Student speaker to 2021 undergraduates: ‘Our story is just beginning’

Five Haas undergraduates toss caps in the air.
2021 Haas graduates on campus tossing caps. From left to right: Richmond Tang, Michael Pratt, Hannah Miller, Tamarik Rabb, and Matt Portnov, all BS 21. (All students are roommates, except for Richmond Tang, who is vaccinated.) Photo: Matt Portnov.

On top of persevering through the rigorous curriculum, the Berkeley Haas undergraduate class of 2021 faced rolling blackouts, wildfires, and the global pandemic. It may not have been the experience they expected, but it will shape them for life, said commencement student speaker Phoebe Yin, BS 21.

“Today we celebrate something that’s unique to our generation: It’s a soft strength to stay malleable when the world is hard on us,” Yin said during virtual commencement last Saturday. “Our story is just beginning…we have nothing to stop us because we are ready for anything. To think only about the things we have lost would be to ignore the compassion, creativity, and unparalleled resilience we have gained.”

“Our story is just beginning.” – Phoebe Yin, BS 21.

The graduating class of 380 students included the first 41 graduates of the Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) program and three students graduating early from the Global Management Program (GMP).

The M.E.T. program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, grants students two degrees in business and engineering in four years. GMP students enter Haas as freshmen and earn an undergraduate business degree with a concentration in global management.

“Your class has by far had the most impact on me during my time teaching here at Haas,” commencement speaker Diane Dwyer, BS 87.

Dwyer, a former broadcast journalist who is on the professional faculty at Haas, acknowledged that students are living in a time of widening income inequality—including within their own class. She noted that one of her students couldn’t afford to buy a working laptop, while another logged into class from a traveling adventure.

“…Stay humble…even in the midst of great accomplishments like the one you’re obtaining today. Stay resilient. The last 18 months have surely taught us that. And stay appreciative, even despite the unfairness and the obstacles that your class has faced,” she told the graduates.

Dean Ann Harrison, who wore full regalia for the sendoff commencement video, also congratulated the class for its many achievements.

“Your world was upended in the middle of your junior year at Haas due to a global pandemic, yet you showed true grit, mastering a rigorous academic curriculum during one of the most turbulent years any of us has experienced,” Harrison said.

Speakers praised the grads for all of their work outside of class during their years at Haas, including calling attention to racial injustice, winning case competitions, creating startups, and providing face masks to essential workers.

Erika Walker
“You met the challenge with grace, compassion, creativity, reflection, and in many cases, a redefined sense of purpose,” – Erika Walker

“You have endured over a year of college life that was unlike anything you could have ever imagined four years ago. Yet you met the challenge with grace, compassion, creativity, reflection, and in many cases, a redefined sense of purpose,” said Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Berkeley Haas undergraduate program.

“You have endured over a year of college life that was unlike anything you could have ever imagined four years ago. Yet you met the challenge with grace, compassion, creativity, reflection, and in many cases, a re-defined sense of purpose.” Erika Walker

Haas alumni, who ranged from more recent grads to veteran business leaders, also sent their well wishes and encouraged graduates to live by the Haas Defining Leadership Principles every day.

Among those alumni were Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe; Kenneth Chen, BS 03, vice president and chief audit executive at Spotify; Scott Galloway, MBA 92, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business; and TubeMogul founder Brett Wilson, MBA 07; Austin Drake, BS 18, who works in global operations at Facebook; Double Bear Lucky Sandhu, BS 96, MBA 15, president of Reliance Financial; and Jordyn Elliot, BS 20, a marketing associate at Ingenio.

Award winners include:

Departmental Citation winner: Akshat Gokhale, (M.E.T graduate)

Students Always: Ananya Gupta

Beyond Yourself: Arman Kermanizadeh

Question the Status Quo: Erinn Wong

Confidence Without Attitude: Tamarik Rabb

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Award winner: Sooji Kim

Dan Mulhern, who teaches leadership in the Management of Operations Group as a member of the Haas professional faculty, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching. Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the award, the top teaching honor at Berkeley Haas.

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