Graduates of the Berkeley Haas Executive MBA Class of 2022 were urged to have confidence in their degrees, to make a difference in the world, and to live life with no regrets during a joyous commencement last Saturday.
It was a celebratory moment for families and friends, too, many of whom–including tots–crossed the stage alongside graduates.
In her welcome address at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, Dean Harrison congratulated the 64 graduates for making the decision to invest in themselves and persevering through one of the toughest MBA programs during a global pandemic.
“We do not give out capes today,” Harrison said. “But maybe we should because what you showed was nothing less than a heroic commitment to your families, to the future, to going beyond yourself.”
Harrison encouraged graduates to look to the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles as guide posts throughout their career and to stay connected to the school’s 40,000-strong alumni network, which she called one of “the greatest gifts of their degree.”
Commencement speaker Laura Adint, EMBA 14, praised the class for successfully completing the program amid a pandemic. “The EMBA program is always hard,” she said. “It’s demanding, it’s challenging, it’s frustrating, it’s consuming, and to do it all in the backdrop of the most global event happening in our lifetime. I say ‘well done and congratulations.’”
Adint, an operations and strategy executive, noted the many challenges faced by graduates in the last two years, including adjusting to remote instruction during fall semester and postponing a few immersion trips. But she urged graduates to not regret a single moment of their program as “regret gives you nothing in return” and that their experiences positioned them to make a difference in the world.
Chosen by her peers as the student speaker, Seo Yeon Yoon reflected on the strong support she received from the class when she made the tough decision to drop her American name and change it back to her Korean birth name.
“When I struggled, you made me believe that if I acted on bravery that resided in me, all will be well,” Yoon said. “You actively embraced my [Korean name]. You cheered me on…You amplified my voice.”
“The legacy that you’re leaving behind today is of resilience and love. Proving that you can take the risk, acting on that resilience by moving forward in spite of the fear of the unknown. Believing that if you work and be kind, that success is guaranteed.”
Valedictorian Will Tuhacek thanked his classmates for helping him receive the highest academic honor.
“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the 64 amazing EMBAs that we have,” Tuhacek said. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” he added, quoting Sir Issac Newton.
Tuhacek reminded the class that they’re now in the privileged position to be changemakers in their companies, communities, and the world. “Chance favors the prepared mind. Have confidence in yourself and in your degree. You are prepared and you can do anything.”
Those honored at commencement included Distinguished Teaching Fellow Veselina Dinova receiving her second Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, and Jon Wong, EMBA 18, a former student of Dinova’s, who received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award.
Valedictorian: Will Tuhacek
Question the Status Quo: Jeremy Johnson
Confidence without Attitude: Tomás Klausing
Students Always: Kunal Cholera and Seo Yeon Yoon
Beyond Yourself: Lokesh Mandava
Berkeley Leader Award: Lokesh Mandava and Martha Ivanovas
Haas Voices is a series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
Jude Watson, MBA 23, never intended to become a social entrepreneur. But that was before Watson successfully founded Seattle-based Cooks for Black Lives Matter. Watson, who for years worked as a chef, raised $100,000 by selling CSA (community-supported agriculture) food boxes of gourmet treats donated by cooks, restaurants, and farmers to support Black-led community organizers. We interviewed Watson about the power of community organizing, and their experiences as MBA Association student body president and as a transgender student at Haas. (Jude uses the pronouns they/them/theirs)
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Seattle on Capitol Hill, which is the gayborhood of Seattle. My mom’s a hair stylist and my dad does a lot of climate justice work. I had a very socially motivated family and that shaped a lot of how I grew up. I felt very connected to the community in a lot of ways because both my parents are firmly rooted in Seattle and very present in our community.
Did you become politically active at a young age?
Yes, at age 16. When I realized I was queer, and especially when I realized I was gender expansive, I got very involved with local queer youth organizing. There was this amazing group of queer young people who were trying to start a community center for ourselves. A lot of LGBTQ spaces tend to be bars, so there aren’t many inclusive places for young queer people. We founded the first youth-led LGBTQ community center in Seattle with large grants from the City of Seattle and the Point Foundation. That period of my life was a mind-blowing crash course in community organizing. I also met and was mentored by trans adults for the first time, which was very meaningful and helped me imagine a future for myself.
Sounds like that was a very open and formative environment.
Definitely. I learned so much about social justice issues, especially around race, class, and disability. We were a diverse crew and it was a very energizing organizing community to be a part of. While doing that organizing, I graduated from high school when I was 16, and did an early entrance program at the University of Washington, where I made my own major in the History of Social Movements by pulling together classes in history, ethnic studies, women and gender studies. It was a great way to learn how social changes happens over time in different social contexts, and informed my work with Queer Youth Space.
What did you see yourself doing after graduation?
I saw myself doing social work and community organizing with young people, which I pursued for a couple years after I graduated. But I also craved more creative work, so at age 22 I took a very abrupt left turn to pursue a career as a chef. I left my job working with young people and got a job as a restaurant prep cook, and then worked my way up to a chef-level position for the next seven years. I even spent a summer learning traditional butchery in Italy from a third-generation pig farmer, which was mind blowing.
What made you leave cooking?
Although I loved my career in kitchens in many ways, it was also an incredibly intense experience that I have a lot of ambivalence about. There are parts of my job that were life affirming and beautiful, and there were parts about it that were horrifying: toxic people, sexual harassment, gnarly injuries, constant violations of labor laws. At some point I was deeply burned out and knew, “It is not healthy for me to keep doing this.” But I still deeply love cooking. I’ve done some elaborate dinner parties for fellow Haasies.
So how did you end up in business school?
Seattle was the first city that got COVID in the U.S., so we shut down our restaurants before everyone else did. At that point, I turned back into community organizing and founded the social enterprise Cooks for Black Lives Matter, which has raised over $100,000 for local Black-led community organizing. Although at the time I just felt like I was doing something to be useful during such a dark time, I eventually realized, “Oh, I’m an entrepreneur now. I’m genuinely good at this,” and I wanted to build up those skills more. I contemplated a master’s in social work or public policy, but I thought it would be a bigger stretch for me to learn more about business.
Are you happy with that choice?
I’m so glad to be at Haas. It’s unbelievable the amount of opportunities that exist in business school. You have access to so much, which is often unbelievable to me coming from the service industry where you’re always given the bare minimum. One of my best experiences at Haas was in Lean LaunchPad last semester, where I was on the team with MBA student Carlson Giddings, helping her start a sweet potato flour company. I did all the recipe development for our team, and learned so much about the entrepreneurship side of the food CPG industry from entrepreneurship experts with decades of experience. During that class, I got to make a short video about our project and get editing help from Ralph Guggenheim, one of the co-producers of Toy Story and a mentor in the class. That’s one of those opportunities that, if I wasn’t at Haas, I would never in a million years have had access to.
You’re an active student leader at Haas. What’s that been like?
Although I would love to find out that I’m wrong about this, I believe I’m the first ever out transgender person to be the student president of an MBA program. It’s been a huge priority for me to have more conversations about trans identity at Haas. Via Abolencia, MBA/MPH 23, is one of my best friends, a fellow non-binary student here, and a co-president of Q@Haas. Together, we ran an event called Trans Futures, featuring a panel of trans advocates from public health, consulting, and community organizing, which was such a moving experience. The vast majority of the time, I’m the only trans person in the room at school and at work, which is a fairly exhausting experience. To create a trans-led space at Haas was good for my heart. It’s powerful for my classmates, most of whom have never seen eight trans people together before in their lives, to get to listen to these incredible activists reflect together on their work and their lives. That is by far the event I’m most proud of running at Haas.
Any suggestions for how our community members can be better allies to the trans community?
Overall, I would say read trans authors and watch media made by trans people, because I think what many people are lacking is empathy for our life experience. Follow some trans people on social media, and in general gain a more casual familiarity with the language we use and the struggles and successes a lot of us share. We’re not a huge percentage of the population, (although the number of people that identify as gender expansive is growing as more people feel comfortable coming out), so cis people need to put in more effort themselves to build their familiarity and comfort with trans people.
As regulators wrestle with disclosure standards for the burgeoning $35 trillion ESG investing industry—named for its focus on corporations’ environmental, social, and governance activities—a group of influential thought leaders is gathering at Berkeley Haas to share their expertise.
“The timing and the content of the conference are unique,” says Panos Patatoukas, associate professor of accounting at Berkeley Haas and faculty director of the Center for Financial Reporting and Management (CFRM), which organized the event. “Our set of panelists and moderators are at the cutting edge of the ESG investing world and represent a wide range of perspectives, including ESG strategies, scoring and indexing, investing, regulation, and sustainability reporting standards.”
The importance of measurement, standardization, and verification is becoming more urgent as ESG investing grows, and the amount of capital allocated in ESG indices and financial products has exploded. For example, the SEC recently fined Bank of New York Mellon over misleading claims about funds that use environmental and social criteria to pick stocks. A transparent standard setting process can play a crucial role in advancing the clarity that investors and businesses are asking for in the area of ESG disclosures, Patatoukas says.
ESG from four angles
The conference will approach ESG accounting from four main angles, Patatoukas says: disclosure, assurance, standardization, and valuation and investing. After an introduction from Dean Ann Harrison, the first panel will focus on measurement and disclosure, and will be moderated by James Webb, executive director of the CFRM.
Next, Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, a nonprofit that uses shareholder advocacy to “create lasting change by protecting human rights, reducing toxic waste, and aligning investments with values,” will lead a discussion on ESG advisory and auditing, with partners from PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, and Moss Adams.
Berkeley Law Professor Stavros Gadinis will moderate two keynote addresses: SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce will speak on ESG reporting regulations, and Janine Guillot, CEO of the Value Reporting Foundation, will speak on reporting standards.
The afternoon discussion of ESG valuation and investing will feature AJ Lindeman, Bloomberg’s head of Index and ESG Research; Wall Street Journal Senior Columnist James Mackintosh, and Karen Wong, head of ESG & Sustainable Investing for State Street Global Advisors. Patatoukas will moderate.
The event, which is the 26th annual Conference on Financial Reporting, will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum on the Haas campus.Registration is open to all. Attendees can receive CPA Continuing Education credits.
Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we spoke with Angelo Ignacio, EMBA 22, an email marketing manager at 23andMe, who’s committed to mission-driven work. He shares his story below.
Social impact work and storytelling have been at the heart of everything that I do. As a marketing major at Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit private college in Los Angeles, I envisioned working at a big advertising agency after college. But the 2008 recession forced me to shift gears and be open to other possibilities. It was a sobering moment for me because I learned that life doesn’t always go the way you plan, but if you approach life with a half-glass full mentality—something that I inherited from my parents—you can overcome anything. The recession, in my view, was a shortcut to finding my purpose and pursuing a mission-driven career.
After college I joined Invisible Children, a nonprofit humanitarian organization whose mission is to stop the use of child soldiers and reunite children with their families. That work opened my eyes to the impact of storytelling and marketing to get people to rally for a good cause.
One of the projects that I worked on was building a marketing campaign to raise funds that were then used to charter helicopters. The helicopters would fly over Kiliwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nzako in Central African Republic, drop compostable flyers with directions to safe zones, and use loudspeakers to play recorded messages from parents whose children had been abducted. To see this project come to life and help children flee their captors was incredible. Seeing actual cell phone footage of reunited families from our partners on the ground was one of the proudest moments of my life. I went on to work at other nonprofits including World Vision, and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
While I found working in the nonprofit sector incredibly rewarding, I realized that the nonprofit world could benefit from having more leaders with business backgrounds—leaders who push for operational efficiency and consumer-driven segment marketing campaigns. These are big stretches for even large companies like World Vision, but they are necessary steps for growth and sustainability. I felt like if I was going to continue on in this career field, I needed to bring a business skillset to the nonprofit world.
While I found working in the nonprofit sector incredibly rewarding, I realized that the nonprofit world could benefit from having more leaders with business backgrounds.
Just like in 2008, I found myself grappling with a world filled with uncertainty in 2020. Despite the challenges brought on by the global pandemic, I decided to enroll at Haas because I believed that there was no better time to go to business school. The world was changing rapidly and I figured if I waited any longer, I wouldn’t be able to learn in an environment where things were happening in real time.
Since coming to Haas, I’ve taken classes that have shaped me into the business leader that I want to become. One class that has left the biggest impact on me is Executive Leadership taught by Harris Sondack. At the heart of this class is figuring out who you want to be and the kind of leader you want to be. Lecturer Sondak asks ethical and philosophical questions that truly make your brain hurt, but in a good way.
Since coming to Haas, I’ve taken classes that have shaped me into the business leader that I want to become.
Another invaluable class that has left a profound impact is Leadership Communications taught by Lecturer Mark Rittenberg. This course focuses on how to effectively tell your personal story, how to show up and be present for others, and how to lead teams and organizations. The biggest takeaway from that course was learning and proudly accepting that I’m also a storyteller. I don’t have to choose between being a business leader and a storyteller, I can be both at the same time.
I now have a new outlook on my career path. I’ve realized that I don’t need to remain in the nonprofit world to positively create change, but I do know that whatever I decide to do, it has to connect back to impact and mission-driven work.
The students, presenters for the 30-member Haas-sponsored imagiCal club, will compete against eight other teams in the finals June 3-4 in Nashville, Tenn. They will pitch a marketing campaign to promote the Meta Quest 2, a headset by virtual reality systems maker Meta Quest.
The presenters include Jasmine Zheng, BS 24 (business), BA 24 (art practice); Claire Shao, BS 24 (business) BA 24 (media studies); Sydney Fessenden, BA 25 (global studies); and Anika Srivastava, BS 24 (business) BA (psychology). ImagiCal is UC Berkeley’s official American Advertising Federation chapter.
This year’s team heads to the finals for the first time since 2016. According to Continuing Lecturer Judy Hopelain, imagiCal’s faculty adviser since 2013, “the team recommendations were based on a solid strategy, keen user insights, and creativity. The Meta Quest clients said their beautiful design and clever execution were key to the team’s success in this year’s competition.”
The students competed against teams from over 200 universities at the district and regional levels to make it to the finals. In Nashville, they’ll pitch to a panel of judges including brand and marketing leaders from Meta, and advertising, marketing, and communications professionals.
Asked what sets the team apart, Zheng said it was about putting together a group of “the most eccentric, worldly, empathetic, creative individuals in a room together” and asking them to create a marketing campaign.”
“We’re telling a story,” she said. “We’re connecting with our audience. And we’re seeking to expand the capacity to be empathetic and creative at every step of the journey.”
This year’s competition will be the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that teams will be presenting in front of a live audience, rather than a computer screen on Zoom. While nerves are understandably high, imagiCal’s philosophy is to “go big or go home,” Zheng said.
Exuberant grads tossed beach balls and danced salsa in the aisles of the Greek Theatre at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening and Weekend MBA Class of 2022.
It was a moment of unfettered joy, as speakers rallied the graduates for the challenges ahead.
“The world right now has lots of huge unsolved problems—from political polarization to climate change to artificial general intelligence to augmented humanity to disease to inequality—so you have lots of big problems to choose from,” commencement speaker Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, told about 600 graduates, who gathered under blue skies and sunshine. “Pick one that you have passion for, that you can’t help but want to spend all your time day and night on even if others think it’s too idealistic, too big, or too unsolvable. You’re Berkeley MBAs now. You don’t need to settle.”
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed Singh, an entrepreneur who in 2010 co-founded battery technology company QuantumScape. She acknowledged how special it was to be together for the first in-person MBA commencement in two years.
“This felt like the best closure for a two-year process that has been life changing,” said Ignacio Solis, MBA 22, an international student from Chile.
Harrison praised the students for their resilience during their program, noting that those experiences will serve them well throughout their careers. “Because of who you are—your fierce intelligence and your deep understanding of the forces that drive business– you will have power,” she said. “Power is not always about how many people report to you or whether you have the CEO’s ear or whether you are the CEO. Power is the ability to make a difference—one day at a time; one project at a time; one function at a time.”
Evening & Weekend grads: “Pause and savor”
Noting how many life events happened for the EWMBA class during the program, Harrison said that 32% of the class was promoted, 41% of the students changed jobs, 13% got married, and 30 babies were born.
Evening & Weekend program student speaker Paulina Lee, a marketing director at Procter & Gamble, told graduates to stop and consider how much they’ve changed at Haas.
“What Haas has afforded us is the opportunity to redefine ourselves, to explore the edges of our comfort zone, and that’s why as we end this chapter and start our new paths to our own definitions of success we are faced with so many different emotions,” she said. “Joy, anxiety relief, excitement to move on to the next thing, get on with it, but perhaps we shouldn’t. At least not right away.”
Lee asked students to pause for a moment and savor, after spending the last three years on a sprint. “The first ask (from me) is to pause, really pause, and see the space that school used to take up and protect it,” she said. “Now that you have become the person you are today, reevaluate, sit down with yourself and honestly seek to understand who you have become.”
Full-time MBA: The opportunity to “fail and learn”
The 2022 full-time MBA class is the most diverse ever, Harrison told the graduates, including 39% women, 50% U.S. minorities, 8% veterans, and 10% first-generation college students.
Full-time MBA student speaker Kokei Otosi, who will join IBM as a senior consultant in August, opened her speech by thanking her classmates. She also expressed thanks for the time that the MBA program gave her to explore.
“What I know now is that the MBA is a sandbox,” said Otosi, a Bay Area native-turned-New Yorker whose parents are Nigerian immigrants. “When you leave you may still not know what you want to do, but for two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try. We may not get that kind of freedom again.”
Throughout the ceremony, speakers paid tribute to classmate Nadeem Farooqi, who died in fall 2020.
Otosi said the shock and grief the class experienced over his death was palpable. “Nadeem, we cannot believe you aren’t here with us celebrating today, but we haven’t forgotten you,” she said. “We miss you.”
Honors for both MBA programs
Harrison asked all students with GPAs in the top 10% of their classes to stand and be honored for their achievements.
Here are the EWMBA program honors:
Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Laura Jacobson
Defining Leadership Principles awards:
Question the Status Quo: Eleanor Boli
Confidence Without Attitude: Cheick Diarra
Students Always: Steve Odell
Beyond Yourself: Nana Lei
The Berkeley Leader Award: Nana Lei and Frances Ho
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, weekend MBA program: Ricardo Perez-Truglia, for macroeconomics
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, evening MBA program: Professor Max Aufhammer, for data and decisions
Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Kimberlyn George
FTMBA program honors:
Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Jon Christopher Thompson
Question the Status Quo: Aliza Gazek
Confidence Without Attitude: Casey Dunajick-DeKnight
Students Always: Mathilde De La Calle
Beyond Yourself: Kevin Hu
Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Griffin Grail-Binghman
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick for Strategic Leadership
Earlier this month, seven Phd candidates participated in a hooding ceremony.
The PhD program at Haas stands out among all six academic programs, Harrison told the graduates. “It is our smallest, but it’s also the program nearest and dearest to the hearts of our faculty, all of whom are PhDs and are deeply committed to training the researchers and professors of the future,” she said. “This is a core part of my mission, and of all of our faculty’s mission.”
Graduating students included Kristin Donnelly, Shoshana Jarvis, Łukasz Langer, Petr Martynov, Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, and Young Yoon. The Cheit award for excellence in teaching in the PhD program went to Professor Panos Patatoukas of the Haas Accounting Group.
Laura Adint, EMBA 14, an operations and strategy executive has been chosen as the 2022 Berkeley Haas Executive MBA commencement speaker.
The ceremony will take place at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall on June 4, 2022.
Adint, valedictorian of the 2014 EMBA class of 68 graduates, has focused in recent years on developing strategies for scaling organizations. Passionate about leading high performing teams, she said she’s applying many of the lessons from her Berkeley Haas program classes and classmates. (Read Poets & Quants profile of Adint.)
Adint has held several executive leadership roles at prominent tech companies as vice president of sales operations & sales development at Drift; vice president of sales strategy and operations at Adaptive Insights, and vice president of sales operations at SugarCRM. She’s also held senior roles at Kelly OCG, Xilinx, Ford Motor Company, and Accenture.
She holds a B.A.S. in mathematics and economics with highest honors from the University of California, Davis. She also received the 2010 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Award.
As the sun pushed through the morning fog today, the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Class of 2022 was more than ready to celebrate four years of hard work, persistence, and overcoming unprecedented challenges.
“Class of 2022, congratulations, we did it,” student commencement speaker Saahil Shangle, BS 22, said as students, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of family and friends, cheered. “We just completed one of the best undergraduate business programs in the country.”
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the graduates and wished them well on their new lives and careers. “The great skills you have mastered during your time at Berkeley go beyond those of a bachelor in business,” Harrison said. “In addition to accounting, marketing, strategy, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, you have learned how to persevere against the strongest headwinds, how to keep your spirits high when the world around you was struggling, and how to achieve your goals during a global pandemic.”
Most of the 475 undergraduate students who were eligible to graduate this year attended Monday’s ceremony. The 2022 class included several firsts: the first Global Management Program (GMP) cohort included 33 students, 10 who graduated a year or semester early. And the inaugural Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program (LSBE), a partnership with the Molecular Cell and Biology Major, graduated its first cohort of 10.Harrison also pointed out that more than half the class (51%) are women; 47% of the students earned a simultaneous degree in another college and major; and 17% of the students are first in their families to graduate from college.
Josue Vallecillo, BS 22, said his degree means everything to him. “My parents have worked so hard to make sure that I get to where I am and I know that I’ve had to sacrifice so much,” he said. “This degree is not just a culmination of four years but a lifetime of hard work and dedication.”
“How can I help others succeed?”
Commencement speaker Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, an entrepreneur, corporate leader, speaker, and author, recalled his days as a Haas student—with highlights including the $1 noodle deal on campus and the “coolest device that everyone wanted”: the Motorola Razr. “YouTube was a few months from being invented, and you folks were still in pre-school,” he said.
McDanielurged students to be flexible in life, to never quit before considering every option, and to help others always. “Don’t ask yourself ‘How can I advance my career?’” said McDaniel, who teaches entrepreneurship at Haas. “Ask ‘How can I help others succeed?’”
A founding partner at Grow Scale, a commercial real estate private equity firm, McDaniel praised Barbara Felkins, director of academic affairs, Sojourner Blair, admissions director, and Dresden John, student experience manager, who are retiring from the Haas Undergraduate Office this year, for helping students succeed and for working together to keep Haas a top business school.
McDaniel told students to try to avoid choosing one thing or the other in life. “There’s a way to have or be both,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be nature or nurture, Coke or Pepsi….Failing and succeeding, profiting and positively impacting society. We don’t live in an either or world. We live in an “and” world.”
“Do not delay happiness”
Shifting to a more serious tone, Anna Shim, BS 22, president of the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA), spoke poignantly of losing her 25-year-old brother, who died three months ago in his sleep. She shared what she learned while working through her grief.
“Do not delay happiness,” she said. “Life is short, so live every day like it’s your last.”
Chosen by his peers as the student speaker, Shangle reflected on how the people at Haas made his time special—from courtyard conversations they shared to Taco Tuesdays. “We are transfer (students), veterans, underrepresented minorities, international, first generation, athletes. We are leaders, creators, social media celebrities and everything in between,” he said. “Best of all, we’re a team.”
Shangle, who said his younger brother will be a UC Berkeley freshman this fall, also thanked the Haas faculty and staff. “We deeply appreciate all the time, passion, and knowledge you all share with us every single day.”
Honors at commencement
Those honored at undergraduate commencement include:
Department Citation (for most outstanding academic achievements): Josh Greenberg
Question the Status Quo: Vanshika Sapra
Confidence without Attitude: Jeena Chong
Students Always: Anna Katharina Giebel
Beyond Yourself: Anna Shim (GMP program)
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching for the Undergraduate Program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Richard Huntsinger
Outstanding Graduate School Instructor (GSI): Paige Wahoff
With graduation ahead Monday, we interviewed Haas Business School Association President Anna Shim, BS 22, about her experiences at Berkeley Haas and where she plans to go next.
Best memory from your time as an undergrad at Haas?
One of my best memories as a Haas undergrad was not related to recruiting, coffee chats, or classes, but a social event: 2018 Haas Winter Formal. I was extremely eager to meet fellow Haasies and attend this formal dance organized by Haas Business School Association (HBSA) at the SF Conservatory of Flowers. There was food, a dance floor, a photo booth, and more. My team and I organized a similar Haas spring formal this year, which was a fun way to celebrate the end of the semester!
Favorite place to get food around campus?
I’ve grown fond of many restaurants here during the past four years so it’s hard to choose. Some classics are Mezzo, Sliver, and Gypsy’s. Healthier options include Freshroll, Poke Parlor, and Berkeley Thai House. My favorites that are closer to downtown Berkeley are Imm Thai, Berkeley Social Club, and Marugame Udon.
What are you most proud of during your time here?
I am most proud of the myriad of experiences I had during my time at Berkeley and Haas. Whether it was studying abroad in London through the Global Management Program during fall semester of my freshman year, representing Haas in the National Diversity Case Competition at Indiana University, or serving as president of the Haas Business School Association, Haas has offered me many unique opportunities that I would not have otherwise.
What was the hardest challenge you had to overcome?
The most difficult challenge that I had to overcome and am still coping with is the sudden loss of my only brother (also a Cal alum) three months ago. I urgently went home in the middle of the semester to support my parents and am fortunately still graduating on time. Experiencing grief at a relatively young age has undoubtedly taught me many invaluable lessons, including gratitude, humility, and resilience.
Where will you live and work next?
I will be living in SoCal with my family and working as an M&A management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles.
Fellows learn about the roles played by people in their professions in Nazi Germany, and explore the ethical issues facing those professions today. Daily seminars are led by specialized faculty who engage fellows in discussions and critical thinking about both the historical and the contemporary.
We interviewed both students about the fellowship.
What led you to apply to the FASPE Fellowship?
Kanyinsola: I applied to the FASPE Fellowship because it would allow me to go beyond my core Ethics course and explore practical ways to address ethical issues as a business leader. I was intrigued by the structure and setting of FASPE, which provides a unique opportunity to delve into topics in business ethics, both historical and contemporary, and a forum to engage and learn from fellows from different graduate programs to create a genuinely enriching and impactful experience. FASPE will serve as a great capstone to my MBA.
Danielle: I applied to the FASPE fellowship because I truly see it as a culmination of my educational journey. I’ve always enjoyed my ethics and philosophy classes in undergrad and here at Haas. In college I minored in German and had the chance to study parts of the German economy via my finance and international business major. Being part of the FASPE Business Fellows community will give me a community to share with and learn from as we examine the role of business and capitalism in making the world a better place through a lens of the harm that it once contributed to.
What do you hope to take away from the trip?
Kanyinsola: I hope to take away tools to help me resolve, avoid, or prepare for the nuanced ethical issues I will face as a business leader. In addition, I hope to leverage the multidisciplinary discussions and different perspectives of other fellows to examine and better understand the actions and complicity of business executives during Nazi Germany and other contexts to reinforce my professional responsibility to promote ethical and moral decision-making.
Danielle: I hope to take away a renewed sense of what business ethics can and should look like, particularly given the ambiguity created by context and time. I hope to walk away with a better understanding of how systemic evil can make it impossible to make the right choices, especially for businesses. But I also am eager to hear stories of businesses that did the right thing—because we don’t tend to focus on those or have good, accessible examples of what ethical business leadership looks like.
How does the fellowship align with your career goals?
Kanyinsola: I aspire to be a business leader in the sustainable food and agricultural space. I am driven by a desire to promote individual well-being by facilitating access to nutritious food products while minimizing the detrimental impact of large-scale food production on the climate and environment. While I hope to be an innovator in this arena, I anticipate tension will sometimes arise in balancing my ultimate mission with the fiscal responsibilities of running a business. I want to be a business leader who continuously reflects upon and confronts ethical issues in all aspects of my business operations. FASPE will provide a great foundation to accomplish this goal.
Danielle: I came to Haas to pivot to a career in impact investing, where I will be responsible for advising and structuring investments that have a double or triple bottom line. In July I’ll be joining the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation where I’ll source, evaluate, and select early stage, high impact social entrepreneurs to support via the model of venture philanthropy. This fellowship will give me an additional lens to truly become a prudent impact investor because business isn’t inherently ethical or unethical: business will always have the ability to perpetuate good or harm. An ethical capital allocator needs to be able to dissect and understand the potential harms as well as see the bigger picture if they choose to go forward.
The historic drought and warmer temperatures are stoking fears of an early wildfire season. Areas in the state scorched by wildfires increased fivefold from 1979 to 2019. The following year, the burn area more than doubled.
And a new United Nations report warns of a “global wildfire crisis” and predicts that extreme wildfires could increase by 57% by the end of the century.
With fire comes the threat of property loss for homeowners.
A team of Berkeley Haas researchers warn that despite this clear upward trajectory, the risks posed by wildfires are worse than we—or, at least, the insurance and mortgage markets— are willing to account for.
An analysis by Professors Nancy Wallace and Richard Stanton, along with two PhD alumni, suggests the financial firms whose insurance products help protect homeowners from the financial devastation of fires could soon find their own businesses financially wrecked, unless their risk models and pricing (and the government regulations overseeing both) undergo dramatic changes.
“We have a problem, and the political will to deal with this is not even trying to catch up with the speed of the rapidly changing risks,” says Wallace, the Lisle and Roslyn Payne Chair in Real Estate and Capital Markets, chair of the Berkeley Haas Real Estate Group, and co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics.
Wallace and Stanton, along with Paulo Issler, PhD 13, MBA 98, director of the Haas Real Estate & Financial Markets Lab, and Carles Vergara-Alert, MFE 04, PhD 08, now a professor at Spain’s IESE Business School, teamed up with physicists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) who study the fluid dynamics of fire. In a unique collaboration, they linked the physicists’ sophisticated measurement models—using satellite and radar data—to the comprehensive Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics’ real estate and mortgage-record data. This allowed them to forecast the risks posed by wildfires to lenders and insurers in California.
The researchers found that their site-specific estimates of wildfire risk in the state were quite different from the risk maps developed by the California Department of Insurance. This difference was most pronounced in the zones marked “zero-risk” on the state’s maps, because the researchers found that there was some level of risk in many of those places.
Separately, the researchers found that neighborhoods damaged by wildfires tend to return as gentrified—populated by larger and more expensive homes and residents with higher wealth than those outside of the burn area. That’s because the insurance industry incentivizes bigger and more expensive rebuilds, they noted.
But the system is not sustainable.
Mapping dynamic risks
As economists focused on the mortgage market, Wallace says the researchers are accustomed to working with static maps, which are “imperfect measures of the physical space because they’re so infrequently updated.”
The granular, digitized measurements over a 1.5-by-1.5 kilometer grid developed by the LBNL physicists are, on the other hand, based on dynamic hourly data. They incorporate information about the locations of thousands of California wildfires between 2000 and 2015, as well as meteorological factors including direction and speed of wind, humidity levels, and temperatures. The Haas team also considered a location’s slope, elevation, and vegetative density.
The Haas team mapped the owner-occupied, single-family residences included in a database that covers properties in California between 2000 and 2018. Their dataset included information about each property’s size and price, as well as household characteristics like wealth, income, and mortgage performance.
Building back bigger
The models they developed suggest that wildfire risk in California is more dispersed than the state’s static maps suggest. In fact, they found that important risks to housing stock falls into what the state labels as “zero-risk” zones which contain large numbers of single-family homes. In contrast, their predictive models estimate there is some risk of wildfire in most of these areas.
They also show that five years after a fire, the rebuilt houses are larger and more expensive than those outside of the burn area. Five years later, the houses in the post-fire areas have 3.4% higher prices and are larger than those outside the burn area. This is partly because new homes are required to be built to code, which often means improvements in safety and quality over the previous housing stock. Insurance payouts enable owners to invest heavily in a rebuild, and because everyone in the area is doing the same thing, the whole area increases in value.
Of course, these incentives rely on the existence of a healthy property insurance industry. And that, the researchers say, may be threatened by the patterns highlighted by their predictive models.
From deterministic to probabilistic
Insurers are canceling policies at a growing clip. In the past three years, there’s been a 31% increase in policy cancellations, Stanton says. In 2020 and 2021, he adds, California insurers lost nearly two years of premia. “They can’t sustain providing insurance in this state unless there’s a policy response,” he says.
The problem, the researchers argue, is that the insurers are relying on deterministic models of wildfire risk, based on where fires have happened, rather than probabilistic models that predict incidence of fires. The insurers have no choice—the California Department of Insurance (CDI) requires them to price based on deterministic maps. The researchers argue that the CDI policy needs to change so insurers can base their risk and pricing on probabilistic models.
California regulators also prohibit insurers from using reinsurance margins in the rate structure, which is insurance to cover tail risks—in other words, extreme events. In recent years insurers that offer financial protection from hurricanes and earthquakes have been relying on the reinsurance market. Introducing reinsurance would likely raise customers’ premia, so the researchers propose that the solution could involve subsidies for people who can’t afford the price hikes. The new structure should also shift the current incentives.
“If insurance products really reflected the risk, it would be much more costly, and homebuyers would have a decision to make,” Wallace says. “‘Do I want this home enough to pay these premia, and to take this risk with my life?’ Right now, the real risk isn’t priced in accurately enough for people to understand what their exposures are.”
Wallace has personal experience with those trade-offs: She was one of thousands of people who fled the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm 30 years ago, which killed 25 people, injured about 150, and burned 2,900 homes.
As climate change continues to take its toll, the structure of the insurance market will have to change. That may mean a shift from today’s indemnified insurance, which carefully covers losses, to what’s called parametric insurance, which pays out based on the occurrence and magnitude of a specific weather event.
“We’re so happy to be up and running again,” said IBD’s executive director David Richardson, who runs the marquee Haas global management consulting program that is celebrating its 30th year. “This is one of the most popular electives for our students, and we were crushed when we got hit by COVID restrictions and our students could no longer travel. But we want everyone to know that we’re back.”
Lecturer Whitney Hischier, who teaches the IBD course, added that the hiatus “made us all appreciate the value of experiential classes more than ever.”
Thirteen students assigned to four teams will head to Singapore, Finland, and Guatemala in mid May. To prepare, the students began the IBD consulting course last January, which included the much-anticipated “big reveal” when the students learn where they’ll go.
In Singapore, one project team will work with a global food company. Two teams are heading to Finland. One will work with a software company that offers consumer electronics service management solutions, and another is assigned to a company that built a digital food safety and operations system for hotels, restaurants, and catering businesses. In Guatemala, students will collaborate with a social service organization that operates hospitals and vision centers that aim to eradicate treatable blindness.
Monica Shavers, MBA 23, said she is looking forward to experiencing the culture and the food of Singapore, while working for the global food company.
“We’ve had lots of (virtual) client meetings, talking to our sponsor every week to figure out our itinerary and the ways in which we’ll learn about Singaporean food culture,” she said. “We’ve been talking through all of our ideas, and laying out what we will validate while we are in-country.”
When applying to Haas, IBD was one of the key attractions, she said. “I didn’t get to study abroad as an undergraduate,” she said. “I saw this as a great opportunity for me to get that global experience while I’m in school again.”
Kylie Gemmell, MBA 23, is heading to Joensuu, a small town in Finland, in mid-May to work with a client that makes hardware and software used to control food temperature safety.
Gemmell, who worked in real estate investing before coming to Haas, said IBD has helped her explore a career change. “I’ve never had a consulting job and I wanted to experience what that would feel like—and here I am, 12 weeks into food safety regulation, an area I never knew existed,” she said. Gemmell added that her IBD consulting project has helped her learn more about herself, as the work differs from the independent nature of real estate.
“What I’ve realized is that I really love working on a team and that I get my energy from people and from working collaboratively.”
IBD has grown since JoAnn Dunaway, MBA 92, started the program after she graduated from Haas. “She saw a need for a challenging experiential learning program for MBA students to solve business problems,” Richardson said. “JoAnn had an international background and interest and she brought that in—and the school ran with it.”
During the recent Alumni Weekend at Haas, six IBD alumni joined students for a combined virtual/in-person panel during the April 28 IBD class. The alumni shared insights on their projects and the impact the program has had on their careers. (Read more from IBD’s Associate Director Danner Doud-Martin on the IBD blog)
To prepare for the return to project work overseas, Richardson, a former Peace Corps volunteer, headed abroad last November to meet with potential IBD project clients. In recent months, he worked with UC Berkeley Study Abroad Office and Risk Services to make sure Haas met UC Berkeley’s standards for mitigating the risk of Covid during student travel and at client sites. Over time, he said he’s updated the list of countries where IBD students were able to safely work.
Richardson said he feels great about the program’s future.
“We’re hopeful that we’re getting back into the business of sending more students overseas,” Richardson said.
Berkeley, Calif—Most Americans say they want a more equal society, yet policies aimed at increasing equality for disadvantaged groups in higher education, corporations, government, and elsewhere continue to generate backlash.
This backlash has been blamed on a range of causes—including majority white Americans’ fears of losing their status, political partisanship, and overt prejudice.
A study by Berkeley Haas researchers, published today in the journal Science Advances, offers a new take, identifying an underlying cause of this opposition that cuts across ideologies: People in advantaged positions view equality itself as harmful, and tend to think that inequality benefits them.
“We found that people think of the world in zero-sum terms, so that a gain for one group must necessarily be a loss for another,” says study co-author Derek Brown, a Berkeley Haas doctoral student. “This seems to be a cognitive mistake that everyone is susceptible to, not just a vociferous minority that has antipathy toward any certain group.”
The paper, co-authored by Berkeley Haas assistant management professor Drew Jacoby-Senghor along with Columbia University PhD student Isaac Raymundo, helps explain why even people with strong egalitarian beliefs may still block policies that reduce disparities. Beyond the threat of losing status, people in advantaged groups are prone to the perception that greater equality means less for them—to the point where they’ll vote for policies that cause them economic harm and increase inequality over policies that benefit them and reduce inequality, the study found.
“In our experiment, it was more important to people how well off they were relative to other groups than how they were doing in absolute terms,” Jacoby-Senghor says. “They view a loss in relative advantage as an absolute loss, even when it’s a clear material gain.”
Beyond race and ethnicity
In prior research, Brown found non-Latino white and Asian people—who make up the majority in higher education—see policies that increase minority representation in a graduate program as reducing their chances of admission, even explicitly win-win policies that also increase the number of admission spots for the majority.
In the new paper, Brown and colleagues go beyond race and ethnicity to other types of real-world inequalities, such as the gender wage gap and the hiring gap for those with disability status or a criminal record. They also studied voters’ perceptions of a 2020 California ballot initiative to overturn the state’s ban on affirmative action, and even concocted scenarios involving disparities between fictional teams with random names. Time and again, across all ideologies, study participants in advantaged groups rejected policies to reduce inequality on the false belief that they would end up with less access to resources.
Past research has often focused on policies that are zero-sum, such as hiring fewer white people in order to hire more members of minority groups, making it hard to parse perceptions from actual impact. Brown and Jacoby-Senghor asked people to only assess non-zero-sum policies that help disadvantaged groups without taking anything away from—and even improving things for—advantaged groups. Across all experiments, they controlled for five well-studied forms of ideological opposition to equality: political conservatism, preference for hierarchical social structures, belief that society is zero-sum, system-justifying beliefs, and explicit prejudice. While they found some of them correlated with perceptions of policies, variations in ideology did not explain people’s negative view of greater equality.
In one scenario, for example, non-Latino white study participants were told, “In 2018, white homebuyers received roughly $386.4 billion in mortgage loans from banks, while Latino homebuyers only received around $12.6 billion in mortgage loans overall.” The participants were then presented with proposals for banks to either increase the amount of loans for Latinos, decrease the amount, or leave it unchanged, while maintaining the loans for white homebuyers. Even so, participants misperceived the proposal to increase the amount for Latino buyers as lowering their own chances of getting a loan, and thought decreasing the amount available to Latinos would improve their chances.
This misperception also held true when the researchers tested win-win policies that benefit both majority and minority groups. A mention of societal benefits also did not cause a shift: White participants in one study thought a policy that would reduce inequality by offering more loans for Latinos and benefit society by stimulating mortgage investment for all groups would reduce their ability to get a loan, while they perceived a policy that would decrease loans to Latinos—worsening inequality—and decrease overall mortgage investment as not harming them.
Even when white participants were directly told that anyone who wanted access to a loan could get one and there was no limit on the amount available, they continued to believe that also boosting loans to Latinos would slightly reduce their chances of getting a loan.
“The causes and solutions to inequality are complex, but even when we simplified it and bent over backwards to make sure everyone is better off in these scenarios, people still found a way to believe they’ll be harmed,” Jacoby-Senghor says.
In fact, the only thing that erased majority participants’ misperceptions were proposals that enhanced equality between members of their own group—such as when a group of male participants considered reducing pay disparity between men, rather than between men and women.
The researchers examined this dynamic in a real-world field study, surveying California voters on Proposition 16, which would have overturned the state’s ban on considering race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education, and contracting.
“We wanted to see if this misperception about equality predicted how people would vote,” Brown said.
It did. They found that the majority of whites and Asians believed the measure would reduce their access to education and job opportunities. The more strongly they held that belief, the less they supported Prop.16. In fact, a belief that the measure would harm their chances was a stronger predictor of how people would vote than their political party or any other ideological variable. In a follow-up survey two weeks after the first, researchers found that people who switched to a no vote reported a growing perception that the measure would hurt them.
Rattlers vs Eagles
In their final experiments, the researchers tested whether majority members of completely fictional groups would reject more equitable outcomes based on a misperception of harm. In contrast with prior experiments that only involved majority group members, the researchers recruited a racially and ethnically diverse subject pool. They told them they were assigned based on a personality test to a team called the Rattlers, which would compete against the Eagles in a problem-solving challenge (in reality, this personality test did not determine group assignment and the Eagles didn’t exist). Participants were told that the Rattlers had received more bonuses than the Eagles in the past couple of weeks, and so they were asked to consider more equal ways to distribute bonuses.
Even with made-up groups, the same dynamic held: Members of the Rattlers rejected a win-win proposal that would give monetary bonuses to 5 more Rattlers and 50 more Eagles—still leaving the Rattlers ahead—and instead chose a lose-lose plan, forfeiting 5 bonuses and taking 50 from the Eagles. “This policy harmed everyone and made the bonus distribution more unequal,” the researchers point out.
In a final twist, the researchers presented study participants with side-by-side scenarios that would either reduce or increase inequality without affecting their bonuses, so they could easily compare. They still perceived the equity-enhancing policy as harming their chances.
The findings shed new light on one of the foundational theories of social psychology, social identity theory, which posits that people tend to prefer relatively greater amounts of resources be allocated to their in-group than to an out-group. This preference is predicted by the misperception that reductions of relative advantage necessarily harm advantaged groups in absolute terms, according to the researchers.
Beyond theory, the findings are troubling given the massive social and economic costs of inequality, Brown says. Lost GDP from racial inequality has been estimated at $16 trillion, and the gender pay gap is estimated to reduce the global economy by about $160 trillion. People may fundamentally misunderstand how much disparities weigh down society as a whole, the researchers suggest.
This zero-sum view of equality is a roadblock that policy makers seeking to reduce disparities will need to grapple with, Brown says.
“Our research suggests that you can’t expect everyone to be on board and you should always expect there’s going to be a backlash,” he says. “The change itself has to be the justification.”
“If you rise, I fall: Equality is prevented by the misperception that it harms advantaged groups”
N. Derek Brown, Drew S. Jacoby-Senghor, Isaac Raymundo Science Advances, May 6, 2022
Norman Y. Mineta, BS 53, a 10-term Democratic congressman from California and the first Asian American to become a federal cabinet secretary under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, died Tuesday at home in Edgewater, Md., at 90.
Mineta, who as a child was interned with his family and thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II, died of a heart ailment, according to theThe New York Times.
After graduating from Haas in 1953 with an undergraduate degree in business administration, Mineta joined the U.S. Army and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea.
Mineta broke racial barriers for Asian Americans in becoming mayor of San Jose, Calif. in 1971, according to his AP obituary. Elected to Congress in 1974, he became popular with voters by supporting transportation projects and fostering public-private partnerships that created explosive growth in Silicon Valley.
After 9/11, Mineta guided the creation of the Transportation Security Administration.
In an interview about the aftermath of 9/11, recorded by The Japanese American National Museum, Mineta discussed concerns over some public calls for “putting Arab Americans and Muslims in camps.” Recalling a Sept. 12 cabinet meeting, he said a Michigan congressman shared that his Arab American constituents were concerned about fallout from the attacks. President Bush responded that he was also concerned. “We want to make sure what happened to Norm in 1942 doesn’t happen today,” Mineta recalled in the interview, adding that after the meeting he told his staff that “one of things we have to make sure we do is no racial profiling.”
After leaving public service, Mineta became vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton. San Jose’s airport was renamed Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in 2001; in 2007, Mineta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a statement, President Bush called Mineta “a wonderful American story about someone who overcame hardship and prejudice to serve in the United States Army, Congress, and the Cabinet of two Presidents.”
Graduates of the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 reunited at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre last Friday for in-person commencement.
The graduates crossed the stage and celebrated with classmates, family, and friends in downtown Oakland and on campus. (The ceremony coincided with Haas’ MBA Conference and Reunion.) The in-person events followed separate virtual commencement ceremonies held in May 2020 & 2021.
Here are some highlights from Friday’s ceremony:
Graduates from the MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 gathered at Oakland's Paramount Theatre for their belated in-person commencement. The ceremony was held on April 29, 2022. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Evan Wright, MBA 20, hugs a fellow classmate. COVID-19 restrictions prevented graduates from having in-person commencements for two years. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Members of the class of 2021 take photos outside of Oakland's Paramount Theatre. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Graduates take a few photos before commencement begins. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
"If you ever doubted whether you could lead through a crisis, overcome impossible odds, break through barriers, you have your answer," said Dean Ann Harrison who praised both MBA classes for completing one of the most rigorous MBA programs in the US during a pandemic. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85, gave this year's commencement speech. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
"Haas taught me to show up as my most authentic self and to tear down my own walls and invite people in," said commencement speaker Joe Sutkowski, MBA 20. "Let's all continue to invite people into our lives and make this world a little bit smaller." Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Student speaker Fede Pacheco, MBA 21, urged classmates to remember the joyous moments of their MBA program and to reach out to one another whenever life gets tough. Pacheco also received the Confidence without Attitude award. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
David Brown-Dawson, MBA 21. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Graduates of the MBA class of 2020. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2020:
Academic Achievement Award: Brian Shain, the MBA student with the highest GPA.
Question the Status Quo: Evan Wright
Confidence without Attitude: Celeste Fa’ai’uaso
Students Always: Nina Ho
Beyond Yourself: Benny Johnson
Berkeley Leaders: Molly Zeins & Ezgi Karaagac
Haas Legacy Award: Santiago Freyria and Francesco Dipierro
Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2021:
Achievement Award: Devan Courtois
Student always: José Ramón Avellana
Beyond yourself: Kendall Bills
Question the status quo: Fayzan Gowani
Confidence without attitude: Fede Pacheco
Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois
A passion to protect the environment began as a child for Sheeraz Haji, the new co-director of the Cleantech to Market (C2M) Program at Berkeley Haas.
“My dad was working in Africa for the World Bank, and we got to see how water pollution impacts peoples’ lives,” said Haji, who directs C2M with Brian Steel. “I ended up going back to Africa in college, and the environment just emerged as something that I became interested in.”
We talked to Haji, who began his career as an environmental engineer, about his varied career and his plans for C2M, a program that matches graduate student teams with entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize their climate tech solutions.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
All over the world, actually. My dad worked for the World Bank, so we lived in Washington DC, then in Algeria and then Kenya when I was between eight and 12. Africa was amazing; Nairobi was a peaceful, amazing city surrounded by stunning parks. My dad was born and raised in East Africa so it felt like discovering our roots. One of my big memories was kicking and screaming when my parents told my brother and I we had to return to DC, where I went to high school. We didn’t want to go.
How did living in Africa as a kid impact your world view?
Africa played a big role in shaping my world view. My dad’s work gave me exposure to development and sustainability projects. It hit me as a young person. I was like, ‘Oh, this is something to hold onto.’ It was a pretty strong focus coming out of college. Later I got interested in a lot of other things, including business and software.
You’ve had an interesting career. What are some of the highlights?
There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues. I’ve had some twists and turns in my career, working at McKinsey in strategy and at startups, running software startup GetActive, which helped nonprofits raise money online. But certainly the environment and energy have been big themes. Recently, I ran a company called Cleantech Group which helps corporations and investors across the globe invest in sustainable innovation. I now focus on climate tech investing and corporate consulting through my own firm, zipdragon ventures.
There are different parts of my background that fit so well with this job. I studied environmental engineering in college, and started my career as an environmental engineer, working on water and air pollution issues.
What interested you in C2M and this role in particular?
First and foremost, I’ve known Brian (Steel) for a while. We met back in 2013 when I became involved in the program as a guest speaker, a coach, and then as a judge last year. What interested me was just observing and admiring what Brian and (former C2M co-director) Beverly Alexander had built and the impact it had on the students and the entrepreneurs. They put a lot of passion into this program. When I talked to students last year it was clear that C2M was a transformative experience for many of them. Brian, Beverly and co-faculty Bill (Shelander) have also done a really nice job of also keeping other folks from Haas, from the Berkeley ecosystem, and from the industry involved. Also, I have always dreamed of teaching at a world-class institution such as Haas, which happens to be very close to my home in Berkeley.
What are some of the trends that you’re seeing as an investor in clean tech markets?
Investors have poured more money into climate tech in recent years than at any other stage in my career. Global enterprises are driving sustainability goals, and governments are seeking to adopt policies to accelerate transitions to a low-carbon economy. We have observed some big financial outcomes for climate tech startups – something we had not seen for a long time. For example, quite a few EV charging companies have been able to access public markets and provide big returns for founders and investors. In the larger picture, I see sustainability serving as a huge driver across every industry and every company. There’s a massive amount of investment and adoption of climate technologies like the ones we work on at C2M. It feels like a unique time across the globe to focus on clean tech.
Can you share immediate/long-term plans for C2M?
I think job number one is for me to learn the program. Job number two is to try to not to mess up a good thing. We’ve got amazing students and a great cohort of startups. We must execute. We’re definitely looking at the curriculum, trying to figure out if and where to adjust. We’ve had some interesting conversations around, ‘Okay, where could we go? Is it another cohort, perhaps? Doing a class in the spring versus just in the fall?’ Also, we’re trying to be creative, as in, ‘Okay, there’s a great set of relationships, both within and outside the university community, creating a wonderful foundation. What else could we do?’ We are very open to ideas, and would love to hear from the Haas community.
Berkeley Haas faculty member Henry Chesbrough, whose open innovation paradigm has had a significant impact on modern business thinking, has been awarded the Viipuri Prize by Finland’s LUT School of Business and Management.
Chesbrough, who is an adjunct professor and faculty director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, will receive the award in June at LUT University’s Lappeenranta campus in Finland. The award comes with a 10,000 euro prize.
“Professor Chesbrough is widely known as the father of open innovation. Two decades later, the paradigm remains relevant,” said Sami Saarenketo, Dean of LUT School of Business and Management (LBM), in the announcement.
The Viipuri Prize is awarded biennially to an internationally acclaimed top researcher whose work has had a significant impact on the research and teaching at LBM. The first prize was awarded to another Berkeley Haas professor, David Teece, in 2003.
That was the same year Chesbrough published his first book on open innovation; his work has since been cited nearly 100,000 times. The central idea of open innovation is that companies should use both external and internal ideas and paths to market and advance their technology. According to Chesbrough, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research but should instead buy or license processes and inventions from other companies. In addition, business ideas that are not used internally should be taken outside the company through joint ventures or spin-offs.
At the Viipuri Prize ceremony June 3, Chesbrough he will deliver a lecture on “The promise and limits of open innovation after the pandemic.” For more information, see the full press release.
A paper co-authored by Martin Lettau, the Kruttschnitt Family Chair in Financial Institutions, has been selected as the best empirical paper of 2021 by the Journal of Econometrics.
The paper, “Estimating Latent Asset Pricing Factor,” won the journal’s Dennis J. Aigner Award.
Published in 2021, the paper was co-authored by Markus Pelger of Stanford University. The researchers developed a new statistical method to find the most important risk factors in pricing assets, which is crucial for optimal portfolio and risk management.
“Classified” is an occasional series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons being taught in classrooms around Haas.
On a recent Monday evening Berkeley Haas Lecturer Kellie McElhaney opened her class with a challenge, asking her students how others have defined them. “Too bossy” and “too sensitive” were among the responses that McElhaney quickly urged them to dismiss or proudly own as they began a journey of how to describe themselves.
“What do you want your brand to be?” she asked the class of 48 students, most of them Cal athletes—a group that’s at the heart of her new class, Equity Fluent Leadership & Personal Brand. It’s designed to teach primarily Cal student athletes and undergraduates how to create personal brands.
This class comes after California and eight other states passed laws in 2019 that allowed college athletes to benefit from their names, images, or likenesses (NIL). In July 2021, the NCAA followed suit and adopted its own NIL policy for all college athletes. Similar to professional athletes, college athletes can now engage in sponsorships and receive cash payments and gifts. However, the policy continues to preclude students from entering pay-for-play contracts with colleges and universities.
“The NIL policy is in its infancy right now and many college athletes haven’t fully grasped the policy in its entirety,” said McElhaney, who’s also the founding executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership. “My hope is that I can give students the tools to discover who they are and what they stand for, regardless of whether or not they enter contracts.”
Focused on core values
The Equity Fluent Leadership & Personal Brand class has drawn the interest of many athletes, including Cal football players, swimmers, and gymnasts, five of whom are Haas students. Non-Haas students are also enrolled in the course.
“This class has really re-energized me,” McElhaney said. “It’s bringing my three passions together: Equity Fluent Leadership, Cal athletics, and the love for my dad, my role model.” (McElhaney’s father, Harold “Hal” McElhaney, played football for the Philadelphia Eagles, coached at Duke, and went on to become the athletic director for Allegheny College and Ohio University.)
In addition to crafting their personal brands, students explore their core values based on their social identities, learn about the power of allyship, and discover their own brand of leadership. Throughout the semester, students have been tasked with giving presentations about leaders whom they admire, finding songs to represent the soundtrack of their lives, and designing social media accounts that reflect their brands.
Cal women’s basketball player Jazlen Green, BA 22, (sociology) has already benefited from the NIL policy, serving as a brand ambassador for compression legging companyStoko. In exchange for using Green’s name and image, Stoko gives the Cal basketball player free products. But her primary motivation for taking McElhaney’s class was to be the best version of herself.
The personal brand hero assignment, which required students to write about a leader who reflects their brand, has been the most impactful exercise, she said.
“I had a hard time narrowing my decision to one person, which highlighted the fact that I’m multifaceted,” Green said. “I am an athlete, a student, a Black female, and a creator.”
Cal baseball player Garret Nielsen, BS 22, said he took the class to learn more about himself and to become more empathetic.
“This class asks the hard questions,” Nielsen said. “The most important lesson that this class has taught me is you have to establish a foundation of who you are before success comes.”
Conversely, Nielsen said he’s not interested in benefiting from the NIL policy. He’d rather use his status and expertise to help children become great baseball players.
“I would have been ecstatic if a college player had helped me with my game when I was a kid,” Nielsen said. “I now have the opportunity to do just that. I think that’s the true gift of being a Cal athlete.”
Over time, McElhaney hopes to expand the class to include topics such as how to read contracts, money management, and investing. She wants to bring in lawyers and more professional athletes as guest speakers. Earlier in the semester, she invited former NFL player Lorenzo Alexander to talk about the value of having a board of directors. She’s also tapped the wisdom of her graduate student instructor André Chapman, Jr., a former UCLA 400-meter hurdler who was bound for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“At its heart, this is a leadership class,” McElhaney said. “Whether or not students, specifically my student athletes, enter sponsorships, this course sets them up for life.”