A plan to help marketers design and place creative, data-driven ads that could deliver a high return on investment (ROI) landed an undergraduate team a first place district win at the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC).
The competition, which was supposed to be held at San Jose State University, took place via Zoom on April 24-25. It’s the team’s first major win since 2016. Team members: The 29-member team, called imagiCal, included UC Berkeley undergraduate students from multiple disciplines, including business, economics, computer science, sociology, and architecture. This year’s team was led by imagiCal’s President, Maya Iyer, BS 21 (economics). Presenters included: Shelley Cai, BA 21 (sociology); Cicily Deng, BS 22; Nikhil George, CS 22 (computer science); and Brendan Shih, BS 23.
The field: About 2,000 undergraduate students from 200 schools around the country competed in district-level competitions before advancing to the final round. Haas competed against teams from San Jose State University, University of Nevada, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and University of San Francisco.
The challenge: The team was tasked with developing a business and marketing strategy to promote the Adobe Experience Cloud–a digital platform to manage online marketing–among advertising media buyers.
The plan: The team’s campaign slogan was “Data-backed, Story-driven,” showcasing the ways that marketers could create a curated ad experience using data-informed messaging. Secret sauce: “Our secret sauce lies in our diversity,” said Tyler Wu, BS 22. “We pride ourselves on having a diverse community of students, which allows us to consider multiple points of view, learn from each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and think creatively.
Wu also credited the team’s success to student designers who were able to see the practicality of certain ad executions and data scientists who crunched the numbers to see the potential impact of these executions.
The Haas factor: “Our Haas faculty advisor, Judy Hopelain, was very helpful in guiding us through this difficult case,” said Wu. “With her expertise in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, we were able to gain a stronger understanding of how to market B2B products and approach our campaign strategy.”
Diane Rames, a NSAC advisor, also helped the imagiCal team with their B2B marketing and guided them through the competition. NSAC is a college advertising competition with 16 districts and over 150 teams nationwide. Each year, students are challenged to create a multi-million dollar advertising campaign for a corporate sponsor.
With a nod to Dr. Seuss, Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) President Shun Lei Sin told the undergraduate Class of 2020 that they’re off to great places.
“Today is your day,” she said in a video prepared to celebrate the day. “So take pride in how you’ve far come and have faith in how far you can go—and of course keep in mind our four core (Defining Leadership Principles) that define the Berkeley Haas culture.”
Dean Ann Harrison noted their remarkable journey. “You have achieved so much,” she said. “However you’ve applied yourselves, you’ve learned important lessons about collaboration, about failing and trying again, and about making an impact. In short, about leadership.”
However you’ve applied yourselves, you’ve learned important lessons about collaboration, about failing and trying again, and about making an impact.
Undergraduate Defining Leadership Principles Award Winners
Graduate Student Instructor of the Year: Rohi Rana, the GSI for Financial Accounting and Managerial Accounting.
Mia Character, BS 20, DLP winner for Students Always
A team of HBSA members interviewed Haas faculty and staff, who offered advice and well wishes to grads in this video.
The undergraduate class of 2020 has been through a lot together over the past four years: a controversial presidential election, political protests that rocked campus, wildfires that led to canceled classes, and the outbreak of COVID-19, which made final days at Cal “quite a whirlwind,” said graduation speaker Diane Dwyer, BS 87.
“You’ve been tested not just once but many times,” said Dwyer, a Haas professional faculty member and a former broadcast journalist. “Part of what college is supposed to do is prepare you for the rest of your life and I can’t imagine a group that’s more prepared than you.”
As a freshman at UC Berkeley, Celia “Cubbie” Kile, BS 20, became interested in studying business while managing the Cal Men’s Swimming & Diving team, alongside Coach Dave Durden.
“Going into Haas I thought I wanted to pursue sports management,” said Kile, who pivoted at the start of junior year to pursue finance. Kile’s success as a business major led to a top honor this year, as the recipient of the Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement. Every year, the award goes to the graduating senior with the highest GPA.
“I feel so honored to win,” said Kile, who is also a coxswain for the Cal Women’s Rowing Team. “I’m surrounded by students who strive to the highest caliber, so receiving this award is just incredible.”
Kile, who will graduate May 18 with a 4.0 GPA, will work for Altamont Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Palo Alto, starting in August.
At Haas, Kile took advantage of every opportunity that would prepare her for a career in private equity and venture capital, including networking with MBAs, seeking mentors through the alumni database, and doing an independent study that explored the intersection of healthcare and business with Stephen Etter, a member of the Haas professional faculty, who often advises student athletes.
Kile said Etter, who convinced her to pursue finance instead of sports management, completely changed the trajectory of her life. “He’s my biggest inspiration,” she said.
She said she shifted to finance, drawn by the good that money can do. “If you target it to something that’s beneficial to all, you can make a larger impact on society,” she said.
Etter said Kile “is an amazing woman who excelled in and out of the classroom,” with boundless energy. “It’s as if she cloned herself or created the 30-hour day,” he said. “Everything she did was at an exceptional level.”
Among her proudest moments while at Haas was spearheading a Women in Finance Speaker Series, attended by finance executives who spoke about their career paths.
Kile is not only a standout student, she has also served as a coxswain for Berkeley’s Women’s Rowing Team. Rowing, she said, has taught her patience, resilience, discipline, and how to lead a team–essential skills for a career in private equity.
“Being a cox, it takes a lot of leadership and communication skills,” Kile said. “You have to have a fire within you and the ability to have trust from others and for others to trust you.”
Coming to Berkeley and enrolling at Haas has been one of the best decisions she has ever made, she said.
“Berkeley has given me so much,” she said. “It’s made me who I am today and I’m very happy about where I’m going in the future.”
When Lauren Grimanis ran a rural education organization in a remote community in Ghana with no running water or electricity, she turned to yoga and meditation to handle the stresses of daily life.
“While I had community around me, I still felt socially isolated,” said Grimanis, MBA 20, who founded the nonprofit Akaa Project in 2008. “I had to climb a hill into a tomato farm behind my house to get cell service so it was difficult to connect with friends and family.”
Grimanis had no idea that what she’d learned about the value of mindfulness in Africa might prove a handy tool for both helping herself and her tight-knit MBA class cope with the isolation and frustrations of social distancing under the COVID-19 outbreak. As head of the Haas Mindfulness Club, Grimanis not only exercises online with her MBA friends; she’s also put together a Google doc listing everything from free meditation apps to CorePower Yoga classes and shared the doc with both FTMBA classes.
“Last week people were feeling really frustrated and anxious, both understandable feelings. I wanted to help, so we jumped into action,” she said. “We really want to get people to think more positively and use mindfulness in their new daily routines.”
Cheering each other up
Under COVID-19 restrictions, student life has continued online. Joey Parker, MBA 21, organized a toast on Zoom at 9 pm on St. Patrick’s Day for all MBA students. Chris Lee, MBA 20, celebrated his recent 30th birthday online, surrounded by about 50 of his MBA friends. The new reality won’t replace the in-person courtyard lunches, cohort parties, or Tahoe weekends, students say, but they’re working hard to use tech to keep their communities together and stay focused on their work.
The same rings true for evening and weekend students. Terrell Baptiste, EWMBA 20, said his classmates are phoning each other and tapping into the class’ WhatsApp chat group to keep in touch. About 40 classmates are using the app to cheer each other up or initiate discussions about the pros and cons of a shelter-in-place order and whether a stimulus package would help stabilize the U.S. economy.
Haas undergraduates, too, are finding ways to stay virtually connected.
Shun Lei Sin, BS 20, uses Zoom and has joined a Slack channel called SF Entourage, a private virtual community, where she can participate in cooking competitions, play games online or start a book club with friends. Zaheer Ebtikar, BS 20, uses Slack, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with friends while he finishes the semester at home. Neha Dubey, BS 21, sends Google hangout links to classmates, inviting them to virtual lunches. She’s also tapping into Berkeley’s Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) to stay in touch with friends.
“One of my friends is the community engagement associate for SERC and she’s hosting virtual study sessions every Tuesday and organizing baking classes and Netflix parties. It’s just another way to have that human interaction,” Dubey said.
Despite not being able to see her friends in person, Dubey said life under COVID-19 has brought her friends closer together.
“All of my friends have really bonded through this. We’re all making an effort to be a larger part of our everyday lives,” said Dubey. “It’s a lot less texting and a lot more calling.”
For some international students in countries where borders are shutting, the decision to stay on campus or go home, depending on border and visa situations, is difficult. Before Thais Esteves, MBA 21, returned home for the summer to Brazil this week her friends threw her one last impromptu party. The party, initiated by a handful of classmates who were playing an online board game together, started after they sent a few photos to WhatsApp with a link to the virtual celebration. A bunch more classmates joined in to celebrate Esteves’ birthday, and to say goodbye before she boarded the plane. They donned costumes, as they often do at MBA parties, including a polar bear, a viking hat, a unicorn, and a ship’s captain.
A sari, never worn
Many students are grappling with the possibility of a virtual commencement. Ije Durga, MBA 20, said she understands why commencement can’t be held in-person, but is hurt that she won’t be able to say goodbye to her friends. Durga, who worked in India before coming to Haas, is also disappointed that she won’t be wearing a special sari she’d picked out for the ceremony and ordered from India. “I was looking forward to putting that on and surprising everyone—an African woman in a sari,” she said. She said the friend who was going to bring it to her can’t even travel to the U.S. now. “The world has changed so much in just two weeks,” she added.
For many students, spring break meant canceling planned trips, and treks, and suddenly wondering what to do with all that time off. On Thursday, Ana Christina Alanis, MBA 21 and the class’ VP of social, was canceling a web of spring break flights to Colombia. She’d planned to visit Medellin and then scuba dive in Cartagena with a group of 12 students, including her roommate. She was looking forward to relaxing for nine days and a break from her job search. “Spring break starts tomorrow and I have absolutely nothing to do,” she said. The upside? She might teach an online cooking class to Haasies—and she might be able to reschedule her trip with her Colombian classmates, who couldn’t go with her this time.
Get your Zumba on!
After in-person classes stopped, the FTMBA Association and Alex D’Agostino and Annie Powers, both MBA 20, got together and worked on a spreadsheet of classes that could be taught by students for students. Lipika Grover, MBA 20, is one of the first to go for it. She taught her first Zumba class ever on Zoom on Thursday morning. Grover, who had taken many Bollywood classes and loves to dance, was live teaching by 10 am from her home in Houston, where she returned to be with her family.
“It will hopefully lift people’s moods and we’ll get some exercise—wherever we are,” said Grover. “Virtual is the best way to be together and to be strong now. We have to make the best of what we have and come together as a community.”
Jason Li, BS 20, was at brunch with friends earlier this month chatting about the impact of the coronavirus when an idea popped into his head.
“I realized that the coronavirus was getting worse, and that people should be informed of the figures so that they can properly assess their risks,” said Li, a senior who is a double major in business and computer science. “But without data, they can’t do anything.”
That idea led Li and his team to work two straight days and nights toward the launch of LiveCoronaUpdates.org. The website aggregates data on coronavirus cases from the WHO, local governments, and major American news outlets. So far, the website has had more than 210,000 page views.
Li and his team, which includes code-savvy interns and engineers who work at his chat-and-payment startup, LoopChat—currently housed at Berkeley SkyDeck—update the figures every three to four hours.
Li, a budding entrepreneur, says he aims to provide accurate, easy-to-understand information about the virus, including the number of deaths, confirmed cases, people who have recovered and active cases in specific geographical areas. The goal is to get the data to the largest audience possible and to help calm anxiety with facts people can rely on as they navigate the new normal of their daily lives.
CoronApp Team races to develop mobile app
Li isn’t the only student on campus to jump into action on a coronavirus tracker. Anupam Tiwari and Anushka Purohit, both electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) majors and exchange students at UC Berkeley, started working on CoronApp together. The pair recently added first-year MBA students Akonkwa Mubagwa and Manuel Smith to their team.
The group connected at a recent coffee meetup for entrepreneurs in the Haas courtyard.
“The idea (for CoronApp) was great, but the form and user experience wasn’t there yet,” Mubagwa said of the design Tiwari showed him. “It was impressive that he set it up so fast, and we knew it would be useful.”
The students joined forces and later added coder Sahil Mehta, an EECS undergraduate; Ean Hall, MS 20 (mechanical engineering) who specializes in quantitative analysis; and Daniel Smith, a software developer. Sevith Rao and Andy Cheng, both medical doctors and first-year MBA students at Berkeley Haas, agreed to serve as CoronApp advisers.
CoronApp for mobile browsers, now available, allows users to click on red dots on a map to provide updates on virus cases. It integrates COVID-19 data from Johns Hopkins University, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization (WHO), and a Twitter feed provides the latest curated news.
Tiwari first tested CoronApp on his roommates, who rated it a seven out of 10. Their feedback helped him improve how fast the app loads—and to decide to add a Twitter feed and information on the right way to wash your hands and wear a face mask. The team had planned to offer the app for iPhones, but Apple is currently only accepting apps “from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions.”
Once they have perfected the app, the team believes it will become a scalable platform for crowdsourcing during future emergencies — from disease outbreaks to wildfires.
Mubagwa said that the way that the team came together to form CoronApp is a perfect example of why he came to Berkeley.
“Excellence across schools—engineering, business, and public health—allows for spontaneous cross-pollination,” he said. “We are all very different and from different backgrounds, but we are tied together by entrepreneurship. That’s what makes Berkeley so special.”
Li, who has been working to get word of his website across campus, said it’s rewarding to build a product that so many people find useful. “A lot of people have been emailing me saying how much they appreciate it,” he said. “I like building stuff that helps people. That’s what entrepreneurship is about: making a positive impact.”
Note: Haas News is following two of this year’s 25 teams participating in LAUNCH, an accelerator for UC startup founders that has helped create more than 200 companies since 1999. They are gearing up for Demo Day in April, when they’ll pitch their ideas to VCs and angel investors and compete for $25,000 in funding.
The two teams are pitching startup ideas that are worlds apart: one is trialing dog food made from—wait for it—insects, while the other is coding software that will power advertising displays used by ride-sharing vehicles.
What do both teams have in common? Big plans to scale their ventures.
At LAUNCH boot camp at the end of January, all 25 teams were assigned mentors. Here’s more on the startups.
SuperPetFoods founders: The all-woman startup team includes María del Mar Londoño, MBA 21, Thais Esteves, MBA 21, a former veteran BCG consultant in banking and impact investment, and Gina Myers, MS 20 (bioengineering), a chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America who is is passionate about sustainability. She is in charge of product development. “When Gina mentioned she had done nine Ironman races I immediately knew she was up for the challenge,” says María, who goes by Mar. “On the other side, there’s Thais, whose solid finance background has been critical to quantify the scalability of our idea. She’s also a fabulous sounding-board.”
The story: Mar grew up on a farm in the verdant, biodiverse coffee-growing region of Colombia, surrounded by more than 15 dogs. Her family was in the animal feed business, using non-conventional raw materials, so it’s no surprise that Mar is continuing that quest to find alternative, more sustainable ways to feed pets.
The “aha moment”: When Mar’s cousin started producing black soldier flies (Hermetia Illucens) on the Colombian farm and introduced her to the insect, she became intrigued by the idea of making it the basis for pet food. “It is a truly remarkable insect, capable of converting food waste into high-quality protein and fat with incredible efficiency, with an undetectable carbon footprint,” she says. Used to feed both poultry and fish, she saw an opportunity to use the larvae in dog food because it’s nutritious, digestible, and has a nutty, smokey taste. “These insects hold the massive potential to reimagine the food system,” she says.
Previous accolades and upcoming competitions: Winner at UC Berkeley’s StEP Demo Day, where she met her co-founders. In the upcoming months, they will be participating in two competitions where they are finalists: The Hult Prize Regional Competition and the 2020 Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize.
What they’re up to at LAUNCH: SuperPetFoods is in very early-stage work on the product, Mar says. “We need to work on product development and packaging and the overall execution of our idea—and do that in tandem with getting customer insights, and learning the most important problems that pet owners face,” she says.
Most enthusiastic test subject: Gina’s German Shepherd, Qora, is a key member of the team as QA controller, in charge of tasting. Qora has already erased one of the team’s first fears: that the food wouldn’t taste good. In the first trial, they loaded the food with sweet potato and peanut butter. But it turned out that they didn’t need all that filler. Qora gobbled it up without it.
Team mentor: Urban farmer John Matthesen, an adjunct professor in culinary arts, who teaches a farm-to-table cooking lab at Diablo Valley College. John is general manager at Biome Makers, a company that’s using the latest technology to test agricultural soil health.
Biggest challenge: Marketing dog food made with insects in the U.S. “The first time Mar told me about the flies I saw huge potential,” Thais says. “It’s about changing the minds of people. Dogs are not that picky and this is better for the environment.”
Origin of the idea: In high school, Ash developed an idea for YAPnGO, a digital bumper sticker. When she got to Berkeley, she discussed the idea with fellow undergrads Armaan, Justin, and Shreya, and they realized that the technology could be used as an advertising display for ridesharing vehicles. They entered BumpR in the AccelerateHer immersive startup weekend at Haas and that led to LAUNCH. Bumpr is building a cloud-based, back end for advertising displays that intelligently targets advertisements to strategic consumer demographics.
Why they applied to LAUNCH: To learn about startup creation outside of the traditional classroom. “It’s one of the main things that brought me to Cal and how I wanted to spend my next four years,” Justin says. “There’s so much raw passion for entrepreneurship among students here and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.”
Accolades: AccelerateHer winner, Trione grant recipient, SkyDeck Hotdesk team, and 1st place at Entrepreneurs@Berkeley Pitch Competition.
Where they’re at now: The team already pivoted from focusing on hardware to developing software for physical advertising. “Pivots are a healthy indicator that teams are actively testing their hypotheses to get to the ground truth,” says their LAUNCH instructor Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. “Sometimes that leads to a scalable business model, sometimes it doesn’t. We celebrate either outcome as a “win” for learning and a solid outcome for LAUNCH.”
Armaan and Ash are now working through the business model to see if it makes sense. Justin and Shreya are looking at industry competitors and working on the technology’s implementation.
Biggest challenge: Dealing with the technology used in outdoor digital advertising, which is extremely outdated. Also, advertising monopolies make it a difficult industry to break into, Shreya says.
Do they think their team will win at Demo Day? Armaan says that LAUNCH isn’t about winning. “It’s about making the most out of the opportunity and being challenged by the program,” he says. “No matter what happens we’ll come out of it a better team.”
Two pioneering women in tech sales and broadcast television will serve as commencement speakers for the full-time, evening & weekend and undergraduate programs this May.
Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA 85, a visionary sales executive who has held leadership roles at two of the world’s top tech companies, was chosen as speaker at the 2020 Full-time MBA and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement; Diane Dwyer, BS 87, former KTVU and NBC broadcast journalist, was chosen to speak at undergraduate commencement.
The MBA commencement will take place on Friday, May 22, 2020, at the Greek Theatre.
“We are so thrilled to welcome two successful female alumnae who represent our Defining Leadership Principles to speak at our commencements,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Laura questions the status quo as a business leader in so many ways and Diane, as a professional faculty member, is a student always.”
McDonnell, who is vice president of enterprise sales for management software company ServiceNow, was previously vice president of Microsoft’s New York region. Managing a team of more than 230 people, she was responsible for increasing sales revenue and expanding Microsoft’s influence in the region by building relationships with key stakeholders, such as New York City’s Department of Education.
McDonnell also piloted innovative programs such as Microsoft’s Tech Jobs Academy, an educational program that offers free tech training to underrepresented communities.
At IBM, where she previously worked for 11 years, she rose to vice president of strategic services for North America, before taking on a role as senior vice president of North America Sales at Aspect Software.
Dwyer, a professional faculty member at Haas who teaches Innovations in communications and public relations, has been a broadcast journalist for 25 years, reporting important stories from the inauguration of President Bill Clinton to the Oakland Hills Firestorm.
She began her career as an anchor and reporter at KXLF in Butte, Montana, in 1988. Two years later she and joined the KTVU-Channel 2 newsroom, where she launched and co-hosted the Morning Show on KTVU with Ross McGowan for several years.
She then moved to San Jose to become the weekend news solo anchor for NBC Bay Area. Her reporting won her two Emmy awards and other prestigious awards from the Associated Press and the National Academy of Radio and Television Artists. In addition to teaching, Dwyer runs her own consulting business, Dwyer Media Consulting.
A new Berkeley Haas program will give undergraduates the option of applying early for a coveted spot in the full-time MBA program and deferring for two to five years to gain the required professional experience.
Accelerated Access, which launches today, will be initially open only to UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students in their final year of study, with a plan to expand to students throughout the University of California system and then more broadly in the future. A kickoff event will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 28, in Chou Hall from 6-8pm.
“Accelerated Access is an innovative way for students to secure a seat in our MBA program, providing a way for them to pursue full-time work that aligns with their passions, with reassurance that they will be able to return to a top-ranked MBA program in a few years,” said Morgan Bernstein, director of strategic initiatives, who is spearheading the launch.
Reaching across campus
Under Accelerated Access, undergraduates will apply to the MBA program during the final year of their bachelor’s program. Successful applicants will gain conditional admission, and can enroll after a flexible two-to-five-year deferment period for professional experience.
Haas Dean Ann Harrison said Accelerated Access is another way that Haas is reaching across campus to offer new opportunities to students who previously might not have considered an MBA.
“We’re so excited to offer this program exclusively to UC Berkeley students this year,” she said. “We have so much talent here in the Berkeley community—and this is another way that we are cultivating and committing to that talent.”
Bernstein has been introducing the program across campus in recent weeks, and says the early response has been enthusiastic.
“We believe that this program will increase the diversity of our class, compelling students from a wide variety of academic disciplines to consider an MBA—from students in environmental science who want to pursue careers in sustainability to engineering students who want to complement their technical skills with a business foundation,” she said.
Application fee waived
There are two application deadlines in the pilot cycle: Thursday, April 2, 2020 and Thursday, June 11, 2020. The application process is similar to that of the full-time MBA program, with requirements including a resume, two letters of recommendation, two short essays, undergraduate transcripts, and either the GMAT or GRE standardized test. An interview will be required for admission.
Haas will waive the $200 application fee for UC Berkeley applicants this year and will be making up to five $100,000 scholarship awards to celebrate the launch as well as the 10th anniversary of the Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself. Embodiment of the principles will be among the criteria that are considered for the awards.
Shaibya Dalal, who earned a BA in political science in 2011 from Berkeley and returned in 2018 as a full-time MBA student, said she couldn’t be happier that she chose Cal twice.
“The MBA culture at Haas is incredibly collaborative—whether you need notes from a class, advice for your start-up, or even help moving furniture, you can rely on Haasies,” she said. “My peers are kind, generous, open-minded, and intellectually curious. Constantly being around such brilliant people has challenged and stimulated me in completely new ways.”
For more information about the program please email email@example.com.
As a kid, Saumya Goyal, BS 21, was already an aspiring entrepreneur, sketching drawings of mechanical wings that she planned to build for flying.
Now a Haas junior, Goyal is still enthusiastic about making things, as chief advisor to AccelerateHer at UC Berkeley, a campus club that promotes entrepreneurship for women and will be hosting the first of two new AccelerateHer Startup Weekends next month. Goyal will be among the AccelerateHer team welcoming UC Berkeley students who are ready to dive deep into new startup ideas on Nov. 9-10 and 16-17. Students can apply here.
“This club has been through a lot of growth and now we’re focused on these weekends,” said Goyal, who interned this past summer at Palo Alto-based startup TripActions and is working on her own social startup that will help women in India’s developing villages.
Rajavi Mishra, president of AccelerateHer, said the weekends will provide an opportunity for more team collaboration, something that she has sometimes found challenging at hackathons, where females were underrepresented and the focus was on coding.
“We wanted to host this because at a lot of the hackathons you have to know how to code and a lot of my friends don’t know how to code, so they won’t apply,” said Mishra, a computer science major who is applying to Haas. “This is a platform for both people who know how to code and have other skills so that they can collaborate and build a product over the weekend.”
Dipping a toe in the water
The weekends also provide an immersive opportunity to students who don’t have time to commit to a semester’s long course in entrepreneurship or a longer startup boot camp.
Over each weekend, the teams will explore their ideas, discover customers, build prototypes, and validate the business opportunity. The events, to be held in both Chou Hall and Cheit Hall, culminate with teams pitching their startups.
All teams will have at least three and a maximum of five members, and two of the team members must identify as female. Participants need only arrive with an idea, said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. Anyone who arrives without a team will be matched with other students, she said. The events offer 10 interactive startup workshops, mentorship from top startup founders, networking mixers, and startup toolkits.
Shrader said the weekends are a way to bring more women into entrepreneurship, particularly those who shy away from hackathons and coding.
“This is a way for them to dip their toe in the water,” she said. “If we want more female founders this is how we’ve got to do it.”
Mishra, who grew up in Delhi, India, a fourth-generation entrepreneur, started her startup journey in grade school, building websites for friends and small businesses.
By ninth grade, she created a social enterprise called Zariya, that developed workshops and programs aimed at helping abused children in New Delhi. But she said that there wasn’t a lot of support for startups in her area. “That’s why I wanted to come to Berkeley and when I came here I realized the amount of support we have,” she said. “I cannot be more thankful.”
Mishra said the group has received great enthusiasm from students and is accepting more applications. The deadline to apply is Thursday, Oct. 31.
The new Biology+Business dual-major has launched, a program designed to prepare students for careers in healthcare, in addition to biotech and drug discovery research.
The program, a joint venture between the Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Haas, will enroll about 25 students a year, providing undergraduates with an integrated curriculum, mentoring, and internships to develop innovative leadership skills in bio business. It is the second program of its kind in the country.
Former Haas Dean Rich Lyons and Michael Botchan, dean of Biological Sciences, came up with the idea for the program. The first class of Biology+Business students will enroll in fall of 2020. The window for students to apply is Nov.1-29, 2019.
In the program, students will earn a bachelor of science degree in business administration and a bachelor of arts degree in molecular and cell biology in the emphasis of their choice: biochemistry & molecular biology; cell & developmental biology; genetics, genomics, & development; immunology & pathogenesis; or neurobiology.
Admission to the Biology+Business Program is open only to students who enter UC Berkeley as freshmen. Students must complete all prerequisite requirements for Haas, alongside the requirements for molecular cellular biology. Students apply to the Biology+Business Program during their sophomore year.
There are no curriculum changes to either degree program, although there is specialized coursework offered along the way, said Sarah Maslov, program manager of the Biology+Business Program. Internships are a key part of the program.
“The program’s real value-add is the professional development opportunities it offers,” Maslov said.
Gail Maderis, BS 78, and Ann Stock Zakaria, BA 79 (biochemistry), PhD 86 (comparative biochemistry), are among the founding program donors.
“This program will provide Cal students with the fundamental knowledge to change patients’ lives,” said Maderis, president and CEO of San Francisco-based Antiva Biosciences, a venture-backed biopharmaceutical company. “Having a baseline of understanding of business and science creates a much more well-rounded employee who can move fluidly between the disciplines.”
Zakaria said the program is crucial for preparing students to enter professional life. “While the academic labs are a very rich environment for innovation and the generation of ideas, it’s hard to bring those things to a marketable point—or even to a point where large pharma would be interested in them—without biotechnology and venture enterprise coming in,” she said.
The ranking, part of the U.S. News Best Colleges report, is based solely on a peer poll of business school deans, faculty, and undergraduate directors who are asked to rate business programs on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Two years of poll data are used to calculate the score.
In top specialty rankings, Haas ranked as follows:
Haas welcomed new students in the full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD programs to campus this month for orientation and the start of fall semester. New students in the evening & weekend MBA program arrived earlier this summer, beginning classes July 29.
Full-time Berkeley MBA Program
Photos of the Cohort Olympics by Jim Block.
The theme of diversity and inclusion in business ran throughout orientation, also known as Week Zero, for the 283 new students in the full-time MBA class, with sessions on diversity and leadership led by Director of Inclusion & Diversity Élida Bautista, and new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer David Porter.
“We chose the diversity and inclusion theme intentionally this year and we wove it throughout the week,” said Peter Johnson, assistant dean full-time MBA program and admissions. “We want to help our students better understand the business case for diversity and the importance of becoming leaders who are able to effectively guide a diverse and inclusive organization.”
The week kicked off with alumni speaker and Cisco executive Nikita Mitchell, MBA 15, and continued with a business case reveal Tuesday and surprise visitors: executives from global investment management firm BlackRock (students had read a case about BlackRock’s diversity efforts before arriving). Weijian Shan, chairman and CEO of PAG Group, launched the fall Dean’s Speaker Series, discussing his new book “Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America.” (Watch the video of Shan’s talk here.)
Class members also met their study teams, worked together at an urban farm at the Alameda Point Collaborative, and competed in the annual Cohort Olympics.
The incoming class of MBA students is comprised of 37% women. U.S. minorities are 30% of the class overall, and underrepresented minorities comprise 14% of the class (or 22% of just the U.S. students). They include a total of 41 African American, Hispanic American, and Native American students—a sharp increase from last year, when they were 7% of the class (11% of the U.S. students). The group is 35% international, hailing from 39 countries; India, China, Brazil, Peru, Canada, Japan, and Mexico are the top represented countries.
Dean Ann Harrison, addressing her first entering MBA class as dean, urged students to take time to really get to know each other, and to take advantage of the Haas alumni and broader UC Berkeley network. “This place is awesome, and it’s also awesomely demanding,” she said. “We have really high expectations of you. How hard you work this year will immediately pay off.”
Students in the class have an average of five years work experience, 20% in consulting, 17% in finance and financial services, and 11% in the nonprofit world. The class includes 24 veterans.
Morgan Bernstein, executive director of full-time MBA admissions, called out many students by name during a reception, including Manny Smith, who competed at the Team USA World Sprinter Championships and was the Armed Forces Men’s Track Champion in 2017; Randall Nixon, a Division 1 football college quarterback; Margie Cadet, a trained doula who helped expectant mothers; Jung Bahk, a back-up dancer for K-pop singers; and Daniela Kurinaga, who helped give 600 small & medium enterprises their first access to credit at Banco Credito del Peru.
Students said they are excited to begin classes.
“If Week Zero is a representation of what the next two years at Haas will be like, it will likely be the best two years of my life,” said Soniya Parmar, MBA 21, who is from India.
The new class of undergraduate students—an international group of music lovers, cooks, speakers of multiple languages, athletes, travelers, and photographers—kicked off orientation Tuesday in Spieker Forum in Chou Hall. Dean Harrison welcomed the students, professional faculty members Todd Fitch and Krystal Thomas led a discussion on thriving in the Berkeley Haas community. Chief DEI Officer David Porter and Derek Brown, a Berkeley Haas PhD candidate, steered sessions on team building and leadership.
Of the 362 incoming undergraduate students, 265 are continuing UC Berkeley students and 97 transferred into the program. Continuing students held an average GPA of 3.67 and transfer students’ GPA averages 3.89. The class was accepted from a total of 2,663 applicants.
Over the summer, 28 new students arrived in the undergraduate Global Management Program, a selective, four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018. On top of an already demanding undergraduate curriculum, students must fulfill a language requirement, study abroad their first semester, and take specialized global business courses.
“We’re so proud of this international, talented new class,” said Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Haas Undergraduate Program “They’ve achieved amazing feats academically and are going beyond themselves in so many ways inside and outside of the classroom. We can’t wait to see what they do.”
Evening & Weekend MBA Program
The 279 new students in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program gathered for their WE Launch orientation July 26-28 at the Doubletree Berkeley Marina, where they were assigned to a cohort of 70 to 75 students for their core courses.
Students in the EWMBA program balance their classes while working full time. Class members work for a total of 216 companies—23% in high tech, 11% in computer related services, and 9% in consulting. The top job role is engineering (18%), followed by marketing and sales (15%).
Seventy-nine percent of the class lives and work in the Bay Area, although the students hail from 21 countries. More than a third of the class are women and the median student age is 30.
A few fun facts: one student was an extra in the 2011 Steven Soderbergh movie “Contagion,” while another founded the Bay area’s Greenfoot Hiking Club, which has more than 350 members. The class also includes a former pro baseball player and an opera singer. Many of the students are multi-lingual (one even speaks seven languages).
Twelve new students began the PhD program this year, bringing the total number of the students in the program to 71.
The new students are international, hailing from China, Russia, Korea, and India and from universities including Carnegie Mellon, Higher School of Economics Moscow, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Duke, UC Berkeley, and Tsinghua University.
Their research areas range from the impact of gender bias on women to why people make systematic errors with certain types of choices. “It’s always so exciting to follow our students as they work their way through this rigorous program, to learn about their fascinating research, and ultimately how it contributes to their field,” said Melissa Hacker, the program’s director of student affairs.
Alessa Moscoso’s Berkeley Haas journey began the summer after her freshman year of high school, when she commuted four hours from San Luis Obispo to Berkeley and back to attend Saturday classes at the Boost mentoring program.
“I’d be doing homework in the back seat as my parents drove,” she said.
Moscoso—who went on to be valedictorian of San Luis Obispo High School and graduate from Harvard University—is now back at Haas, the first Boost student to attend the Berkeley MBA program, as an Evening & Weekend MBA student.
“It seemed like a great fit for me,” said Moscoso, who is an engagement manager at life sciences company Trinity. “The program is allowing me to continue working and developing my own career, while at the same time going to a premier business school and learning from other amazing people across various industries.”
Founded by former Haas School dean and professor Raymond Miles in 1989, Boost is a mentoring program designed to bridge the opportunity gap for first-generation high school students from economically disadvantaged families by teaching them about business and entrepreneurship. Boost is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year—and is still going strong with its largest-ever summer class of 50 students.
A transformative experience
Over the years, more than 1,200 high school students have attended Boost, and, impressively, all program graduates have gone on to attend college. Oftentimes, they are first in their families to do so, said program director Lucas Abbott.
Abbott, who has been involved with Boost for almost 14 years, said watching the students transform, and often return to the program later as mentors as Moscoso did, is the most rewarding part of his job.
“When they first come in, they’re very unsure of themselves,” he said. “But by the end of the four years, they are confident individuals who know their worth and where they’re headed.”
Students apply to the program during the 8th grade and enter the summer before freshman year. Students practice life skills such as time management, financial literacy, and problem solving, and business skills including interviewing, resume writing, business dress and etiquette, and internships.
Berkeley Haas undergraduate, MBA, and PhD students, as well as other university students and local business professionals, teach and mentor in the program.
Freshmen work on real-world case studies and leadership/communication workshops. Sophomores spend the entire school year developing business plans on teams. And juniors and seniors are offered the opportunity to apply for paid positions as camp counselors and peer leaders, providing leadership opportunities and experience in cross-age mentoring. Off-campus field trips bring the group to top companies such as Airbnb, Deloitte, and Clorox, where they explore different career paths and get a chance to network.
“It made me believe I could get into any university”
Juniors and seniors also attend college readiness workshops, where they get help navigating college applications and financial aid documents, take SAT preparation classes, and go on college tours.
Vanessa Lopez, college adviser for Boost, notes that all members of the Boost class of 2019 are headed to college. Arelia Díaz, who just graduated from the Boost program, will attend UC Berkeley this fall.
“Boost put me at ease,” she said. “It made me believe that I could get into any university if I put my mind to it, that I could be greater than I think I am, and that there are still people in this world who want to see people of color, people of low income, and people of first generation, succeed.”
Malik Harris, who just completed his first year of Boost, said both his older siblings graduated from Boost, which made him excited to be a part of the program.
“Boost has always been an inspiration to me since I was a kid,” he said. “It’s always been something that I wanted to be a part of and now that I am, it’s great. I just want to try and be the best I can because it’s really going to help me go far.”
Four Haas students—with career goals ranging from starting an investment fund to helping to grow immigrant-run businesses—have been awarded scholarships by The Financial Women of San Francisco.
A total of 13 undergraduate and graduate students were honored at a June 7 gathering at the City Club in San Francisco. The 30-year-old scholarship program was created to honor women leaders who are pursuing careers in finance, and the scholarships all include a pairing with a mentor
Jie Wang, MBA 20, a native of China who received a $15,000 scholarship, holds both an English literature degree from Nanjing Normal University and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Notre Dame. She previously worked as an international tax consultant at Deloitte. At Haas, she is the vice president of communications for the Asia Business Club and teaches federal income tax as a graduate student instructor.
Having lived mostly in the South and Midwest, she said she was drawn to the Bay Area for its job opportunities and the chance to make an impact. “Lots of exciting things are happening here,” said Wang, who is interning as an investment banking associate for Deutsche Bank in San Francisco this summer and is interested in the long-term in working on educational development for underprivileged women.
Three undergraduates, Sally Liang, Deeksha Chaturvedi, and Kyung Hee Egoian, all BS 20, were each awarded $10,000 scholarships.
Liang has worked as a finance coordinator for the UC Berkeley student-run Basic Needs Center. She said she’s dedicated to continuing her work in food security and holistic wellness in a nonprofit field.
“Investing my skillsets in a nonprofit would be a good way to put my business education to use and help the next generation resolve their basic needs insecurities so they can become more well-equipped during and after college,” she said.
Last summer, Liang was a finance operations intern at Tesla. This summer, she’s interning with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in corporate tax and plans to get her CPA license after graduation.
Chaturvedi, president of the Berkeley Women in Business club, will be interning this summer in San Francisco at Goldman Sachs’ investment banking division and aspires to run her own investment fund.
She said she is interested in gender equity and helping domestic violence victims gain financial independence. “I started volunteering with human trafficking victims and this opened my eyes to the injustices many women in our community face,” Chaturvedi said.
For Egoian, pursuing higher education has been a life-long dream. Formal education wasn’t an option in the small town in Korea where she grew up, she said. Studying finance became her passion and focus when she moved to the US.
While raising her two children, Egoian worked for 13 years as a finance and administration manager at Save the Bay, a nonprofit aiming to restore and protect SF Bay for wildlife and people. After graduating from Haas, she plans to continue using her business and finance knowledge to help immigrant-run small businesses grow and succeed.
“I enjoyed my work so much that I never once looked at the clock to see if it was time to go home,” said Egoian. “I loved helping people, my staff, and working for a cause to improve our community.”
In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re featuring profiles and interviews with members of our Haas community.
When Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, was honored at last Sunday’s commencement with the “Beyond Yourself” Haas Culture Award, few would argue that it wasn’t deserved.
The daughter of immigrants from Delhi, India, Gaelan has served as president of the Haas Business School Association (HBSA), and as an associate consultant with the student-run Bay Area Environmentally Aware Consulting Network (BEACN), helping local nonprofits and small businesses to be more environmentally friendly and profitable. She’s also used her henna and photography talents to collect donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
We spoke with Gaelan, who will work at Accenture in San Francisco after graduating, about growing up Sikh in Modesto, California, her family’s commitment to education, and her commitment to service.
Tell us about your background.
I immigrated to California with my parents from Delhi, India, when I was four years old. We first lived in Alameda, and my parents used to bring me to Berkeley when I was little to show me the Campanile and to show me what college was like. Getting me into a good school was a really big deal for them.
We later moved to Modesto, California. My parents had an ice cream store and a small convenience store and worked from 6 a.m. until 10 at night. I started working when I was young and helped them with whatever they were doing. This year they opened up a beautiful furniture gallery. They inspire me with the mentality: We start with what we have and dream big.
How did the diversity of California influence you?
I love that my parents chose to immigrate to California. California is a melting pot and I really felt that. My friends were a diverse group—Mexican, Taiwanese, Indian. What brought us together was the desire to learn and ask questions and explore. I think that’s why we all got along so well. We all believed in how important school is and had the curiosity to learn and seek help and ask questions. Many of us have parents who immigrated here and were busy with their businesses and didn’t go through the process of the SAT and learning about scholarships and financial aid.
What do you think people misunderstand about Sikhs?
Sikhs are often misidentified to be of other religions. In reality, Sikhism is a unique faith and is not derived from any other religion. Sikhism spans all geopolitical boundaries. People believe Sikhism is all about outer appearance. In reality, Sikhism is a simple religion with three fundamental principles: Naam japna (remember God and goodness in everything that we do), Kirat Karna (earn an honest living), and Vand Chakna (selflessly serve others).
Has being a Sikh in the U.S. been challenging for you?
The nearest Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) have been 30 to 40 minutes from the houses I’ve lived in, but every trip there has only been empowering to me. Though I may not be a strict follower, I have a deep desire to explore more about Sikhism.
What was your experience as an Asian American and a Sikh at Berkeley Haas?
I took a class in Asian-American history my freshman year. I loved it, I loved the people. It created an avenue for us to open up to each other about our families, our pasts. It’s been exciting here. I’ve met many other Asian Americans, children of immigrants. We realized that so many things about us, from how our parents encourage us to the types of jobs we want, are all very similar.
Before coming here, I never really had other Sikh students in my classes. (The Sikh population isn’t that large in Modesto.) But here, I could connect with many through the Sikh Students Association and other clubs. That was beneficial because they understood what my family is like, what my culture is like. They’ve helped me with applications and job searching, even praying with me before a class or cheering me up. Having that encouragement was why I was able to get through and figure things out.
What lessons have you learned from your community and culture that you want to share with others?
I’ve learned to help others. You can make a difference in more than your own life. Any success we have is much sweeter if it helps more than just you. Incorporate service at every point in your life, however you can, whether it’s helping one person, or a school, or a business, or a community. I’ve also met a lot of Asian Americans who have helped me to learn who I am and who I want to be. Regardless of your background, be willing to share your culture. It’s so valuable to be surrounded by diverse groups of people. Figuring out things together will help empower us even more to make an even bigger impact.
Rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the Berkeley Haas undergraduate Class of 2019 Sunday morning, as close to 400 students were urged to make an impact on the world and “elevate and empower” others.
The threat of bad weather moved the typical commencement ceremony from the Greek Theatre to Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum, where Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the crowd indoors, thanking parents, families, and friends for supporting the grads.
“Today we celebrate your achievement,” said Harrison, herself a Berkeley undergraduate alumna in economics and history. “You have persevered through four years of a rigorous undergraduate curriculum. You have mastered new knowledge and skills, and you have adopted a larger view of the world. You have met new people, volunteered for great causes, and made many friends. You should be proud of yourselves. I know we are.”
“Living life consciously”
Commencement speaker Steve Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, a Haas finance faculty member who co-founded Greyrock Capital Group, pointed out the diversity and accomplishments of the 2019 class: three quarters of the grads started at Cal as freshman, while a quarter came from the community college system. Many hail from around the globe, including Asia, Europe, and Latin America; and many, like Etter, are the first generation in their families to attend college. A third of the class completed simultaneous degrees across 34 majors.
Etter, who has taught at Cal for the past 24 years—even while going through cancer treatment—shared four themes “for students to live their life by” when they leave Berkeley Haas: choosing to have a good day instead of a bad day, every day; focusing on how you treat others on a daily basis—not just friends and family, but everyone from the airport security checker to the Starbuck’s barista; thinking about ethics and “living your life consciously within your views”; and finally, focusing on your contributions to society.
“This has nothing to do with how your work day contributes to the world economy,” he said. “This focus is on the donation of your time, knowledge and dollars outside of the workforce.”
Hip hop music’s link to business
In his speech “Business is Boomin’,'” a nod to a DJ Khaled lyric, student speaker Sreyas Sai Samantula noted that the business world and the hip hop world share a lot in common. “At its core, hip hop music is a catalyst, paving the way for progress and change,” he said. “It’s about uplifting yourself and your community and, in its purest form, it’s about utilizing personal success as a means of elevating others. Business should be the same.”
Watch student speaker Sreyas Sai Samantula’s commencement speech: Business is Boomin’.
Holding a diploma is a privilege that many others around the world will never have, he told the grads. “Many of my brothers and sisters in my birthplace of South India who go hungry for food every day will never have this privilege,” he said. “Many of our brothers and sisters right next door in Oakland and L.A. who suffer from violence, discrimination, inequity every single day of their lives will never have this privilege….. but that can change.”
Like song writers, business people, through the companies and products they create, share a distinct and rare opportunity to inspire millions of people, he said. “On our professional journeys, we have the ability to elevate and empower others,” he said. “As Haas grads we need to understand that we do have the power to be socially responsible, to support diversity, and to invest in our communities no matter what we’re doing, what industry we’re in.”
And the award winners are….
Culture of Haas Awards:
Ana Mancia for Question the Status Quo
Patrick Ong for Confidence Without Attitude
Mark Ansell for Students Always
Jaskirat Gaelan for Beyond Youself
The Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Janet Brady, distinguished teaching fellow
The Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Award for Excellence in Teaching: Cori Land, MBA 19
The Departmental Citation for the most outstanding academic achievement: Tyler Barbee, who has been inspired throughout his life by the determination of his older, autistic brother, Connor. “In his time at Berkeley and at Haas, he has sought to develop a similar work ethic and perseverance as his brother in all that he does,” Harrison said.
In summer of 2015, Cal football had its eyes on Russ Udé, a 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound star linebacker, as a key addition to the team’s struggling defense.
Sports reporters wrote that Udé, who came to UC Berkeley from Westminster, a private school in Atlanta, had the talent to follow in the footsteps of Cal football players who went on to the National Football League (NFL). And Udé hoped he’d follow that path.
But knee injuries he suffered in high school kept threatening to dash his dream. For fear of losing college scholarships, Udé played through his injuries, helping to lead his team, for the first time since 1996, to the Georgia High School Association Class AAA semifinals.
Udé chose to attend Berkeley, but redshirted his freshman year to fully rehabilitate from knee surgery. Then, the following summer, he struggled with an illness that caused him to lose 25 pounds just two weeks before football training camp. He played football his sophomore and junior years, but his medical setbacks forced him to retire from sports after that.
“I’m at peace with it now”
Udé’s parents had always pushed him to also excel off of the field, so after a few dark months, the college junior redirected his energy to his business classes at Berkeley Haas and to launching a career in the entertainment industry.
“I’m at peace with it now,” says Udé, a Berkeley Haas senior who graduates this Sunday and will head to a job at either Deloitte or Merrill Lynch in Southern California. “I’ve learned so much from my experiences. You have to roll with the punches and keep going. I never wanted to self-identify as just an athlete, nor did I want anyone to marginalize me.”
Born to Nigerian parents, Udé moved as a child from Nigeria to London to Belgium before the family settled in Atlanta. At the time, his mother, Uche, was a fashion designer with her own label, Uccé, and Udé modeled as a teen during fashion week in Atlanta. (He was also featured in an episode of ABC’s “Grown-ish.”)
Releasing a single
In addition to his mother’s creativity and drive, Udé says he’s been inspired by the multifaceted careers of fellow Atlanta native Donald Glover and other successful creative types and business executives.
“Donald never puts limitations on himself,” Udé says. “He just does what he wants to do. That’s what led me to study business. I felt if I had a business education, I could take it and run with it and apply it to whatever interested me.”
Like Glover, Udé’s interests are eclectic. The summer before his senior year at Berkeley, Udé worked as an investment banking intern in San Francisco. Meanwhile, he was hired by Universal Music Group to do urban marketing and brand partnerships. With Ethan Erickson, a former kicker for Cal football, he created a YouTube content series. Udé also produces and records music, citing influences from Kanye West to Pink Floyd to the rapper Kid Cudi. Last February, he shot his first music video in London and, on his 22nd birthday, released his first single, “Makin’ Conversation,” under the name “RussThe404.”
Being a student—as important as being an athlete
Udé teaches, too. On most Monday nights last fall, he co-facilitated a two-hour DeCal class and lecture series at Berkeley Haas on the music business.
Steve Etter, a Berkeley Haas finance lecturer who advises student athletes, says Udé was the driving force behind Udé’s own non-traditional career path. “Haas is not an entertainment industry-focused school, so he had the courage to let everyone know what he wanted to do here,” says Etter. “And for Russell, being a student was always as important as being an athlete.”
In class, Udé left strong impressions. “Russ is like no other — a true Renaissance man: creative, entrepreneurial, intellectual, multi-talented, interesting and, his most compelling attribute — he is interested,” says associate professor Dana Carney, who taught Udé in her leadership course. “He loves life and is interested in everything — how it works, why it is, who the players are.”
“He was a real force,” adds lecturer Dan Mulhern, who also teaches leadership to undergraduates. “He has a big presence, literally, but he was also very thoughtful and very engaged and, at times, outspoken in a good way.”
Shooting for the stars
Udé also gives back. Over the past few years, he’s joined in Berkeley and Cal football community outreach programs to teach middle school students leadership skills, to volunteer with after-school programs for kids in low-income school districts and to speak on panels to Berkeley students and student-athletes on the importance of professional development.
Udé says he’s excited to graduate, but that he also will miss his Berkeley family.
“My own family lives so far away, but I have a bunch of friends here whom I consider close family,” he says. “I’m just excited to spend time with them at graduation, but there’s so much I want to achieve after.”
“Classified” is a series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.
Nearly 40 students poured out of the Chou Hall elevators on a recent morning on a strange mission: to find ways to get rejected in less than 15 minutes.
One student told a passerby it was her birthday. “Could you sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me?” she asked. Another offered to swap his jacket for a person’s laptop. Yet another went from table to table at Café Think, asking for bites of food.
The exercise may sound like improv, but it’s just part of Haas Lecturer Alex Budak’s new undergraduate course called Becoming a Changemaker. The course aims to inspire and empower future leaders with the mindset and tools to make a positive impact on the world—a mission that includes learning to overcome fear of failure by confronting it head-on.
“If you seek to do anything innovative or meaningful in your life, you’re inevitably going to fail along the way,” Budak said. “It’s one thing to intellectualize failure, but it’s another to feel it personally. How often do we hold back asking for something because we’re sure we’ll fail when in reality we may not? We’re failing even before we try.”
Turning panic into confidence
The rejection exercise is just one example of how Becoming a Changemaker tries to upend traditional notions of leadership. In follow-up interviews, students described how a near sense of panic turned to newfound confidence as they practiced asking for something and not getting it.
“It was one of the most powerful educational experiences I’ve ever had,” said Nye Avilla, BS 20, who overcame her fear of asking people if she could borrow their umbrellas. Despite getting rebuffed time and again, she basically realized it was no big deal to ask. “By being more open to failure, I know now that I can be a better leader and a better individual.”
The students were also struck by how many strangers agreed to their outlandish requests, because it reminded them that people do want to help and that their own reticence can be inhibiting.
“Outdated notions of leadership tell young people to wait their turn; to wait for permission to lead,” Budak said. “But while leaders might be scarce, leadership is abundant. We can all lead positive change from wherever we are, whether we’re an intern or a CEO. Leadership is not a title; it’s an act. This course reflects the Haas commitment to building a different kind of leader.”
That’s why the Haas Defining Leadership Principles—Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Student Always, and Beyond Yourself—are woven throughout the course curriculum, he said.
The sum of “small, daily acts”
Students say the course has fundamentally changed how they think about leadership and has transformed how they see themselves in the world.
Sarika Saksena, for example, was 14 years old when she launched a nonprofit, Ujala, that has taught more than 1,000 women in India how to make and sell candles to gain financial independence. Despite her success and experience, the self-described introvert says she never thought she had what it takes to succeed as a leader.
“Before this class, I believed, like many others, that successful leaders are always extroverts, outspoken, bold, and dominating,” said Saksena, a freshman who plans to apply to Haas. She said Budak has taught her that leadership instead requires, among other things, humility, trust in yourself and others, a collaborative team spirit, and the resilience to “fail forward” after taking calculated risks. She sees leadership now as the sum of these small, daily acts that are within anyone’s reach.
Adeel Cheema, a senior computer science major who will work as a software engineer at Facebook after he graduates in May, said he didn’t know what leadership in a culture meant before taking the course. “Now I know how to lead culture,” he says.
Budak gives students many opportunities to put what they learn into practice. Throughout weekly two-hour sessions, students break into groups to discuss the topic at hand—including, for example, the role of corporate cultures on change—and their own experiences with it.
Budak’s teaching approach is to help all students recognize their capabilities as changemakers, which involves many techniques. When students arrive in class, they’re greeted with classic songs about change by the likes of Tracy Chapman, Bob Dylan, and Sam Cooke, and written quotes from some of history’s greatest changemakers. His “Changemaker of the Week” exercise gets students to select a favorite change agent and present on how course frameworks and theories apply to their impact. For their final projects, students will work in small teams to identify a positive change they want to make on campus, in the community, or even globally, and develop a strategy for achieving it.
“A dream come true”
Budak says his commitment to fostering changemakers is deeply personal. In 2010, he co-founded the social enterprise StartSomeGood, which has helped over 1,000 people in 50 countries raise over $10 million to launch and scale new social ventures. He joined Haas in 2016, first as the founding executive director of the former UC Berkeley Center for Reinventing Leadership, and then as the director of the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program. Becoming a Changemaker is Budak’s first foray into teaching and, he says, a decade-long dream come true.
“In a world where the only constant is change, our companies, our communities, and our world are yearning for changemakers who can not just survive change but can leverage it to improve lives. These students give me so much hope for the future.” he said.
Ibrahim Balde, BS 20, said the course has opened his eyes to the leader he wants to be and has helped him gain confidence. Balde, who is active in student organizations such as Faces of African Muslims and Black Collectivism for California Students, came to Haas with visions of one day helping disadvantaged groups find economic empowerment.
Balde said the class, with its focus on putting lessons into practice, has been a welcome balance to courses in microeconomics and other technical business subjects.
“This class allows me to think about my mission and purpose and to understand that leadership isn’t a defined trait,” Balde said. “It’s a series of actions, a conscious effort every day to do the right thing.”