As an undergraduate, Ibrahim Baldé, BS 20, said he faced many challenges on top of managing a rigorous course load. They included battling imposter syndrome, experiencing microaggressions from peers, and feeling pressured in class to be the spokesperson for his race as he was often the lone Black student.
After speaking with friends and classmates who also identified as Black, Baldé learned that they faced the same hurdles. A 2019 campus-climate report published by UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity, and Inclusion also confirmed Baldé’s experience, which found that many Black students experienced exclusionary behaviors from peers, including being stared at or singled out to represent their race.
Wanting to improve the Black student experience at Berkeley, Baldé co-founded Blackbook University, a website and mobile app that provides educational and professional resources to help Black undergraduate and graduate students navigate their journey at Berkeley. Blackbook’s other co-founders include Nicholas Brathwaite, Chase Ali-Watkins, both BA 20, Nahom Solomon, BA 21, Farhiya Ali and Imran Sekalala, both BA 23.
The app, which launched Nov. 18 and is a revival of a Black student handbook published in the 1980s and 1990s, includes a calendar with extracurricular and career-related events, a student-alumni-faculty directory, a live chat feed for users to interact, and a scholarship and internship database. The website features student profiles and an internship program for students interested in entrepreneurship and tech.
Brathwaite manages product development, Ali and Sekalala handle data analysis and design, Solomon serves as the director of operations, Ali-Watkins is the chief marketing officer, and Baldé is CEO.
The son of an imam, Baldé was instilled with a “beyond yourself” mindset at an early age. Growing up in Alameda, Calif., Baldé knew that he wanted to combine his three passions: social impact work, business, and tech. Once at Haas, Baldé took Haas Lecturer Alex Budak’s leadership class called Becoming a Changemaker.
“That class allowed me to think about my mission and purpose and to understand that leadership isn’t a defined trait,” Baldé said.
Following that class, Baldé began to lay the groundwork for Blackbook University. He teamed up with his co-founders and formed an advisory board of faculty and staff across campus, including Budak, Marco Lindsey, associate director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Haas; Miya Hayes, BA 92, associate director of Campus Partnerships & Engagement; and staff from the African American Student Development Office.
Baldé surveyed about 150 Black Berkeley and Haas students to assess if he had a winning idea. The answer was a resounding yes.
While Slack and GroupMe are useful networking tools, 90% of surveyors reported that it was important to have a tool that was designed for them.
“Students can’t take ownership of Slack and GroupMe, but they can take ownership of Blackbook,” Baldé said.
Successes and challenges
Baldé and his team have had some successes. They participated in UC Berkeley’s Free Ventures pre-seed accelerator, allowing them to test and tweak their business model. They also were one of the Big Ideas Contest grand prize winners, earning $10,000 in prize money.
But they’ve also had some setbacks, including finding the best developer who could deliver the app they envisioned. Another setback was validating their business model to potential investors. Currently, Blackbook is free to download.
“We just tune out the noise,” Baldé says. “We’re driven by our own mission and that is to build community and to make our resources and networks available to Black student communities.”
Despite the hurdles, the team continues to press on. Their goal is to make customized versions of the app for Black student communities at colleges and universities nationwide.
Faculty and staff advisors praise Baldé and his team for creating a sense of belonging on campus.
“I’m inspired by how Ibrahim can readily imagine a better future and then rally the people and resources needed to turn these ideas into reality,” said Budak. “We talked about how one of the greatest acts of changemaking is creating the opportunities for others that we wish we had for ourselves and Ibrahim is doing just that.”
Hayes agreed. “I’m in awe of their innovation–taking both the best and most challenging aspects of their time at Berkeley to create something that sustains and nourishes our sense of belonging,” she said. “They’re giants in their own right.”
“Classified” is a series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.
High above campus in Memorial Stadium last Wednesday, George Milanović, MBA 22, is lying on the pavement drawing hopscotch squares. It’s the first sign that this is not the usual business school class. His project partner, Laila Samimi, MBA 22, stands nearby. She translates what Milanović is doing.
“The shorter path is the point of no return if the earth’s temperature rises two degrees Celsius—the path of corporate greed and individualistic behavior,” Samimi says. “The other is a path of sustainability. It’s a longer path and it’s harder.”
Heavy stuff for a child’s game, but the hopscotch project makes perfect sense as art created in a new course called Sustainability, Art & Business.
The course calls on 25 undergraduate and MBA students to explore the meaning of sustainability—and the human response to global warming—through art.
“My hope is that this art will help people to see things differently–to reframe problems and challenge our comfortable assumptions,” says Clark Kellogg, a continuing lecturer with the Haas Professional Faculty and the Haas artist-in-residence. “We’re using art to invite people into a new relationship with sustainability,to inspire a different conversation that’s not about guilt or shame.”
“We’re using art to invite people into a new relationship with sustainability,to inspire a different conversation that’s not about guilt or shame.” — Clark Kellogg
Kellogg’s classroom method combines experiential learning-by-doing coupled with deep collaboration and peer-to-peer-critique, all on display in the new course. This morning, the class is focused on design, which is the second step of the three-step process for making public art that includes research, design, and execution.
Kellogg grabs a large roll of paper and starts cutting.
“Let’s just start to play,” he says, as the class splits into small groups, clutching chalk, recyclable materials, and other supplies.
Preparing for the pop up
The idea is to finish something today that can be transferred to the Haas Courtyard next Wednesday to share during a pop up show.
Casey Dunajick-DeKnight and her team sit outside cutting recycled seltzer cans into shiny, flat metal pieces that will be used to craft sea creatures that are disappearing from oceans. Dunajick-DeKnight says she’s inspired by origami and found that aluminum is a flexible material “that cuts like paper.” Kellogg says he’s pleased that the cans are finding a second life as aluminum squid and crabs. “If it’s single use, and we use it twice, we cut the problem in half.”
Meanwhile, Zarine Kakalia, BS 22, is using chalk to draw a river that’s been diverted so many times that there’s no water left for the salmon. “I thought this was an interesting way to address resource constraints,” says Kakalia.
The class spends an hour working on projects before gathering for storytelling, where one group member describes the project to the class. Rachel Stinebaugh, MBA 22, shares an idea for a game of courtyard twister, with the dots representing vanishing coral reefs. Samiya Mehreen, BS 23, explains a drawing that explores the role of women artisans in developing countries, who are balancing sustainability and business. And Vincent Chang, MBA 22, says his drawing should provoke people to think about the future of a sky obscured by greenhouse gases. “It’s rainbow versus anti-rainbow,” he says.
Kellogg offers praise and gentle prompts for students to take their ideas to the next level.
Before class breaks up, the students head outside to check out the hopscotch game. One student asks Kellogg if he remembers how to play hopscotch. Kellogg pauses, but then obliges, skipping through the squares as the group cheers him on.
Making a plan
Afterwards, the students must decide whether to transfer their projects in some form to the Haas courtyard or recreate their projects on site. The group votes to create their art on site. “Drawing time will be critical,” Kellogg warns, and the group agrees to plan more during the week on Slack, and meet at the courtyard by 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
“It will be so great to look at the chalk drawings on the ground and think: ‘We did this,’ ” Rosa Huang, MBA 22, says.
After next Wednesday’s event, a second courtyard pop-up show is planned for December, followed by a final gallery reception of student art.
Throughout the course, the class will read books like “Think Like an Artist” and “In Pursuit of Inspiration” and news articles that detail the links between taking walks and creativity and the importance of taking time to be alone to just think. (One of Kellogg’s personal projects was to document his commitment to making art daily.)
Among the students, many of whom are involved in sustainability-focused student groups and working at environmentally-related internships, the consensus is that the class is fresh and fun, tapping a different part of their brains.
“As business school students we are often comfortable with data and frameworks and this class helps us break away from that and be creative and think of things on the spot,” says Alejandra Arrué, MBA 22. “That’s why we enjoy the class.”
When Ashita Dhadda was in eighth grade, she designed her first piece of jewelry, a decorative arm cuff. Her parents, who owned a jewelry business, helped her manufacture the cuff in India, and she quickly sold most of them to her Fort Lee, New Jersey, neighbors.
“I wanted to get started on something, mainly for young girls to wear to festivals or dinners,” said Dhadda, BS 23. “I sold 80 of them in the building just for fun and gave the profit to charity.”
Dhadda’s early success planted an entrepreneurial seed. Last year, the Haas junior launched online fine jewelry startup Ashita, an e-commerce business that offers unique, high-quality, 14 karat gold jewelry that she designs.
Pops of color
Pops of color are Ashita’s staple—gold necklaces flecked with turquoise and orange stones; drop earrings with baby pink stones, and aqua enamel bands studded with a tiny diamond. Dhadda manufactures all of her jewelry in New York City, where she works on Fifth Avenue in the summer. She names her pieces of jewelry after New York locations like Brooklyn and the Hamptons.
“A lot of the inspiration comes from what’s around me,” said Dhadda, a double major in business and data science. “Everything around us is super colorful in New York—with SoHo and all of the shopping.”
Last summer, Dhadda decided to expand, and assembled a group of 14 interns from East and West Coast colleges to help her with business development and marketing Her crew includes Paloma Aguilar, BS 21 (Media Studies, Political Economy), who models the jewelry and serves as an Ashita Instagram influencer. With the interns’ help, Ashita has hit some milestones, including passing the 300 customer order mark and reaching $50,000 in revenue.
More good news arrived when Ashita was approved to sell one of its trademark Manhattan rings on Amazon’s website. Dhadda just ordered 500 bands to fulfill orders.
Launching a new line
Juggling a growing business with her heavy course load is tricky, Dhadda said. She logs many work hours between study sessions, answering customer emails, doing outreach with influencers and brand ambassadors, and crunching the data required to figure out what’s selling on her site and how her customers are finding her.
This fall, her interns, who assist with everything from Midtown photo shoots to visits to small Soho boutiques, will help Dhadda plan the launch of the spring line. The line includes 40 new pieces of jewelry she designed.
Analyzing sales data is helping Dhadda to figure out her company’s niche. “I’ve realized that most of what we sell is in the $200 to $300 price point so we are focusing on that,” she said.
For many, the outdoor event — held at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., depending on one’s major—served as both a joyful celebration and a reunion after the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to finish senior year with quick, if any, goodbyes, as they finished their classes remotely.
“The small act of walking across the stage, going to a ceremony, getting the Haas gift bag, meant so much to me,” said Ishan Sharma, BS 20, who worked atMcKinsey & Company after graduation and just started a new job at healthcare company Athelas. “It probably took 15 seconds (to cross the stage), but it brought closure to over four years of my time at the university.”
Sharma and the Haas 2020 undergraduate class were invited to walk the stage with the 9 a.m. group. About 231 members of the 376-member class of 2020 signed up to walk.
Robert Paylor’s journey
Dry eyes were hard to find when former Cal rugby player and 2020 Haas grad Robert Paylor’s name was called. (Watch Cal Athletics video below by Laura Furney)
Told he’d never walk again after suffering a catastrophic injury while playing rugby as a sophomore, Paylor crossed 10 yards of the stage on foot, using only a walker, and received a standing ovation.
“I’m so beyond excited to be able not just to receive my degree, but to be able to physically do this,” said Paylor, who lives in El Dorado Hills and is writing a book about his journey. “This is one of the happiest days of my life.”
Tom Billups, associate head coach of the UC Berkeley rugby team and Paylor’s trainer when he was on campus at Haas, walked behind him as six family members cheered him on. His long-time girlfriend Karsen Welle, walked behind Paylor, receiving her degree in social welfare. She held back tears as Paylor rose from his wheelchair and fellow grads clapped and shot photos and video.
As he left the stage, the crowd roared and Paylor, waved, grinned, and offered a “Go Bears.”
Paylor’s mother, Debbie Paylor, said she was both nervous and excited for her son, who has lived and trained at home with her since the pandemic began. “He’s an inspiration,” she said in an interview before commencement. “His ability to overcome this, it’s an inspiration to me. I don’t think there was a time when I thought he’d give up.”
After the accident, Paylor underwent intense rehabilitation in Colorado before returning to UC Berkeley to finish his business degree, navigating the hilly Haas campus in his wheelchair.
He hit the gym with Billups for hours each day, measuring each week’s walking improvements in small increments. In October 2017, 16 months after the accident, fans cheered him on at California Memorial Stadium when he walked during the first quarter of the football game.
Paylor’s walking has dramatically improved since that game, Billups said.
“If you go all back to the catastrophic injury, he had no movement from the neck down—hands, fingers, nothing. That was pretty bleak,” he said. “When he walked at the Cal/Oregon game, he used a high walker, but the walker supports his forearms. Now he uses a low profile walker… He’s able to take more steps, more clean steps.”
At Haas, Paylor launched a business as an inspirational speaker, although the pandemic quickly pushed his engagements online, where he speaks to employees of Fortune 500 companies. He’s also started writing a book, which is part memoir, part motivational advice, tentatively titled “Paralyzed and Powerful.”
“The message is that you look at me and see my challenges, it’s not difficult to see that I have a lot to deal with every day, but everyone has challenges,” he said. “I believe that many people are paralyzed physically or mentally and the tools I use to overcome my challenges can help people in their lives.”
“I believe that many people are paralyzed physically or mentally and the tools I use to overcome my challenges can help people in their lives.”
For the past year, Paylor has been executive director of The Big C Society, an organization representing 14,000 Cal varsity athletics letter holders. Paylor said he’s honored to be part of the history and tradition of The Big C Society, which was founded in 1908.
“Coach Clark and Coach Billups came to the hospital after my injury and gave me that Cal letter,” he said. “The meaning of the letter is something I really care about so I immediately said yes.”
For achieving what some believed wasn’t possible, Paylor’s undergraduate community chose him to receive the Question the Status Quo award, one of the school’s four Defining Leadership Principles.
“While many may have treated that prognosis as an insurmountable challenge, Robert chose the path of perseverance, as he can now walk using his walker and graduated from the Haas School of Business,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and mentors student athletes. “His story has inspired thousands and serves as a living example that our limits are not determined by what others say we can do.”
Award winners named
At a separate Haas undergraduate reception held in the school’s Courtyard at noon Sunday, Dean Ann Harrison congratulated the graduates and introduced Etter, who served as master of ceremonies, celebrating each 2020 award winner, including:
Departmental Citation winner (which goes to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business): Cubbie Christina Kile, who graduated with a 4.0 while serving as a coxswain for the Women’s Rowing team. She was also a student athlete tutor, managed the Men’s Swimming team and was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority. An analyst at Altamont Capital Partners, she recently closed her first deal, Intermix, a carve out from Gap, Inc.
The Defining Leadership Principles awards followed, including (in addition to Paylor):
Students Always:Mia Character, whose nominator wrote: “Mia constantly strived to learn from others around race and ethnicity, and challenged herself to re-investigate her own beliefs as a marginalized person of color, striving to dig deeper on intent, while NOT tamping down the impact on her. She shared her vulnerabilities and self-challenges out loud in class, thereby inspiring others to do the same.”
Beyond Yourself: Kiara Taylor, whose nominator wrote: “Kiara made it her mission to make students attending California community colleges feel confident about transferring to Haas. Through the “Envision Haas” transfer outreach program, Taylor invited Haas transfer students with non-traditional backgrounds to speak to prospective transfer students, empowering both parties.”
Confidence Without Attitude:Jordyn Elliott. “Without asking, no one would know that Jordyn was a Soccer Team Captain at UC Berkeley and a graduating senior from the Haas School,” her nominator wrote. “After watching her lead the case team for the National Diversity Case Competition in Indiana, it was clear she understood the principle of Confidence without Attitude.”
Berkeley News editor Gretchen Kell contributed to this story.
Berkeley Haas welcomed more than 750 new students in the full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD programs to campus over the past week, kicking off the start of fall semester with a flurry of online and in-person events.
The new students, among the first to return to class in person since the COVID-19 pandemic, join the evening & weekend and executive MBA students who arrived earlier this summer.
Full-time MBA Program
A total of 291 new full-time MBA students in the Class of 2023 arrived for Week Zero, five days of sessions on topics including academic life at Haas; diversity, equity, and inclusion, and career planning. Second-year MBA students Vaibhav Anand, Jose Philip and Jessica Hwang served as Week Zero co-chairs.
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the class at Andersen Auditorium during Monday’s kickoff. “Getting here is not easy,” said Harrison, who earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley with a double major in economics and history and served as a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics from 2001 to 2011. “You’ve selected the right school and you really belong here.”
Harrison said the MBA program would challenge students both academically and personally. “We know that every single one of you has what it takes to succeed in this program,” she said, noting that the smaller program gives students the opportunity to get to know each other.
Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions, discussed the meaning of resilience, quoting Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington, who described resilience as the ability to not only bounce back, but bounce forward.
“The fact that you are sitting here today shows that you have the capacity to bounce forward, and it’s a critical skill that’s going to enable you to be strong leaders now and in the future,” he said.
Throughout the week, students met with cohort members, joined “ask me anything” sessions with professors, took a sunset cruise, and performed community service at the supportive housing community Alameda Point Collaborative and its social enterprise, Ploughshares Nursery.
During orientation breaks, they gathered in the courtyard.
“It’s so nice to see everyone here,” said Anhelo Benavides, MBA 23, who grew up in Mexico and worked as a management consultant at Kearney in Dubai before coming to Haas. Highlights of orientation for her included meeting her cohort and hearing from Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar, who spoke to students about making their “house” at Haas into a true home.
Benavides added that she loved the heartwarming welcome video from Haas alumni around the world, who greeted the students with a “Welcome to Haas” cheer. “This video brought joyful tears to my eyes,” she wrote on her Linkedin page.
A diverse group
The new MBA class is a diverse group composed of 38% women and 37% international students. About half the class are U.S. minorities, with 23% of the students identifying as underrepresented minorities (Black, Latinx, and Native American). Sixteen percent of the students are first in their families to attend college, and 14% of the class identifies at LGBTQ+.
The class is academically exceptional, with average GMAT scores of 726 and average GPAs of 3.67.
With an average of 5.4 years of work experience—about 19% of the students are from the consulting industry; 16% are from banking/financial services; 12% are from high tech; 7% are from nonprofits; and 7% are from healthcare/pharma/biotech.
Tomoe Wang, who joins the MBA program from Australia, said she’s planning a career pivot at Haas, so she found the Career Management Group’s orientation panel useful. Organized by MBA Career & Leadership Coach Julia Rosoff, the panel was led by second-year MBA students Caroline Shu, Shane Wilkinson, Lisa Chen, Rachel Stinebaugh, and Kayla Razavi.
“I had no idea what to expect with the hiring process, so it was good to have panelists walk you through it,” Wang said.
Thirty-nine students are enrolled in dual degree programs in public health, engineering, and law, including 19 MBA/MPH students, 18 MBA/MEng students, and two MBA/JD students.
John Thompson, MBA/MEng 23, of Shrewsbury, Mass, said he’ll be taking his first engineering courses at UC Berkeley, alongside his business courses. Thompson said he’s looking forward to joining the Food@Haas club, and is interested in exploring the intersection of agriculture and technology as a dual MBA/engineering major. “It’s an area ripe for innovation and growth,” he said.
Dean Ann Harrison and Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Undergraduate Program, gave a warm welcome yesterday on Zoom to the 457 new undergraduate students. The group includes 245 continuing UC Berkeley juniors and 101 transfer students.
Continuing students hold an average GPA of 3.79, and the transfer students’ GPA averages 3.91. The class was accepted from a total of 3,304 applicants.
Orientation sessions on Zoom included a lecture by Distinguished Teaching Fellow Janet Brady, who discussed tools students need to be successful academically; an intro to career resources by Karen Lin, assistant director of career counseling; and an overview of the fall schedule.
Cohort events were held today in the Haas courtyard, including a team-building activity and a networking mixer.
The 2021 PhD cohort includes 12 students—seven women and five men. This year’s class includes two students in Accounting; three in Business and Public Policy; two in Finance; three in Marketing—one in Marketing Science and two in Behavioral Marketing; one in Management of Organizations (micro) and one in Management of Organizations student (macro).
The new students are from the U.S., India, France, China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Canada.
The Berkeley Haas PhD program is a five-year, full-time, in-residence program, leading to a PhD in Business Administration. There are a total of 69 students in the program.
Walker, a UC Berkeley alumna, began her new role July 1. She succeeds Jay Stowsky, who held the position for 13 years.
“Erika has demonstrated outstanding leadership as assistant dean of our top-ranked undergraduate program,” said Dean Ann Harrison. “She is a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion, student affairs, and leadership development. I am pleased that she is both the first woman and the first woman of color to serve in this position.”
In her new role, Walker will be a key member of the dean’s senior management team, responsible for leading instructional programs in the school’s six degree programs. She’ll oversee admissions, curricular innovation and planning, professional faculty hiring, academic advising, student services, and faculty teaching evaluations.
“Erika has demonstrated outstanding leadership as assistant dean of our top-ranked undergraduate program,” — Dean Ann Harrison.
“I am honored and excited to continue my journey at Haas in this new position, drawing on my undergraduate program experience to help lead the school during these transformative times,” Walker said.
Deeply committed to diversity at Haas, Walker developed and taught the undergraduate course Diversity in the Workplace, which provides a forum for students to explore equity and inclusion issues. She also served as the first Haas Student Equity Officer, responsible for co-leading the school’s diversity and inclusion strategy. She also coached traveling international case competition teams each semester. Walker will continue to guide the undergraduate programs until the school names her successor.
A first-gen Cal grad
Prior to Haas, Walker was a manager at INROADS/Northern California, served as a program administrator for the Summer Youth Development Program at the McKesson Corporation, and as a project coordinator in Community and Government Relations at the regional offices of Kaiser Permanente.
Walker earned a BS in American Studies, with an emphasis in Health & Education for Minority Youth, from UC Berkeley. A first-gen college student, she was an inaugural recipient of UC Berkeley’s Incentive Awards Program, now called the Fiat Lux Scholars. She also holds an MA and EdD in Educational Leadership from Mills College. Her research area is intercultural pedagogy in higher education.
When Michelle Lu, BS 21, applied to UC Berkeley four years ago, she planned to study engineering.
But then she checked a box that changed her future.
“There are only a few decisions that really change the course of one’s life,” said Lu, who is among 41 students in the founding Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) class that graduated last Saturday. “Applying to and attending M.E.T. was one of those decisions for me.”
“We’re so proud of these students, who are graduating with a unique and valuable set of business skills—from leadership to microeconomics— and specialized engineering talent,” said Erika Walker, assistant dean of undergraduate programs. “We can’t wait to see what this class accomplishes with these two degrees.”
Program founder Michael Grimes, EECS 87, and head of Global Technology Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley, said the the pioneering first M.E.T. graduates are already living up to the expectations set when the program was established.
“With deep technology training and business and management skills already developed, the incredibly successful career launches of the founding class of M.E.T. proved the unlimited demand for these uniquely dual skilled technology leaders,” he said.
Launching a new program
The M.E.T. program is highly competitive, drawing about 2,500 applications for just 40 slots in the inaugural class—an acceptance rate of less than 3%. “It was a leap of faith for students to join this new program when they had really compelling offers from other schools,” said Chris Dito, M.E.T.’s executive director. Dito praised Dawn Kramer, M.E.T.’s associate director, for her work to launch and expand the program and for her deep commitment to the students. “It’s not easy to launch a new program at a public university,” she said. “It’s tricky and she helped pull it off.”
Part of the challenge was admitting the right students, which Kramer believes they did. “The students demonstrated their interests from the start, and we were able to keep opening doors and providing opportunities for them at Berkeley. They took advantage of that,” she said.
Akshat Gokhale, BS 21, who earned the undergraduate Department Citation with a 4.0 GPA, praised the intellectual diversity of the M.E.T. students. “Each of us has a different background and story, and each of us is harnessing our dual degree in a distinct way,” said Gokhale, who is heading to McKinsey’s Digital Group as a business analyst. “So, no matter what you’re interested in researching or building, there’s most likely someone in M.E.T. who can help.”
No matter what you’re interested in researching or building, there’s most likely someone in M.E.T. who can help. – Akshat Gokhale, BS 21
Developing their resumes
The job offers M.E.T. students are accepting reflect the program’s intersection of business and tech, and they say their internships played a critical role in developing their resumes.
Lu said M.E.T. provided the kinds of opportunities that “you couldn’t get anywhere else,” including an internship at Zoom, which she landed sophomore year. “I started as a project manager and by the end I was doing everything.” (Grimes helped establish the first M.E.T. internships at Zoom). She’s now heading to a job as a technology investment analyst at Morgan Stanley.
Ganeshkumar Ashokavardhanan, BS 21, said the quality of mentorship in the M.E.T. program was “immensely helpful and inspiring—everything from the office hours with M.E.T. board members to the access to tech and business leaders who visited campus to the fellowships and internships the program provided.” As a freshman, Ashokavardhanan was chosen as a Kleiner Perkins Fellow, (along with fellow M.E.T. student Louie McConnell) from thousands of applicants. As a fellow, he interned at one of Kleiner’s portfolio companies.
Ashokavardhanan was also selected for the Accel Scholars mentorship program, where he learned about venture capital, how to fund a company and how to lead product and engineering teams. After interning for two summers at Microsoft on the Azure cloud computing team, he accepted a job with the company.
Michael Trehan, BS 21, said his experiences in the M.E.T. program equipped him to apply for a job that he’d typically need an MBA to get. He interned in software engineering at Intel and on the project management team of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco before taking a summer analyst internship at JP Morgan, where he has accepted a full-time tech analyst job in San Francisco. “I never thought I would be doing this when I came into Berkeley,” Trehan said. “But here I am graduating early and doing investment banking out of the M.E.T. program. I’m super grateful.”
With the first class bidding farewell to M.E.T., a new class of 56 students will arrive on campus this fall.
Saikat Chaudhuri, M.E.T.’s new faculty director, said he has three long-term goals for the program. These include re-imagining the curricular and co-curricular offerings, creating a summer program for high school students, and developing M.E.T. into a lifelong community.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Haas Voices is a new first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
The myth of the “model minority” stereotypes Asian Americans as a polite, law-abiding, hard-working group that’s overcome discrimination to achieve educational and career success through drive and innate talent—typically in math and science.
The myth defies the fact that the Asian American community is diverse socioeconomically and culturally. The perception of the Asian community as a monolith is also the reason why people remain mystified by anti-Asian racism, says UC Berkeley alumna Hua Hsu, who wrote in the New Yorker recently that the “needs and disadvantages of refugee communities and poor Asian Americans have been obscured.”
Recently, several high-profile incidents of violence against Asians have shone a spotlight on long-simmering anti-Asian racism, and also highlighted the way the “model minority” myth has been used as a wedge between Black and Asian communities. We talked to two undergraduate students who are Chinese American, along with a recent undergraduate alumna who is Black, about what the myth means to them and how it impacts their lives.
Mia Character, BS 20, a native of Gretna, Louisiana, grew up in Redlands, Calif. She is now a recruiting coordinator at Robinhood via contract with AppleOne.
When did you first hear the term “model minority?”
Erinn Wong: I first heard the term back in high school. I thought it meant to stereotype Asians as hardworking, good at math and education—that somehow we work hard and we succeed and it was very much aligned with the meritocracy myth. I really bought into that and internalized it growing up, believing that if you work hard, you’ll be successful. It wasn’t until college that I was able to put two and two together and recognize that these stereotypes are rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy to show that Asian Americans are the “model minority” and to situate Black Americans as the “problem minority.”
Mia Character: It was probably when I first moved to California from the South that I was first introduced to Asian people and to the stereotypes. I don’t think anyone within my inner circle or family perpetuated these stereotypes, but I did hear them in the media or at school with jokes the kids at school would tell. From early on, I always thought of Asian American students not as competition, but as the ones to emulate because they were really good in their classes and played all these instruments and seem to have it all together. It wasn’t until I got to Cal that I really started paying attention to and listening to other Asian American folks that I learned how dangerous the model minority myth is.
It wasn’t until college that I was able to put two and two together and recognize that these stereotypes are rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy to show that Asian Americans are the “model minority” and to situate Black Americans as the “problem minority.” — Erinn Wong, BS 21
Vivian Feng: I’ve been aware of it for so long, but I didn’t really put a name to it. When I first heard it, I just thought of the stereotypical views of how Asians are better at math and internalized the belief that if I worked hard enough, I would be able to achieve success. But I never really talked about it until high school, when I fully embraced my identity.
How did your thoughts about the model minority change once you got to Berkeley?
Mia: I think it wasn’t until I got to Cal that I realized that the model minority myth impacts the Asian-American communities a lot more than just a simple “Oh, you’re good at math.” It’s a socioeconomic issue and it’s very systemic. At Cal, I started listening and paying attention and I was able to learn and grow in my understanding. There are groups within the Asian-American community that are disproportionately impacted by things like colorism that I didn’t know about in high school. Everybody has a different experience in America and all minorities face different stereotypes. I think my time at Cal has made me a lot more comfortable having conversations with my Asian friends and asking how they’re doing and how they have been impacted by racism and the systems of oppression that America is built on.
Vivian: It affected me mentally before even going into Berkeley because I felt like I had to go to Cal to meet expectations. In the end I chose Berkeley because it was the only college that I applied to with a major that lined up with my interests of international development, cross-cultural experiences, and traveling. When I got my acceptance letter, I had some doubts, but I ultimately felt this need to pursue my passion. Being at Haas as a freshman is even more drastically different because most people typically get in their junior year. You have this imposter syndrome. People internalize the model minority myth and say, “You got in, you’re smart. You can get through it, you’ll pass your classes.” But in reality, I don’t feel like that because I am a first-generation college student who went to an under-resourced high school. I do not feel prepared, and I’m literally in a system that wasn’t necessarily designed for me to succeed.
People internalize the model minority myth and say, “You got in, you’re smart. You can get through it, you’ll pass your classes.” But in reality, I don’t feel like that because I am a first-generation college student who went to an under-resourced high school.— Vivian Feng, BS 24
Erinn: Coming to Cal was my first time experiencing being with a larger East Asian population in school. I feel like people lump all Asian Americans together. I went to high school with, and was classmates with, many Hmong students, who are severely underrepresented in higher education and other areas, not to mention Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians. The model minority myth is really destructive. My classmates who were Hmong would either go to community college or work to support their families or go into the military and a few would go to a state college.
I also learned here at Berkeley that the identity and label “Asian American” had radical roots. It was coined by graduate students Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee, who formed the Asian American Political Alliance in 1968 at UC Berkeley to bring together Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese students to stand in solidarity. They fought for the self determination and collective liberation of Asian Americans and Third World Peoples, and in the Third World Liberation Front strikes, which led to establishing Ethnic Studies majors at colleges across the U.S. Asian American was a radical label then because it brought together a multi-ethnic, multi-class, and multi-generational coalition of Asians and shifted away from the “Oriental” label. To call yourself an Asian American at the time was a political statement. It’s wild now that Asian American has lost its radical, political roots because of the way it has been wielded by the white mainstream and model minority myth, and then internalized by all of us, to homogenize, invalidate, and erase our struggles and solidarity with each other and other communities of color.
How does the model minority myth hurt you personally?
Vivian: I’m told I’m too aggressive, but I don’t like being quiet when I feel the urge to speak up. I wasn’t engaged politically when I was younger because I had this perception that politics was only for white people. It was just ingrained into my life. Growing up, whenever I brought up politics with my mom, my thoughts were dismissed. It felt like I was talking to a wall. Eventually, I realized that my mom’s lack of political engagement is because of her lack of education while being in survival mode. Many East and Southeast Asians in my community have to worry about their basic necessities before even thinking about studying. As I became more knowledgeable about the model minority myth, I was always told that I was “too political” among my peers.
However, this fueled my desire to stop being a bystander and conforming to societal standards. Our reality is that the model minority myth hurts everyone as it perpetuates white supremacy.
Erinn: I got feedback at two tech corporate internships that I needed to be more confident, even though I thought the way I presented myself was fine, despite struggling with imposter syndrome and confidence at times. At the same time, in other spaces I’d get feedback that I was too strong and too aggressive, something East Asian women face. You’re expected to be submissive, not speak up, and just do what you’re expected to do. And when you do speak up and contribute, you’re seen as too strong, aggressive, bossy, a bitch. It’s the long-standing East Asian stereotypes of East Asian women being docile and exotic, while also being the dragon lady or tiger mom. The term also impacts how much space I take up, because as an East Asian woman, I’m expected to not take up space. The model minority myth compounds that by making me think, “Oh, maybe my struggles are not as marginalized as another person of color and I cannot take up as much space.”
You’re expected to be submissive, not speak up, and just do what you’re expected to do. And when you do speak up and contribute, you’re seen as too strong, aggressive, bossy, a bitch. — Erinn Wong
I’ve heard both East and South Asians say ‘we’re not really people of color,’ which is not true. I think it’s the model minority myth that creates this feeling that we’re not “POC enough.” But something that helped was what Haas alumna Michelle Kim said to me: that we need to think of ourselves as co-strugglers with Black people and other people of color, not as perpetual allies because that’s a white model of allyship. And when I really sat with that and made the connections to how the model minority myth makes me feel shame and guilt for “taking up space,” I saw how it’s white supremacy that makes me feel like I can’t take up space alongside other people of color because white supremacy creates and thrives from scarcity, that there is only enough space for one marginalized group to share their struggles and to thrive.
Mia: As a Black person growing up in a state with a fairly large Asian American population, the model minority myth had an adverse impact on me. It was created to pit Asian American and Black people against one another by saying, “if Asian people can thrive in America and be exceptional and thrive in their roles in our capitalistic society, then Black people should have been able to do it, too.” But if you take a step back and look at the different histories, they aren’t comparable. They don’t need to be compared and contrasted because we faced different kinds of oppression that all stem from white supremacy. Growing up and not understanding this, it was easy to feel like you have to be just as “perfect” to be worthy of respect. That you have to get the best grades, be a part of multiple clubs, and go to the best universities to prove that as a Black person you are worthy.
Growing up and not understanding this, it was easy to feel like you have to be just as “perfect” to be worthy of respect. That you have to get the best grades, be a part of multiple clubs, and go to the best universities to prove that as a Black person you are worthy.—Mia Character, BS 20
How do you think that the model minority myth hurts your community?
Erinn: The model minority myth has real impacts on the Asian community. For example, in tech, East and South Asians are overrepresented in certain departments. But as a whole, we don’t hold a lot of power, which is another reminder that under/overrepresentation is different from marginalization. We are least likely to be promoted to management, and there’s still a “bamboo ceiling.” This can be attributed to people internalizing the model minority and stereotypes of how we’re supposed to just shut up and work hard, or that somehow we don’t have “leadership potential and qualities,” communication skills, or “executive presence.” Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are severely underrepresented in tech, and data on Asians is rarely disaggregated.
Beyond tech, Southeast Asians are systemically impacted by deportation, ICE raids, and poverty, Chinatown neighborhoods and Asian-owned businesses have been struggling in this pandemic, and Filipino nurses, Pacific-Islanders, and Native Hawaiians have had some of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates. The model minority myth ignores our struggles and our communities lack sufficient resources and attention. And I learned last year that less than 1% of philanthropic funding goes to Asian American Pacific Islander causes, which proves the model minority myth is at work again.
What are your thoughts about how the myth is connected to the recent anti-Asian violence?
Mia: This was happening long before Trump, but violence against Asians is never talked about. In some ways I think that’s also part of the model minority myth. We’re taught that because Asian Americans are the “model minority,” they can’t face racism and the violence that comes with it.
Vivian: It’s nothing new. Historically, many fail to recognize xenophobic practices, such as The Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, as well as the murder of Vincent Chin. Asians are never really talked about in our history classes, and if it is, it’s always about East Asians from a divisive Eurocentric perspective. Now, the main difference is that anti-Asian violence is captured on camera and that more people are open to talking about it in the younger generation. Social media has changed everything in the way we approach politics. The elderly, especially Asians, are either scared or there’s a language barrier and they won’t report the incidents. And at least in Oakland, the violence has happened for as long as I can remember. I know so many people who have been affected by the violence before the pandemic and it’s a shame that it wasn’t recognized until now.
Recreating the deliciousness of sushi using plants is no easy task. But Impact Food’s founders think they’ve found a way to do it.
Co-founded by Kelly Pan, BS 22, Adrian Miranda, BA 21 (molecular cell biology), and double-bear Stephanie Claudino Daffara, BA 18, (computer science), MS 20, (electrical engineering & computer science) Impact Food aims to make plant-based seafood. Pan leads the team’s strategy and business development, Daffara handles market research and design, and Miranda manages product research and development. Haas News recently interviewed the team, who met last spring in a course taught by Ricardo San Martin, director of The Sutardja Center’s Alt: Meat Lab at UC Berkeley.
What does your startup do (in 20 words or less)?
We reimagine sustainable food systems through delicious and nutritious plant-based seafood.
Where did the idea for Impact Food come from?
Pan: Our current animal-based food system is not sustainable for the environment, animals, or humans. There’s a lot of contamination in our industrial systems—heavy metals found in wild-caught fish and farm-raised fish often contain antibiotics and contaminants. Approximately 90% of fish are also at risk of becoming extinct and less than 3% of the Bluefin tuna population are left in our oceans. We realized that we had to take action to make a positive impact on our food systems.
My team and I researched alternative meats and found a few plant-based alternatives like the Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat, and Just Egg, but there weren’t many options in the seafood space. So we focused our efforts on seafood. We’re currently working on our first product, a plant-based raw tuna.
We developed our first edible prototype at the end of 2020. I can’t share our secret sauce, but we’re using plant-based ingredients to create our raw tuna. Eventually, we want to develop other products like scallops and calamari.
How did you know which plants worked best to replicate raw tuna?
Miranda: We’ve discovered that certain plant starches and proteins have the ability to form stable gels that can mimic the jelly-like texture of raw seafood products.
How does Impact Food solve the problem in a new or different way?
Pan: Our team has created a new technology to make plant-based seafood, using existing food science principles in novel, innovative ways. After thoroughly studying tuna, we carefully selected plant-based ingredients to replicate the subtle ocean flavor, nutrient-rich protein, and melt-in-your-mouth sensation of fleshy tuna meat. Our technology can also be adapted to other seafood products.
What have been the biggest challenges for you so far?
Miranda: The biggest challenge for us has been perfecting our product. Replicating the flaky and delicate texture of raw tuna as well as its aroma using plant-derived ingredients is something that has never been done before. It’s been a lot of trial and error.
Daffara: Convincing and educating people about the health dangers of eating animal-based diets is difficult. While I don’t think everyone has to become vegan, I do believe animal consumption should be less frequent and less excessive to allow oceans to recover, forests to strengthen, and animal species to replenish.
Pan: We’re all in different geographic locations, which makes it difficult to test the product. Adrian and I are currently in southern California, while Stephanie is in San Francisco. Adrian has set up a home lab to make our plant-based tuna, but he’s the only one who’s testing the tuna. Another hurdle for us will be getting our product out to restaurants under COVID restrictions.
Who’s sampled your tuna and what’s been the feedback so far?
Miranda: We’ve done pilot taste tests with friends, family, and one sushi restaurant. Many admire the appearance and mouthfeel that our tuna product has as well as its nutritional benefits like omega-3 fats and protein. Our feedback has been positive among sushi chefs and close friends, but we strive to improve our product until it’s an exact match or tastes better than animal-based tuna.
Has Haas helped with resources for your startup?
Pan: The Haas network has been incredible. We learned about the Berkeley Haas Startup Seed Funding and competitions like the Hult Prize through the Haas network. Rhonda Shrader, who heads up Berkeley Haas’ Entrepreneurship Program, recommended that we look into Venture Well, a STEM grant program. I think just having the Berkeley email address opens doors for us because there have been so many people wanting to help us.
Kurt Beyer’s Entrepreneurship class taught me how to run a business and Prof. Ricardo San Martin’s Alternative Meat Challenge Lab inspired all of us to create this startup. So far we’ve won the Sebastiani Food Venture award and we were granted $5,000 in seed funding from the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program; we won the People’s Choice Award at the bi-annual Collider Cup and we won UC Berkeley’s Hult Prize competition. We’ll be participating in the regional Hult Prize competition in April.
A team of business and engineering undergraduate students are rolling out a new feature for the Berkeley Mobile app this month that will make it easier for students to find virtual study groups.
The “study pact” feature, designed by Rajavi Mishra, BS 22, (business and EECs) and Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan, BS 21, (EECS) is the newest addition to Berkeley Mobile, the UC Berkeley campus app created to help find everything from transit routes to dining hall menus to library or gym hours.
Mishra and the Berkeley Mobile team started working on the new study pact app remotely last semester to ease the often challenging transition into remote learning.
“Essentially, we’re trying to recreate the in-person study environment, where students organically meet other students during class or in libraries,” said Mishra, co-product manager of Berkeley Mobile, the student organization that works under Berkeley’s CTO office to develop helpful mobile features for campus.
“Having been in classes where I know no one, it’s incredibly difficult to find reliable study partners—especially when everyone’s in a remote setting and in different time zones,” said Atharva Mehendale, BS 22, (business and EECS) an associate product manager for Berkeley Mobile.
We’re trying to recreate the in-person study environment, where students organically meet other students during class or in libraries. — Rajavi Mishra.
Students who sign up for the new feature will be matched with others seeking to study the same course content, whether its preparing for a final or collaborating on a project. The feature can be used to form study groups for specific courses or, alternately, for motivational study sessions where every student studies his or her own subject, Mishra said.
Gopalakrishnan and Mishra, who are both from India, say time differences between India and the U.S. are a challenge when they’re studying at home.
So when developing the app, they decided to enable students to connect in their time zones, an alternative to “staying up all night trying to communicate,” Gopalakrishnan said.
He added that the new mobile feature should also benefit undergraduate transfer students, who may not have connections on campus or set study groups.
“People don’t want to reach out to a random stranger,” he said. “All of my friends have study groups and I’ve personally benefited a lot from them.”
The Berkeley Mobile app, which has about 550 active monthly users, is available for free on iOS and Android.
Users who download the app will have access to the new feature when it launches this month.
Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.
EdVisorly was co-founded by Manny Smith, MBA 21, a former product manager with the U.S. Air Force and a first-generation college student, and Alyson Isaacs, BS 21, who is tapping her experience as a former community college student to help fix the transfer process for the next generation. Smith is CEO and Isaacs serves as COO.
We recently interviewed Smith and Isaacs.
What does your startup do (in 20 words or less)? We help California community college students transfer to their target universities.
How did you meet?
Alyson Isaacs: Manny and I met by chance while waiting on line for coffee at Cafe Think during orientation week my first year at Haas. Manny had started the ideation process for the company and we talked about it. We’ve committed to this mission ever since. Manny has always been inspired by community college students and their grit. Being a first-gen student, he empathizes with what community college stands for, so our mission for this company is aligned.
Where did the idea come from?
Alyson Isaacs: I attended three community colleges before deciding on business at Haas—Chabot, Santa Barbara City College and Las Positas. There’s a discouraging problem that there are few reliable resources for community college students to help them transfer and few students who know how to access and use the resources. The academic counselors are overburdened and the COVID-19 remote learning environment has exacerbated these issues. Students get misinformation. Also, the four-year universities each have their own unique admission requirements, from courses to the process of applying. We are aggregating all of the information and insights a student would need to transfer to a four-year university and improving the student experience.
How does EdVisorly solve the problem in a new or different way?
Manny Smith: Of the 13.1 million community college students, who represent a third of all undergraduate students across the U.S., about 40% drop out per year. After interviewing more than 200 community college students, we uncovered big resource problems that are causing students to drop out. That’s what we aim to solve with EdVisorly. With our student-centric approach, we aim to positively disrupt higher education by providing a more clear path to university acceptance from community college. I compare our approach to the way GPS works— you tell us where you are, and we tell you what path or set of paths to take to reach your destination.
After interviewing more than 200 community college students, we uncovered big resource problems that are causing students to drop out. — Manny Smith
What’s been the biggest challenge for you so far?
Alyson Isaacs: The data side of things. We have millions of combinations of what classes meet the requirements for which majors and there are a lot of different subsets of that information. We are generating more accurate data every day to improve the quality of our student data experience.
Manny Smith: We are running a concierge service where we use the software to work directly with students while planning their academic journey. This is helping us learn more about the student’s wants, needs, and fears to ensure we have a product that both helps students and garners high adoption rates. We are in the process of hiring additional software engineers to augment the team and help us refactor our product.
What are your goals for the next six months?
Manny Smith: Over the next six months, we plan to help 250 students plan their journey from community college to four-year universities. By exercising an action-oriented, go-to-market strategy, we’ll be able to better understand unique student experiences, refine our marketing channels, validate our pricing model, and deliver a better product by summer 2021.
Has Haas helped with resources for your startup?
Manny Smith: The Haas Entrepreneurship ecosystem has truly been a game changer. The expert professors, mentors, incubator and accelerator programs are second to none. I would like to call special attention to the Hansoo Lee Fellowship (named after the late Hansoo Lee, MBA 10, and co-founder of Magoosh) which provided mentors and resources to allow me to pursue EdVisorly for my summer internship. Mentors such as Steven Horowitz from the Big Ideas Contest, helped us develop frameworks to think critically about the problem we aim to solve. Kurt Beyer, Rhonda Shrader, and Phillip Denny have been phenomenal in helping us navigate the right incubator and accelerator programs based on our startup progress.
The Berkeley Haas community thanks our student veterans for their contributions to the greater campus and, more importantly, to their country.
“As we are experiencing a year unlike any other, it is even more important to recognize what we are grateful for and to express our gratitude to those who have served and continue to serve on our behalf,” said Dean Ann Harrison.
This Veterans Day, we asked four student veterans what dealing with times of uncertainty has taught them. Students interviewed include:
Manuel (Alex) Lopez, EMBA 20, former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant (E-5)
Samrawit (Sami) Tamyalew, FTMBA 22, former U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer/Operations Manager
Nick Clark, EWMBA 22, former U.S. Navy Submarine Officer
Keagan Akles, BS 20, former U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant
Founders: John Melizanis, BS 20, Joseph Lorenzo, a University of Tampa graduate, and Jake Lourenco, BA 20 (political science)
What does Newmen do (in 20 words or less)?
We’re a men’s grooming brand that helps hard-working men look good, feel good, and smell good.
How did you come up with the idea?
Joseph, my co-founder and best friend since fourth grade, had the biggest beard and didn’t like the grooming options that were out there. With that in mind, we both said, ‘Let’s make something happen.’ It’s the second company we’ve started together.
What problem does Newmen solve?
There’s an under-served demographic when it comes to men’s grooming needs. The men who come to our site are often buying products for the first time. We’re building a community around this group, offering products like scented beard oils, a beard straightener, and a protective heat spray for beards.
You participated in the UC LAUNCH accelerator with a different startup. What did you learn that you apply now?
LAUNCH taught us how to test products quickly. We did a lot of research on our Newmen oils, which are made by a small mom and pop shop in Detroit. We wanted to figure out what scents men liked and what’s good for the skin, so we looked at what a lot of women’s skin-care companies were selling.
We tested our products on hundreds of men super quickly, asking them how their faces felt after using our products for a week. We’re super close to our customers and we have early evangelists, people whom we text and email all the time. These people aren’t necessarily spending the most time on our website, but have been crucial in the development of Newmen. They might spend $40, but they’re giving us feedback all the time, telling their friends what they just bought and why.
Has anyone from Haas helped you with your startup?
Of course! Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas has been super helpful. I met Panos before I came to Cal and he was extremely supportive throughout my undergraduate years. I’d be working on something and I’d ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He was a great sounding board and a supportive mentor. Additionally, Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, has been the best, along with Aaron McDaniel, a professional faculty member at Haas, and Darren Cooke, a LAUNCH advisor.
I met Panos before I came to Cal and he was extremely supportive throughout my undergraduate years. I’d be working on something and I’d ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He was a great sounding board and a supportive mentor.
What are your goals for the next six to 12 months?
We’re selling only on our website right now. We’ve been making a profit so we haven’t thought about raising money yet. I don’t think much about the competition, I focus on what we’re selling. We’re thinking about new products and planning to sell a line of skincare, body wash, and shampoo in the future. As we continue to grow, we’re looking to sell into different channels, including regional and national retailers and barbershops around the country. We’re constantly focused on building relationships that can help us put our products in our customers’ hands wherever they might be in their grooming journey.
A lot of guys are telling us that they’re so proud of their beards now. They’re talking about their morning routines. It’s crazy to think we’re helping people with that!
Aila Health is a data-driven, remote-care platform for patients with chronic illness.
How did you come up with the idea?
My cousin has what you would call an invisible illness, meaning she looks healthy on the outside, but is actually managing multiple chronic conditions. After watching her bounce between specialists for years before getting a diagnosis and seeing the lack of communication between her different doctors, I thought there had to be a better way for doctors to deliver personalized care to patients with chronic illness.
What problem does Aila solve?
There are nearly 50 million Americans living with chronic autoimmune conditions today. That’s more than diabetes and cancer combined. Despite the fact that these conditions cost the health system billions each year, they are not well understood or managed. We aim to change that.
There are nearly 50 million Americans living with chronic autoimmune conditions today. That’s more than diabetes and cancer combined.
How doe Aila work and how do teams use it?
Aila Health is a chronic care management platform that offers personalized remote care at scale. It enables patients with chronic illness to sync all of their health information in one place and quantify disease progression over time. It similarly gives their healthcare providers a holistic view of a patient’s health so they can track symptoms in real-time and deliver the right care with the right provider at the right time.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a founder so far?
There are so many inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system that Aila’s solution can help with. One of the biggest challenges for us was determining which problem to solve first. During our customer interviews, we learned that the COVID-19 pandemic had drastically shifted priorities for healthcare organizations. There is a need for new technical infrastructure to deliver value-based care and personalized remote care at scale.
Has anyone from Haas helped you on your startup journey?
Haas gave me a great community of classmates and mentors who have helped us along our journey. Rhonda Shrader (executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program), in particular, has been an amazing mentor and advocate for me. From cheerleading during some difficult transition periods to supporting our team’s application for the National Science Foundation’s I-CORPS Program, I really appreciate having her in my corner. Dan Cloutier, EWMBA 21, was also a wonderful health industry mentor for our I-CORPS team.
What are your goals for the next six months?
We are kicking off our first couple of pilots now. We want to execute these really well and validate our solution with an improved provider experience and patient outcome. In the next six months, we aim to bring more health systems onto the platform and raise an initial round of financing.
Seren creates serendipity online by nudging people into instant and personalized water cooler calls—using AI to preserve relationships and collaboration.
How did you come up with the idea?
When COVID hit in March, I started looking for opportunities in the chaos. I looked for areas undergoing massive change and picked remote work because I had experienced it and understood its shortcomings.
As I spoke to my classmates about our challenges with remote schooling, I noticed a pattern. Without chance meetings in the Haas courtyard or around campus, my peers were finding it harder to stay connected. We were being told to “be intentional” but it felt like a ton of work, and our social interactions and circles were shrinking. I came to Haas for the culture, and I loved interacting with my friends and classmates, but I was beginning to feel isolated. Then I interned as a product manager at Cisco, where I saw first-hand how the problem of not having informal interactions could affect business. When informal connections are disrupted, employees find it harder to maintain a sense of belonging, and scientific research suggested this could impact culture and innovation.
What problem does Seren solve?
Seren solves the problem of staying in touch online by helping people to “bump into” other virtually, so that brief and informal conversations can happen.
We are making water cooler chats better in some ways than in-person, even though we can’t quite replace face-to-face conversations…yet. With this technology, we can customize water cooler chats for individual preferences around how people like to engage, who they want to talk to, how long they want to talk, and what they want to talk about. We want to help people have better informal conversations over audio/video with colleagues, on any platform, whether that’s Slack, Teams, Zoom or the web.
With this technology, we can customize water cooler chats for individual preferences around how people like to engage, who they want to talk to, how long they want to talk, and what they want to talk about.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge has been finding software engineering and machine learning talent to join our team. We have used BearX, Handshake, and LinkedIn and are really keen to find more people who are excited about impactful startups.
So far, I have been working with an amazing team of Berkeley undergrads and alumni—Leonor Alcaraz-Guzman, Helen Xu, and Patrick Zhu. In my Product Management class, I am on a diverse team with grad students from the School of Information, Fung Institute, and Haas, and we are learning so much.
Has anyone from Haas helped you with your startup?
I’ve had lots of help from faculty and staff. Early on, I took the NSF Bay Area I-CORPS course, which helped me learn how to do customer discovery. Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, has been consistent in pointing us towards potential partners, competitions, mentors, and opportunities.
Vince Law, a professional faculty member, has reviewed more than one version of our early prototypes, and given critical feedback. In Jeff Eyet’s class on design thinking, he shared great advice on trying to understand users’ emotions and motivations for using our solution. Greg La Blanc, another professional faculty member, helped me think strategically about whether to even pursue this idea or space of remote work.
What are your goals for the next six months?
Our top goal is to get a strong sense of whether our product is exceptional at solving the challenge of creating serendipity for our users or not. We will need to launch and get lots of user feedback to answer that question. When you think about it, these are unique times with millions of people stuck at home, so if they want this, we should be able to quickly determine whether we can satisfy that need, and build a business out of it.
Another key goal is to clearly show a path to defeating our competition. I joke with my teammates that every week someone else has launched a new product to solve the same problem. Currently, we segment our competition in these categories: bots offering instant water cooler calls, standalone virtual office applications, and platforms that match people for conversations based on interests. We understand the competition and have a distinct path toward differentiating ourselves.
The Berkeley Haas undergraduate program again ranked #3, tied with Michigan Ross, in the Best Business Undergraduate Programs Rankings by US News & World Report College (published on 9/14/2020).
This ranking is based entirely on a peer assessment poll of deans and undergraduate deans or faculty at accredited business schools. They are invited to rate peer programs they know on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being outstanding. Berkeley Haas had a peer assessment score of 4.6. Haas’ ranking in US News has fluctuated between #2 and #3 for the past 18 years.
UC Berkeley ranked as the #2 public university in the country, behind UCLA.
You can see the full UG business report at US News (login required).
Jay Zhao, BS 21, might just be able to add “life changer for transfer students” to his resume.
That’s now a part of his job as a founder of College Leap, where he’s making community college students’ dreams of transferring to four-year colleges come true.
College Leap supports community college students, particularly international students, many who want to transfer to a four-year school but are daunted by the process. The organization provides guidance on everything from course selection to personal essay advice to recommendations for extracurricular and volunteer activities that will help students build a competitive application. With 16 chapters at community colleges in California, New York, and Washington state, Zhao’s goal is to establish 50 chapters.
Carlos Maldonado Vega, who is from Honduras, runs the College Leap chapter at the Community College of San Francisco (CCSF). He plans to apply to Berkeley Haas this fall, a goal he set for himself after taking an Intro to Business course at CCSF.
When a College Leap chapter launched at CCSF, Maldonado Vega said he quickly volunteered to become president, as well as regional manager for College Leap’s upcoming National Business Plan Competition, which will be held in October.
Volunteering has given him leadership experience and enabled him to meet people from all over the world at information sessions he runs. “I’m gaining a lot of experience,” he said, particularly with international students who face unique challenges and need mentors.
A lack of resources
Speaking from his personal experience, Zhao, who is from China, said transfer students face plenty of challenges, including fewer connections and a limited personal network. That’s why he founded the nonprofit. “All of us at some point faced a lack of resources and opportunities.” said Zhao, whose resumé includes working at two startups and studying at the University of Rochester and at Foothill College, a community college in Los Altos Hills, before transferring to Haas as a junior.
This month, College Leap is hosting the National Business Plan Competition, a startup pitch competition which is open to all community college students, including those at schools where College Leap doesn’t have a chapter.
Teams must have at least one student enrolled full-time in community college and submit a business plan for a startup idea. The competition’s first round will be held Oct. 8-18, the regional round will be held Oct. 24, and the final round is Nov. 7. Teams who make the final round will be connected to mentors at Berkeley Haas. “Because College Leap is based at UC Berkeley, which has one of the strongest entrepreneurship ecosystems in the country, this competition is an opportunity for community college students to tap into the Berkeley ecosystem,” Zhao said.
To help participants prepare, College Leap is providing a series of nine free virtual workshops taught by community college faculty on a range of business topics including customer acquisition and finance. Participants will present their plans, which must have a section on their startup’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and take questions from the judges.
A message of inclusion
Richard Lyons, UC Berkeley’s chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer and former dean at Berkeley Haas, says that competition participants will develop knowledge and gain hands-on experience. “That’s big by itself, given the terrific diversity of the participants and the competition design,” Lyons wrote in an email. “I especially want to highlight the indirect value: The message here is deeply one of inclusion. Yes, the world of innovation and entrepreneurship includes you, whatever your background. It’s a doubly powerful transition from thinking, ‘they do that’ to thinking, ‘I do that.’ ”
Faculty at both community colleges and Berkeley Haas will serve as competition judges. Teams that advance to the finals will be matched with one of the many programs and incubators at Berkeley that support entrepreneurship.
When shelter-in-place orders went into effect for the City of Berkeley in mid-March, Vicky Lin, BS 22, thought the impact on local businesses would be temporary.
But as COVID-19 cases began to riseand the city extended restrictions well into May, Lin watched in sadness as some of her favorite restaurants, shops, and hangouts struggled and Daiso, a Japanese general goods store she visited weekly, closed permanently. “I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
With so many small businesses struggling to remain open amid the pandemic, Lin quickly jumped into action. She teamed up with friends Kelly Pan, BS 22, Amy Cha and Amber Chen, both BA 22 (Econ), and together they founded Outhrive, an organization that offers free marketing and consulting services to small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
What seemed like a simple COVID-19 relief summer project quickly morphed into something much bigger. Since June, Outhrive has helped nearly two dozen minority- and family-owned, Bay Area businesses with a variety of projects ranging from website design to search engine optimization (SEO) fixes to social media upgrades.
Social media posts and Slack messages made it easy for the group to spread the word about Outhrive. By May, the group recruited 130 high school and college students, as well as working professionals from around the world to help with their cause.
Finding businesses in need of help wasn’t too difficult either. Cha, Chen, and Lin had worked as consulting project managers for student clubs imagiCal and Pi Sigma Epsilon and knew how to acquire clients. After cold calling and emailing nearly 200 local businesses, the group came up with a list of shops and restaurants eager to receive Outhrive’s help.
Some success stories include redesigning The Butcher’s Son website, making it easier for customers to order online; recommending outdoor classes for fitness boutique X°Core Studio; and creating a TikTok account to increase community engagement and designing an online store for Clues and Gumshoes.
Elaine Ko, a Berkeley alumna and co-founder of X°Core Studio, said Outhrive exceeded her expectations. “I really hope that they help a lot more businesses,” said Ko, whose studio now has a wait list for its bi-weekly outdoor classes. “They listened to our needs and gave us that extra push to take things across the finish line.”
Creating Outhrive was deeply personal for the students, who said they grew up eating and shopping at mom and pop businesses that are now at risk.
“When I was young, my family and I would go to Japantown in San Francisco and eat at San Wang Restaurant almost every weekend,” Cha said. “When I saw that the pandemic was impacting the businesses that my family and I grew to love, I knew that I had to give back.”
Chen agreed. “Going to Tawainese restaurants was an integral part of my upbringing,” said the Los Angeles native.
Pan said she empathized with many of Berkeley’s small business owners. Her parents are small business owners and they’ve run an imprinting business in Rancho Cucamonga for 20 years. And Lin wanted to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts given that the first-known outbreak started in her hometown, Wuhan, she said.
Although the summer has officially ended, Outhrive’s founders have no plans of pressing the pause button. They’ve already organized teams to help another 10 businesses this fall. There are talks of turning Outhrive into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, said Pan. But for now, “all we want to do is just help out in any way that we can,” she said.
A record-sized Berkeley Haas undergraduate class came together online this week, attending orientation sessions on everything from the keys to succeeding in the rigorous program to creating a climate of inclusion and belonging to navigating internship recruiting.
Students logged on Monday morning from housing on or off campus, where they were greeted by Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate program.
Dean Ann Harrison, who attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, studying economics and history, welcomed the group to Haas, and congratulated them for getting into the program. Not only is the program one of the most academically rigorous, she said, it’s also defined by its culture, anchored by the four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.
“The culture at Haas lets us develop the kinds of business leaders that we want to see more of in the business world,” she said, pointing to entrepreneur Kevin Chou, BS 02, as an example of Beyond Yourself. Chou’s $15 million pledge to Haas, the largest ever by an alum under age 40, helped build Chou Hall on the Haas campus.
Of the incoming 440 undergraduate students, 236 are continuing UC Berkeley students and 99 transferred into the program as juniors. Continuing students held an average GPA of 3.76 and transfer students’ GPA averages 3.91.
Todd Fitch, a member of the professional faculty who teaches economic analysis and policy, offered students advice for continuing their academic success in the competitive program, touching on in-class Zoom etiquette, the importance of helping fellow students and working collaboratively, and the need to ask for help when needed and accept feedback when it’s given.
“We’re going to push you very hard, we’re going to push you to your limits,” said Fitch, who wore his trademark bow tie. “It’s extremely rigorous so be prepared for a lot of hard work. You are at the best business school in the world and we’re trying to prepare you for the future when things are constantly changing.”
The undergraduate program has expanded in recent years, adding three multidisciplinary programs outside of the core program.
The newly-launched Biology+Business program, a joint venture between the Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Haas, enrolled 13 juniors in its inaugural class. The program allows students to 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.
Students who enter UC Berkeley as freshmen apply to the program, and complete all prerequisite requirements for Haas and molecular cellular biology before entering as juniors. Saloni Patel, who is among the school’s 13 BioBiz students, said the program combined the two majors she’s always wanted. “It was the perfect combo,” she said. “We’ve had great access to Program Director Sarah (Maslov), who’s an amazing advisor…and it’s a nurturing cohort that’s very specialized. We’re developing as a group and it’s a smaller community of people with specialized interests.”
A love of the mathematics behind medical imaging led Emma Caress to the program. Medical imaging is used for practically everything in the field of medicine and makes up a vast majority of the information coming out of the healthcare system, she said. “Today’s hospitals store hundreds of millions of digital images, with their numbers only increasing as MRIs and CTs become better at capturing thinner and thinner slices of the body,” she said. “After talking to every person I could find involved in healthcare start-ups and the medical device and pharma industries, I realized my real passion lies at the intersection between business and biology.”
Meantime, the Global Management Program, a four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018, enrolled 31 new students. On top of an already demanding undergraduate curriculum, students in the GMP program must fulfill a language requirement, study abroad their first semester, and take specialized global business courses.
The incoming class includes includes artists and world travelers, budding entrepreneurs and financiers, and a group of outstanding student athletes, including a few “future Olympians,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance in the undergraduate program and mentors student athletes. There’s Cal swimmer Alicia Wilson, from the UK, who the gold medal at the 2019 University Games in Naples in the 200 the individual medley. Reece Whitley swims breast stroke for Cal and was named 2019 Pac-12 Men’s Swimming Freshman of the Year. The group also includes Cal gymnast Maya Bordas and Cal Football offensive lineman Matthew Cindric.
Whitley said the mindset necessary for success in sports and business is quite similar. “I’ve always believed that Haas would guide me to successfully translate the team working skills I’ve developed from the swim team into work life,” he said.
Kevin Truong, BS 22, who said he’s wearing a mask in the common areas of his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house, said it’s been a goal to study business at Haas since he entered Berkeley as a freshman.
“I thought I might be a computer science major but my econ class in high school opened me to the business world and the stock market,” he said. “I chose Berkeley because I knew how great Haas was.”
Truong said he found the creating a climate of inclusion and belonging session led by Élida Bautista, Haas’ director of inclusion & diversity, particularly useful during orientation. A breakout session allowed the students to role play, giving people a chance to interact, Truong said.
Unlike Troung, Donna Kharrazi, BS 22, said she had no idea what she wanted to major in when she arrived at Berkeley. She said she was drawn to apply to study business for the different career directions that seemed possible, including marketing and advertising.
Kharrazi, who is considering minoring in data science because she loves to code, said she’s excited to be enrolled in smaller classes at Haas this year, where there are opportunities to connect with teachers. So far, she’s enjoying the breakout rooms during orientation with her cohort. “There was a little awkwardness in the beginning, but the level of conversation was great,” she said.
Collin Morikawa, BS 19, stunned the golf world Sunday, making history as one of the youngest PGA Golf Championship winners.
With the 2020 championship win, the Berkeley Haas alum joins an elite group of golfers, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIllory, and Jack Nicklaus, who all won the PGA Championship at age 23.
Morikawa, who held the Wanamaker Trophy high after his win on Sunday at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, is the first Cal athlete to win a major golf championship. “The California Kid is the new star in the game of golf,” CBS announcer Jim Nantz said after the tournament ended.
“I’m on cloud nine,” Morikawa, a Los Angeles-area native, said during a post-PGA Championship press interview. “I’ve believed in myself since day one and I haven’t let up from that. I feel very comfortable in this position, but it was going to take a very good round today.”
I’ve believed in myself since day one and I haven’t let up from that.
Members of the Haas community who’ve been tracking Morikawa’s golf career successes lit up social media with congratulations after his championship win.
“I’m so proud of Collin,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Collin has always been a standout student and athlete. I’m sure this championship win will be one of many in his golf career.”
“Collin’s success on the PGA Tour was not a surprise to me based on the intelligence, attention to detail, and work ethic he showed in the classroom,” said Finance Lecturer Stephen Etter. “However, his winnings to date far exceed the modeling we did in (the class) Finance for Future Professional Athletes. He is a humble young man who has confidence without attitude. It will be wonderful for all Cal alumni to watch his success on Sundays for many years to come.”
This isn’t the first time that Morikawa has made big waves. Since turning pro in June 2019, he’s won two PGA titles, including the 2019 Barracuda Championship and the 2020 Workday Charity Open.
While a student at Berkeley, Morikawa played for the Men’s Golf Team all four seasons and was named the Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Year in 2019. He’s also the only athlete to be named a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-American in Berkeley history.