As an entrepreneur and founder of UC Berkeley’s student-led venture fund Arrow Capital Matthew Bond, MBA 19, has concerns about the groupthink he has seen at work in Silicon Valley—such as when venture capitalists rush to invest in startups purely because other influential firms have funded them, rather forming their own views of the companies.
So when classmates Chinmay Malaviya, MBA 18, and Robert Moore, MBA 18, told him about their profound experiences participating in the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) program, he jumped at the chance to apply. He’ll be heading to Berlin May 25 for two weeks of seminars at Nazi historical sites in Germany and Poland.
“Businesses today focus on shareholder value without considering the social cost,” said Bond. “I hope the fellowship helps us spur conversations that develop people’s ethical muscles to the same extent as their intellectual ones.”
Bond is the sixth Berkeley Haas MBA student to be selected since 2015, when the program added a cohort of business students to its journalism, law, medical and seminary fellowships. Led by expert faculty, 14 business students along with journalism and law students from top universities will examine the role of German businesses in enabling and executing Nazi policies. Then they’ll be challenged to identify and confront the ethical issues facing businesses today.
Obsession with shareholder value is one of many topics this year’s fellowship explores, along with legal compliance versus ethical behavior; the ethics of technological and business innovations; and navigating loyalties to stockholders, customers, employees, and communities. The trip includes museum visits, a Holocaust survivor meeting, and workshops at the House of the Wannsee Conference, where the Nazi’s “Final Solution” was planned. Fellows then travel to Poland for seminars in Krakow’s Jagiellonian University and a tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim.
Bond hopes the experience will help him understand why most German business leaders looked the other way, when collectively they could’ve stopped the Nazi regime. “You’ve got a few people with awful views, but they couldn’t run a regime like that without support from tens of thousand of complicit people,” he said.
He’s especially excited because past participants Malaviya and Moore told him the program was a defining moment for them. Jean-Marc Chanoine, MBA 17, described it a “one of the most influential events of my professional life.”
After completing the fellowship, Bond plans to return to the Bay Area to join an early stage company. A U.K. native, he loves the entrepreneurial climate in Silicon Valley and is seeking mentors who can help him apply his fellowship knowledge to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink.
“Everything moves so quickly in the Bay Area, it’s critical to have an internal moral compass and reflect on whether you’re taking the right path,” he said.