2024 MBA grads told to never stop questioning the status quo

group of graduates in caps and gowns, one taking a selfie
The Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA classes of 2024 graduated May 17 at the Greek Theatre. All photos: Brittany Hosea-Small.

Under sunny skies, the class of 2024 Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students were urged to never stop learning, to consider the strength of their character throughout their careers, and to stay connected long after they leave Haas.

Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the crowd of 423 graduating MBA students, along with their families and friends, to the Greek Theatre. She urged students to help each other after they graduate, give back, and draw on their resilience and determination.

“You are not just walking away with an MBA,” she told the graduates. “You are walking away with the business version of a superhero cape—power and influence. Not the kind of power that lets you leap tall buildings in a single bound. No, this is a real-world superpower: the power to change the world—one insightful conversation, one strategic hire, and one ethical decision at a time.” 

graduate walking the stage with his diploma in cap and gown
Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

Harrison introduced Monica Stevens, the 2024 commencement speaker, describing her as “a person of uncommon distinction and a great citizen of Haas.” Stevens urged graduates to dive into difficult conversations, collect “curiosity partners”—people who challenge you and open you up to new ideas—and be open to unlearning the things that we’ve learned in life.

“Please, repeat after me,” Stevens, who is an executive search consultant with Spencer Stuart and recipient of the Raymond Miles Service Award in 2017 for her work in supporting and improving diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Haas, said. “‘Uncomfortable conversations are not my enemy. They are my secret weapon.’ I hope you take that to heart because, in today’s world, I know it is hard to have uncomfortable conversations about race, politics, gender, religion, identity, or what is the best business school in the world. It is a must-have skill, and guess what? You have that skill.”

woman standing at the podium on stage at commencement
Commencement Speaker Monica Stevens urged students to dive into difficult conversations. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

EWMBA student speaker Katherine Zepeda Arreola, a double Bear who immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 7 years old, called the class of 2024 “the best class Haas has ever seen.” Zepeda Arreola, who is heading to work at Apple after graduation, gave a shout out to each of the EWMBA cohorts, including her own—the blue cohort. “Thank you for being an incredible group of people,” she said, before switching to Spanish to thank everyone who supported them during the program. 

Zepeda Arreola emphasized the importance of continuing to build character throughout their careers by showing up on time, doing what you commit to doing, and speaking up when it’s hard. “Not only is our MBA a great accolade; there’s something else that will speak volumes wherever we go: our character…it is what people will remember.”

FTMBA student speaker Xavier Jefferson, a first-generation student who came to Haas to pivot from working as a financial advisor to an investor, told the class to never stop investing in friendships. 

“We’ve laid the foundation for a long-term investment,” he said. “But we must recognize that not every investment will turn out like Nvidia. Some might even crash and burn like FTX. But that doesn’t mean you stop investing, especially after we ascend to those offices with pristine downtown views. Don’t hesitate to text that person you thought about on your morning commute, to press accept on that random FaceTime, to make time when you are in town. I might be cooking.” 

Jefferson’s speech received a standing ovation before all of the students walked the stage, tossed their caps, and headed to the courtyard for a reception. 

Diarra White, MBA 24, who is joining McKinsey after graduation, said the day was bittersweet, but she’s ready for the next chapter. When asked for a phrase to describe her Haas experience, White said, “full of love.”

two women grads in cap and gown smiling
Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

EWMBA commencement award winners:

  • Academic Achievement Award: Rajit Johri
  • Question the Status Quo: Joselyn Baety
  • Confidence Without Attitude: Emeka Ugwu
  • Students Always: Anmol Aggarwal
  • Beyond Yourself: Marissa Maliwanag
  • Berkeley Leader Award, given to the student who embodies all four of Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles: Khoa Dao 
  • Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching (evening program): Park Sinchaisri, who teaches in the Operations and Information Technology Management group.
  • Cheit Award (weekend program): Flavio Feferman, who teaches the Seminar in International Business: Brazil.
  • Cheit Award, Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): Patrick Richard Drown

FTMBA commencement award winners:

  • The Outstanding Academic Achievement Award went to Albert Deng, who will be joining AWS at Amazon after graduating.
  • Question the Status Quo: Emani Holyfield and Lizzie Hoerauf
  • Confidence Without Attitude: Kelsie Smithson
  • Students Always: Whitner Chase
  • Beyond Yourself: Caroline Patricia Jimenez 
  • Berkeley Leader Award for embodying all four Defining Leadership Principles: Anupama Tej

Berkeley Haas 2024 undergraduate class urged to invest in relationships, ‘stay connected to each other’

two men in graduation cap and gowns shaking hands
(L-R) Graduates Yassen Tarig Abdelfatah and Jacob Williams. Photo: Katrina Koski

Seek mentors of all ages, engage with discomfort, and invest in relationships were parting words delivered during the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Program spring 2024 commencement ceremony.

“Become a master relationship builder,” said Commencement Speaker Jasvinder (Jas) Khaira, BS 04, a senior managing director and founding partner of the Tactical Opportunities Group at Blackstone. “Seek out mentors early in your career, and contribute to the relationships by adding value to them. Be a mentor to others, no matter your age or title. Those relationships will give you context when you hit the inevitable lows in life, and they will remind you of purpose when you are hitting your highs.”

Courtney Chandler, senior assistant dean and chief strategy & operating officer at Haas, welcomed about 500 graduating students in the class of 2024, along with family and friends who gathered at the Greek Theatre.

(Watch commencement video below)

Erika Walker, senior assistant dean for instruction, congratulated students for completing their studies at the No. 2 undergraduate business school in the United States. Forty-three percent of the 2024 graduates are women, 47% earned a dual degree, and 22% are the first in their families to go to college, she noted. 

“We are so proud of you, as are your parents, mentors, and loved ones who supported you along the way,” she said, calling out all of the family members who flew from around the world to attend commencement. “Let’s give them a round of applause.” 

Walker added that no matter where life takes you, a Berkeley Haas degree will open doors.

“Stay connected to each other, help each other succeed,” Walker said. “You are now part of a global network of more than 43,000 and more than half a million Berkeley alumni.” 

three women wearing graduation gowns and caps
2024 graduates walking toward the stage to receive diplomas at the Greek. Photo: Kim Girard

Khaira shared advice, gleaned from his career and personal life, including thoughts on the toll that 9/11 took on his perception of safety as an Indian man “wearing a turban and a beard.” Calling his father after the Twin Towers fell, Khaira said he told him he wanted to run away. His father asked him where he would go.

“I told him, ‘I don’t know. Maybe India?’ And the next moment was a pivotal part of my life that I won’t forget. He responded, ‘There is nowhere to go. Even India, of course, has its own religious discrimination.’”

That’s when Khaira said he realized “this wasn’t going to be an easy fix. There was nowhere to run.”

“As you graduate from Haas and start your career people will disagree with you, you will feel disrespected, you will deal with conflict,” he said. “There is no gain in running away from it. There is no value in responding with rage or ignoring it. Coming to my own terms with discomfort has been one of the most important life skills I’ve had to wrestle with. How do I gain perspective by using empathy? Does this person really want to hurt me, or are they insecure? Can I successfully move forward knowing I control nothing but can still influence everything?”

three people at commencement, one wearing a cap
Left-right: Katrina Koski, director of inclusion & belonging at Haas, Saikat Chaudhuri, faculty director of the M.E.T. Program, and Emma Daftary, assistant dean of undergraduate programs. Photo: Katrina Koski

Emma Daftary, assistant dean of the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Programs, presented awards to students and faculty, including:

  • Kevin Liao, Departmental Citation, awarded to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business. A graduate of the Global Management Program (GMP), Liao is heading to J.P. Morgan.
  • Question the Status Quo, Chen Dai: Dai is an entrepreneur, engineer, and the first international student from China to graduate from the M.E.T. program at Berkeley Haas.
  • Confidence without Attitude, Shivum Berry: Berry built a yo-yo company at age 14 and went on to create a course at Berkeley on building an e-commerce business.
  • Students Always, Sakura Kappel: A transfer and reentry student raised by a single mother in the Philippines, Kappel “exemplifies a student who likes to question established norms and explore diverse perspectives, even if it may ruffle feathers.”
  • Beyond Yourself, Norma Garcia Galvan: A first-generation student, Galvan values community building, mentorship, and uplifting marginalized communities, which stems from her upbringing in an immigrant Mexican household.
  • Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching for the Undergraduate Program: Haas Lecturer Mohammed Nadeem, who teaches marketing.
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor: Kunal Cholera (his second win as a GSI).

Celebrating her 22nd birthday, undergraduate student speaker Julianna De Paula shared the anxiety she felt before leaving her family in Brazil to study at Berkeley. “As soon as I stepped foot on this campus, all of the anxiety went away. After meeting my roommates, classmates, and professors, I finally realized that I’d found a new home very far from my own,” she said.

De Paula, who will join L’Oreal as a marketing management trainee after commencement, said it’s the sense of community and belonging at Haas that she will miss most, including “the friendships forged over group projects, the mentorships of our professors, and the shared triumphs and challenges that have united us as a class.” 

Summer Hua, the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) president for the 2023-24 school year, and a first-generation international student, thanked her professors and her HBSA team, the “unsung heroes advocating for student voices” and “friends who have turned into family.” 

four women, two wearing commencement cap and gowns
Graduates gathered in the courtyard after the commencement ceremony. Photo: Kim Girard

After students tossed caps, they headed to a post-commencement reception in the courtyard as the sun broke through the morning fog. Asked to describe her time at Haas in one word, graduate Rachel Sanchez said “friends.”

 

Berkeley Haas names 2024 commencement speakers

Berkeley Haas has named alumni leaders in C-suite talent recruiting, investment platform innovation, and novel gene therapy commercialization as the 2024 commencement speakers this spring. 

Monica Stevens, MBA 96, an executive search consultant in Spencer Stuart’s San Francisco office, will serve as commencement speaker for the graduating full-time and evening & weekend MBA classes. Jasvinder Khaira, BS 04, a senior managing director at Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative asset manager, will be the undergraduate commencement speaker. Richard Wilson, EMBA 15, senior vice president and primary focus lead of genetic regulation at global pharmaceutical company Astellas, will serve as the commencement speaker for the executive MBA class.

Commencement ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre for undergraduates on Wednesday, May 15, at 9 a.m., and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA combined classes on Friday, May 17, at 2 p.m.. The MBA for Executives Program graduates will celebrate a few weeks later on Saturday, June 1, at 3 p.m. at Hertz Hall. 

Monica Stevens

portrait of a woman wearing a suit
Monica Stevens, MBA 96

As a member of Spencer Stuart’s Financial Services and Boards practices, Stevens focuses on executive search, leadership advisory, and succession planning work for C-suites and boards across corporate and commercial banking, payments, real estate, and risk. A seasoned banker and nonprofit board member with more than 25 years of experience in general management, customer relationship development, talent acquisition, and learning and professional development, Stevens is a champion of diversity and inclusion in business and in her community.

Before joining Spencer Stuart, Stevens spent more than two decades at Wells Fargo, where she held multiple sales, credit, and leadership roles in commercial real estate, capital markets, and global banking. Most recently, she was senior vice president and chief credit and risk officer in the company’s Merchant Services division.

At Wells Fargo, she co-founded the company’s first Black/African American employee resource group, and more recently, she served as co-chair of the Wells Fargo Merchant Services group’s Diversity Council. A champion of talent development, she ran, repositioned, and doubled the size of a program that recruited talent at various levels of the firm.

A veteran, Stevens is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. She started her career as an officer in the U.S. Navy,  before eventually coming to Haas, where she received an MBA with a concentration in real estate finance. 

Stevens is a member of the Haas School Board, and she was awarded the school’s Raymond A. Miles Service Award in 2017 for her contributions in supporting and enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She was also previously a trustee for the Redwood Day School in Oakland, where she led the Diversity Committee.

Jasvinder Khaira

Jasvinder Khaira, BS 04

Khaira is a senior managing director and founding partner of the Tactical Opportunities Group, or Tac Opps, at Blackstone.  Tac Opps was founded in 2012 to invest across private investment opportunities outside of traditional private equity and private credit. Today, Tac Opps has $34 billion of assets under management.

Khaira was born in Singapore and raised in the Bay Area. He joined Blackstone in 2004 in the Private Equity Group after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UC Berkeley with degrees in Business Administration and History. In 2007, he joined a small team within Blackstone that eventually led the firm’s initial public offering. Before the IPO, he accompanied the firm’s founders on a roadshow that raised more than $7 billion.

Since helping found Tac Opps, Khaira has led more than 40 transactions for Blackstone totaling over $10 billion of equity invested. He was named the 2023 TMT Investment Leader of the Year and is a founding sponsor of the Berkeley Changemaker program, and a board member of the Berkeley M.E.T Program and the New York Philharmonic. Khaira is married and the father of three boys and lives in New York City.

Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson, EMBA 15

As senior vice president and primary focus lead of genetic regulation at Astellas, Wilson is responsible for a portfolio of novel gene therapies designed to treat life-threatening genetic diseases.

Wilson has more than 30 years of experience in research, development, and commercialization of small molecules, biologics, and gene therapies. 

Prior to Astellas, he held leadership positions at a range of organizations, including BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Glaxo Wellcome (now GSK), BioChem Pharma, Theravance, and Innoviva. He has also delivered new medicines to market for diseases such as asthma, COPD, and PKU (a rare disorder that causes an amino acid called phenylalanine to build up in the body), in addition to leading R&D programs in anti-infective, cardiovascular, rheumatology, and urology disease areas. 

Wilson has served on a variety of advisory committees and boards, which include Berkeley Executive Education and the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, and currently teaches at San Francisco State University on lifecycle management in the pharmaceutical industry.

Wilson earned a BSc in chemistry from the University of Manchester before making his way to Haas, where he received his MBA in 2015. 

EMBA 2022 grads told to ‘live life with no regrets’

64 graduates dressed in caps and gowns
EMBA Class of 2022. Photo: Jim Block

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.

Male graduate crosses stage with his two young daughters
Graduate crosses the stage with his daughters. Photo: Jim Block

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.” 

three female graduates take a selfie
Three EMBA 2022 graduates take a selfie. Photo: Jim Block

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.

Three women donned in academic regalia
Commencement speaker Seo Yeon Yoon, EMBA 22, with Assistant Dean of MBA Programs Jamie Breen, and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs Emma Daftary. Photo: Jim Block

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.”

A woman and man dressed in academic regalia
2022 Cheit Award recipient Professor Veselina Dinova (right) with Jon Wong, this year’s Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor winner. Photo: JIm Block

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. 

Student Honors: 

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

Solve the world’s seemingly insurmountable problems, Berkeley Haas MBA grads told at 2022 commencement

MBA grads at the Greek Theatre
MBA students gather behind stage at the Greek Saturday before commencement. (Photo: Natasha Payes)

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.”

Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90, speaks at MBA commencement at podium
Jagdeep Singh, EWMBA 90, speaks at MBA commencement. Photo: Jim Block

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.  

MBA students behind stage in cap and gowns at the Greek Theatre
MBA students at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Natasha Payes

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. 

Kokei Otosi, MBA 22, student speaker at MBA commencement speaks
“For two years we had the opportunity to try and fail and learn and try,” Kokei Otosi, MBA 22. Photo: Jim Block

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

Dean Ann Harrison hands a student an MBA diploma
Dean Ann Harrison congratulates an MBA student. Photo: Jim Block

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

MBA grads sitting in the Greek Theatre during commencement
Photo: Jim Block

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

PhD commencement

Earlier this month, seven Phd candidates participated in a hooding ceremony. 

2022 Berkeley Haas PhD graduates
PhD graduates, left to right: Alexey Sinyashin, Daniel Stein, Shoshana Jarvis, Kristin Donnelly, Łukasz Langer, Young Yoon, Petr Martynov

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. 

Watch the MBA commencement video here:

Operations exec named executive MBA commencement speaker

White woman with blonde hair dressed in black blazer and red blouse. 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. 

‘We did it!’ Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Class of 2022 shines at commencement

undergraduate woman in cap and gown cheering
Photo: Noah Berger

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.”

A group of students stand in front of balloons that say GMP
The Berkeley Haas Global Management Program graduated its first cohort this year. Photo: Jim Block

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.

 Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, undergraduate commencement speaker holding up a Motorola Razr
Aaron McDaniel, BS 04, undergraduate commencement speaker holding up a Motorola Razr. Photo: Noah Berger

McDaniel urged 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.”

Two women and two male student athletes dressed in academic regalia.
Berkeley Haas student athletes gather backstage before the commencement ceremony begins. Photo: Natasha Payes

“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.”

Woman shakes hands with a young man.
Dean Ann Harrison  congratulates a Berkeley Haas undergraduate on stage at the Greek. Photo: Kim Girard

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

two students hugging at undergraduate commencement
Photo: Noah Berger

Five questions with HBSA President Anna Shim, BS 22

Woman wearing white dress holds up cap
Haas Business Student Association President Anna Shim, BS 22. Photo courtesy of Anna Shim.

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.

 

MBA Classes of 2020 and 2021 get official sendoff

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:

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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

MFE Commencement 2022: ‘You are at the heart of sea change’ 

Six graduates donned in academic regalia jump in the air
Graduates of the MFE Class of 2022. Photo: Jim Block.

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. 

two men and one woman dressed in academic regalia
L-R: Commencement speaker Dr. Robert Litterman, Jim Gilliland, MFE 02, and Linda Kreiztman, executive director of MFE program. Photo: Jim Block.

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.”

About 10 master of financial engineering students standing on balcony
Members of the MFE class of 2022. Photo: Jim Block.

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. 

Reunited! Evening & Weekend and Executive MBA graduation highlights

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:

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.

Speaker to 2021 MBA grads: ‘Become more than you can even imagine’

Grad in front of the bears statue
A total of 276 Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA students and 167 Evening & Weekend MBA students graduated last Friday. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

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. 

Soyeon Yi, South Korea’s first astronaut, gave the commencement speech.

“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 here and 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’

Some Haas grads joined grads across campus last week, crossing the stage at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

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.”

An MBA grad celebrates commencement with her little bear. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

‘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. 

Graduates hugging
Celebrating with family and friends on campus. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small.

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.

Five questions with Paula Fernandez-Baca, MBA 21, who leads with empathy

Portrait: Paula Fernandez-Baca, MBA 21
Paula Fernandez-Baca will join consulting group Bain & Company after graduation. Photo credit: Benny Johnson, MBA 20.

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”.

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.

Emmy-winning journalist Diane Dwyer and astronaut Soyeon Yi named commencement speakers

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.”

Soyeon Yi, MBA 14

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.

MFE commencement 2021: ‘Think big and never compromise on your values’

MFE students dine at restaurant
MFE students and MFE Executive Director Linda Kreitzman gather for lunch before the pandemic.

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.

six students dance on rooftop
Six MFE roommates dance to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”

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.”

White male in white button shirt gives speech
Tomer Amit was the 2021 MFE program’s valedictorian.

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.

Student speaker Joe Sutkowski, MBA 20, on graduating in Zoom time

Joe Sutkowski with Dawn Bickett is on the left and Cici Saekow
Joe Sutkowski with Dawn Bickett (left) and Cici Saekow. Photo: Benny Johnson

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.

Joe Sutkowski with his family
Joe with his family during a visit.

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.

Joe Sutkowski with his study team
Joe with his study team at Haas.

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.

“We need leaders like you:” Parting words to evening & weekend MBA graduates

Members of the EWMBA 2020 class. Photo credit, Arthur Tong, EWMBA20
Members of the EWMBA 2020 class. (Photo credit: Arthur Tong, EWMBA 20)

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.

Axe cohort celebrates on Zoom
The Axe cohort celebrating on Zoom last Friday. (Blue, gold, and Oski cohorts celebrated together, too)

 

Award winners 

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. 

Berkeley Leader Award: Sean Li, creator of the OneHaas podcast.

Defining Leadership Award winners

Question the Status Quo: Bruce Hilman

Confidence without Attitude: Jordan Waiwaiole

Students Always: Janice Shon

Beyond Yourself: Shannon Eliot (profiled here)

MBA students in Patagonia.
Shannon Eliot and EWMBA classmates backpacking in Patagonia before the pandemic.

“The courage of Haasies:” Full-time MBA grads celebrated as leaders

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.”

Joe Sutkowski, MBA 20
Student speaker Joe Sutkowski (middle, with Dawn Bickett (left) and Cici Saekow) praised “the courage of Haasies” over the past few months.

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.

Berkeley Haas mural congrats grads
A beautiful mural, designed by Berkeley Haas grads, including Alex D’Agostino.

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

Maryam Rezapoor on Berkeley campus
Maryam Rezapoor, MBA 20

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.