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.

“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 re-defined sense of purpose.” Erika Walker

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.

Grit and resilience: Shannon Eliot’s journey to graduation

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

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

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

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

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

“A million tiny knives”

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

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

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

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

An athlete’s recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Laura Clayton McDonnell, Diane Dwyer named 2020 commencement speakers 

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.

The undergraduate commencement will take place on Monday, May 18, 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.”

Laura Clayton McDonnell
Laura Clayton McDonnell

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.  

portrait: Diane Dwyer
Portrait: Diane Dwyer, Haas professional faculty member and former KTVU broadcast journalist.

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.

 

 

 

Executive MBA Class of 2019 tosses caps

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.”

Watch the slideshow! All photos: Jim Block.

 

 

MBA grads: Be brave, embrace your power to change the world

Sora Elcan, EWMBA 19, holds up her baby.
Evening & Weekend MBA graduate Sora Elcan holds up her lil’ grad baby, Jackson Lee Elcan.

Berkeley Haas MBA students in the Class of 2019 were urged to be brave and embrace their power to make significant contributions to improve the world at Friday’s commencement.

The commencement was held under sunny skies at the Greek Theatre, where Dean Ann Harrison welcomed parents, friends, and family of evening & weekend MBA and full-time MBA students. “All of you have been transformed in some profound way. That is, after all, why you came here,” she told them.

Watch the video of 2019 MBA commencement.

Commencement speaker Patrick Awuah, MBA 99 and founder of Ashesi University in Ghana, told graduates the story of how he arrived at Berkeley Haas in his early 30s, with a new baby, having quit his job at Microsoft. He had a singular goal to prepare himself to start a successful university, and he built his plan for Ashesi during his entire time at Haas.

Patrick Awuah, 2019 MBA commencement speaker
“At Ashesi (University) today I see echoes of Berkeley.” – Patrick Awuah, MBA 99 and 2019 MBA commencement speaker. (Photo: Noah Berger)

“Ashesi started here, and I recognize the fact that there are not many places where this could have happened,” said Awuah, whose school has grown from 30 to 1,000 students. “We all had hope that it was going to be a remarkable institution, but it has exceeded even our loftiest dreams…At Ashesi today I see echoes of Berkeley: In our classrooms and the curriculum that we teach and the values we share; in the open embrace of equitable access to the opportunity for learning and development. I see echoes of Berkeley in how our community works and in our corporate culture. I see echoes of Berkeley in Ashesi’s people and leadership.”

Full-time MBA student speaker Bree Jenkins, who is co-founding the Hayward Collegiate Charter School, shared a personal story of feeling powerless as a teen.

FTMBA student speaker Bree Jenkins
FTMBA student speaker Bree Jenkins (Photo: Noah Berger)

“Age 15, days before my birthday, on a bitter December night, my mom leaves for a tour in Iraq. I honestly don’t know if she will ever come back. When this feeling of powerlessness grabs hold of you, it is usually dark. And you’re typically alone. Your whole body clenches. Palms sweaty. There’s a tightening of your stomach as you realize there is nothing you can do.”

Jenkins said the transformation from powerlessness to power has many faces. “As a new graduate of the Haas School of Business, it has your (face),” she said. “And as a black woman who represents just 1% of her class, yet has the privilege of speaking on your behalf, it has mine. Right now, we have power. And with this power, we share an incredible responsibility to this world and to one another.”

EWMBA student speaker Nancy Hoque (Photo: Noah Berger)

Calling out classmates by name, Nancy Hoque, student speaker for the Evening & Weekend MBA Program, addressed why they were brave for different reasons: for risking it all in changing a career, for joining her in protesting the immigration ban at the San Francisco Airport, for traveling across the world to help Syrian refugees, and for organizing female students to wear white on their commencement caps to symbolize the strength and unity of women who completed the program.

“Yes, absolutely they were all brave, because bravery entails taking a chance,” she said. “Grabbing onto that door which is cracked open and, regardless of the obstacles and unknowns, walking through it.”

MBA grad wtih flowers around his neck
Evan Krokowski, who graduated from the evening & weekend program, celebrates. Photo: Noah Berger.

Commencement Awards

Full-Time MBA Program

Student speaker Bree Jenkins (center) surrounded by the Defining Leadership Principles award winners
FTMBA student speaker Bree Jenkins (center) surrounded by the Defining Leadership Principles award winners. (Photo: Noah Berger)

Academic Achievement Award: Somiran Gupta

Full-Time MBA Defining Leadership Principle Awards:

Question the Status Quo: Tam Emerson; Confidence without Attitude: Somiran Gupta; Students Always: Mariana Lanzas Goded; Beyond Yourself: Matthew Freeman Hines; The Berkeley Leader Award: Bosun Adebaki

The Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Adair Morse

Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor: Margaret Fong

 

Evening & Weekend MBA Program

Evening & Weekend Program Defining Leadership Principles award winners.
Evening & Weekend Program Defining Leadership Principles award winners: Tess Peppers, Eppa Rixey, Michael Toomey, and Melanie Akwule.

Academic Achievement Award: Eppa Rixey

Defining Leadership Principles awards:

Question the Status Quo: Tess Peppers; Confidence Without Attitude: Aimee Bailey; Students Always: Eppa Rixey; Beyond Yourself: Michael Toomey; The Berkeley Leader Award: Melanie Akwule

The Earl F. Cheit Awards for Excellence in Teaching: Prof. Ross Levine (for weekend program) and Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki (for evening program)

Graduate Student Instructor: Zachary Olson for the Data & Decisions course

 

 

Education pioneer Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, welcomed back as MBA commencement speaker

Education pioneer Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, founder of Ghana’s Ashesi University, will be welcomed back to campus this week as the 2019 MBA commencement speaker.

Commencement for both the Full-time MBA and Evening & Weekend MBA programs will take place on Friday, May 24, at 2 p.m. at the Greek Theatre.

Born and raised in Ghana, Awuah came to Berkeley Haas after attending Swarthmore College and working at Microsoft. His son’s birth inspired him to want to give back to his home country by establishing a new university that would offer a liberal arts education.

In past interviews, he has emphasized the need to teach through critical thinking rather than through rote memorization, which was the general practice in Ghana. His dream was to develop ethical and entrepreneurial leaders who would go on to revitalize Ghana and the African continent.

At Haas, Awuah turned his idea into a project through the International Business Development (IBD) Program. For several years, Berkeley MBA students helped build the business plan for Ashesi University, and Haas faculty served as advisers. Classmate Nina Marini helped Awuah launch Ashesi in 2002 in a rented facility with just 30 students. Today, Ashesi has a new 100-acre campus outside Accra with an enrollment of more than 1,000 students who hail from 15 African nations. The school has more than 1,200 alumni.

“Patrick is an inspiring business leader who truly represents our Defining Leadership Principles,” said Laura Tyson, former Haas dean and faculty director of the Institute for Business and Social Impact. “We are very proud of all that he has accomplished and honored to welcome him back for commencement.”

Awuah, who was profiled in BerkeleyHaas magazine, has earned many accolades, including:

Undergraduate Class of 2019 encouraged to “elevate and empower others”

Photo of a group of women grads at undergrad commencement.
Photo: Josh Edelson

Rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the Berkeley Haas undergraduate Class of 2019 Sunday morning, as close to 400 students were urged to make an impact on the world and “elevate and empower” others.

The threat of bad weather moved the typical commencement ceremony from the Greek Theatre to Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum, where Dean Ann Harrison welcomed the crowd indoors, thanking parents, families, and friends for supporting the grads.

“Today we celebrate your achievement,” said Harrison, herself a Berkeley undergraduate alumna in economics and history. “You have persevered through four years of a rigorous undergraduate curriculum. You have mastered new knowledge and skills, and you have adopted a larger view of the world. You have met new people, volunteered for great causes, and made many friends. You should be proud of yourselves. I know we are.”

Dean Ann Harrison congratulates a student.
Dean Ann Harrison (right) told the grads “You have met new people, volunteered for great causes, and made many friends. You should be proud of yourselves. I know we are.” Photo: Josh Edelson

“Living life consciously”

Commencement speaker Steve Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, a Haas finance faculty member who co-founded Greyrock Capital Group, pointed out the diversity and accomplishments of the 2019 class: three quarters of the grads started at Cal as freshman, while a quarter came from the community college system. Many hail from around the globe, including Asia, Europe, and Latin America; and many, like Etter, are the first generation in their families to attend college. A third of the class completed simultaneous degrees across 34 majors.

Etter, who has taught at Cal for the past 24 years—even while going through cancer treatment—shared four themes “for students to live their life by” when they leave Berkeley Haas: choosing to have a good day instead of a bad day, every day; focusing on how you treat others on a daily basis—not just friends and family, but everyone from the airport security checker to the Starbuck’s barista; thinking about ethics and “living your life consciously within your views”; and finally, focusing on your contributions to society.

Photo of undergrad commencement speaker Steve Etter
Stephen Etter, who has taught at Cal for the past 24 years, shared four themes “for students to live their life by” when they leave Haas. Photo: Josh Edelson.

“This has nothing to do with how your work day contributes to the world economy,” he said. “This focus is on the donation of your time, knowledge and dollars outside of the workforce.”

Hip hop music’s link to business

In his speech “Business is Boomin’,'” a nod to a DJ Khaled lyric, student speaker Sreyas Sai Samantula noted that the business world and the hip hop world share a lot in common. “At its core, hip hop music is a catalyst, paving the way for progress and change,” he said. “It’s about uplifting yourself and your community and, in its purest form, it’s about utilizing personal success as a means of elevating others. Business should be the same.”

Watch student speaker Sreyas Sai Samantula’s commencement speech: Business is Boomin’.

Holding a diploma is a privilege that many others around the world will never have, he told the grads. “Many of my brothers and sisters in my birthplace of South India who go hungry for food every day will never have this privilege,” he said. “Many of our brothers and sisters right next door in Oakland and L.A. who suffer from violence, discrimination, inequity every single day of their lives will never have this privilege….. but that can change.”

Like song writers, business people, through the companies and products they create, share a distinct and rare opportunity to inspire millions of people, he said. “On our professional journeys, we have the ability to elevate and empower others,” he said. “As Haas grads we need to understand that we do have the power to be socially responsible, to support diversity, and to invest in our communities no matter what we’re doing, what industry we’re in.”

Some of the undergraduates who graduated at Spieker Forum.
Photo: Josh Edelson

And the award winners are….

Culture of Haas Awards:

Ana Mancia for Question the Status Quo

Patrick Ong for Confidence Without Attitude

Mark Ansell for Students Always

Jaskirat Gaelan for Beyond Youself

The Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Janet Brady, distinguished teaching fellow

The Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Award for Excellence in Teaching: Cori Land, MBA 19

The Departmental Citation for the most outstanding academic achievement: Tyler Barbee, who has been inspired throughout his life by the determination of his older, autistic brother, Connor. “In his time at Berkeley and at Haas, he has sought to develop a similar work ethic and perseverance as his brother in all that he does,” Harrison said.

Berkeley Haas undergrad Defining Leadership Principles award winners
Haas culture award winners: Mark Ansell for Students Always; Patrick Ong for Confidence Without Attitude; Ana Mancia for Question the Status Quo; and Jaskirat Gaelan for Beyond Youself. Photo: Josh Edelson

 

Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, will prepare young scholars to have agency over their lives

Portrait of Bree Jenkins smiling
Bree Jenkins is the student speaker at her Haas School of Business commencement ceremony on May 24. (Photo courtesy of Bree Jenkins)

“If you had asked me five years ago if I’d be walking out of Berkeley Haas to start a new elementary school in Hayward, California, I would have politely smiled and shook my head. I had no interest in going to graduate school, never mind business school.

Bree standing in front of a disney cruise ship

Bree worked as an industrial engineer at Disney. (Photo courtesy of Bree Jenkins)

At the time, I was an industrial engineer at Disney, and every day, I created magic. My favorite project was with Disney Cruise Line, supporting the largest dry dock in cruise line history, the Disney Wonder. In Cadiz, Spain, I joined thousands of people from all over the world renovating the ship. We switched out ceilings, floors, stages and walls to convert to new themes like Tiana’s Place (a restaurant themed to Disney’s the Princess and the Frog), my team handling the scheduling.

My work was chaotic and intense, and I couldn’t have been happier. Decades could have passed quickly and I might have stayed on at the company, if not for one question nagging me: Were there other jobs, other opportunities, that I could equally love and find purpose in?

That’s what brought me to Berkeley to earn my MBA, with a focus on social impact.

Making a move

Growing up in Flint, Michigan, I was steeped in a community that cared deeply about its children, but lacked adequate resources. My mom, a military reservist, earned her bachelor’s degree in business and worked seven days weeks — sometimes only to come home to eviction notices on our apartment door. She struggled knowing that the schools were not providing a great education, and she needed a better job. So, we moved to Southfield, Michigan, where we found both.

bree with her mom and grandma
From left: Bree with her grandma, Shirley, and her mom, Angela. (Photo courtesy of Bree Jenkins)

A different zip code meant a better school and more opportunities. I had access to the Academic Games, where I could “get my nerd on,” competing to outwit my opponents with mathematical equations. My mom encouraged me to join the band and, thanks to a small black clarinet and a brilliant teacher named Mr. Scott, I learned to train my fingers and mind to the sounds of music. Our lives changed.

Years later, at Disney, I recognized that I had gained everything my mother could have wished for when she moved my brother and me to Southfield: responsibility, independence, mobility and financial security. But it wasn’t enough. While I enjoyed these privileges, my family and friends back in Flint, who were just as talented and intelligent, lacked the security that I felt. They were let down by their zip codes and school districts.

Turning to friends

So, when I was considering my career path at Berkeley Haas, I thought of all the teachers and mentors I had and how my educational experience had changed me. Through a social impact speaker series at Haas, I heard someone talk about their work in education and got curious. How could I use my skills in operations in this field?

I turned to my Consortium mentor and friend, Om Chitale, who helped me find an internship as an Education Pioneers Fellow at ACE Charter School Network. Because of him, I started thinking about how I could work in education and, as a result, I built Cheetah Tank, a Shark Tank-style pitch competition for elementary school students in Oakland. Co-created with the incredible Andrew Davis, the program focuses on idea generation stemming from the simple question, ‘What problem are you trying to solve?’ This project, and an introduction from Om, led me to my full-time position at Hayward Collegiate Charter School.

What we think is possible

As head of operations, I’m working with our determined founder, Neena Goswamy, to open a new tuition-free charter school to serve the students of South Hayward and provide them with an opportunity for an excellent education. I know that opening this school will not be easy. I’ve been working on it part-time since January, while finishing my MBA program. Each time we speak with families, we promise that we will prepare their scholars to have agency over their lives. We are being given an incredible responsibility to make a positive difference, striving to ensure that our students leave us as hardworking, creative and kind individuals. Not only that, we want them to know where they come from — and that they represent and belong to a community that supports them.

I believe that who we are surrounded by affects what we think is possible. Whether it be in the form of blood relationships, teachers, my amazing partner and his relatives, my peeps at Disney or the talented individuals inside and outside of Haas who I call my friends, my family has held me up and shown me that anything is possible for me. As I leave Berkeley this month, I want to do the same for my young students.”

Bree Jenkins standing on a balcony with hot air balloons in the air
Bree says the people she’s had in her life — family, friends, colleagues — have held her up and shown her that anything is possible. “As I leave Berkeley this month, I want to do the same for my young students.” (Photo courtesy of Bree Jenkins)

‘At peace’ with ending his NFL dreams, graduating senior finds new pursuits

Following medical setbacks that ended his football career, Russ Udé has delved into his many other interests, including banking, marketing, music and volunteer work with low-income youth. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)
Following medical setbacks that ended his football career, Russ Udé has delved into his many other interests, including banking, marketing, music and volunteer work with low-income youth. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

In summer of 2015, Cal football had its eyes on Russ Udé, a 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound star linebacker, as a key addition to the team’s struggling defense.

Sports reporters wrote that Udé, who came to UC Berkeley from Westminster, a private school in Atlanta, had the talent to follow in the footsteps of Cal football players who went on to the National Football League (NFL). And Udé hoped he’d follow that path.

But knee injuries he suffered in high school kept threatening to dash his dream. For fear of losing college scholarships, Udé played through his injuries, helping to lead his team, for the first time since 1996, to the Georgia High School Association Class AAA semifinals.

Udé chose to attend Berkeley, but redshirted his freshman year to fully rehabilitate from knee surgery. Then, the following summer, he struggled with an illness that caused him to lose 25 pounds just two weeks before football training camp. He played football his sophomore and junior years, but his medical setbacks forced him to retire from sports after that.

Russ Udé had medical setbacks at Berkeley that stopped his dream of playing for the NFL.
 A former Cal football player, Russ Udé left his dream of an NFL career behind during his junior year after a series of medical setbacks. Multi-talented, he’s built his own non-traditional career path as a student at Berkeley Haas. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

“I’m at peace with it now”

Udé’s parents had always pushed him to also excel off of the field, so after a few dark months, the college junior redirected his energy to his business classes at Berkeley Haas and to launching a career in the entertainment industry.

“I’m at peace with it now,” says Udé, a Berkeley Haas senior who graduates this Sunday and will head to a job at either Deloitte or Merrill Lynch in Southern California. “I’ve learned so much from my experiences. You have to roll with the punches and keep going. I never wanted to self-identify as just an athlete, nor did I want anyone to marginalize me.”

Born to Nigerian parents, Udé moved as a child from Nigeria to London to Belgium before the family settled in Atlanta. At the time, his mother, Uche, was a fashion designer with her own label, Uccé, and Udé modeled as a teen during fashion week in Atlanta. (He was also featured in an episode of ABC’s “Grown-ish.”)

Russ Udé with his car in the Berkeley hills.
Graduating senior Russ Udé poses next to his car near the Grizzly Peak overlook in the Berkeley hills. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Releasing a single

In addition to his mother’s creativity and drive, Udé says he’s been inspired by the multifaceted careers of fellow Atlanta native Donald Glover and other successful creative types and business executives.

“Donald never puts limitations on himself,” Udé says. “He just does what he wants to do. That’s what led me to study business. I felt if I had a business education, I could take it and run with it and apply it to whatever interested me.”

Like Glover, Udé’s interests are eclectic. The summer before his senior year at Berkeley, Udé worked as an investment banking intern in San Francisco. Meanwhile, he was hired by Universal Music Group to do urban marketing and brand partnerships. With Ethan Erickson, a former kicker for Cal football, he created a YouTube content series. Udé also produces and records music, citing influences from Kanye West to Pink Floyd to the rapper Kid Cudi. Last February, he shot his first music video in London and, on his 22nd birthday, released his first single, “Makin’ Conversation,” under the name “RussThe404.”

Russ Udé has learned to roll with the punches after his football injuries.
 “I’ve learned so much from my experiences,” says former Cal football player Russ Udé. “You have to roll with the punches and keep going.” (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Being a student—as important as being an athlete

Udé teaches, too. On most Monday nights last fall, he co-facilitated a two-hour DeCal class and lecture series at Berkeley Haas on the music business.

Steve Etter, a Berkeley Haas finance lecturer who advises student athletes, says Udé was the driving force behind Udé’s own non-traditional career path. “Haas is not an entertainment industry-focused school, so he had the courage to let everyone know what he wanted to do here,” says Etter. “And for Russell, being a student was always as important as being an athlete.”

In class, Udé left strong impressions. “Russ is like no other — a true Renaissance man: creative, entrepreneurial, intellectual, multi-talented, interesting and, his most compelling attribute — he is interested,” says associate professor Dana Carney, who taught Udé in her leadership course. “He loves life and is interested in everything — how it works, why it is, who the players are.”

Russ Udé looks out at the Bay Area from Grizzly Peak.
Grizzly Peak, with its stunning views of the campus and the entire Bay Area, has always been a been a special place for Russ Udé. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

“He was a real force,” adds lecturer Dan Mulhern, who also teaches leadership to undergraduates. “He has a big presence, literally, but he was also very thoughtful and very engaged and, at times, outspoken in a good way.”

Shooting for the stars

Udé also gives back. Over the past few years, he’s joined in Berkeley and Cal football community outreach programs to teach middle school students leadership skills, to volunteer with after-school programs for kids in low-income school districts and to speak on panels to Berkeley students and student-athletes on the importance of professional development.

Udé says he’s excited to graduate, but that he also will miss his Berkeley family.

“My own family lives so far away, but I have a bunch of friends here whom I consider close family,” he says. “I’m just excited to spend time with them at graduation, but there’s so much I want to achieve after.”

“I’m shooting for the stars,” he says.

 

Patrick Awuah & Steve Etter named 2019 commencement speakers

Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, founder of Ashesi University in Ghana, will be the speaker at the 2019 Full-time MBA and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement, while Steve Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, a founding partner of Greyrock Capital Group and a long-time Haas finance lecturer, will speak at undergraduate commencement.

The 2019 MBA commencement will take place on Friday, May 24, at 2 p.m. at the Greek Theatre.

The  undergraduate commencement will take place on Sunday, May 19, at 9 a.m. at the Greek Theatre.

Patrick Awuah, MBA 99

Patrick Awuah
Patrick Awuah

Born and raised in Ghana, Awuah came to Berkeley Haas after attending Swarthmore College and working at Microsoft. His son’s birth inspired him to want to give back to his home country by establishing a new university that would offer a liberal arts education.

In past interviews, he has emphasized the need to teach through critical thinking rather than through rote memorization, which was the general practice in Ghana. His dream was to develop ethical and entrepreneurial leaders who would go on to revitalize Ghana and the African continent.

At Haas, Awuah turned his idea into a project through the International Business Development (IBD) Program. For several years Berkeley MBA students helped build the business plan for Ashesi University, and Haas faculty served as advisers. Classmate Nina Marini helped launch Ashesi in 2002 in a rented facility with 30 inaugural students. Today, Ashesi has a new 100-acre campus outside Accra with an enrollment of more than 1,000 students who hail from 15 African nations. The school has more than 1,200 alumni.

“Patrick is an inspiring business leader who truly represents our Defining Leadership Principles,” said Laura Tyson, former Haas dean and faculty director of the Institute for Business and Social Impact. “We are very proud of all that he has accomplished and honored to welcome him back for commencement.”

Awuah, who was profiled in BerkeleyHaas magazine, has earned many accolades, including:

Stephen Etter, BS 83, MBA 89

Steve Etter
Steve Etter

Etter has spent the last 30 years of his career working in private equity. As one of the founding partners at Greyrock Capital Group, he helped raise and invest almost $1 billion over four funds.

Previously, he held positions at Bank of America, GE Capital, Citibank and PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he obtained his CPA. Most recently he has transitioned into the world of social impact investing.

For the last 24 years—48 consecutive semesters—Etter has been a professional faculty member in finance at Berkeley Haas. He has twice earned the school’s prestigious Cheit Award for Teaching Excellence from his undergraduate students.

Alumnus Kevin Chou, BS 02, cites him as an inspiration for his gift toward the funding of Chou Hall.

“The personal commitment and coaching Steve provides his students is extraordinary,” said Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate program. “Steve’s classes have inspired scores of students to go beyond themselves.”

Etter’s role at Haas goes beyond teaching. He coaches Haas external case competition teams, helps with professional job searches, and works with many student athletes who go on to professional sporting careers (including Jarod Goff, Jaylen Brown, Missy Franklin, Ryan Murphy, and Marshawn Lynch).

Riley Brown, BS 19, and a Cal varsity crew coxswain, said Etter helped her think more seriously and deeply about what set her apart as a student when she was applying to Haas. “He gives me incredible advice,” she said. “Every time he opens his mouth I have to listen because I know there will be a nugget of gold.”

Steve Etter with Cal athletes
Steve Etter with Cal athletes

 

Commencement speakers urge grads to use business to change the world

Undergraduates getting ready for the big moment.
Undergraduates backstage get ready for the big moment. Photo: Noah Berger

Hundreds of UC Berkeley Haas School of Business graduates walked the stage at the Greek Theatre last week, celebrating May commencement as speakers shared a common theme: now more than ever, business has the power—and responsibility—to change the world.

Last Monday, in the morning chill, 350 Berkeley Haas undergraduates received diplomas. On Friday afternoon, as the sun broke through the clouds, both the Full-time MBA students and evening & weekend students came together for commencement. Graduates included a total of 249 full-time MBA students and 309 evening & weekend MBA students.

Dean Rich Lyons, who delivered welcoming remarks during both commencements for the final time before wrapping up 11 years as dean to return to the faculty, spoke of the impact of the school’s culture and Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs): Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

“Taken in whole, these Defining Leadership Principles reflect who you have been as students,” he told the MBA graduates. “And I know they will serve as guideposts for you going forward. Use them to create purpose for yourselves and those around you.”

Undergraduate Commencement Highlights

Undergrad commencement speakers Nikhil Arora and Alejandro (Alex) Velez, BS 09, founders of Back to the Roots, urged students to change how business is done. "We've learned and experienced how the rules of capitalism are being rewritten. A new form of capitalism is emerging. The status quo is no longer enough in business."
Undergrad commencement speakers Nikhil Arora and Alejandro (Alex) Velez, BS 09, founders of Back to the Roots, tell grads: “We’ve learned and experienced how the rules of capitalism are being rewritten. A new form of capitalism is emerging. The status quo is no longer enough in business.”
Asha Culhane-Husain
Undergraduate student speaker and varsity track & field athlete Asha Culhane-Husain, who is moving to Paris after commencement to pursue her master’s degree, gave part of her speech in spoken word format. “Haas class of 2018, to stand here is to stand in front of an audience full of leaders, truth seekers, and dreamers.”
Dean Lyons receives Culture of Haas award at undergraduate commencement.
Dean Lyons receives a standing ovation while accepting the Culture of Haas award at undergraduate commencement. Photo: Noah Berger
See you at reunion!
See you at reunion! (That’s Angela Escobedo, BS 18)

Watch the full ceremony:

Undergraduate Awards

  • Departmental Citation (to the student with the most outstanding academic achievement in the field of business): Nitisha Baronia
  • Question the Status Quo: Daniel Shepard
  • Confidence Without Attitude: Austin Drake
  • Students Always: Stephanie Pin-Shin Huang
  • Beyond Yourself: Michael Wong
  • Culture of Haas Award: Dean Rich Lyons
  • Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Lecturer Cort Worthington

Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA Commencement Highlights

Behind the scenes at the Greek.
Ready to roll.
The scene on the floor of the Greek.
Paul Rice, MBA 96 and president & CEO of Fair Trade USA, spoke about conscious consumerism and the power every person has to make change. "The world desperately needs you. The world of your children desperately needs you. Never has there been more opportunity for a generation of purposeful business leaders to go out and make a difference."
Dean Lyons, left, with commencement speaker Paul Rice, MBA 96 and president & CEO of Fair Trade USA. Rice spoke about conscious consumerism and the power every person has to make change. “The world desperately needs you. The world of your children desperately needs you. Never has there been more opportunity for a generation of purposeful business leaders to go out and make a difference.” Photo: Tenny Frost

Watch the full ceremony:

"The biggest lesson I have learned here at Haas is that leadership is the act of service." EWMBA class 2018 commencement speaker Amelia Rose Kusar
“The biggest lesson I have learned here at Haas is that leadership is an act of service.” —Evening & weekend MBA student speaker Amelia Rose Kusar
"The opposite of confidence isn't uncertainty—it's arrogance." Haas MBA 2018 commencement speaker Jeffrey Thomas Webb .
“The opposite of confidence isn’t uncertainty—it’s arrogance.” —Full-time MBA student speaker Jeffrey Thomas Webb

Evening & Weekend MBA Awards

Academic Award: Dmitry Kovalev

Question the Status Quo:

Pedro Moura & Miles Scotcher 

Confidence Without Attitude:

Anthony Barrs

Students Always: Bill Collins

Beyond Yourself: Myles Young Lam

The Berkeley Leader Award: Candice Madruga Knoll

Full-time MBA Awards

Academic Award: John Richard Morgan

Question the Status Quo: Erin Nikole Gums

Confidence Without Attitude:

Gabriela Belo

Students Always: Liz Koenig

Beyond Yourself: Tal Eidelman

The Berkeley Leader Award:

Om Dattatraya Chitale

Cheit Awards for Excellence in Teaching

  • Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program: Prof. Xiao-Jun Zhang for weekend and Senior Lecturer Holly Schroth for evening
  • Full-time Berkeley MBA Program: Asst. Prof. Juliana Schroeder
  • PhD Program: Asst. Prof. Omri Even-Tov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Side by side: Graduating twins stick together for success

The Haberman twins — Cameron (left) and Tyler — will be the first members of their family to graduate from college. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)
The Haberman twins — Cameron (left) and Tyler — will be the first members of their family to graduate from college. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

When identical twins Cameron and Tyler Haberman graduate in two weeks, they’ll sit side by side at the Greek Theatre and both receive undergraduate degrees from the Haas School of Business. Then they’ll hop a plane to explore Europe together and, when they return, head to dream jobs — both in finance — at Apple.

None of this surprises those who know the 21-year-olds well. The twins have shared nearly every step in life, from their upbringing in Visalia, a blue-collar city in the Central Valley, through four years at Berkeley, where they grew from nervous, first-generation college freshmen to honors students with bright futures and a deep commitment to helping others.

At Berkeley Haas, their passion for learning includes understanding gender and equity issues. They were two of five men who, along with 50 women, took the course “The Business Case for Investing in Women” taught by associate adjunct professor Kellie McElhaney.

McElhaney, founding director of the Center for Gender, Equity & Leadership, says the brothers “speak up a lot” in class. “They are humble, and they show vulnerability,” she adds. “They call themselves out on things they’ve done wrong in the past, and they advance others in the classroom.”

How does she tell them apart? “I don’t,” she says. “They sit in the same seats all the time, they’re always together, they do everything together, and they’re both equally amazing.”

Cameron Haberman (left) and his identical twin brother Tyler play basketball in People’s Park. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)
Cameron Haberman (left) and his identical twin brother Tyler play basketball in People’s Park. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

Through thick and thin

Twins aren’t unusual at Berkeley. There were 120 sets of twins and triplets in the entering freshman class last fall, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. But at Berkeley Haas, the Habermans are one of two sets of twins in the undergraduate program.

Some twins exert their independence in college. But the Haberman twins’ idea of going their separate ways is living in different rooms in the same house. At Berkeley, they took most of the same courses, joined the Chi Phi fraternity, entered Berkeley Haas as juniors and interned at AT&T and then Apple.

“We’ve just always had similar interests,” says Cameron, who is one minute older than his brother. “We love the same sports —basketball and baseball — and the same subjects, we love to eat right and work out together.”

Tyler and Cameron study together, too, using a system Cameron developed freshman year that includes creating outlines and elaborate schedules for homework and test preparation. “It’s added efficiency to our lives,” he says.

They’ve come a long way since they were incoming freshmen with imposter syndrome.

“I thought everyone here was so much smarter than me,” says Tyler. “They had taken way more AP classes, scored higher on the SAT.”

They felt like outsiders, too. The brothers had only visited San Francisco once. They’d never been on an airplane. In Visalia, gang fights were a daily norm; bragging about good grades wasn’t.  At Berkeley, they met sophisticated students from affluent cities around the world, many who had traveled extensively and largely shared the same liberal politics.

Post-graduation, Cameron (left) and Tyler will travel in Europe together and then return to work at Apple in finance. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)
Post-graduation, Cameron (left) and Tyler will travel in Europe together and then return to work at Apple in finance. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

Finding their common wings

Gradually, the twins adjusted to life at Berkeley and started to thrive, waking up as early as 5 or 6 a.m. every day to work out at the gym before class.

They tackled tough courses together, including Math 1B, a calculus class that they now joke “nearly killed” them.

The brothers studied for it for eight hours a day using Kahn Academy’s online resources. When they took the final, “I don’t think we’ve ever been more proud to get an A, and Tyler actually got an A+,” Cameron says. “I’d worked through some really tough hours with Tyler, struggling over problems, grinding it out until we did well.”

Tyler admits his brother is the better student who challenges him when he fades and thinks he can’t study anymore. “There will be times when I’m, like, ‘Dude, I want to play FIFA or sleep,’ and he’ll say, ‘Come on! You’ve got more in you,’” he says. Tyler credits that drive to having parents who always praised their efforts rather than results — a strategy called the “growth mindset” that Tyler later learned about in Berkeley Haas lecturer Holly Schroth’s class.

“I’ve never seen anyone go as hard as they do to accomplish a goal,” says their friend Parsa Attari, a senior majoring in computer science and cognitive science who has known the twins since freshman year. “They’re just so dedicated.”

Part of the twins’ decision to apply to Haas as sophomores was to learn to manage money, a skill that was lacking in their family. Says Tyler, “I knew that I wanted to be financially stable.”

 At Apple, they will both work in the Finance Development Program with a group of new college graduates. They’ll be assigned to teams that rotate every 12 weeks and settle into more permanent roles after two years.

The twins (Tyler, left, and Cameron), from Visalia, say they grew up in an area where gang activity, not good grades, was common. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)
The twins (Tyler, left, and Cameron), from Visalia, say they grew up in an area where gang activity, not good grades, was common. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

Sharing their Native American roots

The brothers’ Berkeley experience also included their ongoing work with the Native American community. Although their father is part Cherokee and their mother is part Muscogee, the twins knew very little about their Native American heritage until after they graduated from high school.

At Berkeley, they joined the Native American Recruitment and Retention Center, which works to keep higher education accessible and attainable for Native Americans.

Cameron and Tyler also took a few courses in Native American studies, which opened their eyes to the struggles of the nation’s indigenous peoples. “Back home, you heard, ‘The Indians are fine, they have casinos,’” Cameron says. “But they also have higher rates of incarceration and alcoholism, they earn less pay, they fall at the bottom in everything. I just felt like, if I can, I should be doing something to help out.”

Cameron’s first role with the recruitment and retention center was making posts to its Facebook page. He and Tyler then shared the task of being budget coordinator. The last two years, he says, they’ve been “immersed” in this group and its mission.

Haas alumna JoAnne Lee, former executive director of the center, which is now called the Indigenous and Native Coalition, says the twins were instrumental in helping her develop an outreach plan to expand the size of the group. “Once we did that,” she says, “the numbers grew. We went from four members to 17 and then to 30 people the following semester. Now they have 41 members.”

Tyler (left) and Cameron say they’ve always had similar interests, from sports to academic subjects to healthy eating. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)
Tyler (left) and Cameron say they’ve always had similar interests, from sports to academic subjects to healthy eating. (Berkeley Haas photo by Jim Block)

A doubly proud family

There are only a few ways to tell the twins apart.

Cameron has had surgery on his nose, which he’s broken three times; its slightly upturned shape is a fail-proof identification strategy.

Tyler has taken a few courses by himself, including “Leadership and Personal Development” and “Improvisational Leadership” with Berkeley Haas lecturer Cort Worthington. “I’ve gained more from those two classes than any classes at Cal,” Tyler says. “They’ve helped me to be a leader and to reframe how I look at the world.”

Their GPAs are also slightly different— 3.96 for Cameron, a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the top business honor society, and 3.88 for Tyler.

At the Berkeley Haas graduation ceremony, with everyone in matching regalia, it may be difficult to distinguish one twin from the other, at least from a distance. But their parents, Tony and Victoria Haberman, and sister, Isabella, will know and feel pride for Tyler and Cameron’s achievements — separately and together.

The brothers’ dad, a computer technician, and mom, who worked overnight hours at the local grocery store in Visalia so that she could attend all of her sons’ high school basketball and baseball games, will head up from Visalia to cheer them on. So will their sister, who is attending Fresno State next year on a track scholarship.

“They made so many sacrifices for us. They were all about improving our lives so we didn’t have to go through what they did,” says Tyler. “To be the first people in the family to graduate — I don’t think my parents could be more proud. It’s cool to be able to give this to them.”

Families celebrate as Berkeley MBA for Executives toss caps

EMBA 2017 commencements
Dean Lyons with valedictorian John Illia and daughter, Nicole. All photos: Jim Block

The close-knit 2017 Berkeley MBA for Executives class came together for commencement last Saturday, celebrating their achievements and acknowledging the program’s life-changing impact.

About 400 people attended the ceremony for the 68 graduating students at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall.

“The way you have come together as a group, as a team, really, is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Dean Rich Lyons, in his welcoming remarks. “Your class is leaving its mark on our institution, and contributing to the experiences of those who come after you. You set the standard.”

Learning from failure

Commencement keynote speaker Karesha McGee, BCEMBA 12, and head of global corporate communications at Slack, reminded the students that graduation, while an extraordinary achievement, is just a beginning.

Commencement keynote speaker Karesha McGee, BCEMBA 12
Commencement keynote speaker Karesha McGee, BCEMBA 12

McGee shared a story of how being laid off from a job within her first year of graduating from her MBA program taught her to learn from the failure and choose a path of continuous growth.

“By looking inward and reflecting on all of the challenges, but also the strengths that I sharpened here in school, I recognized that my stalk—and that’s S-T-A-L-K—and my roots, my vine, was so much stronger than I had ever imagined,” McGee said.

During the 19-month program the students, who are often well along in their careers, engaged in five field immersions in locations that range from Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C. to Singapore.

Students noted that a classmate’s tragedy brought the group closer together during the program. Members of the EMBA Class of 2017 established the Sanaya Shah Memorial Fund after the passing of Sanaya Shah, the daughter of their fellow classmate Sumit Shah and his wife, Astha Shah. Sanaya was born prematurely and passed away after just 52 days due to complications from prematurity and a rare heart condition.

With 100 percent participation by the class, the record $145,000 raised for the fund will provide seed grants to underrepresented minority students at Haas, or for students starting companies with social impact.

“For 19 months we have struggled together, we have overcome together,” said class president Eli Andrews. “To all of you who have helped shape who we are, to all of you who have taught us, to all of you who have cared so deeply for our development, thank you for helping us to develop the unique value that we have to bring to this world.”

Watch the EMBA commencement video

From ‘they do that’ to ‘I do that”

Class valedictorian John Illia reflected on the diversity of the class, and shared his experience of bonding with classmates who at first seemed to have little more in common than a desire for a master’s degree. “This is a group of people focused on collaboration, not competition,” Illia said. “During this program, I witnessed 68 individuals who approach the world and each other with respect, compassion and empathy. I could not be more proud to be part of this family.”

Maura O'Neill, Cheit Award winner
Distinguished Teaching Fellow and Cheit Award winner Maura O’Neill

Dean Lyons spoke of the transformation students undergo while in the program. “You came in thinking ‘They do that’ and you walk out of this place thinking ‘I do that,’ ” Lyons said. “These transformations are possible because of how and what you’ve learned here about leadership. In short, you’ve become Berkeley Leaders.”

And the awards go to…..

The day’s awards included the Earl F. Cheit Award for excellence in teaching, which Distinguished Teaching Fellow Maura O’Neill received for the third year in a row. O’Neill, the former Chief Innovation Officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development, has organized and led the Washington DC Immersion Week for EMBA students for the past two years.

“She does more than connect people, she invests and takes pride in them,” said Jay Stowsky, Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction.

Jenny Petersen, Tansy Brook, Chijioke Emenike
(L-R) Jenny Petersen, Tansy Brook, & Chijioke Emenike, EMBA 17s

The award for Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) was given to Veselina Dinova for her support in Financial Accounting, one of the first classes the EMBA students take.

The Defining Principles Awards: (presented by Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, and Emma Hayes-Daftary, Director of Academics and Student Experience)

Question the Status Quo and Confidence without Attitude: Tansy Brook.

Students Always: Chien-Hsin Lee.

Beyond Yourself: Sonali Patel.

Fifth Principle Award: Hallie Higbee and valedictorian John Illia.Teddy bears were handout out at the reception

After the ceremony, students celebrated at a reception held at Haas. Dean Lyons capped off the evening with an acoustic guitar performance, and O’Neill toasted the group.

Graduates acknowledged the sacrifice that their partners and, in some cases, their children made during the program, and presented the children with teddy bears and the adults with long stemmed red roses.

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