Graduates of the Berkeley Haas Executive MBA Class of 2022 were urged to have confidence in their degrees, to make a difference in the world, and to live life with no regrets during a joyous commencement last Saturday.
It was a celebratory moment for families and friends, too, many of whom–including tots–crossed the stage alongside graduates.
In her welcome address at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, Dean Harrison congratulated the 64 graduates for making the decision to invest in themselves and persevering through one of the toughest MBA programs during a global pandemic.
“We do not give out capes today,” Harrison said. “But maybe we should because what you showed was nothing less than a heroic commitment to your families, to the future, to going beyond yourself.”
Harrison encouraged graduates to look to the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles as guide posts throughout their career and to stay connected to the school’s 40,000-strong alumni network, which she called one of “the greatest gifts of their degree.”
Commencement speaker Laura Adint, EMBA 14, praised the class for successfully completing the program amid a pandemic. “The EMBA program is always hard,” she said. “It’s demanding, it’s challenging, it’s frustrating, it’s consuming, and to do it all in the backdrop of the most global event happening in our lifetime. I say ‘well done and congratulations.’”
Adint, an operations and strategy executive, noted the many challenges faced by graduates in the last two years, including adjusting to remote instruction during fall semester and postponing a few immersion trips. But she urged graduates to not regret a single moment of their program as “regret gives you nothing in return” and that their experiences positioned them to make a difference in the world.
Chosen by her peers as the student speaker, Seo Yeon Yoon reflected on the strong support she received from the class when she made the tough decision to drop her American name and change it back to her Korean birth name.
“When I struggled, you made me believe that if I acted on bravery that resided in me, all will be well,” Yoon said. “You actively embraced my [Korean name]. You cheered me on…You amplified my voice.”
“The legacy that you’re leaving behind today is of resilience and love. Proving that you can take the risk, acting on that resilience by moving forward in spite of the fear of the unknown. Believing that if you work and be kind, that success is guaranteed.”
Valedictorian Will Tuhacek thanked his classmates for helping him receive the highest academic honor.
“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the 64 amazing EMBAs that we have,” Tuhacek said. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” he added, quoting Sir Issac Newton.
Tuhacek reminded the class that they’re now in the privileged position to be changemakers in their companies, communities, and the world. “Chance favors the prepared mind. Have confidence in yourself and in your degree. You are prepared and you can do anything.”
Those honored at commencement included Distinguished Teaching Fellow Veselina Dinova receiving her second Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, and Jon Wong, EMBA 18, a former student of Dinova’s, who received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award.
Valedictorian: Will Tuhacek
Question the Status Quo: Jeremy Johnson
Confidence without Attitude: Tomás Klausing
Students Always: Kunal Cholera and Seo Yeon Yoon
Beyond Yourself: Lokesh Mandava
Berkeley Leader Award: Lokesh Mandava and Martha Ivanovas
Exuberant grads tossed beach balls and danced salsa in the aisles of the Greek Theatre at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening and Weekend MBA Class of 2022.
It was a moment of unfettered joy, as speakers rallied the graduates for the challenges ahead.
“The world right now has lots of huge unsolved problems—from political polarization to climate change to artificial general intelligence to augmented humanity to disease to inequality—so you have lots of big problems to choose from,” commencement speaker Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, told about 600 graduates, who gathered under blue skies and sunshine. “Pick one that you have passion for, that you can’t help but want to spend all your time day and night on even if others think it’s too idealistic, too big, or too unsolvable. You’re Berkeley MBAs now. You don’t need to settle.”
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed Singh, an entrepreneur who in 2010 co-founded battery technology company QuantumScape. She acknowledged how special it was to be together for the first in-person MBA commencement in two years.
“This felt like the best closure for a two-year process that has been life changing,” said Ignacio Solis, MBA 22, an international student from Chile.
Harrison praised the students for their resilience during their program, noting that those experiences will serve them well throughout their careers. “Because of who you are—your fierce intelligence and your deep understanding of the forces that drive business– you will have power,” she said. “Power is not always about how many people report to you or whether you have the CEO’s ear or whether you are the CEO. Power is the ability to make a difference—one day at a time; one project at a time; one function at a time.”
Evening & Weekend grads: “Pause and savor”
Noting how many life events happened for the EWMBA class during the program, Harrison said that 32% of the class was promoted, 41% of the students changed jobs, 13% got married, and 30 babies were born.
Evening & Weekend program student speaker Paulina Lee, a marketing director at Procter & Gamble, told graduates to stop and consider how much they’ve changed at Haas.
“What Haas has afforded us is the opportunity to redefine ourselves, to explore the edges of our comfort zone, and that’s why as we end this chapter and start our new paths to our own definitions of success we are faced with so many different emotions,” she said. “Joy, anxiety relief, excitement to move on to the next thing, get on with it, but perhaps we shouldn’t. At least not right away.”
Lee asked students to pause for a moment and savor, after spending the last three years on a sprint. “The first ask (from me) is to pause, really pause, and see the space that school used to take up and protect it,” she said. “Now that you have become the person you are today, reevaluate, sit down with yourself and honestly seek to understand who you have become.”
Full-time MBA: The opportunity to “fail and learn”
The 2022 full-time MBA class is the most diverse ever, Harrison told the graduates, including 39% women, 50% U.S. minorities, 8% veterans, and 10% first-generation college students.
Full-time MBA student speaker Kokei Otosi, who will join IBM as a senior consultant in August, opened her speech by thanking her classmates. She also expressed thanks for the time that the MBA program gave her to explore.
“What I know now is that the MBA is a sandbox,” said Otosi, a Bay Area native-turned-New Yorker whose parents are Nigerian immigrants. “When you leave you may still not know what you want to do, but for two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try. We may not get that kind of freedom again.”
Throughout the ceremony, speakers paid tribute to classmate Nadeem Farooqi, who died in fall 2020.
Otosi said the shock and grief the class experienced over his death was palpable. “Nadeem, we cannot believe you aren’t here with us celebrating today, but we haven’t forgotten you,” she said. “We miss you.”
Honors for both MBA programs
Harrison asked all students with GPAs in the top 10% of their classes to stand and be honored for their achievements.
Here are the EWMBA program honors:
Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Laura Jacobson
Defining Leadership Principles awards:
Question the Status Quo: Eleanor Boli
Confidence Without Attitude: Cheick Diarra
Students Always: Steve Odell
Beyond Yourself: Nana Lei
The Berkeley Leader Award: Nana Lei and Frances Ho
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, weekend MBA program: Ricardo Perez-Truglia, for macroeconomics
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, evening MBA program: Professor Max Aufhammer, for data and decisions
Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Kimberlyn George
FTMBA program honors:
Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Jon Christopher Thompson
Question the Status Quo: Aliza Gazek
Confidence Without Attitude: Casey Dunajick-DeKnight
Students Always: Mathilde De La Calle
Beyond Yourself: Kevin Hu
Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Griffin Grail-Binghman
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Associate Professor Ned Augenblick for Strategic Leadership
Earlier this month, seven Phd candidates participated in a hooding ceremony.
The PhD program at Haas stands out among all six academic programs, Harrison told the graduates. “It is our smallest, but it’s also the program nearest and dearest to the hearts of our faculty, all of whom are PhDs and are deeply committed to training the researchers and professors of the future,” she said. “This is a core part of my mission, and of all of our faculty’s mission.”
Graduating students included Kristin Donnelly, Shoshana Jarvis, Łukasz Langer, Petr Martynov, Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, and Young Yoon. The Cheit award for excellence in teaching in the PhD program went to Professor Panos Patatoukas of the Haas Accounting Group.
Laura Adint, EMBA 14, an operations and strategy executive has been chosen as the 2022 Berkeley Haas Executive MBA commencement speaker.
The ceremony will take place at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall on June 4, 2022.
Adint, valedictorian of the 2014 EMBA class of 68 graduates, has focused in recent years on developing strategies for scaling organizations. Passionate about leading high performing teams, she said she’s applying many of the lessons from her Berkeley Haas program classes and classmates. (Read Poets & Quants profile of Adint.)
Adint has held several executive leadership roles at prominent tech companies as vice president of sales operations & sales development at Drift; vice president of sales strategy and operations at Adaptive Insights, and vice president of sales operations at SugarCRM. She’s also held senior roles at Kelly OCG, Xilinx, Ford Motor Company, and Accenture.
She holds a B.A.S. in mathematics and economics with highest honors from the University of California, Davis. She also received the 2010 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Award.
As the sun pushed through the morning fog today, the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Class of 2022 was more than ready to celebrate four years of hard work, persistence, and overcoming unprecedented challenges.
“Class of 2022, congratulations, we did it,” student commencement speaker Saahil Shangle, BS 22, said as students, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of family and friends, cheered. “We just completed one of the best undergraduate business programs in the country.”
Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the graduates and wished them well on their new lives and careers. “The great skills you have mastered during your time at Berkeley go beyond those of a bachelor in business,” Harrison said. “In addition to accounting, marketing, strategy, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, you have learned how to persevere against the strongest headwinds, how to keep your spirits high when the world around you was struggling, and how to achieve your goals during a global pandemic.”
Most of the 475 undergraduate students who were eligible to graduate this year attended Monday’s ceremony. The 2022 class included several firsts: the first Global Management Program (GMP) cohort included 33 students, 10 who graduated a year or semester early. And the inaugural Robinson Life Science, Business, and Entrepreneurship Program (LSBE), a partnership with the Molecular Cell and Biology Major, graduated its first cohort of 10.Harrison also pointed out that more than half the class (51%) are women; 47% of the students earned a simultaneous degree in another college and major; and 17% of the students are first in their families to graduate from college.
Josue Vallecillo, BS 22, said his degree means everything to him. “My parents have worked so hard to make sure that I get to where I am and I know that I’ve had to sacrifice so much,” he said. “This degree is not just a culmination of four years but a lifetime of hard work and dedication.”
“How can I help others succeed?”
Commencement speaker Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, an entrepreneur, corporate leader, speaker, and author, recalled his days as a Haas student—with highlights including the $1 noodle deal on campus and the “coolest device that everyone wanted”: the Motorola Razr. “YouTube was a few months from being invented, and you folks were still in pre-school,” he said.
McDanielurged students to be flexible in life, to never quit before considering every option, and to help others always. “Don’t ask yourself ‘How can I advance my career?’” said McDaniel, who teaches entrepreneurship at Haas. “Ask ‘How can I help others succeed?’”
A founding partner at Grow Scale, a commercial real estate private equity firm, McDaniel praised Barbara Felkins, director of academic affairs, Sojourner Blair, admissions director, and Dresden John, student experience manager, who are retiring from the Haas Undergraduate Office this year, for helping students succeed and for working together to keep Haas a top business school.
McDaniel told students to try to avoid choosing one thing or the other in life. “There’s a way to have or be both,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be nature or nurture, Coke or Pepsi….Failing and succeeding, profiting and positively impacting society. We don’t live in an either or world. We live in an “and” world.”
“Do not delay happiness”
Shifting to a more serious tone, Anna Shim, BS 22, president of the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA), spoke poignantly of losing her 25-year-old brother, who died three months ago in his sleep. She shared what she learned while working through her grief.
“Do not delay happiness,” she said. “Life is short, so live every day like it’s your last.”
Chosen by his peers as the student speaker, Shangle reflected on how the people at Haas made his time special—from courtyard conversations they shared to Taco Tuesdays. “We are transfer (students), veterans, underrepresented minorities, international, first generation, athletes. We are leaders, creators, social media celebrities and everything in between,” he said. “Best of all, we’re a team.”
Shangle, who said his younger brother will be a UC Berkeley freshman this fall, also thanked the Haas faculty and staff. “We deeply appreciate all the time, passion, and knowledge you all share with us every single day.”
Honors at commencement
Those honored at undergraduate commencement include:
Department Citation (for most outstanding academic achievements): Josh Greenberg
Question the Status Quo: Vanshika Sapra
Confidence without Attitude: Jeena Chong
Students Always: Anna Katharina Giebel
Beyond Yourself: Anna Shim (GMP program)
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching for the Undergraduate Program: Distinguished Teaching Fellow Richard Huntsinger
Outstanding Graduate School Instructor (GSI): Paige Wahoff
With graduation ahead Monday, we interviewed Haas Business School Association President Anna Shim, BS 22, about her experiences at Berkeley Haas and where she plans to go next.
Best memory from your time as an undergrad at Haas?
One of my best memories as a Haas undergrad was not related to recruiting, coffee chats, or classes, but a social event: 2018 Haas Winter Formal. I was extremely eager to meet fellow Haasies and attend this formal dance organized by Haas Business School Association (HBSA) at the SF Conservatory of Flowers. There was food, a dance floor, a photo booth, and more. My team and I organized a similar Haas spring formal this year, which was a fun way to celebrate the end of the semester!
Favorite place to get food around campus?
I’ve grown fond of many restaurants here during the past four years so it’s hard to choose. Some classics are Mezzo, Sliver, and Gypsy’s. Healthier options include Freshroll, Poke Parlor, and Berkeley Thai House. My favorites that are closer to downtown Berkeley are Imm Thai, Berkeley Social Club, and Marugame Udon.
What are you most proud of during your time here?
I am most proud of the myriad of experiences I had during my time at Berkeley and Haas. Whether it was studying abroad in London through the Global Management Program during fall semester of my freshman year, representing Haas in the National Diversity Case Competition at Indiana University, or serving as president of the Haas Business School Association, Haas has offered me many unique opportunities that I would not have otherwise.
What was the hardest challenge you had to overcome?
The most difficult challenge that I had to overcome and am still coping with is the sudden loss of my only brother (also a Cal alum) three months ago. I urgently went home in the middle of the semester to support my parents and am fortunately still graduating on time. Experiencing grief at a relatively young age has undoubtedly taught me many invaluable lessons, including gratitude, humility, and resilience.
Where will you live and work next?
I will be living in SoCal with my family and working as an M&A management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles.
Graduates of the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 reunited at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre last Friday for in-person commencement.
The graduates crossed the stage and celebrated with classmates, family, and friends in downtown Oakland and on campus. (The ceremony coincided with Haas’ MBA Conference and Reunion.) The in-person events followed separate virtual commencement ceremonies held in May 2020 & 2021.
Here are some highlights from Friday’s ceremony:
Graduates from the MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 gathered at Oakland's Paramount Theatre for their belated in-person commencement. The ceremony was held on April 29, 2022. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Evan Wright, MBA 20, hugs a fellow classmate. COVID-19 restrictions prevented graduates from having in-person commencements for two years. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Members of the class of 2021 take photos outside of Oakland's Paramount Theatre. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Graduates take a few photos before commencement begins. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
"If you ever doubted whether you could lead through a crisis, overcome impossible odds, break through barriers, you have your answer," said Dean Ann Harrison who praised both MBA classes for completing one of the most rigorous MBA programs in the US during a pandemic. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85, gave this year's commencement speech. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
"Haas taught me to show up as my most authentic self and to tear down my own walls and invite people in," said commencement speaker Joe Sutkowski, MBA 20. "Let's all continue to invite people into our lives and make this world a little bit smaller." Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Student speaker Fede Pacheco, MBA 21, urged classmates to remember the joyous moments of their MBA program and to reach out to one another whenever life gets tough. Pacheco also received the Confidence without Attitude award. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
David Brown-Dawson, MBA 21. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Graduates of the MBA class of 2020. Photo: Katelyn Tucker Photography.
Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2020:
Academic Achievement Award: Brian Shain, the MBA student with the highest GPA.
Question the Status Quo: Evan Wright
Confidence without Attitude: Celeste Fa’ai’uaso
Students Always: Nina Ho
Beyond Yourself: Benny Johnson
Berkeley Leaders: Molly Zeins & Ezgi Karaagac
Haas Legacy Award: Santiago Freyria and Francesco Dipierro
Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2021:
Achievement Award: Devan Courtois
Student always: José Ramón Avellana
Beyond yourself: Kendall Bills
Question the status quo: Fayzan Gowani
Confidence without attitude: Fede Pacheco
Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois
Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison urged the 79 Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) graduates at Friday’s commencement to “use their power wisely” as they are at the center of global change.
“Your work is at the heart–the very foundation–of business and governments around the world,” said Harrison who commended the MFE class of 2022 for completing one of the most rigorous financial engineering programs in the world.
“You are at the heart of the sea change in banking, the financial system, global supply chains, and so much more that is transforming our world.”
As parting words to graduates, Harrison encouraged them to lean into the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles whenever they’re at a crossroad and to never forget their 40,000-strong Haas family.
Jacob Gallice, program director of the MFE program, praised the tight-knit class who successfully navigated their program–amid a global pandemic–for their perseverance and their desire to better themselves professionally and personally.
“If this year has taught you anything, it’s that life will throw many challenges at you. It’s up to you how you respond to those challenges,” Gallice said at the ceremony held in person at UC Berkeley’s International House.
“I hope you will take with you the tools, lessons, and skills which you have learned this past year to navigate your lives with the same prowess you’ve shown during your time at Berkeley.”
Commencement speaker Robert Litterman, founding partner of Kepos Capital, spoke to the importance of investing in oneself by developing strong social networks, finding work that will engage one’s talents, and exploring ways to give back to society.
“Take what you’ve learned here, think deliberately about your financial and social capital, and give back to society,” said Litterman. “You will be richly rewarded.”
The commencement ceremony also included a tribute video to Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE program, who established the program 21 years ago; a keynote from Jim Gilliland, MFE 02, president and CEO of Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel; and speeches from student speakers Joseph Yang and Edward Huang who reminisced about their class gatherings, including trips to Napa and Lake Tahoe.
Members of the class of 2022 will go on to work at leading global financial firms, including Barclays, Blackstone, Morgan Stanley, PIMCO, Goldman Sachs, Citadel, and Credit Suisse.
And now for the awards…
Award winners at commencement included:
Valedictorian: Sarthak Sagar
Salutatorian: Pradeepta Das
Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Professor Eric Reiner
Haas Graduate Student Instructor Award: Nicolas Corthorn
Embodiment of All Four Defining Principles: Dmitry Silantyev
Alumni Award: Wen Luo, Morgan Kidd, Paul-Noel Digard, Atanas Vanchev, Peisen Ma
Morgan Stanley Applied Finance Project Prize: Krishna Goel, Apeksha Jain, Alec Madayan, Shrey Samdani, and Dmitry Silantyev for Using Option-Implied Correlations for Derivatives Pricing and Alpha Generation. Advisor: Professor Kevin Coldiron. (The award includes a $5,000 to be shared among all team members.)
New class arrives
Meanwhile, the MFE class of 2023–a total of 79 full-time and seven part-time students–began classes today. Students in the incoming class come from 17 countries, including the U.S., Chile, China, France, Malaysia, Morocco, India, Lebanon, and Switzerland. Women make up about a third of the class.
Donned in full regalia, graduates of both the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend and Executive MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 reunited on campus last weekend for in-person commencements.
The graduates crossed the stage, collected diplomas, and celebrated in the sunshine with classmates, family, and friends. (The EWMBA ceremony was held at Zellerbach Hall, while the EMBA ceremony was held at Hertz Hall.) The in-person events followed separate virtual commencement ceremonies held in May 2020 & 2021.
Here are a few highlights from Saturday’s ceremonies:
For many, the outdoor event — held at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., depending on one’s major—served as both a joyful celebration and a reunion after the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to finish senior year with quick, if any, goodbyes, as they finished their classes remotely.
“The small act of walking across the stage, going to a ceremony, getting the Haas gift bag, meant so much to me,” said Ishan Sharma, BS 20, who worked atMcKinsey & Company after graduation and just started a new job at healthcare company Athelas. “It probably took 15 seconds (to cross the stage), but it brought closure to over four years of my time at the university.”
Sharma and the Haas 2020 undergraduate class were invited to walk the stage with the 9 a.m. group. About 231 members of the 376-member class of 2020 signed up to walk.
Robert Paylor’s journey
Dry eyes were hard to find when former Cal rugby player and 2020 Haas grad Robert Paylor’s name was called. (Watch Cal Athletics video below by Laura Furney)
Told he’d never walk again after suffering a catastrophic injury while playing rugby as a sophomore, Paylor crossed 10 yards of the stage on foot, using only a walker, and received a standing ovation.
“I’m so beyond excited to be able not just to receive my degree, but to be able to physically do this,” said Paylor, who lives in El Dorado Hills and is writing a book about his journey. “This is one of the happiest days of my life.”
Tom Billups, associate head coach of the UC Berkeley rugby team and Paylor’s trainer when he was on campus at Haas, walked behind him as six family members cheered him on. His long-time girlfriend Karsen Welle, walked behind Paylor, receiving her degree in social welfare. She held back tears as Paylor rose from his wheelchair and fellow grads clapped and shot photos and video.
As he left the stage, the crowd roared and Paylor, waved, grinned, and offered a “Go Bears.”
Paylor’s mother, Debbie Paylor, said she was both nervous and excited for her son, who has lived and trained at home with her since the pandemic began. “He’s an inspiration,” she said in an interview before commencement. “His ability to overcome this, it’s an inspiration to me. I don’t think there was a time when I thought he’d give up.”
After the accident, Paylor underwent intense rehabilitation in Colorado before returning to UC Berkeley to finish his business degree, navigating the hilly Haas campus in his wheelchair.
He hit the gym with Billups for hours each day, measuring each week’s walking improvements in small increments. In October 2017, 16 months after the accident, fans cheered him on at California Memorial Stadium when he walked during the first quarter of the football game.
Paylor’s walking has dramatically improved since that game, Billups said.
“If you go all back to the catastrophic injury, he had no movement from the neck down—hands, fingers, nothing. That was pretty bleak,” he said. “When he walked at the Cal/Oregon game, he used a high walker, but the walker supports his forearms. Now he uses a low profile walker… He’s able to take more steps, more clean steps.”
At Haas, Paylor launched a business as an inspirational speaker, although the pandemic quickly pushed his engagements online, where he speaks to employees of Fortune 500 companies. He’s also started writing a book, which is part memoir, part motivational advice, tentatively titled “Paralyzed and Powerful.”
“The message is that you look at me and see my challenges, it’s not difficult to see that I have a lot to deal with every day, but everyone has challenges,” he said. “I believe that many people are paralyzed physically or mentally and the tools I use to overcome my challenges can help people in their lives.”
“I believe that many people are paralyzed physically or mentally and the tools I use to overcome my challenges can help people in their lives.”
For the past year, Paylor has been executive director of The Big C Society, an organization representing 14,000 Cal varsity athletics letter holders. Paylor said he’s honored to be part of the history and tradition of The Big C Society, which was founded in 1908.
“Coach Clark and Coach Billups came to the hospital after my injury and gave me that Cal letter,” he said. “The meaning of the letter is something I really care about so I immediately said yes.”
For achieving what some believed wasn’t possible, Paylor’s undergraduate community chose him to receive the Question the Status Quo award, one of the school’s four Defining Leadership Principles.
“While many may have treated that prognosis as an insurmountable challenge, Robert chose the path of perseverance, as he can now walk using his walker and graduated from the Haas School of Business,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and mentors student athletes. “His story has inspired thousands and serves as a living example that our limits are not determined by what others say we can do.”
Award winners named
At a separate Haas undergraduate reception held in the school’s Courtyard at noon Sunday, Dean Ann Harrison congratulated the graduates and introduced Etter, who served as master of ceremonies, celebrating each 2020 award winner, including:
Departmental Citation winner (which goes to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business): Cubbie Christina Kile, who graduated with a 4.0 while serving as a coxswain for the Women’s Rowing team. She was also a student athlete tutor, managed the Men’s Swimming team and was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority. An analyst at Altamont Capital Partners, she recently closed her first deal, Intermix, a carve out from Gap, Inc.
The Defining Leadership Principles awards followed, including (in addition to Paylor):
Students Always:Mia Character, whose nominator wrote: “Mia constantly strived to learn from others around race and ethnicity, and challenged herself to re-investigate her own beliefs as a marginalized person of color, striving to dig deeper on intent, while NOT tamping down the impact on her. She shared her vulnerabilities and self-challenges out loud in class, thereby inspiring others to do the same.”
Beyond Yourself: Kiara Taylor, whose nominator wrote: “Kiara made it her mission to make students attending California community colleges feel confident about transferring to Haas. Through the “Envision Haas” transfer outreach program, Taylor invited Haas transfer students with non-traditional backgrounds to speak to prospective transfer students, empowering both parties.”
Confidence Without Attitude:Jordyn Elliott. “Without asking, no one would know that Jordyn was a Soccer Team Captain at UC Berkeley and a graduating senior from the Haas School,” her nominator wrote. “After watching her lead the case team for the National Diversity Case Competition in Indiana, it was clear she understood the principle of Confidence without Attitude.”
Berkeley News editor Gretchen Kell contributed to this story.
Commencement speaker Soyeon Yi, MBA 14, South Korea’s first astronaut, congratulated the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend classes last Friday for making it to the finish line, sharing her own challenge in space that almost took her life.
Yi, who survived a near-fatal landing in 2008 after her spacecraft flipped upside down upon reentry to earth, urged the students to learn from their experiences during the pandemic.
“Like my landing, you’re passing one big challenge now,” Yi said. “There will be many more challenges ahead of you, even if we face the most unluckiest situation again. The most important thing we should do is ask how we can go through it and what we can learn from it.”
A total of 276 Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA students and 167 Evening & Weekend MBA students graduated last Friday with virtual ceremonies that included congratulatory videos from Dean Ann Harrison, student speakers, and alumni. (Watch the FTMBA video hereand the EWMBA video here.)
Harrison praised the graduates for their academic achievements, along with their empathy, and leadership. The students not only continued to pour energy into clubs and conferences held online during the pandemic, but also called attention to racial injustices and helped small businesses stay afloat through many volunteer efforts, she said.
“This required more thought, more ingenuity, more dedication than in any prior year,” Harrison said. ”But you persevered and you became stronger leaders for it.”
‘This is our unique story’
Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the Full-time MBA program, commended the class for its accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom.
“I’m honored to play a role in celebrating everyone’s success today, including the family and friends of these graduates,” Johnson said. “This is your celebration too.”
Fede Pacheco, the full-time MBA commencement student speaker, talked about one of the darkest days of the pandemic, when wildfires brought an apocalyptic orange sky to the Bay Area, and the photos he took to mark that day.
Pacheco urged students to savor the good times and reflect on the moments when they found creative ways to lean on each other, in spite of the unprecedented year they all endured.
“This is not a beautiful story, but it’s our unique story. We are our unique story,” he said. “We found each other, we have each other. We have to hold onto each other.”
‘Become more than you can even imagine’
Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, said that the students in the EWMBA program continued to balance school, work and their personal lives with “grit, grace, and energy,” during the pandemic.
Commencement student speaker Kate Hughes, EWMBA 21, noted that members of her class arrived at Haas with a unique set of “brands” or labels that influenced their identities such as gender, family status, and lived experiences. They are leaving the school as Haas graduates, another distinctive brand, she said.
“We’ve been pushed to lead with authenticity, harnessing our backgrounds to foster a different way of creative thinking,” she said. “As we step into this new chapter of our lives, I challenge you to become more than you can even imagine. I challenge you to embrace everything that we’ve learned at Haas to create a new brand of leader. One that can make a profound impact at a time when our country and planet need it the most.”
Haas alumni, who ranged from recent grads to veteran business leaders, also sent their well wishes and encouraged grads to tap into their network regularly.
Among those alumni were Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe; Scott Galloway, MBA 92, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business; and TubeMogul founder Brett Wilson, MBA 07; Abhishek Sharma, MBA 16, founder and CEO of Shake the Cosmos; Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar; Jessie Tang, MBA 20, principal and head of strategic initiatives at Gratitude Railroad; and Liz Rockett, MBA/MPH 10, director of Kaiser Permanente Ventures.
Haas faculty also bid farewell to graduates and told them to stay in touch as they start the next chapters of their lives. Among those faculty were Prof. Ross Levine, Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki, Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas, Rebecca Portnoy, a professional faculty member, and Mark Rittenberg, a continuing professional faculty member
Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2021:
Achievement Award: Devan Courtois
Student always: José Ramón Avellana
Beyond yourself:Kendall Bills
Question the status quo:Fayzan Gowani
Confidence without attitude:Fede Pacheco
Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois
Haas lecturer Jenny Herbert Creek, who teaches finance, 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.
Award winners for the evening & weekend MBA class of 2021:
Achievement Award: George Pradhan
Student Always: Lindsey Hoell
Beyond Yourself: Kyle Cook
Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Farrelly
Confidence without Attitude: Kate Hughes
Berkeley Leader Award Winner: Anna Lee
Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor:Atusa Sadeghi
Prof. Panos Patatoukas, who teaches financial information analysis, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in the evening cohort and Prof. Ross Levine, who teaches macroeconomics, won the Cheit Award in the weekend cohort.
As commencement approaches, we’re interviewing students from different Haas programs about their experiences at Berkeley Haas and where they plan to go next.
Today we feature Paula Fernandez-Baca, MBA 21, a former educator and fundraiser who worked at Teach for America and KIPP Public Charter Schools in Texas and in the San Francisco Bay Area. At Haas, she served as VP of Community for the full-time MBA Association, VP of the Latinx Business Club, and as a team lead of the Race Inclusive Initiative, a student consulting group focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Fernandez-Baca will join global managing consulting firm Bain & Company this summer.
You began your career in education, taking on teaching and philanthropy positions at Teach for America (TFA) and KIPP. Why did you decide to go to business school?
Going to business school was about setting myself up to make an impact in the long term. I loved working at Teach For America and KIPP because of their missions to help underserved students and communities that mirrored my own. I also admired and wanted to be like the leaders who ran these organizations. I decided to research their backgrounds and realized there was a trend: the vast majority of these people had a business background. So I thought, if I wanted to be like them, I needed to get some business skills.
What initiative or project are you most proud of as a Haas student and why?
One of the things that attracted me to Haas was its work around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), particularly its efforts to increase the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students on campus. I joined the Race Inclusion Initiative, a student consulting group that works with the administration on DEI issues. I led a team of three, which included classmates Kimberly Mendez and Lupe Manriquez, and partnered with Om Chitale, director of Diversity Admissions at Haas, to create a structured, equitable, and holistic interviewing process for Haas candidates.
We also worked on a feasibility study to test whether Haas could partner with a test prep agency to offer free GMAT test prep for prospective Haas students. One of the biggest barriers to applying to business school for URM students is the cost of test prep. Last semester, we presented our findings to faculty, staff, students, and Dean Harrison. After our presentation, Dean Harrison wrote to us, expressing her support for the initiative. Doing this kind of work and working with my classmates was incredibly meaningful to me.
What are some of the skills you learned at Haas that have made a difference in how you see the world?
I’ve learned three skills at Haas that have made a difference in how I see the world. One, the ability to make decisions with limited data. In my previous jobs, I always relied on or pushed for data to make the best decisions for my organizations, but I’ve now learned that sometimes, I’m not always going to have all the data that I need. The real world doesn’t work that way. So I now ask myself, how can I make the best decision with the information that I have?
Two, the power of owning and sharing my story. I took an elective course called Storytelling for Leadership and it was one of the most impactful experiences that I’ve had. Every week, students were tasked with practicing a certain story about themselves and drilling down on what makes a good story. We learned how to draw people in and bring them along on our journey. I used the skills from that class to tell a very personal story during Story Salon, a Haas event where students tell personal and vulnerable stories.
Three, learning how to manage change. Historically, I haven’t managed change well. But this year has taught me to lean into my experiences, get comfortable with the unknown, and accept the fact that I can’t know everything that’s going to happen in the future. Instead I can make the best decision that I can right now.
You took on many leadership roles at Haas. You served as VP of the Latinx Club and the VP of community for the FTMBA Association, to name a couple of examples. How did you reinvent these roles during the pandemic?
I loved my VP of community role because it gave me the chance to connect with and support the Haas student community and culture. I didn’t do this work alone. I’m grateful to the Story Salon team and coaches who were absolutely amazing. I’m proud of the fact that we hosted events that were super popular despite the pandemic. Roughly 120 people would tune in to Story Salon and about 150 people participated in Deep Dish Lunches throughout the semester. To have that type of engagement when everyone is Zoomed-out is just not heard of.
I came into the new role of VP of culture with the Latinx Business Club feeling excited about hosting for the first time a series of events for Hispanic Heritage Month. When the pandemic hit, I was determined to make sure that we were showcasing Latino culture at Haas. Our presence was going to be felt, even if all of our events were virtual. We organized interactive activities such as a Dominican food cooking demonstration and a Latin cocktail demonstration, which was one of the most highly-attended Zooms of the Week.
We also hosted our own “Ask Me Anything” event, inviting Latinx first-and second-year students to share their stories with classmates about what it’s like to be Latino in America. Lastly, we invited Latinx alumni, whom we fondly called our elders, to give career advice to current students.
What did you take away from doing the MBA program during a pandemic and what’s next for you?
I’ll be working as a consultant at Bain & Company in Houston, Texas. Bain has a generalist model, so I’ll be working on all types of projects across multiple industries.
What I’ll take away most from this MBA program during a pandemic is learning how to lead with empathy. It has become so clear to me the importance of dialing in to how people are feeling and to let them know that you’re there with them, especially during times of uncertainty. It’s such a cliche quote, but it rings true for me: “People aren’t going to remember what you know, or what you say, but people will remember how you made them feel”.
On top of persevering through the rigorous curriculum, the Berkeley Haas undergraduate class of 2021 faced rolling blackouts, wildfires, and the global pandemic. It may not have been the experience they expected, but it will shape them for life, said commencement student speaker Phoebe Yin, BS 21.
“Today we celebrate something that’s unique to our generation: It’s a soft strength to stay malleable when the world is hard on us,” Yin said during virtual commencement last Saturday. “Our story is just beginning…we have nothing to stop us because we are ready for anything. To think only about the things we have lost would be to ignore the compassion, creativity, and unparalleled resilience we have gained.”
The graduating class of 380 students included the first 41 graduates of the Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) program and three students graduating early from the Global Management Program (GMP).
The M.E.T. program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, grants students two degrees in business and engineering in four years. GMP students enter Haas as freshmen and earn an undergraduate business degree with a concentration in global management.
“Your class has by far had the most impact on me during my time teaching here at Haas,” commencement speaker Diane Dwyer, BS 87.
Dwyer, a former broadcast journalist who is on the professional faculty at Haas, acknowledged that students are living in a time of widening income inequality—including within their own class. She noted that one of her students couldn’t afford to buy a working laptop, while another logged into class from a traveling adventure.
“…Stay humble…even in the midst of great accomplishments like the one you’re obtaining today. Stay resilient. The last 18 months have surely taught us that. And stay appreciative, even despite the unfairness and the obstacles that your class has faced,” she told the graduates.
Dean Ann Harrison, who wore full regalia for the sendoff commencement video, also congratulated the class for its many achievements.
“Your world was upended in the middle of your junior year at Haas due to a global pandemic, yet you showed true grit, mastering a rigorous academic curriculum during one of the most turbulent years any of us has experienced,” Harrison said.
Speakers praised the grads for all of their work outside of class during their years at Haas, including calling attention to racial injustice, winning case competitions, creating startups, and providing face masks to essential workers.
“You have endured over a year of college life that was unlike anything you could have ever imagined four years ago. Yet you met the challenge with grace, compassion, creativity, reflection, and in many cases, a redefined sense of purpose,” said Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Berkeley Haas undergraduate program.
Haas alumni, who ranged from more recent grads to veteran business leaders, also sent their well wishes and encouraged graduates to live by the Haas Defining Leadership Principles every day.
Among those alumni were Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe; Kenneth Chen, BS 03, vice president and chief audit executive at Spotify; Scott Galloway, MBA 92, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business; and TubeMogul founder Brett Wilson, MBA 07; Austin Drake, BS 18, who works in global operations at Facebook; Double Bear Lucky Sandhu, BS 96, MBA 15, president of Reliance Financial; and Jordyn Elliot, BS 20, a marketing associate at Ingenio.
Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Award winner: Sooji Kim
Dan Mulhern, who teaches leadership in the Management of Operations Group as a member of the Haas professional faculty, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching. Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the award, the top teaching honor at Berkeley Haas.
South Korea’s first astronaut, Soyeon Yi, MBA 14, and Emmy award winning former broadcast journalist Diane Dwyer, BS 87, will serve as commencement speakers this May.
Yi will speak at the Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencements and Dwyer will speak at undergraduate commencement.
This year, commencement celebrations will be held virtually. The MBA commencement will take place Friday, May 21, 2021 and the undergraduate commencement will take place Saturday, May 15, 2021. Commencement celebration videos for undergraduate, Evening & Weekend, and Full-time MBA celebrations can be viewed online via Marching Order, an online platform used to host UC Berkeley’s virtual graduations.
“We’re so pleased to welcome two inspiring alumnae to address our soon-to-be graduates,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Soyeon and Diane reflect the very best of Haas and truly embody our Defining Leadership Principles.”
Before coming to Berkeley, Yi spent 10 days at the International Space Station in 2008, making her South Korea’s first astronaut.
Six years after her space mission, Yi decided to add a Berkeley MBA to her PhD in biosystems. Currently, she leads customer engagement at startup ProtoPie and works with Silicon Valley satellite startup Loft Orbital Solutions.
Yi has lectured at the University of Washington and was recently selected to join the Karman Project 2021 Fellowship Program, which aims to foster trust and encourage collaboration among global leaders who want to positively impact space-related initiatives.
Dwyer worked as a broadcast journalist for 25 years, reporting important stories that range from the inauguration of President Bill Clinton to the Oakland Hills Firestorm.
She started her career as an anchor and reporter at KXLF in Butte, Mont. in 1988. She joined the KTVU-Channel 2 newsroom two years later, where she launched and co-hosted the Morning Show with Ross McGowan for several years.
Thereafter, she became the solo weekend news anchor for NBC Bay Area. Her reporting won her two Emmy awards and prestigious awards from the Associated Press and the National Academy of Radio and Television Artists.
Dwyer is a professional faculty member at Haas who teaches a course called Innovations in Communications and Public Relations and currently runs her own consulting business, Dwyer Media Consulting.
If there was one thing that Linda Kreitzman wanted the Berkeley Haas Master of Financial Engineering class of 2021 to remember, it was this: “You will not be remembered as the pandemic class, but as the class of inspiring heroes.”
Kreitzman, who’s served as the MFE program’s executive director for 20 years, praised the 96 MFE graduates at Friday’s commencement for their humility, grit, kindness, and “setting a new standard” for the program during a turbulent year.
“We are in awe of what you have accomplished and of your success. It’s been awesome leading you,” she said, before showing a tribute slideshow that captured festive moments during the academic year—including graduates dancing to Beyonce’s “Formation” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem,” carving Halloween pumpkins, cooking competitions, and preparing Thanksgiving meals.
In opening remarks, Dean Ann Harrison thanked the spouses, partners, parents, and children of graduates as well as the MFE staff for going beyond themselves to help students get through “one of the most difficult years” they’ve ever experienced.
Harrison went on to commend graduates for mastering the rigorous financial engineering program—which consistently ranks #1—and for joining a community whose students and alumni embody Berkeley Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.
“These principles certainly reflect who you have been as students, and I hope they will be among your most precious assets as you move through your careers, serving as anchors during times of turbulence and guideposts at the crossroads,” Harrison said.
She also reminded members of the class of 2021 that they will be joining a vast alumni network and encouraged them to “stay connected, hire Haas, and give back.”
Valedictorian Tomer Amit noted how quickly the year has gone by and talked about how professors, the MFE staff, and his culturally diverse classmates helped make a magical graduate experience, in spite of a global pandemic.
Amit advised his fellow classmates to “think big. Never compromise on your values, and things will turn out just fine.”
Jerry Qinghui Yu and Renee Reynolds, president and co-president of the Financial Engineering Student Association (FESA), also recognized MFE staff for going above and beyond to support students this year. Among those efforts included delivering care packages to students in-person and being available at all times.
Qinghui Yu quipped that not only does the Berkeley MFE program prepare students for financial engineering roles, but it also typically produces at least three couples every year. That includes his own relationship to fellow MFE graduate, Camilla Guo.
He added that this year challenged him academically, socially, and professionally, but it was one of the most rewarding years of his life. “This year taught me a lot about resilience, and if there’s a takeaway for me, it’s that for every hardship, there’s an opportunity.”
Dr. Leda Braga, founder and CEO of Systematica, gave this year’s commencement speech.
Here are this year’s commencement award winners:
Salutatorian: Aman Dixit
Earl F. Cheit Teaching Award: Prof. Nancy Wallace
Haas Graduate Student Instructor Awards: Maxine Sauzet and Nick Sanders
Question the Status Quo: Renee Reynolds and Manish Chalana
Confidence without Attitude: Paul Noel Digard and Camilla Hao Guo
Student Always: Shreya Vontela and Vishal Tripathi
Beyond Yourself: Loic Diridollou and Bandile Mbele
Embodiment of All Four Defining Principles: Tomer Amit and Veronica Ruobing Tang
Financial Engineering Certificate: Henry Keyton and Harrison Shaw
Alumni Award: Nicolas Corthorn and Elena Gorskaya
MFE graduates are moving on to jobs at Goldman Sachs, PIMCO, UBS, Citadel, Millennium Management, and many other firms.
After saying goodbye to the 96 graduates Friday, the MFE program welcomed a new class of 80 students on Monday. They hail from 14 countries, including China, Argentina, India, France, Mexico, and Morocco.
A video recording of Friday’s commencement can be viewed here.
This grad photo just might best sum up the quirky humor of Joe Sutkowski, who was chosen as graduation speaker for the 2020 Full-time MBA class.
On this graduation celebration day, we asked Sutkowski a few questions about where he’s heading post-Haas and what he loved best about his MBA program.
What’s the hardest part about graduating online and do you like Zoom?
Not being able to hug all of my classmates, especially those who are going abroad.
I love Zoom. Students have gotten SO creative with their Zoom backgrounds. Shoutout to my classmate who photoshopped themselves as Elon (Musk’s) baby! My plan is to drink champagne and furiously text puns to friends. Also, the students have made graduation week amazing with Family Feud, Ted Talks, and Olympics, all of course done in Haas style. They have made this experience nothing short of beautiful.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Haas?
So many come to mind here: Fieri Fest, hiding inside a cooler at Haas Boats, Drageoke, tug-of-war, Haasemite, getting Thank Yous from my students from my teaching/advising appointments, having my mom and sister come visit, probably all the soccer shenanigans, and many more.
Your favorite professor or class?
Power and Politics. It’s an expert blend of cases, in-class discussions, lectures, and role-play scenarios served with a side of humor and authority by Haas’ own Cam Anderson. It challenged me to think hard about who I could become.
Where are you heading after graduation?
Google. I would love to travel a little bit before, but obviously that is super limited. I will most likely stay in California. The San Diego beaches may pull me down south though.
The 2020 evening & weekend MBA grads are leaders who embody the Defining Leadership Principles, Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison told the class in a celebratory sendoff video.
“We need leaders like you,” Dean Harrison said. “Now more than ever, we need leaders with a passion to be students always, who question the status quo and act with confidence without attitude, and leaders who think beyond themselves.”
Commencement speaker Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA/JD 85, VP of ServiceNow Enterprise Sales-East Region, also congratulated grads.
“Your time at Haas has equipped you to be the kind of leader that we need in the world today,” she said.
Your time at Haas has equipped you to be the kind of leader that we need in the world today.
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Professor James Wilcox and Dan Simpson, a member of the professional faculty. Wilcox taught Global Macroeconomics and Simpson taught Corporate Strategy.
Adam Burgess, MBA 20, received the GSI Award as an Evening & Weekend MBA program GSI.
Academic Achievement Award: Cody Cusic and Jordan Waiwaiole won, as students with the highest GPAs.
The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Class of 2020 has shown “real grit and resilience” with leaders who embody the Defining Leadership Principles, Dean Ann Harrison said today in a video made for grads.
“I want to thank you for staying engaged and for your positive spirit,” Harrison said. “Many of you went above and beyond. From student startups that quickly pivoted to provide much-needed supplies for COVID-19 to classmates who kept you sane with yoga and mindfulness classes or entertainment, baking, and movie tips.”
Student speaker Joe Sutkowski praised the”courage of Haasies” in his speech. (Read an interview with Sutkowski here)
“Over the past months of shelter in place I’ve witnessed an online community emerge that’s every bit as vibrant as the community I fell in love with many months ago,” he said. “I’ve seen the courage of Haasies donating their time to the less fortunate…I’ve seen resilience in our professors and our faculty. I’ve heard humor through Zoom and Slack channels.”
Individual Haas alumni then took turns congratulating the class, offering advice, and wished them well.
Full-time MBA award winners
Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Kimberly MacPherson, who taught three courses this academic year. Unlocking Digital Innovation in Healthcare, Commercializing Biotech and Pharma, and Healthcare in the 21st Century.
GSI award: PhD student Livia Alfonsi, who was the GSI for Aaron Bodoh-Creed’s Microeconomics class.
Adam Burgess, MBA 20, was also named the best GSI in the EWMBA program.
Academic Achievement Award: Brian Shain, the MBA student with the highest GPA.
Defining Leadership Principles (DLP) award winners:
Question the Status Quo: Evan Wright
Confidence without Attitude: Celeste Fa’ai’uaso
Students Always: Nina Ho
Beyond Yourself: Benny Johnson
Berkeley Leaders: Molly Zeins & Ezgi Karaagac
Also celebrating this month were 11 Berkeley Haas PhD students who are slated to graduate this year. Nine of the PhD grads are heading to jobs in academia and two landed positions in industry both in the U.S. and abroad. Read more here.
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 haveto 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.
“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.”
Two pioneering women in tech sales and broadcast television will serve as commencement speakers for the full-time, evening & weekend and undergraduate programs this May.
Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA 85, a visionary sales executive who has held leadership roles at two of the world’s top tech companies, was chosen as speaker at the 2020 Full-time MBA and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement; Diane Dwyer, BS 87, former KTVU and NBC broadcast journalist, was chosen to speak at undergraduate commencement.
The MBA commencement will take place on Friday, May 22, 2020, at the Greek Theatre.
“We are so thrilled to welcome two successful female alumnae who represent our Defining Leadership Principles to speak at our commencements,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Laura questions the status quo as a business leader in so many ways and Diane, as a professional faculty member, is a student always.”
McDonnell, who is vice president of enterprise sales for management software company ServiceNow, was previously vice president of Microsoft’s New York region. Managing a team of more than 230 people, she was responsible for increasing sales revenue and expanding Microsoft’s influence in the region by building relationships with key stakeholders, such as New York City’s Department of Education.
McDonnell also piloted innovative programs such as Microsoft’s Tech Jobs Academy, an educational program that offers free tech training to underrepresented communities.
At IBM, where she previously worked for 11 years, she rose to vice president of strategic services for North America, before taking on a role as senior vice president of North America Sales at Aspect Software.
Dwyer, a professional faculty member at Haas who teaches Innovations in communications and public relations, has been a broadcast journalist for 25 years, reporting important stories from the inauguration of President Bill Clinton to the Oakland Hills Firestorm.
She began her career as an anchor and reporter at KXLF in Butte, Montana, in 1988. Two years later she and joined the KTVU-Channel 2 newsroom, where she launched and co-hosted the Morning Show on KTVU with Ross McGowan for several years.
She then moved to San Jose to become the weekend news solo anchor for NBC Bay Area. Her reporting won her two Emmy awards and other prestigious awards from the Associated Press and the National Academy of Radio and Television Artists. In addition to teaching, Dwyer runs her own consulting business, Dwyer Media Consulting.
A total of 72 students in the Class of 2019 graduated from the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program Saturday, surrounded by friends and family.
“Today is a celebration of your personal achievements,” Haas Dean Ann Harrison said. “Finding ways to balance (work, family, and school) commitments is nothing short of remarkable, and we applaud you.”