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Norman Y. Mineta, BS 53, first Asian-American federal cabinet secretary, dies at 90

Photo of Norman Mineta at the Capitol
Norm Mineta, BS 53, former U.S. Transportation Secretary, speaks during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., on March 31, 2005. Mineta died Tuesday, May 3, 2022. He was 90. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Norman Y. Mineta, BS 53, a 10-term Democratic congressman from California and the first Asian American to become a federal cabinet secretary under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, died Tuesday at home in Edgewater, Md., at 90.

Mineta, who as a child was interned with his family and thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II, died of a heart ailment, according to the The New York Times.  

After graduating from Haas in 1953 with an undergraduate degree in business administration, Mineta joined the U.S. Army and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea.

Mineta broke racial barriers for Asian Americans in becoming mayor of San Jose, Calif. in 1971, according to his AP obituary. Elected to Congress in 1974, he became popular with voters by supporting transportation projects and fostering public-private partnerships that created explosive growth in Silicon Valley.

After 9/11, Mineta guided the creation of the Transportation Security Administration.

In an interview about the aftermath of 9/11, recorded by The Japanese American National Museum, Mineta discussed concerns over some public calls for “putting Arab Americans and Muslims in camps.” Recalling a Sept. 12 cabinet meeting, he said a Michigan congressman shared that his Arab American constituents were concerned about fallout from the attacks. President Bush responded that he was also concerned. “We want to make sure what happened to Norm in 1942 doesn’t happen today,” Mineta recalled in the interview, adding that after the meeting he told his staff that “one of things we have to make sure we do is no racial profiling.”

After leaving public service, Mineta became vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton. San Jose’s airport was renamed Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in 2001; in 2007, Mineta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a statement, President Bush called Mineta “a wonderful American story about someone who overcame hardship and prejudice to serve in the United States Army, Congress, and the Cabinet of two Presidents.”

Read Mineta’s New York Times obituary.

Listen to a 2008  NPR interview with Mineta, who talked about his road to White House leadership and leading the nation through acts of terror on Sept. 11.

 

Berkeley undergrad student team wins global venture capital final; EWMBAs take 3rd

Undergrads holding check at VCIC finals.
The UC Berkeley Undergraduate student team took first place at Global VCIC: Victor Li, David Wang. Carol Xie, Allen Wang, and Blair Wu.

A group of UC Berkeley undergraduate students’ stellar startup-vetting skills netted them first place against a field of 120 teams at the Global Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) finals.

Members of the winning team that competed at University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School on April 8-9 included Berkeley Haas student David Wang, BS 22, (Business & Chemical Engineering); Victor Li, BS 22, (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science), Carol Xie,  BA 22, (Computer Science & Statistics); Allen Wang, BA 23, (Economics & Data Science);  and Blair Wu, BA 24, (Economics & Biology).

A team of Berkeley Haas evening & weekend MBA students took third place, including Andrew Celin, John Eastman, Shenshen Hu, Terrence Tse, and Georgia Wright-Simmons, all EWMBA 22.  

Photo of EWMBA team
The Berkeley Haas EWMBA team, left to right: Georgia Wright-Simmons, John Eastman, Terrence Tse, Andrew Celin, and Shenshen Hu, all EWMBA 22.

“I’m blown away by these wins,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). Shrader, who accompanied the students, said she was pleased that VCIC returned as an in-person event this year. 

More than 120 university and graduate school teams compete at VCIC. The competition has a two-fold mission: to make students VCs for the day and allow startups to jumpstart their fundraising. Since the competition’s inception in 1998, more than 800 founders have received 1,500 practice term sheets from student investment teams.

At the finals, the Berkeley undergraduates performed due diligence on three startups. After writing up term sheets, the team recommended a $5.25 million investment in agriculture technology startup Atira. Atira is developing an indoor system that promises to grow vegetables 40 percent faster without energy waste or pesticides. 

“The business has a lot of potential,” said Wu, who took a gap semester off to work at a venture capital firm last year and met her teammates through Berkeley’s Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs (ACE). “They’d already acquired patents and had a strong team. Their product was solid and there’s strong market demand.”

Photo of the undergrad team at worka
The UC Berkeley undergraduate team at work during the competition.

David Wang, BS 22, said he believes that two key factors helped with the win: team dynamics and mentorship. “We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship,” he said. 

“We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship.” —David Wang.

Wang also credited Haas MBA alumnus Elan Tye, a principal at JAZZ Venture Partners, and Matt Kirmayer, a partner at law firm Perkins Coie, for spending “countless hours preparing us for the competition…We could not have done it without them,” he said.

Shrader said the team “crushed” its partner meeting round, nailing both the startup valuation and the Q&A session.

“Everybody had a role and everybody spoke at the finals and you could see that their emphasis was on team work,” she said.”This team definitely had confidence without attitude.”

Three alumni business leaders named as undergraduate & MBA commencement speakers

QuantumScape CEO and Co-founder Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, will speak at the combined Berkeley Haas Full-Time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement ceremony, and corporate leader, entrepreneur, and author Aaron McDaniel, BS 05, will address undergraduates at commencement.

Both ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre, with the undergrads tossing caps on Monday, May 16, and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA students graduating together on Saturday, May 21. 

A makeup commencement for the full-time MBA classes of 2020 and 2021—who had to forego in-person ceremonies during the pandemic—will be held Friday, April 29, at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85 and a senior vice president of sales for the East, Canada, and Latin America regions at ServiceNow, will address the graduates.

Additionally, the PhD hooding ceremony will be held May 6, and Executive MBA commencement will be held June 4. Laura Adint, EMBA 14, operations and strategy executive at Raymond James, is the commencement speaker.

Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, to speak at FTMBA/EWMBA commencement

Jagdeep Singh headshot
QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh

Singh is co-founder and CEO of QuantumScape, an energy storage company that supports the global transition toward a lower carbon future.  

Prior to founding QuantumScape, Singh was co-founder and CEO of Infinera Corp, a telecommunications equipment company and developer of the first large-scale, photonic integrated circuit. He led the company from startup through an IPO.  

Previously, he was founder and CEO of Lightera Networks, acquired by CIENA Corp. Before that, he founded and led several communications companies, including OnFiber and AirSoft. 

Singh is also founder and CEO of Deep Valley Labs, a venture laboratory and incubator focused on a hypothesis-driven approach to founding, validating, and spinning out high-impact technology companies. 

He holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, an MS in Computer Science from Stanford University, and an MBA from Berkeley Haas.

Aaron McDaniel, BS 05, named 2022 undergraduate commencement speaker

Aaron McDaniel headshot
Aaron McDaniel, founding partner at Grow Scale.

McDaniel, BS 05, is a former AT&T sales executive, serial entrepreneur, and has been an entrepreneurship lecturer at Berkeley Haas for the past five years.

He began his career at AT&T and rose to regional vice president of sales at age 27, among the youngest at the company to do so. In this role, he managed a team of more than 60 people and oversaw all sales operations, IT support, and data and mobility solutions for small- and medium-sized companies. He graduated from AT&T’s flagship Leadership Development Program and was a member of AT&T’s Diamond Club for the top 1% of sales leaders worldwide. 

McDaniel went on to found and sell three companies, including Pong360, an e-commerce company that sells college and tailgating products; Tycoon Real Estate, a real estate crowdfunding platform; and Velocity Capital Group, a real estate private equity firm. 

He is currently  a founding partner at Grow Scale, a commercial real estate private equity firm, and co-founder of 10X Innovation Lab, a Silicon Valley-based consulting agency that offers entrepreneurship programs and services to government and corporate leaders.

Tapping his expertise as a sales executive and entrepreneur, McDaniel has authored three self-help books, including The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World, The Young Professional’s Guide to Managing, and Global Class, forthcoming this fall. It explores how the world’s fastest-growing companies expand globally.

Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85,  will speak to MBA classes of 2020 & 2021

Laura Clayton McDonnell photo
Laura Clayton McDonnell, senior vp at ServiceNow.

McDonnell is senior vice president of sales for the East, Canada, and Latin America regions at ServiceNow, and serves on the board of directors of Zuora.

With extensive sales management, global experience, and legal expertise, McDonnell has held executive positions at leading companies in the high-technology industry as vice president of Microsoft’s New York region; senior vice president of North American sales at at Aspect Software; vice president of strategic services at IBM; and vice president of business development at Rational Software. She’s also held various senior sales and legal roles at Sun Microsystems, Cisco, and Apple and practiced private, corporate, and securities law.

McDonnell received a BS with distinction from San Jose State University, and an MBA/JD from Berkeley Haas. She was admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and the State of California.

She received the 2008 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Award and serves on the board of directors and membership committee of the Women’s Forum of New York and is a member of Women’s United of the United Way of New York City. She’s also an advisory committee member of the 92Y Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact.

Boba dreams: Undergrad student to open Aura Tea in downtown San Francisco

Photo of Kashish Juneja, BS 22
Kashish Juneja, BS 22, is opening Aura Tea shop in downtown San Francisco at the end of March.

Kashish Juneja, BS 22, is learning about running a business in real-time as she prepares to open startup Aura Tea’s first shop in downtown San Francisco on March 27. In between juggling a mid-term and going to class she’s taking calls from her contractor and interviewing for counter help at the shop that will serve boba tea with a twist: It’s sugar free, made with plant-based milks, and under 100 calories. 

“It’s insane from the operational side,” said Juneja, whose first shop is strategically located on Spear Street across from Google and Databricks offices, where employees are starting to trickle back. “We need to make sure there’s a demand and that we’re making sure the product is good enough so that people will continue showing up.”

In many ways, Aura Tea has been a team effort from the start. Juneja recruited 22 interns from the UC Berkeley community who help with marketing, TikTok, and Instagram, where she’s drawn support from NFL players to local musicians. Students and Cal athlete ambassadors helped her host on-campus events that offer “boba for de-stressing”—and she recently held a pop-up on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, giving away Cal-themed boba tea drinks.

Aura Tea space on Spear
Aura’s new shop will open March 27 on Spear Street in San Francisco. Photo: Kashish Juneja.

Kaitlin Dang, BS 24, an intern who serves as business growth lead at Aura Tea, said her favorite Aura flavor is mango pineapple.

“Before I started working here I was an avid milk tea connoisseur, trying new places,” said Dang, who is in  her second year of the Berkeley Haas Global Management Program. “My taste has changed from sweeter teas and now I drink a lot of fruit teas. Most fruit teas are very sweet and not refreshing. Aura tea has a refreshing taste.”

Solving her own problem

Juneja, who grew up in Cupertino, has always loved boba. “Our high school was boba central, with a boba shop across the street that was open during lunch every day,” she said. “I played tennis every day so it balanced out.”

Photo of Kaitlin Dang drinking boba
Kaitlin Dang, a sophomore in the undergraduate Global Management Program at Haas, is Aura’s business growth lead.

Her boba addiction continued at Berkeley, but drinking those 500 extra boba calories without her usual tennis playing led to an unwanted 30-pound weight gain. Aura Tea, she said, was founded in part to solve her own problem.

The idea to start making healthier boba tea emerged during a Plant Futures course that she took with Will Rosenzweig, the faculty chair of the Center for Responsible Business at Haas who co-founded the Republic of Tea.

She’d already taken an entrepreneurship bootcamp and was interested in starting a company. Plant Futures, a collaboration between Berkeley Haas, Public Health, Engineering, Public Policy, and the Berkeley Food Institute, pushed her idea forward.

Throughout the pandemic, Juneja could be found crafting tea in her apartment, testing different oat, almond, and pea milks, which make her tea drinks vegan, and sweeteners, using fresh loose leaf green and black teas from the grocery store. (Boba pearls are naturally vegan, as they’re made of tapioca starch, which comes from cassava root.)

Juneja tested her teas on friends and classmates. In the early recipe days, she conducted a blind taste test: her milk tea against the Boba Guys’ tea and others. (Boba Guys was co-founded by Andrew Chau, MBA 11.)  “We didn’t win but it was a good start,” she said. “Our taste was nowhere that it is now.” 

It took time to get Berkeley-based impact investor David Jiang to take a chance on her venture, she said. Jiang’s wife’s father was a tea farmer in China, and they all shared an interest in tea. “There was a lot of making it and taking it back to them,” Juneja said. “I was taking what I learned in class and bringing them my tea and my pitch deck.” 

I was taking what I learned in class and bringing them my tea and my pitch deck.

Valuable startup experience

The shop, which will take to-go orders online, will offer a combination of grab-and-go and fresh-brewed drinks with boba tea in flavors including strawberry, matcha, pineapple, and mango. Aura will offer coffee drinks, too, and a masala chai with infused with spices and CBD for relaxation. (Aura’s boba pearls are made by US Boba Company in nearby Hayward, Calif. Her tea is sweetened with Purecane, which she says she chose for its lack of an aftertaste.) 

Students drinking boba at an Aura Tea rooftop party.
Students sample the tea on a campus rooftop last week during Aura Tea’s launch party.

Dang said she’s getting valuable experience working for Aura. “There’s a lot of creativity involved,” she said. “I have the space to try the things I want to try. We’re appealing to a certain wide demographic: corporate employees, health influencers, healthcare professionals, and foodies. I like to try things I’ve seen work in other industries, casting a wide net.”

Juneja, who will work in the shop part-time until graduation, said she’s grateful to her entire community of classmates, professors, and advisors for all of their help with Aura’s creation.

 “When I wrote my essay to get into Haas I said I wanted to solve a problem,” she said. “My dream came true.”

Viva la mujer: A Women’s History Month message from Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista

This month, as we celebrate Women’s History Month and prepare to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, we are called on to imagine a world where women across all intersectional identities have equal access to opportunities, income, safety, political representation, and choices.

Viva la Mujer image by Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes
“Viva La Mujer” graphic image credit: Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes

Throughout our history, despite seemingly insurmountable barriers, women across the globe have strived and sacrificed to be seen for our capabilities, and fairly valued for our contributions. Women of all intersectional identities have organized and been a part of many movements to gain equal rights, and to advocate for reforms that impact everyone, including safe working conditions and labor practices, improved accessibility for people with disabilities, obtaining and protecting voting access, and other civil rights. However, women—here in the U.S. and around the world—continue to face epidemics of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment.

Yesterday, President Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration Act, a landmark piece of legislation spurred by the #MeToo movement, ending the use of hidden language in contracts that prevented employees from suing in the case of sexual assault or harassment. It is a victory, with so many more battles ahead.

March 24 is All Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into the new year women must work to be paid what men were paid the previous year. On average, women are paid 82 cents for every dollar men are paid. Disaggregating the data shows a deeper disparity.

Asian American women are paid 85 cents for every dollar white men earn, making March 9 their Equal Pay Day. For Black women, Equal Pay Day doesn’t come until August; for Native American women, it’s September. For Latinas, the date comes near the end of October, with their average pay being 57 cents for every dollar paid to white men. The disparities do not stop there.

Women with disabilities make 72 cents for every dollar paid to men with disabilities; but as a whole, people with disabilities make only 68 cents for each dollar earned by able bodied people. Mothers earn 75 cents for every dollar fathers make.  There is not precise national data on equal pay for lesbian, bisexual, queer, or trans women, indicating our need to advocate to include all of our sisters in the data.

Important research insights uncovered by our faculty point to real-world solutions to pay inequity. In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Professor Laura Kray and post-doc scholar Margaret Lee highlighted their findings that women are given smaller teams to manage on average than men, which contributes to the pay gap; Kray is working with Dean Harrison to dig into why the pay gap between men and women MBA graduates increases over time. Assistant Professor Solène Delecourt is studying inequities in business performance; three of her recent studies have pinpointed the factors that cause women-owned businesses to underperform men’s around the world, and how that can be fixed. Former Dean Laura Tyson was the co-author of a key UN report on women’s economic empowerment. Kellie McElhaney, founding director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) and EGAL Assistant Director Genevieve Smith co-authored a teaching case focused on the importance of pay transparency in closing the gap.

We know the progress toward equity took a giant step backwards during the pandemic. By the end of January, men in the U.S. had regained all of the jobs they had lost since February 2020. But 1.1 million women who left the labor force during the same time had yet to return, pointing to long-standing structural inequities (with caregiving responsibilities topping the list) that make it harder for women to return to work. Recognizing that women in heterosexual dual-career couples, with or without children, still do most of the household/care work, EGAL developed 7 evidence-based ‘plays’ to support dual career couples. 

Burnout brought on by the pandemic has pushed many women to reevaluate and identify new approaches to career and personal life. That re-evaluation is the focus of this weekend’s “Re:set, Re:imagine, and Re:build,” the 26th annual Women in Leadership Conference at Haas. Conference organizers intentionally have integrated intersectional identities throughout the program. The conference will be held tomorrow, March 5, in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. You may register here.

We have incredible representation of women in senior leadership roles at Berkeley Haas, including our Dean, our chief operating officer, our chief financial officer and several assistant deans and program directors. Yet we have more work to do to achieve balanced gender representation among our faculty and students. Our senior leaders are working to continue to foster a climate of belonging, and strategizing on outreach, recruitment, and yield to increase representation of women among our faculty and students.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and its theme #BreaktheBias, I treasure all of the accomplishments of women around the world and I am grateful to have benefitted from the progress achieved by those who came before me. I also realize that “la lucha sigue” (the struggle continues), as we say in my community. Women with multiple marginalized identities often have even longer, bumpier roads to travel.

We each have the responsibility to continue unlearning the gender bias we have absorbed throughout our lives and we must hold ourselves accountable at an individual level. We have the power to use our leadership to create structural changes at all levels. Collectively, working together, let’s #BreaktheBias.

Sí se Puede,

Élida

Resources for further learning:

Promoting an Equitable Learning Environment

Stop AAPI Hate

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

National Domestic Workers Alliance 

Male allyship at work

81cents Pay Equity Advisors

Equal Pay Day 2022

“Viva La Mujer” image credit: Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes

‘Driven by our own mission’: Blackbook University builds community and belonging

Blackbook’s co-founders and supporters attend a pre-launch presentation. From L-R: Maya Hammond, former BSU president; Farhiya Ali; Imran Sekalala; Ibrahim Baldé; Nahom Solomon; Hana Baba, NPR; Joy Dixon, Salesforce; Marco Lindsey, associate director of DEI at Haas; Nicholas Brathwaite; and Chase Ali-Watkins. Photo courtesy: Ibrahim Baldé.

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.

Student Profile – Adaeze Noble from Made By Chase on Vimeo.

The journey

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.  

A copy of the original UC Berkeley African American Student Handbook published in 1996.

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: Using data and art to inspire conversations about climate change

“Classified” is a series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons faculty are teaching in Haas classrooms.

George Milanovic,
George Milanović and Laila Samimi, both MBA 22, in the beginning stages of creating a hopscotch game that will reflect global warming. Photo: Jim Block

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. 

Clark Kellogg speaks to student in class.
Continuing Lecturer and Haas artist-in-residence Clark Kellogg (right) chats with undergraduate Alexis Mullard about her project, which explores the idea that earth is melting like an ice cream cone. Photo: Jim Block

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

The course, taught in the Berkeley Haas Innovation Lab, builds upon a series of classes Kellogg has taught at Haas over the past decade—from Creativity Lab to Art from Business to the pioneering Design Thinking class. 

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. 

Students in Memorial Stadium making art
(Left to right) MBA students Casey Dunajick-DeKnight, Rosa Huang, and Jesse Ruiz cutting recycled cans into flat aluminum that will be used to craft sea creatures. Photo: Jim Block

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.

Samiya Mehreen, BS 23, presents her drawing, which explores how women artisans in developing countries are balancing business and sustainability. Photo: Jim Block

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.

Vincent Chang shows his artwork.
Vincent Chang, MBA 22, says his drawing—rainbow versus anti-rainbow—addresses the impact of greenhouse gases on the sky.

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.

Clark Kellogg's art
A work from Clark Kellogg’s 365 Art project—of making art daily for a year.

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.”

Startup Ashita brings NYC flair to jewelry line

Ashita Dhadda
Ashita Dhadda started fine jewelry company Ashita last year and hired 14 interns to help her expand.

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.”

Ashita jewelry
Pops of color are a staple of Ashita’s jewelry.

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.

Paloma Aguilar wearing Ashita necklace
Paloma Aguilar, BS 21, (Media Studies and Political Economy), models Ashita jewelry as an Instagram influencer for the startup.

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. 

This semester, she said she’s planning to join a Data Science Club at Haas. She’s also a member of Berkeley Women in Business, which connected her to her mentor Tanvi Lal, MBA 20. 

Lal introduced her to other MBA students who have advised her on everything from accounting to marketing her startup.

“I talked to her every week last semester and that was very helpful,” Dhadda said. “She’s had a huge influence on shaping my business.”

Dhadda added that she tries to take on projects in her courses that will help her improve different aspects of her business. She also continues to network.

“Now that I’m taking Haas classes I am looking to grow and network with students and alumni,” she said. “Learning from other people’s stories and experiences has had a huge impact.” 

Together again! Undergraduate Class of 2020 celebrates belated commencement

Dean Ann Harrison with 2020 Haas undergrads
Dean Ann Harrison celebrates with the 2020 Haas Business School Association (HBSA) leadership team at a reception in the courtyard following commencement. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

On Sunday,  some 4,250 undergraduates, including about 230 from Berkeley Haas, returned to Berkeley for a promised Class of 2020 In-Person Commencement at the Greek Theatre. 

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. 

Ishan Sharma
Ishan Sharma, BS 23, (middle) said the commencement brought closure to his time at Haas.

“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 at McKinsey & 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.”

Robert Paylor crosses the stage at commencement.
Robert Paylor, BS 20, crosses the stage at commencement with the help of Tom Billups, Paylor’s former associate head rugby coach at Cal, who has helped him through rehabilitation. (Photo: Tenny Frost)

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.”

Robert Paylor at commencement.
“This is one of the happiest days of my life,” – Robert Paylor, BS 20, at commencement. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser).

“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.”

Mia Character and Jordyn Elliot, both Defining Leadership Principles award winners, at commencement.
Mia Character (left) and Jordyn Elliot, both Defining Leadership Principles award winners, at commencement. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

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.

Cubbie Kile
Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and mentors student athletes, hands Cubbie Kile the Departmental Citation. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

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.

New undergrad, MBA, and PhD students arrive to start classes

MBA students jumping
New FTMBA students celebrate being together on campus. Photo: Jim Block

Berkeley Haas welcomed more than 750 new students in the full-time MBA Class of 2023, along with new undergraduates and PhD students 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.” 

Dean Ann Harrison
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the new class. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

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 well.

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.

Students in design thinking class at Haas
MBA students collaborate during a design thinking workshop. Photo: Jim Block

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. 

Bree Jenkins
Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar, shared some advice to the new FTMBA class. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

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. 

MBA students in courtyard
New MBA students socialized in the courtyard between orientation sessions. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

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.

Haas students volunteering
FTMBA students help weed the gardens at the Alameda Point Collaborative. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

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. 

Undergraduates

Undergrads in the courtyard
New Haas undergrads joined events held today in the Haas courtyard, including a team-building activity and a networking mixer. Photo: Natasha Payes.

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.

New undergraduate students
Haas undergraduate students met in the courtyard to network today. Photo: Natasha Payes.

Joining orientation were 31 students in the undergraduate Global Management Program (GMP), a selective, four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018, along with 25 students in the Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship program. The Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology  (M.E.T.) program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, admitted 55 freshmen.

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.

PhD Program

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.

Erika Walker named senior assistant dean of instruction

Erika Walker
Erika Walker is the new senior assistant dean of instruction at Haas.

Erika Walker, who directed the Berkeley Haas undergraduate program for the past 16 years, has been named the school’s new senior assistant dean of instruction.

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. 

Three new undergrad programs launched

As head of the two-year undergraduate program, Walker was in charge of all academic and student affairs. Most recently, she oversaw the addition of three innovative new undergraduate business programs: the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) program, a partnership with the UC Berkeley College of Engineering; the Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship (L.S.B.E.) program with Biological Sciences; and the Global Management Program, (G.M.P.), which features a semester abroad.  

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.

Faculty, student instructors honored with Cheit teaching awards

photo of Cheit teaching award winners
Clockwise from top left: Ross Levine, Panos Patatoukas, Nancy Wallace, Dan Mulhern, Guo Xu, and Jenny Herbert Creek.

Six faculty members and five Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) have been honored at 2021 commencements for excellence in teaching.

Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the Cheit Award, named after Dean Emeritus Earl F. Cheit, who made teaching excellence one of his top priorities.

This year’s winners include:

  • Evening & Weekend MBA program: Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas (evening cohort), who teaches financial information analysis, and Prof. Ross Levine (weekend cohort), who teaches macroeconomics
  • Full-time MBA program: Lecturer Jenny Herbert Creek, who teaches finance
  • Undergraduate program: Dan Mulhern, who teaches leadership in the Management of Operations Group as a continuing lecturer and distinguished teaching fellow
  • PhD program: Asst. Prof. Guo Xu of the Business & Public Policy group
  • Master of Financial Engineering (MFE): Prof. Nancy Wallace, chair of the real estate group.  received GSI teaching awards.
  • Graduate student instructors (GSIs): Atusa Sadeghi (EWMBA); Devan Courtois (FTMBA); and Sooji Kim (undergraduate); and Maxine Sauzet and Nick Sanders (MFE)

Founding class of M.E.T. students graduates

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.”

Michelle Lu
2021 M.E.T. graduate Michelle Lu

M.E.T., a 2017 collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, grants graduates two degrees—in engineering and business—after four years.

“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.

MET class photo from 2017
The founding M.E.T. class in 2017. Photo: Noah Berger

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.

Michael Trehan
Michael Trehan

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Award winners include:

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

Students Always: Ananya Gupta

Beyond Yourself: Arman Kermanizadeh

Question the Status Quo: Erinn Wong

Confidence Without Attitude: Tamarik Rabb

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Award winner: Sooji Kim

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

Haas Voices: How the ‘model minority’ myth hurts Asian Americans

Haas Voices is a new first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. 

Undergrad student photos
L-R, clockwise: Erinn Wong, BS 21, Mia Character, BS 20, and Vivian Feng, BS 24.

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.

The students also created a list of Asian American resources on campus and beyond.

Our interviewees:

Erinn Wong, BS 21, who grew up in Sacramento. Wong is a queer Chinese American; her parents are from Hong Kong.

Vivian Feng, BS 24, a freshman in the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Global Management Program who grew up in Oakland. Feng is Chinese American and a graduate of Oakland High School.

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
Erinn Wong

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 Feng
Vivian Feng

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 Character
Mia Character

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.

Can plant-based seafood replace the real thing? Startup Impact Food thinks so 

sushi
Plant-based “tuna” is used to make Impact Food’s sushi. Photo: Impact Food.

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.

Portraits of two women and one man.
Impact food was co-founded by Kelly Pan, BS 22 (left); Stephanie Claudino Daffara, BA 18, EECS 20 (top right); and Adrian Miranda, BA 21.

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.

Miranda set up a lab in his home to create plant-based tuna.

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.

Need a study group? There’s an app for that

Rajavi Mishra
Rajavi Mishra

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.

Gopalakrishnan
Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan

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.

Study pact on Berkeley Mobile
The study pact feature on Berkeley Mobile

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: EdVisorly eases transfer process for community college students

Alyson Isaacs and Manny Smith
Alyson Isaacs, BS 21, and Manny Smith, MBA 21

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.

Slideshow: Thank you veterans for going beyond yourselves

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

Check out what they had to say: