year: He was accepted into UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and he found out that his wife, Farida, was pregnant.

At first, he was scared: the Bashirs were already the parents of a toddler.

Jamil thought that attending business school while parenting two kids would be too much. Still, he decided to accept.

Support and friendship

At Haas, the couple found support and friendship in a new club for parents that he and Farida helped launched in February called the Bear Cubs. The club, which now has 68 members, aims to help MBA students with children in a more organized way, by organizing fun events and providing a place where families can help each other navigate parenting with both emotional and resource support.

Farida and Jamil Bashir with kids Jabril and Murad
Farida and Jamil Bashir, MBA/MPH 19, with their children, Jabril and Murad

Parenting during an MBA program—the lack of sleep, the juggling of childcare, and the crazy schedules— can be daunting, but many do it. There are 25 parents in the Class of 2018, including four mothers (a fifth student has a baby on the way), and 13 in the Class of 2019.

The club launched with a picnic at University Village, where many of the families live.  They’ve also held a Halloween party, more picnics, a Disneyland trip, a movie night, and a photo session and are planning a graduation reception. Organizers are also working to find ways that trips to Tahoe can be more family friendly.

Annie Li, MBA 19, said she enjoyed all of the activities her family attended.

“My kid had lots of fun interacting with the other little ones,” she said.

Bear Cubs is a much-needed addition to the school, said Julia Rosof, associate director of Student Affairs at Haas.

“The students and partners have cultivated a strong community of support for student parents and helped raise awareness about the unique challenges student parents encounter,” she said. “They’ve been excellent partners in making Haas a more friendly and supportive place for student parents.”

Family time vs classmate time

Everybody knows that bonding with classmates is a huge part of the MBA experience, but when you have to rush home to a child, it can be hard, Farida Bashir said.

“If you’ve got to choose seeing your family or going out with your classmates, you’re going to choose your family,” she said.

It can be particularly difficult for international parents arriving at Haas.

Sabina Osponova and son, Alan
Sabina Osponova and son, Alan

Rafael Amado, MBA 19, who is from Brazil, the father of an baby boy, and a Bear Cubs club co-president with Farida Bashir, said he had no idea about how things like health insurance, housing, and daycare worked in the U.S. until other parents helped him.

“We were helping each other in an informal way,” he said.

Amado said that he and the other Bear Cub organizers want to make sure incoming families have all the same information, plus a ready-made network of friendly faces.

The club will be up and running for incoming students for the first time in the fall.

“Families make this decision together, it’s not just the students,” he said. “We’re trying to make it an easier decision for families to come to Haas.”