Grit and resilience: Shannon Eliot’s journey to graduation

It was the first day of a week-long backpacking trip to Patagonia last January, a trip where Shannon Eliot and eight of her classmates were finally going to test lessons learned in their Extreme Leadership class at Berkeley Haas. 

Their goal was to reach Cordillera Arturo Prat, a mountain peak just outside Torres Del Paine National Park, but not long after leaving base camp, Eliot, EWMBA 20, slipped on a log and fell backwards into a muddy swamp, twisting her knee on the forest floor. “I thought I would have to be airlifted out of Chile,” she said as she lay on her back looking up at the Chilean sky. “I asked myself, ‘Why did I come?’”

That question could have led her to abandon the trek. But as she would several times during her final year at Haas, Eliot blocked the pain from her mind and moved forward with the help of her Haas friends, including two of her close classmates, Terrell Baptiste, EWMBA 20, and Brian Bell, MBA 20. “They told me that I was stronger than I thought I was and that I could do it,” Eliot said. 

They told me that I was stronger than I thought I was and that I could do it.

Shannon Eliot, EWMBA 20
Shannon Eliot, EWMBA 20, traveled to Chilean Patagonia for a seven-day backpacking trip.

“A million tiny knives”

For her grit, determination, and her role as EWMBA Association’s VP of Philanthropy, Eliot, a senior communications manager for Blue Shield of California, will receive the Beyond Yourself award at graduation Friday. It’s one of four Defining Leadership Principles awards given to students who embody the spirit of Haas and have made a lasting impact on the community. Eliot is being honored for leading ethically and responsibly and putting larger interests above her own.

Just months before the Patagonia trek, Eliot was almost convinced the trip would not be possible. Three days after her birthday in August, Eliot awoke from an afternoon nap unable to stand with a feeling of “a million tiny knives stabbing me in the back,” she said.

Doctors diagnosed Eliot with rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue that causes myoglobin, or muscle protein, to enter the bloodstream. This “freak accident,” she said, was a rare side effect of a prescribed medication she took.

For five months, Eliot, who is also a part-time Pilates instructor, tapped into her training to restore the muscles in her lower back. By December, Eliot had gained enough strength to walk on a treadmill with a 25-pound backpack — just enough weight to convince herself that she could make it to Patagonia.

An athlete’s recovery

Anyone who knows Eliot wouldn’t have been surprised to learn how determined she was to restore her physical health. From being an elite soccer player as a teen to racing for UC San Diego’s collegiate cycling team to teaching Pilates, Eliot has always been a lifelong athlete who has pushed her body to the max. 

That fitness level and mental perseverance ultimately helped her to complete the Patagonia trek.

After her knee injury, Eliot got back on her feet and marched forward. For six days, she hiked on a sprained knee for 10 hours carrying a 52-pound backpack and camping atop of an icy mountain in high winds.

“Despite spraining her knee, Shannon was still able to keep a positive attitude and motivate our team to finish the trip,” Baptiste said. “She has a lot of grit.”

Eliot is working towards a role in management consulting following graduation. She’d also like to launch an online Pilates studio to help people remain physically fit in the age of the coronavirus.

“I’m so excited for the future and I have Haas—and especially my Haas family—to thank for it,” Eliot said. “Their unwavering support and endless encouragement are the secret sauce to my success.”

 

Year in review: Top Berkeley Haas stories of 2019

It was a big year at Berkeley Haas. We welcomed the school’s first new dean in more than a decade, continued our run in the top 10 in all rankings, and launched several new boundary-spanning programs. Our faculty broke new ground and were honored with numerous awards, and we also mourned the loss of several luminaries. The school was also recognized for its stellar sustainability efforts at our new building.

Going into the 2020, our culture—truly at the heart of Haas—will continue to take center stage. Here are a dozen of our highlights from 2019.

1. New year, new dean

Dean Ann Harrison
Dean Ann Harrison | Copyright Noah Berger 2018

On January 1, former Wharton economics professor Ann Harrison “came home” to Berkeley to serve as the 15th dean of Haas. Harrison was a double major in history and economics at UC Berkeley before going on to earn a PhD in economics from Princeton. She also served as a professor of UC Berkeley’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics from 2001 to 2011, and was the former director of development policy at the World Bank.

2. Fresh insights and groundbreaking research

Illustration of a satellite orbiting the earth

From the first-ever analysis of how hedge funds use satellite images to beat Wall Street, to a finding that information acts on the brain’s dopamine receptors in the same way as snacks, drugs, and money, to new insights from social network experts on how the opioid use spreads in families, Haas faculty questioned the status quo with their creative and groundbreaking research. They also made an impact: Ginnie Mae adopted a proposal based on Haas professors’ research for better risk management of non-bank lenders, and U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Doug Jones launched an investigation into evidence uncovered by three faculty that that online lending algorithms have created widespread lending discrimination.

3. Shedding light on PG&E blackouts

Professors Catherine Wolfram and Severin Borenstein

Haas experts were in high demand to make sense of this fall’s unprecedented power shutoffs. Energy economists Severin Borenstein and Catherine Wolfram of the Energy Institute at Haas fielded a stream of questions from journalists after Pacific Gas & Electric determined it could not guarantee the safety of its lines and shut down power to hundreds of thousands of people, including the entire UC Berkeley campus.

4. Mourning the loss of faculty luminaries

Prof. Mark Rubinstein in his home library / Photo by Jim Block
Prof. Mark Rubinstein in his home library | Photo by Jim Block

Mark Rubinstein (above), a finance professor emeritus whose work had a profound impact on Wall Street by forever changing how financial assets are created and priced, died at 74. Raymond Miles, a former Berkeley Haas dean and professor emeritus whose leadership had a deep and lasting impact on the Haas campus and community, passed away at 86. Leo Helzel, MBA 68, LLM 70, an honored faculty member who guided the school’s first forays into entrepreneurship and was a dedicated and generous supporter of Haas for decades, died at 101. Rob Chandra, BS 88, a professional faculty member since 2013, taught courses on entrepreneurship and venture capital to both undergraduate and MBA students. He passed away in October at age 53.

5. STEM designation for MBA programs

Photo of students in Chou Hall at Haas

Berkeley Haas is among the first business schools to receive a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) designation for its MBA programs. The designation makes all international graduates eligible to apply for an additional 24-month visa extension during post-MBA employment. All current international students studying on F-1 visas will be eligible to apply for the extension while they are in their first year of work authorization after graduating from the MBA program. “We anticipate that this will lead to expanded opportunities for our international graduates who pursue jobs incorporating business analytics, modeling, forecasting, and other skills developed through our program,” said Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the FTMBA program and admissions.

6. Record rankings

Students at work during week zero
Photo by Jim Block

All Haas programs continued their run in the top 10 in all major rankings, with the full-time MBA program moving up to #6 in the U.S. in the U.S. News & World Report ranking—its highest ever. The FTMBA program was also ranked #6 in the U.S. by The Economist (#7 worldwide) and #8 in the U.S. by Bloomberg BusinessweekU.S. News ranked the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program #2, the Undergraduate Program #3, and the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program #7.  The Master of Financial Engineering Program was ranked #1 by The Financial Engineer, and #2 by QuantNet.

7. Chou Hall’s green trifecta

Photo of the front of Chou Hall

Our newest building officially became the greenest academic space in the U.S., receiving a WELL Certification recognizing its “strong commitment to supporting human health, well-being, and comfort;” a TRUE Zero Waste Certification at the highest possible level for diverting at least 90% of its waste from landfills; and LEED Platinum Certification for its architectural design, construction, and energy efficiency.

8. Welcoming David Porter, our first Chief DEI officer

Berkley Haas Chief DEI Officer David Porter

“My first priority is making sure that the students, particularly students of color, have the best experience possible,” said Porter, who previously served as CEO of media nonprofit Walter Kaitz Foundation, director of graduate programs at the Howard University School of Business, and as an assistant professor and faculty director at UCLA’s Anderson School.

9. Unveiling a new sustainable and impact finance program (SAIF)

MBA students who managed the Haas Sustainably Investment Fund
MBA students who have managed the Sustainable Investment Fund at Haas. Photo: Jim Block

The Sustainable and Impact Finance program aims to better position students to work in sustainable and impact finance as public fund managers or private equity investors, or in the startup world. It’s focused on three sectors: sustainable investment, impact investment, and impact entrepreneurship. Assoc. Prof. Adair Morse developed the new program with Prof. Laura Tyson, faculty director for the Institute for Business and Social Impact (IBSI).

10. Building campus connections with cross-disciplinary programs

Haas joined forces with the College of Engineering to launch the concurrent MBA/MEng dual degree program. The new program, enrolling for fall 2020, allows students with undergraduate technical training to earn both a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Engineering degree in just two years. The new undergrad Biology+Business dual major is designed to prepare students for careers in healthcare, biotech, and drug discovery research. It’s a joint venture between the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology and Haas.

11. A host of honors for faculty

Top row: Chesbrough, Mowery, Wallace. Middle: Dal Bó, Schroeder, Morse. Bottom: Konchitchki, Patatoukas, Finan.

Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki and Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas received the 2019 Notable Contributions to Accounting Literature Award from the American Accounting Association. Prof. Emeritus David Mowery received the 2019 Irwin Outstanding Educator Award from the Academy of Management’s Strategic Management Division. Adj. Prof. Henry Chesbrough received the Leadership in Technology Management Award from the Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET). Prof. Nancy Wallace was honored by campus with a prestigious faculty service award. Miguel Villas-Boas was awarded the 2019 INFORMS Society for Marketing Science Fellow Award, which is the organization’s highest award recognizing cumulative scholarship and long-term contributions to the marketing field. Prof. Ernesto Dal Bó and Prof. Frederico Finan received the 2019 Williamson Award at the 2019 Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics (SIOE) conference. Assoc. Prof. Juliana Schroeder was recognized as a “Best 40 Under 40” professor by Poets & Quants. Cheit Awards for Excellence in Teaching went to professors Adair Morse, Ross Levine, Yaniv Konchitchki, and Hoai-Luu Nguyen, along with lecturers Janet Brady, Eric Reiner, and Veselina Dinova.

12. Going deeper on culture

We continued to embed our Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs)—Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself—throughout the school. In January, the Berkeley Haas Cultural Initiative launched with a  pioneering conference where executives from Facebook, Netflix, Zappos, Pixar Animation Studios, Deloitte, and other “culture aware” companies mingled with top academics from around the world. Separately, Haas supporters donated over $200,000 to distribute as grants for efforts aimed at keeping our DLPs strong. After reviewing 29 proposals from students, faculty, and staff, grant reviewers funded six projects and initiatives.

Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, goes beyond herself

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re featuring profiles and interviews with members of our Haas community.

Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, at 2019 commencement last Sunday
Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, at commencement last Sunday, where she was honored with a Culture of Haas Award for “Beyond Yourself.” Photo: Joshua Edelson

When Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, was honored at last Sunday’s commencement with the “Beyond Yourself” Haas Culture Award, few would argue that it wasn’t deserved.

The daughter of immigrants from Delhi, India, Gaelan has served as president of the Haas Business School Association (HBSA), and as an associate consultant with the student-run Bay Area Environmentally Aware Consulting Network (BEACN), helping local nonprofits and small businesses to be more environmentally friendly and profitable. She’s also used her henna and photography talents to collect donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

We spoke with Gaelan, who will work at Accenture in San Francisco after graduating, about growing up Sikh in Modesto, California, her family’s commitment to education, and her commitment to service.

Jas with her parents.
Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, with her parents, Manpreet (Mona) Kaur and Bhupinder (Sunny) Singh, who brought her to Berkeley when she was little to show her the Campanile and “what college was like.”

Tell us about your background.

I immigrated to California with my parents from Delhi, India, when I was four years old. We first lived in Alameda, and my parents used to bring me to Berkeley when I was little to show me the Campanile and to show me what college was like. Getting me into a good school was a really big deal for them.

We later moved to Modesto, California. My parents had an ice cream store and a small convenience store and worked from 6 a.m. until 10 at night. I started working when I was young and helped them with whatever they were doing. This year they opened up a beautiful furniture gallery. They inspire me with the mentality: We start with what we have and dream big.

Jaskirat Gaelan in Alameda for her preschool graduation
Gaelan at her preschool graduation in Alameda, about a year after the family immigrated from India. (Family photo)

How did the diversity of California influence you?

I love that my parents chose to immigrate to California. California is a melting pot and I really felt that. My friends were a diverse group—Mexican, Taiwanese, Indian. What brought us together was the desire to learn and ask questions and explore. I think that’s why we all got along so well. We all believed in how important school is and had the curiosity to learn and seek help and ask questions. Many of us have parents who immigrated here and were busy with their businesses and didn’t go through the process of the SAT and learning about scholarships and financial aid.

What do you think people misunderstand about Sikhs?

Sikhs are often misidentified to be of other religions. In reality, Sikhism is a unique faith and is not derived from any other religion. Sikhism spans all geopolitical boundaries. People believe Sikhism is all about outer appearance. In reality, Sikhism is a simple religion with three fundamental principles: Naam japna (remember God and goodness in everything that we do), Kirat Karna (earn an honest living), and Vand Chakna (selflessly serve others).

Has being a Sikh in the U.S. been challenging for you?

The nearest Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) have been 30 to 40 minutes from the houses I’ve lived in, but every trip there has only been empowering to me. Though I may not be a strict follower, I have a deep desire to explore more about Sikhism.

What was your experience as an Asian American and a Sikh at Berkeley Haas?

I took a class in Asian-American history my freshman year. I loved it, I loved the people. It created an avenue for us to open up to each other about our families, our pasts. It’s been exciting here. I’ve met many other Asian Americans, children of immigrants. We realized that so many things about us, from how our parents encourage us to the types of jobs we want, are all very similar.

Before coming here, I never really had other Sikh students in my classes. (The Sikh population isn’t that large in Modesto.) But here, I could connect with many through the Sikh Students Association and other clubs. That was beneficial because they understood what my family is like, what my culture is like. They’ve helped me with applications and job searching, even praying with me before a class or cheering me up. Having that encouragement was why I was able to get through and figure things out.

What lessons have you learned from your community and culture that you want to share with others?

I’ve learned to help others. You can make a difference in more than your own life. Any success we have is much sweeter if it helps more than just you. Incorporate service at every point in your life, however you can, whether it’s helping one person, or a school, or a business, or a community. I’ve also met a lot of Asian Americans who have helped me to learn who I am and who I want to be. Regardless of your background, be willing to share your culture. It’s so valuable to be surrounded by diverse groups of people. Figuring out things together will help empower us even more to make an even bigger impact.

Berkeley MBA for Executives grads urged to embrace adversity, “go beyond yourself”

"Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself," Dean Harrison told the graduates.
“Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself,” Dean Harrison told the graduates. (Left to right) Audrey Ng, Katherine Mlika, Shalaka Kharche, and Rohini Panjrath. All photos: Jim Block

Be open to risk, embrace adversity, and go beyond yourself were inspiring messages delivered to 69 students in the Berkeley MBA for Executives (EMBA) Class of 2018 who graduated last Saturday.

“We live in challenging times,” said commencement speaker Tootie Tatum, EMBA 15, CEO of Blackhawk Genomics. “There’s no shortage of tribalism, cynicism, or discord. You are truly empowered to change that tide in the world because if you don’t, who will?”

At a ceremony packed with students’ friends and family in Hertz Hall, Dean Ann Harrison praised the class for persevering through 19 months of a rigorous management and leadership curriculum—all the while managing demanding jobs, and maintaining active family and social lives.

“Many of you traveled long distances to take classes,” said Harrison, who presided over her first commencement as new dean. “This wasn’t always easy. Finding ways to balance all of these commitments is nothing short of remarkable, and we applaud you. After this, you can accomplish anything.”

Dean Harrison with Valedictorian Jim Griffin.
Dean Harrison with Valedictorian Jim Griffin who “excelled in the program and encouraged others to excel as well.”

Jessica LaBounty, chosen as the class student speaker, described the support that her classmates provided each other. “Our cohort family has become a new and powerful kind of mirror,” she said. “In this mirror, we have the opportunity to see ourselves not as our families see us, not as our work colleagues see us, and certainly not as we see ourselves. This Haas mirror has the remarkable ability of showing us who we are capable of being. This mirror, this faith we have in each other, is full of optimism and bravery.”

Together, the group experienced the Haas School’s unique brand of experiential learning, which comprises 25 percent of the curriculum. At the heart of this EMBA format are five immersive learning experiences led by Haas faculty on location: leadership communications in Napa, applied innovation in San Francisco, entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, business and corporate social responsibility in Copenhagen, and policy in Washington DC.

Distinguished Teaching Fellow Veselina Dinova received the Earl F. Cheit Award For Excellence In Teaching for her instruction.

“In (the course) Financial Information Analysis, Veselina made the fine print of financial statements come alive with her infectious enthusiasm for this characteristically dry topic,” Jay Stowsky, senior dean of instruction, said before presenting the award.

The award for outstanding graduate student instructor went to Auyon Siddiq, who was the GSI for Prof. Lucas Davis’ Data & Decisions course.

Grads were surrounded by friends and family at Saturday's EMBA commencement.
Graduates were surrounded by friends and family at Saturday’s commencement.

Stowsky also delivered the Valedictorian Award to Jim Griffin. “Our valedictorian award goes beyond celebrating the student with the highest GPA,” he said. “It also celebrates the student who excels in an intense and accelerated environment. Not only did Jim excel in the program—he encouraged others to excel as well.”

The ceremony included Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles Awards, which went to Michael Guimarin (Question the Status Quo), Kate Mansalis & Ron Sasaki (Confidence Without Attitude), Jim Griffin (Students Always), and Laura Hassner (Beyond Yourself). A 5th Principle award, for embodying all four principles while always choosing graciousness, went to Wendi Chiong and Brian Tajo.

Tatum, who holds a PhD in biomedical sciences and has made her mark in genomics, urged graduates to be open to risk, and welcome adversity with open arms. But she also noted that there’s a safety net available to them if they fall.

EMBA Class of 2018
The EMBA 2018 Class

“Know that this Haas fellowship that you are now a part of is for a lifetime,” she said. “Everyone here who has come before you, we are really your safety net.”

Harrison closed the ceremony with a reflection on Martin Luther King Jr.

“Think every day about how you can go beyond yourself,” she said. “In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrated on Monday: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?'”

Chris Larocca and Trevor Buehl chaired this year’s EMBA student campaign, raising almost $60,000 to support faculty and student excellence at Haas.

VIDEO: Veterans Day 2018—Student vets reflect on going beyond yourself

This Veterans Day, we thank our Berkeley Haas student veterans for their service and for all they they contribute to our campus community.

“We’re delighted to have one of our largest classes of veterans studying at Haas this year,” said Interim Dean Laura Tyson. “Those who volunteer to serve their country feel a calling to do something beyond themselves. It makes veterans a perfect fit for Berkeley Haas since they embody our Defining Leadership Principle ‘Beyond Yourself.’ We are grateful for the leadership skills and the global perspectives our veterans bring to the Haas community, and we thank them for their service.”

We asked four student veterans to share what “Beyond Yourself” means to them:

  • Poga Ahn, EMBA 18, former U.S. Army captain
  • Rodrigo Flores, EWMBA 21, former U.S. Navy submarine officer
  • Cassidy Nolan, BS 19, former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence chief
  • Katie Rentz, FTMBA 20, former U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicles department head

Here’s what they had to say:

 

More Resources

Haas Veterans Club

Veterans in the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program

Veterans in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program

Veterans in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program

Haas Undergraduate Program

More videos about veterans at Berkeley Haas

Students, Alumni to Go “Beyond Themselves” at First Community Day, April 10

Pull out your green thumbs and old clothes for a day of volunteering at the first annual Haas Community Day at the Alameda Point Collaborative on April 10.

The free event, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., was organized by the East Bay Haas Alumni Network Chapter and Haas Challenge for Charity to serve the community while bringing together current students, faculty, staff, alumni, and their families. Challenge for Charity is a nonprofit that involves nine West Coast business schools to support the Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other local charities.

Volunteers will be landscaping, painting, and farming at the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC), which provides affordable housing and services in 239 units on the former Alameda Naval Air Station.

“After watching the first-year full-time class bond while volunteering at APC during orientation week, we saw an opportunity to expand the idea and make an even greater impact,” says Jennifer Burns, MBA 12, VP of community in the MBA Association. “Our plan is to designate this as an annual event that encourages everyone affiliated with Haas to continually live the core value of ‘Beyond Yourself.'”

The day will be split into two volunteer shifts, from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. A barbecue lunch will be provided from noon to 1 p.m. for both shifts. The event will be held rain or shine. Children are enthusiastically welcome at the event.

For more information, including registration, visit haas-community-2011.eventbrite.com. For questions, contact Kandra Chan, MBA 11, at kandra_chan@mba.berkeley.edu or Hubert Lin, MBA 12, at hubert_lin@mba.berkeley.edu.

Read the latest campus information on coronavirus (COVID-19) here →