As an undergraduate, Ibrahim Baldé, BS 20, said he faced many challenges on top of managing a rigorous course load. They included battling imposter syndrome, experiencing microaggressions from peers, and feeling pressured in class to be the spokesperson for his race as he was often the lone Black student.
After speaking with friends and classmates who also identified as Black, Baldé learned that they faced the same hurdles. A 2019 campus-climate report published by UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity, and Inclusion also confirmed Baldé’s experience, which found that many Black students experienced exclusionary behaviors from peers, including being stared at or singled out to represent their race.
Wanting to improve the Black student experience at Berkeley, Baldé co-founded Blackbook University, a website and mobile app that provides educational and professional resources to help Black undergraduate and graduate students navigate their journey at Berkeley. Blackbook’s other co-founders include Nicholas Brathwaite, Chase Ali-Watkins, both BA 20, Nahom Solomon, BA 21, Farhiya Ali and Imran Sekalala, both BA 23.
The app, which launched Nov. 18 and is a revival of a Black student handbook published in the 1980s and 1990s, includes a calendar with extracurricular and career-related events, a student-alumni-faculty directory, a live chat feed for users to interact, and a scholarship and internship database. The website features student profiles and an internship program for students interested in entrepreneurship and tech.
Brathwaite manages product development, Ali and Sekalala handle data analysis and design, Solomon serves as the director of operations, Ali-Watkins is the chief marketing officer, and Baldé is CEO.
The son of an imam, Baldé was instilled with a “beyond yourself” mindset at an early age. Growing up in Alameda, Calif., Baldé knew that he wanted to combine his three passions: social impact work, business, and tech. Once at Haas, Baldé took Haas Lecturer Alex Budak’s leadership class called Becoming a Changemaker.
“That class allowed me to think about my mission and purpose and to understand that leadership isn’t a defined trait,” Baldé said.
Following that class, Baldé began to lay the groundwork for Blackbook University. He teamed up with his co-founders and formed an advisory board of faculty and staff across campus, including Budak, Marco Lindsey, associate director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Haas; Miya Hayes, BA 92, associate director of Campus Partnerships & Engagement; and staff from the African American Student Development Office.
Baldé surveyed about 150 Black Berkeley and Haas students to assess if he had a winning idea. The answer was a resounding yes.
While Slack and GroupMe are useful networking tools, 90% of surveyors reported that it was important to have a tool that was designed for them.
“Students can’t take ownership of Slack and GroupMe, but they can take ownership of Blackbook,” Baldé said.
Successes and challenges
Baldé and his team have had some successes. They participated in UC Berkeley’s Free Ventures pre-seed accelerator, allowing them to test and tweak their business model. They also were one of the Big Ideas Contest grand prize winners, earning $10,000 in prize money.
But they’ve also had some setbacks, including finding the best developer who could deliver the app they envisioned. Another setback was validating their business model to potential investors. Currently, Blackbook is free to download.
“We just tune out the noise,” Baldé says. “We’re driven by our own mission and that is to build community and to make our resources and networks available to Black student communities.”
Despite the hurdles, the team continues to press on. Their goal is to make customized versions of the app for Black student communities at colleges and universities nationwide.
Faculty and staff advisors praise Baldé and his team for creating a sense of belonging on campus.
“I’m inspired by how Ibrahim can readily imagine a better future and then rally the people and resources needed to turn these ideas into reality,” said Budak. “We talked about how one of the greatest acts of changemaking is creating the opportunities for others that we wish we had for ourselves and Ibrahim is doing just that.”
Hayes agreed. “I’m in awe of their innovation–taking both the best and most challenging aspects of their time at Berkeley to create something that sustains and nourishes our sense of belonging,” she said. “They’re giants in their own right.”
The Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program will host a kickoff event Nov. 9 for a new fellowship program aimed at increasing access to business leadership and scholarships for historically underrepresented groups.
The program, launched through a partnership between Haas and the SF/Bay Area chapter of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), includes networking and mentorship, as well as the opportunity to be selected for a $50,000 scholarship. The scholarship award is more than 50% higher than most scholarship awards to students in part-time MBA programs.
The kickoff event, to be held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum from 6-8 p.m., will feature guest speakers Joe Handy, president of the National Black MBA Association; Myisha Robertson, president and CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Black MBA Association; and Élida Bautista, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Haas. A panel discussion with Berkeley Haas alumni and members of the SF Black MBA Association will follow.
“We’re so excited to be partnering with the local chapter of the NBMBAA,” said Jenny Clare, senior associate director of admissions for the Berkeley Haas EWMBA Program. “The Berkeley Haas Equity scholarship will help us to continue to increase the diversity of the applicant pool, and, as a result, increase the diversity of student enrollment in our program.”
As an SF Black MBA Fellow, students will:
Become a member of the SF Bay Area Chapter of the NBMBAA and be assigned a mentor who will provide counsel, connections, and guidance throughout their MBA study.
Join a cohort and community of other fellowship recipients and their mentors in the inaugural class of SF Black MBA Fellows, which will begin in Fall 2022 and extend through their time in the Berkeley Haas EWMBA program and beyond.
Meet regularly with other SF Black MBA Fellows and mentors, network with the SF chapter and Haas leadership, and have exclusive opportunities to connect with Bay Area business leaders.
Be considered for one of the $50,000 Berkeley Haas Equity Scholarships, which will be awarded to SF Black MBA Fellows who exemplify commitment to increasing opportunities and access for underrepresented groups. The number of awards will depend on the applicant pool, and is estimated at two-to-four scholarships of $50,000 each, distributed over three years.
Funding for the new scholarships was provided by Jamie Breen, assistant dean of the school’s MBA Programs for Working Professionals.
“We’ve been thinking about scholarship support to increase the diversity of our working-professional student population for a while, but it’s hard to get these things started,” she said. “I have the capability to do it, so this seemed like a great place to use my philanthropy.”
Interested new applicants should apply for the fellowship at the time they apply to Berkeley Haas, well before the final deadline of May 2, 2022, as fellowships are awarded throughout the admissions cycle, Clare said. (The scholarships are not open to current EWMBA students)
Applicants commuting to campus from outside the Bay Area, or who join the Flex EWMBA cohort, are also welcome to apply to be a SF National Black Fellow.
The fellowship application includes a 250-word essay about how an applicant demonstrated anongoing commitment to increasing opportunity and access to people from racial/ethnic groups who are historically underrepresented in business (specifically Black/African-American, LatinX, and Native/Indigenous communities).
Berkeley Haas has long been an NBMBAA educational partner, and sought to further this relationship with the local chapter, where some Haas alumni are already active.
When Élida Bautista arrived at Berkeley Haas as director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2018, she found a community “ready to do the work and not just pay lip service” to diversity.
Since then, she’s worked alongside that community, building the school’s first five-year DEI strategic plan and creating a culture shift toward one of greater belonging—or, as she puts it, “a place where people can see themselves.” This week, Bautista—who came to Haas after spending 15 years developing programs focused on social justice, diversity, and inclusion for UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry—became the first woman and Chicana/Latina to be named chief DEI officer at Haas.
We spoke toher about her most pressing priorities, how the pandemic impacted her work, and the diversity-related initiatives she plans to work toward over the next five years.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your interim DEI chief role at Haas in the past year?
One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is getting input from the community to implement our DEI strategic plan. Last year, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team started off with listening sessions across Haas.
We wanted to learn what teams were accomplishing, how they were integrating DEI in their work and to give people a space to feel heard. Those listening tours helped us refine and implement a Haas-wide DEI strategic plan and positioned us as thought partners in helping teams carry out their own DEI initiatives.
As we launched, it was important to be transparent with our community. We publicly shared the plan on our website, and shared regular updates about progress on our deliverables on our website, something that had not happened before. That was meaningful to our community because it allows everyone to get involved and to see our progress as well as any delays.
Beyond the DEI plan, what broad initiatives are you working on that dive deeper into DEI?
We are looking to continue creating a DEI culture shift at Haas. But we’re not just thinking about diversity as scholarships and increasing admissions and representation. That’s an important part of it, but we must simultaneously build a place where people can see themselves. We’re thinking about how we get more diverse folks in the door, but also about their experiences once they’re here in the classroom or the workplace.
We must…build a place where people can see themselves.
We are creating a sense of belonging through a variety of offerings, including co-curricular educational and professional development activities, as well as community social events.
We also need to invest in pathways toward making our faculty more diverse. One way we’re doing this is by creating a postdoctoral fellowship through a gift from Allan Holt, MBA 76. Postdocs offer the opportunity to bring scholars into the faculty pipeline who might not otherwise pursue a faculty career at a university where there is a very high level of research activity. We also set aside part of the funds to integrate DEI into the curriculum.
What are your most pressing goals in the new role?
As a chief diversity officer who sits on the management team, my pressing goals are focused on partnering with our associate deans of academic affairs to increase diversity in faculty hiring, support retention and promotion efforts for our underrepresented faculty, and support DEI curricular offerings. At a strategic level, my goal is to support our dean and our senior managers in effectively addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging-related challenges, and collectively continuing to make progress on our strategic plan. Additionally, I will be involved in providing feedback to the chairs of the search committees about the diversity of our faculty candidates. Over time, our postdoctoral fellowship will be an additional source for increasing the diversity of the faculty pool.
How has COVID impacted your job during the pandemic?
COVID magnified a lot of existing disparities and social injustices—everything from who had to keep going to work in-person to who had access to health insurance to treat COVID if they got sick. We also saw a rise in visibility of violence targeting some communities. This increased the sense of vulnerability that needed to be integrated into our team’s offerings and approach.
Initially during the pandemic, a lot of our work was about holding space for community members to reflect, as well as offering managers tips to understand how to support staff who might be having a different experience during this time. We asked: How do we extend empathy at a time when everybody is feeling overwhelmed and stretched?
How does it feel to be back on campus?
Now that we’re back on campus, there’s a renewed sense of connection that we all need. Being back allows people to engage in a more authentic way with each other, which makes my work a little bit easier when we’re talking about learning across differences. Being online made these connections more challenging. For example, if everyone is off camera and one person is talking and nobody’s clapping or smiling or affirming, it’s unclear if your message has resonated with anyone.
What would be a major achievement for Haas in the next five years in DEI?
I think we’re well on our way, but a major achievement would be to make Haas the leader among business schools in reputation regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, based on our robust offerings, the skills our students gain while at Haas, and the type of leaders we produce.
Another major achievement would be to make meaningful gains in the representation of women among our students across degree programs and among our faculty, including more women of color, LGBTQIA+ women, women veterans, and women with disabilities.
Also, as UC Berkeley continues to advance toward becoming a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by 2027, a major achievement would be to align Haas with the recommendations of the HSI task force and position ourselves to serve the needs of Latinx/Chicanx and underrepresented communities on campus.
Om Chitale, MBA 18, has won the school’s first Kellie A. McElhaney Equity Fluent Leadership award for championing diversity and inclusion initiatives at Haas and beyond.
Chitale, the former director of diversity for Berkeley Haas’ Full-time MBA Admissions, received the award at the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership’s “EGALapalooza” diversity celebration last Friday.
The award, named for and funded by EGAL’s founding director Kellie McElhaney, recognizes members of the Haas community who have made significant contributions toward building an inclusive and equitable community at Haas and beyond.
“Om walks through life with a halo of light and love and acceptance and has left a profound impact on our community,” McElhaney said at the event, which brought together about 75 students, faculty, and staff, at Spieker Forum in Chou Hall.
“Om walks through life with a halo of light and love and acceptance and has left a profound impact on our community.” — Kellie McElhaney
While a student at Haas, Chitale and classmate Liz Koenig, MBA 18, co-founded the student-led class called Dialogues on Race. He also led the charge to create EGAL’s first Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition. After graduation, he founded startup Teachers of Oakland, with the aim of sharing first-person stories from the city’s public school teachers to social media. He later joined the full-time MBA Admissions’ team as its first director of diversity.
McElhaney noted that Chitale was “a real thought partner” who encouraged cross-campus collaboration between students, faculty, and staff on DEI initiatives.
“It’s incredible to be part of this [Haas] community with people who are pushing the envelope, questioning the status quo, and taking action,” said Chitale, who recently left Haas to serve as LinkedIn’s senior program manager of Inclusion Recruiting Partnerships. “This work [DEI] has ripples of impact and so I encourage everyone to continue to take action,” he said.
Other notable EGALapalooza guest speakers and performers included Derek Brown, PhD 23; Ashley Rabinek, director of merchandising at Old Navy; Verse Gabrielle, associate director of full-time MBA Admissions; and singer and songwriter Dominique Gomez.
Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we spoke with Adilene Dominguez, EWMBA 24, who’s determined to create a new business model that will provide equitable health care to everyone, regardless of economic status. She shares her story below.
Growing up in Waukegan, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago, I lived in a world with many blessings. My parents weren’t millionaires, they were migrant workers who worked 80 hours a week. But the opportunities afforded to us–access to public schools, tutors, health insurance, the ability to find work–were privileges that many Latinos in my community, including my extended family members, did not have.
I began to notice inequities, specifically in healthcare, when I was about five years old. I often accompanied friends and family whenever they needed to see the doctor. They spoke little English, so I translated on their behalf. I noticed that they’d have to stand in line for hours at the local clinic to get medical treatment, whereas if I needed medical care, my parents would take me to a hospital because I had health insurance. It just didn’t seem fair to me that our friends and family couldn’t get the same quality health care as I did.
Observing those disparities early on, coupled with a natural aptitude for science and math, led me to Beloit College where I joined the pre-med program. As a pre-med student, I interned with doctors and volunteered at hospitals, but quickly realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor. I thought that I’d have a greater impact if I could find a way to bring equitable health care to my community.
After college, I landed at Becton Dickinson (BD), a medical device company, working as a research and development (R&D) technician. I moved up the ranks from a technician to a scientist and eventually transitioned from R&D to global marketing and strategy.
I also lead the Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA) at BD. Through my work with HOLA, I help raise awareness within my industry about health disparities that impact the Latino community. When the pandemic hit, access to testing was limited, especially in Latino communities in California, Arizona, and Texas. I, along with marketers across eight HOLA chapters, decided to advocate for the distribution of Veritor, a rapid antigen test that can detect the COVID-19 virus, to health clinics servicing Latino communities. Through our efforts, we helped the Family Health Center of San Diego, which provides care to more than 215,000 patients a year, 91% of whom are considered low-income and 29% are uninsured.
It’s been gratifying to help my Latino community as it’s been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But I need to do more. The pandemic magnified health disparities that have long existed in Black and Brown communities. Whenever there’s a hurricane, earthquake, or any natural disaster, health care seems to be the primary resource that’s out of reach for these communities.
The pandemic magnified health disparities that have long existed in Black and Brown communities.
That’s why I’m at Haas. I want to acquire the skills needed to disrupt the healthcare system in the U.S. I want to design a profitable business model that will provide equitable health care for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.
What does disruption look like? It’s putting the patient first and profit last. Currently, the way healthcare works in the U.S. is that whoever or whichever entity has the most influence or paying power gets access to the best medical supplies. Typically government contracts are fulfilled first. Thereafter, private institutions and public institutions get priority, and community health centers are served last.
But what if we flipped the funnel? If we help community clinics first, which serve people like farmers and hourly-wage workers–the people who are growing our food and working at grocery stores and other service industries–we can prevent the spread of any disease.
For too long, our approach to providing health care has come from the top down, when we really need to flip the funnel and think about the process much differently. We can’t keep doing business as usual when there are hundreds of people filling up the emergency room because they don’t have access to COVID-19 testing or vaccines.
Creating a new business model for the healthcare system is a lofty goal. But someone has to do it, so why not me?
Creating a new business model for the healthcare system is a lofty goal. But someone has to do it, so why not me?
I know that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself, but it’s my responsibility to help my community. That philosophy has been ingrained in me since I was a little girl. My family, who migrated from Tonatico, Mexico, made enormous sacrifices so that my siblings and I could have a better life. So I must move forward and be a role model for younger generations. If I don’t help my community, who will?
The Berkeley Haas Diversity Symposium this month will bring together prospective students, and—for the first time—alumni and the Haas community for a weekend of events featuring top industry speakers and showcasing the school’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
The annual symposium will be held virtually this year over three half-days from Friday, Oct. 22 to Sunday Oct. 24. Organizers, including Berkeley Haas Alumni Relations and the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, in partnership with MBA Admissions, expect about 600 prospective students and 200 alumni to join. While the symposium has traditionally been an event for prospective students, a special morning of programming on Friday is also geared toward alumni and the the Haas community for the first time.
“We’ve expanded the symposium to make it a signature event for Haas that showcases the school’s DEI strategy and highlights areas where Haas is leading the way,” said Liz Rosenberg, director of Alumni Engagement & Leadership Development at Haas.
The program on Friday, Oct. 21 includes:
A talk on the state of DEI at Berkeley Haas with Interim Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer Élida Bautista.
A keynote conversation with Rosanna Durruthy, vice president of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at LinkedIn. “For over 35 years, Rosanna Durruthy has advocated for a more inclusive corporate America as an openly queer leader,” Business Insiderwrote of Durruthy. “Now, as LinkedIn’s head of diversity, she’s clearing the path for other LGBTQ professionals.”
A discussion addressing “Business as a Catalyst for Social Change,” featuring alumni thought leaders including Rachel Williams, BA 97, head of equity, inclusion & diversity at X, the moonshot factory; Marcus Chung, MBA 04 and vice president of manufacturing & supply chain at ThirdLove; Elisse Douglass, MBA 16, co-founder of the Oakland Black Business Fund;
and Robert Chatwani, EWMBA 07, CMO of Atlassian. (Hector Preciado, MBA 11, will moderate)
On Saturday, Oct. 22, Dean Ann Harrison will welcome prospective students. Other highlights include tips from admissions officers, an interactive discussion on “crafting your authentic story” with Doy Charnsupharindr, a member of the Continuing Professional Faculty at Haas, and information on financing an MBA.
On Sunday, sessions include a networking event for prospective students, a mock class with Kimberly MacPherson, executive director of the Graduate Program in Health Management at Haas, and an overview followed by a Q&A with the Haas Career Management Group (CMG).
Berkeley Haas is rolling out core curriculum changes designed to prepare MBA students for a fast-changing workplace by equipping them with enhanced communication skills and deeper data knowledge.
The refreshed curriculum includes additional training in business communications and persuasion skills, doubles coursework in statistics and data analytics, and creates a new course, perhaps the first required core business class in the U.S., on leading diverse teams. The new courses will be rolled out in the full-time MBA program during the 2021-22 academic year.
An eight-member faculty task force worked throughout the pandemic to rethink the MBA core experience. The faculty in April unanimously approved the task force’s recommendations.
“I am so proud of the hard work that our faculty-led team put into these transformative core curriculum changes,” said Dean Ann Harrison, who created the core committee, which was led by co-chairs Prof. Ross Levine and Assoc. Prof. Dana R.Carney. “We are rolling out innovative courses that will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions.”
Three new courses
The MBA core consists of 14 required courses that form the fundamental building blocks of a general management education. The classes are designed to build on each other, providing students with the analytical tools and knowledge required to manage complex managerial problems–skills every employer expects from an MBA.
The MBA core consists of 14 required courses that form the fundamental building blocks of a general management education.
The three courses added to the core include:
Data Analytics will provide more extensive training in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and related approaches to using big data for decision making. The course is a companion to the existing Data and Decisionsstatistical analysis course.
Data-Driven Presentations: Making the Business Case will better prepare students to make persuasive arguments using data and narrative. It builds on the knowledge and experience developed in the courses Data and Decisions and Leadership Communication.
Business Communication in Diverse Work Environments will help students navigate diverse settings more effectively to improve their ability to create, work within, and lead diverse teams and global organizations. It also develops critical thinking on topics such as identity, relationships across differences, bias, and equality of opportunity in organizations.
Levine said he was proud of the group’s camaraderie and collaboration and the transparency of the process.
“It’s very important for any type of program to re-evaluate, reassess, renew, modernize, and make things as relevant and useful for students as possible,” said Levine, the Willis H. Booth Chair in Banking and Finance. “We worked very hard to make some changes that would help our students achieve their professional ambitions.”
Jay Stowsky, who served as Senior Assistant Dean of Instruction for the past 13 years, added that the curriculum changes will make it easier for faculty “to address, with relevance to each of their courses and academic disciplines, the broader social impacts of business.”
Copious research enabled the task force to have full confidence in the proposed core changes, said Carney, a psychologist who studies racial bias and is the director of the Institute of Personality and Social Research at UC Berkeley. “We knew that we had to have a lot of data to guide and substantiate the changes the data suggested we make; we made sure the data we collectedwere unimpeachable,” she said.
As part of this research, the task force members sought extensive feedback from different groups before making its recommendations. They met with tenure-track and teaching faculty and current students and separately with MBA students active in the Race Inclusion Initiative (RII) and the Gender Equity Initiative (GEI) at Haas.
“We knew that we had to have a lot of data to guide and substantiate the changes the data suggested we make.” – Assoc. Prof. Dana Carney.
The task force also worked closely with the Haas Board and the Career Management Group (CMG), which developed a survey of recent alumni and collected data from corporate recruiters on the skills they seek when hiring. Early in the process, two clear areas in the existing curriculum emerged that would need a fresh and upgraded experience—interacting with people and interacting with data, Carney said.
Jenn Bridge, senior director of employer engagement & industry readiness at Haas, said her team’s interviews with recruiters and alumni surveys aligned with findings in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, confirming the demand for strong data and people-centered skills.
“Being nimble as a leader and managing people through change are skills that are highly desired,” she said. “The pandemic has accelerated all of this.”
Learn by doing
One of the ways the task force made room in students’ schedules for the new core courses was to to shift the decade-old Fundamentals of Design Thinking course from the core to an elective.
Haas pioneered teaching design thinking as part of an MBA core refresh in 2010. Since then, design thinking has become a standard approach to problem solving, woven throughout the curriculum, especially in the required project-based Applied Innovation electives. MBA students will continue to “learn by doing” through design thinking and other decision-making approaches, Stowsky said.
The part-time MBA programs are considering the core refresh in light of the needs of their students. In the Evening & Weekend MBA program, the Business Communications in Diverse Environments core course will be added to the core and become the capstone course, while the two new data-focused courses will offered as electives. Implementation in the MBA for Executives program is under discussion with the EMBA Academic Program Committee.
Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
Born and raised in Chicago’s South Side, Verse Gabrielle is an associate director for the full-time MBA admissions program at Haas. Gabrielle, who uses “shey, sheir, shem,” pronouns that are preferred by some nonbinary and trans people, is also a poet, a playwright, a wife, and mom to four-year-old daughter Lyric Assata. In this Haas Voices interview, Gabrielle talks about growing up, being queer, and the healing power of intellectual curiosity and the spoken word.
I knew from as early as six years old that I was queer. But queerness was not celebrated in my family. I enjoyed having male friends and playing sports with boys my age, but I was never interested in the male gaze. I despised wearing dresses, playing with Barbie dolls, and never considered myself overly feminine, which was met with a lot of disdain. When I was a freshman in high school, I told a family member that I liked girls. I was advised to keep the secret and not to disclose it to anyone. So I did. I suppressed my queerness until I deemed it safe to come out. Unfortunately, I was forced back into the closet until I turned 18.
Book smarts and intellectual curiosity are what saved me.
I graduated as valedictorian of my elementary school. Instead of attending my neighborhood high school, I went to De La Salle Institute-Lourdes Campus (DLS), one of the top private schools in Chicago. After completing my freshman year, I transferred into the honors program at DLS. I was ranked #6 in my class, graduating with a 4.667 G.P.A.
In my senior year of high school, I applied for and was awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship.I felt like I had secured my financial future and could leave behind all the drama. I decided to go to the University of Minnesota, where for the first time in my life, I could be my authentic self. I started dating women, joined the LGBT student union. It was freeing.
While my intellect saved me, my spoken word helped heal me. I started writing poetry when I was about 10 years old, performing at talent shows and school assemblies, but it wasn’t until the summer before I went to college that I started performing at open mics in Chicago.
In college, I joined a student club called Voices Merging and later established the group Poetic Assassins. We’d travel and perform at different universities and colleges around the U.S. My poetry spans topics of internalized homophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny, the prison industrial complex, and gender roles.
Spoken word was my therapy: it helped me escape and process all the trauma I endured in Chicago. That’s where I let out all of the anger, rage, and pain. It also opened many doors for me. My poetry has been published in a few anthologies, including “When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwestern Experience.” I’ve also written and collaborated on a spoken-word play, and facilitated poetry workshops focused on the intersectionality of race, class, and gender through a hood-feminist lens (i.e. Black feminist critique of traditional feminism).
I’ve been called dyke, bulldagger, male-woman, he-she, and chi chi man, which was hurled at me as I walked the streets of Kingston, Jamaica.
My artistry allowed me to move and operate in different spaces, but it didn’t shield me from bigotry, homophobia, and microaggressions on and off campus. I remember going to a rally almost every other weekend to protest against police brutality and crimes against Black and Brown people. I’d go to these protests to show solidarity because I am Black and I’m absorbing the pain like everyone else, but I’d also face homophobia from members of the Black community because my physical appearance and queerness didn’t fit the mold of what an “ideal Black woman” looks like. I’ve been called dyke, bulldagger, male-woman, he-she, and chi chi man (which was hurled at me as I walked the streets of Kingston, Jamaica).
Being queer and masculine-presenting has affected my relationship with straight men and women. I get weird looks and sometimes I’m questioned when I enter the female restroom, which is where I am most comfortable. I have had verbal altercations with men who’ve had issues with how I express my queerness being masculine-presenting. I’ve also had women express their discomfort with my presence in professional and communal spaces because they feared I was romantically interested in them.
I have many identities, however the core of my identity is my unapologetic Blackness: Black Buddhist, Black mother, Black queer, Black wife, Black woman, and so on. I am proud of my heritage and culture. I embody the beauty and duality of masculine and feminine traits without denying either. I demand the world see me the way I want to be seen. As a result, my identities have evolved from strikes against me to badges of honor that I wear proudly. To walk this earth against society’s expectations of what womanhood looks like is revolutionary.
As parents to a four-year-old daughter, my wife, Dominique, and I strive to be the best parents. We have taken parenting classes and joined groups to prepare and round out our parenting techniques. It’s important for us to not only model Black queer love, good communication, and healing, but also to support and celebrate our daughter’s Blackness, femininity, intellectual curiosity, athleticism, and spunk. We support our daughter, Lyric Assata, in everything she does. We take the time to listen to her and truly understand her love languages. Dominique and I are just two Black queer womyn who’ve shared their visions and created the family we always wanted to have—and that’s revolutionary.
I’ve had an amazing experience since joining Haas in 2019. By far, Haas has been one of the best communities that I’ve joined. As a Black queer woman, I feel heard, my identities are celebrated, and I’m part of a diverse staff who support me. My colleagues and I regularly participate in Courageous Conversations where we discuss difficult topics like race, gender, and class. It’s rare to find a work environment where I can be my authentic self and I think much of that has to do with Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs). Students Always is my favorite DLP because I’m an intellectual at heart and will forever be a student.
Now that I have transitioned from an admissions manager to an associate director, I feel like I have a seat at the table, I can make admissions decisions, and I can serve as a support system to all of our students, especially those who have similar backgrounds to me. When I was applying to college and graduate school, there was neither a blueprint nor a support system for me; I had to figure out everything on my own. But now, I can be of service to others.
As commencement approaches, we’re interviewing students from different Haas programs about their experiences at Berkeley Haas and where they plan to go next.
Undergraduate Juan Alba, BS 21, is the star of the YouTube channelThe Juan and Only, where he dishes about everything from how he got into Berkeley to his experiences interning at Warner Brothers in LA. He’ll start working at Google in July.
Tell us a bit about your background and your path to Berkeley?
I immigrated from Colombia to the United States when I was 10 years old with my mom. It was hard learning English and adjusting to this new culture since I didn’t have a community or a network of people to fall back on. There are few Colombians in the Sacramento area and that was something that motivated me to go above and beyond to make a difference in my community. I turned to food as a way for me to feel in touch with my culture and I came to Cal with the mistaken understanding that I could only enter the food industry through nutrition. So I was in the pre-med track my first year.
What made you decide to switch to business?
I became interested in business after realizing in my organic chemistry laboratory that I longed for a more collaborative environment where I could help people on a greater scale.
You’re a big supporter of mentorship, and you mentor students at Cal who are interested in Haas. You also launched your YouTube channel, where you talk about what it’s like at UC Berkeley for Latinos. Why is mentorship so important to you?
There are so many underrepresented minorities who come to Cal with dreams like mine.
I started my channel because when you look on YouTube for videos about UC Berkeley, you don’t see a lot of Latinos. I wanted to show a different face of diversity. I wanted to set an example that you can be successful, you can thrive, you can make friends, and that was the initial mission of my channel, The Juan and Only.
People mentored me when I was applying to Haas and I’ve helped over a dozen peers through the process since then. I am a teacher at heart and I find immense value in sharing my knowledge with peers, especially when they support others in the future. In the Becoming Business Leaders DeCal course that I co-teach at Haas, I make it my mission to get to know my students outside of lecture and share my insights to help propel their goals.
The question of identity is a struggle that a lot of people have, especially a lot of Latinos, and it’s hard to understand if you’re not from the culture. When I go to Colombia, I’m always a little different from everyone else because I do not live there. And here in the U.S., I’m from Colombia. But I’ve come to understand that I’m myself. I’m the Juan and Only, and I don’t have to be either Colombian or American. I can be both. That’s a lesson that I always share with my mentees—the importance of not comparing yourself with anyone else. And I really find that my work is valuable because I can connect with many people through my diverse perspectives.
What are some of the skills you learned at Haas that have made a difference in how you see the world?
For me, the most impactful classes were in leadership, personal development, and communications—the soft skills that really make you as a person stand out. My favorite class was Leadership and Personal Development with Cort Worthington. That class has been critical to my professional development. It really teaches you to dig deep into your past and understand yourself in order to move forward and be a better leader.
I want to emphasize how meaningful Haas has been for me. The ability to feel a personal connection with my professors is something that I could not have received anywhere else. I’m so incredibly thankful. I say I’m graduating from UC Berkeley Haas, not just UC Berkeley, because Haas has such a special place in my heart. I feel like Haas really helped empower me in finding my own voice.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I feel like I’m in a good place. I’m going to be working at Google as an associate account strategist. I want to learn more about the tech space in a big organization before I start my own social enterprise business in the future.
What I really love about this position at Google is that it’s about doing my best to help small businesses grow. Like these restaurants in Berkeley that have faced difficulties with COVID-19—in doing my job, I can help them boost their sales and support them to stay open. Having ideas that create a positive impact is very important to me, and that’s why I’m very excited for my future projects to come.
Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
More than 60 Haas staffers signed up for a recent Anti-Racism Challenge that addressed everything from anti-Black racism on campus to the Black Trans Lives Matter movement, to the cost of racism and redlining in the housing industry, to the do’s and don’t for discussing racism at work.
We talked with Susie Jordan, who joined UC Berkeley in 2000 as a library supervisor and is now a project manager with strategy and operations at Haas, Seren Pendleton-Knoll, associate director of the Center for Responsible Business, and Tyrone Wise, associate director of Student Experience for the Full-time MBA Program, who helped lead the challenge.
What motivated you to do the challenge?
Susie Jordan: I’m interested in continually learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion and enjoy structured content to guide conversations. I’ve participated in many sessions on and off campus, and appreciated the structure and engagement with fellow staff members. That said, I was excited to participate and explore this challenge among Haas colleagues. Seren Pendleton-Knoll: This past summer of racial reckoning really made us rethink everything we’re doing at the Center for Responsible Business. We had larger discussions about how we were thinking about everything, including how we set up contracts with companies and donors, to how we onboard new employees as well as our student workers. We asked how are we infusing these anti-racist practices into our work streams? How can we continue to uplift voices who typically aren’t brought to the table?
I saw the anti-racism challenge as a great opportunity to make sure what we were starting to develop was aligned with best practices in the space. Second, I am such a fan of the team that organized this (Marco Lindsey, Tyrone Wise, Armaan Singh, and David Moren) so any time I get the opportunity to engage with them and their content and expertise, I jump at the chance. Personally, I’m kind of a squeaky wheel around DEI efforts and saw this as an opportunity to have really deep conversations that aren’t around direct work streams. We all learned so much from each other.
Tyrone Wise:My motivation to co-facilitate was rooted in my passion to create the Haas campus I want to see. Being able to share my experiences and learnings with my colleagues and watch them evolve and be students always and question the status quo–two our Defining Leadership Principles–brought me great joy. This challenge has reaffirmed why I love Haas. Seeing so many of our leaders further develop their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging lens and allow themselves to be vulnerable and share personal insights and experiences was amazing to witness.
Did you learn anything new about yourself during the course? Did it change your perspective on anything?
Susie Jordan: Definitely. In the big picture, I learned more about the impact of racism on our society and how it has shaped our thoughts and actions, both consciously and unconsciously. The work is not something that you ever complete. It’s a constant vigilance or awareness that these thoughts arise. Then, you need to understand how you respond to them and what actions you take.
Seren Pendleton-Knoll: The biggest thing for me was defining what we talk about when we talk about racism—and when we’re having these conversations, the importance of having a shared definition. A lot of the times in conversations you may have two different definitions of what racism is and who is a racist and what a systemic racist society looks like. And that’s where so many contentious arguments happen. We need to take a step back and say: What are we defining as racism? What does that mean? And then once you have that, it’s “okay, let’s agree on this.” Then you’re able to have more of those impactful conversations. That was a really big takeaway for me. I had not ever thought to assume that someone had a different definition of what it was.
Tyrone Wise: I learned how to better show up for my colleagues and students during difficult times. Having many colleagues share their experiences helped me understand different perspectives that I can use to better understand how to show up in different situations.
How did the training challenge change you personally?
Seren: It taught me to maintain openness and awareness of what privilege and bias are in any given situation; making sure that my work to fight this is active. It’s not only a state of mind, but it needs to be an active part of life. Being a nice white person isn’t good enough. This necessitates constant action and vigilance, and it’s an ongoing practice.
At work, it also made me take a look at how important it is to be mindful that experiences that are happening in the world impact how people show up in the workplace. Something like asking “How was your weekend?” is a normal part of conversation during a team check-in but it might not be right now. For certain staff members, that’s not a pleasant conversation when there’s another police shooting that’s obviously all over the news. We might want to shift and say something like: “On a scale of one to five, where are you at today?” Now, when there are all these acts of violence against Asian communities as well, we need to ask how we’re acknowledging that on our teams that have Asian staff members and how we are talking about that. And what does that mean for work performance, showing up at work, and how do you handle team dynamics?
What are some of the things that you learned about changing the behavior of others?
Susie: It starts with acknowledging our own racist thoughts and actions. Then, having the courage to name what we see and compassionately calling people into a conversation when we see or hear something that doesn’t feel right. Also, using our positional power or privilege to advocate for or introduce changes. There’s so much great research out there that points toward best practices. But there needs to be a willingness for us to do the work, even if it means that our processes might be less efficient during say, a job search that might take longer, or committees might be slower moving because you have to make sure that the right people are in the room. These are the important steps that actually help make change.
Haas Voices is a new first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
The myth of the “model minority” stereotypes Asian Americans as a polite, law-abiding, hard-working group that’s overcome discrimination to achieve educational and career success through drive and innate talent—typically in math and science.
The myth defies the fact that the Asian American community is diverse socioeconomically and culturally. The perception of the Asian community as a monolith is also the reason why people remain mystified by anti-Asian racism, says UC Berkeley alumna Hua Hsu, who wrote in the New Yorker recently that the “needs and disadvantages of refugee communities and poor Asian Americans have been obscured.”
Recently, several high-profile incidents of violence against Asians have shone a spotlight on long-simmering anti-Asian racism, and also highlighted the way the “model minority” myth has been used as a wedge between Black and Asian communities. We talked to two undergraduate students who are Chinese American, along with a recent undergraduate alumna who is Black, about what the myth means to them and how it impacts their lives.
Mia Character, BS 20, a native of Gretna, Louisiana, grew up in Redlands, Calif. She is now a recruiting coordinator at Robinhood via contract with AppleOne.
When did you first hear the term “model minority?”
Erinn Wong: I first heard the term back in high school. I thought it meant to stereotype Asians as hardworking, good at math and education—that somehow we work hard and we succeed and it was very much aligned with the meritocracy myth. I really bought into that and internalized it growing up, believing that if you work hard, you’ll be successful. It wasn’t until college that I was able to put two and two together and recognize that these stereotypes are rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy to show that Asian Americans are the “model minority” and to situate Black Americans as the “problem minority.”
Mia Character: It was probably when I first moved to California from the South that I was first introduced to Asian people and to the stereotypes. I don’t think anyone within my inner circle or family perpetuated these stereotypes, but I did hear them in the media or at school with jokes the kids at school would tell. From early on, I always thought of Asian American students not as competition, but as the ones to emulate because they were really good in their classes and played all these instruments and seem to have it all together. It wasn’t until I got to Cal that I really started paying attention to and listening to other Asian American folks that I learned how dangerous the model minority myth is.
It wasn’t until college that I was able to put two and two together and recognize that these stereotypes are rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy to show that Asian Americans are the “model minority” and to situate Black Americans as the “problem minority.” — Erinn Wong, BS 21
Vivian Feng: I’ve been aware of it for so long, but I didn’t really put a name to it. When I first heard it, I just thought of the stereotypical views of how Asians are better at math and internalized the belief that if I worked hard enough, I would be able to achieve success. But I never really talked about it until high school, when I fully embraced my identity.
How did your thoughts about the model minority change once you got to Berkeley?
Mia: I think it wasn’t until I got to Cal that I realized that the model minority myth impacts the Asian-American communities a lot more than just a simple “Oh, you’re good at math.” It’s a socioeconomic issue and it’s very systemic. At Cal, I started listening and paying attention and I was able to learn and grow in my understanding. There are groups within the Asian-American community that are disproportionately impacted by things like colorism that I didn’t know about in high school. Everybody has a different experience in America and all minorities face different stereotypes. I think my time at Cal has made me a lot more comfortable having conversations with my Asian friends and asking how they’re doing and how they have been impacted by racism and the systems of oppression that America is built on.
Vivian: It affected me mentally before even going into Berkeley because I felt like I had to go to Cal to meet expectations. In the end I chose Berkeley because it was the only college that I applied to with a major that lined up with my interests of international development, cross-cultural experiences, and traveling. When I got my acceptance letter, I had some doubts, but I ultimately felt this need to pursue my passion. Being at Haas as a freshman is even more drastically different because most people typically get in their junior year. You have this imposter syndrome. People internalize the model minority myth and say, “You got in, you’re smart. You can get through it, you’ll pass your classes.” But in reality, I don’t feel like that because I am a first-generation college student who went to an under-resourced high school. I do not feel prepared, and I’m literally in a system that wasn’t necessarily designed for me to succeed.
People internalize the model minority myth and say, “You got in, you’re smart. You can get through it, you’ll pass your classes.” But in reality, I don’t feel like that because I am a first-generation college student who went to an under-resourced high school.— Vivian Feng, BS 24
Erinn: Coming to Cal was my first time experiencing being with a larger East Asian population in school. I feel like people lump all Asian Americans together. I went to high school with, and was classmates with, many Hmong students, who are severely underrepresented in higher education and other areas, not to mention Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians. The model minority myth is really destructive. My classmates who were Hmong would either go to community college or work to support their families or go into the military and a few would go to a state college.
I also learned here at Berkeley that the identity and label “Asian American” had radical roots. It was coined by graduate students Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee, who formed the Asian American Political Alliance in 1968 at UC Berkeley to bring together Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese students to stand in solidarity. They fought for the self determination and collective liberation of Asian Americans and Third World Peoples, and in the Third World Liberation Front strikes, which led to establishing Ethnic Studies majors at colleges across the U.S. Asian American was a radical label then because it brought together a multi-ethnic, multi-class, and multi-generational coalition of Asians and shifted away from the “Oriental” label. To call yourself an Asian American at the time was a political statement. It’s wild now that Asian American has lost its radical, political roots because of the way it has been wielded by the white mainstream and model minority myth, and then internalized by all of us, to homogenize, invalidate, and erase our struggles and solidarity with each other and other communities of color.
How does the model minority myth hurt you personally?
Vivian: I’m told I’m too aggressive, but I don’t like being quiet when I feel the urge to speak up. I wasn’t engaged politically when I was younger because I had this perception that politics was only for white people. It was just ingrained into my life. Growing up, whenever I brought up politics with my mom, my thoughts were dismissed. It felt like I was talking to a wall. Eventually, I realized that my mom’s lack of political engagement is because of her lack of education while being in survival mode. Many East and Southeast Asians in my community have to worry about their basic necessities before even thinking about studying. As I became more knowledgeable about the model minority myth, I was always told that I was “too political” among my peers.
However, this fueled my desire to stop being a bystander and conforming to societal standards. Our reality is that the model minority myth hurts everyone as it perpetuates white supremacy.
Erinn: I got feedback at two tech corporate internships that I needed to be more confident, even though I thought the way I presented myself was fine, despite struggling with imposter syndrome and confidence at times. At the same time, in other spaces I’d get feedback that I was too strong and too aggressive, something East Asian women face. You’re expected to be submissive, not speak up, and just do what you’re expected to do. And when you do speak up and contribute, you’re seen as too strong, aggressive, bossy, a bitch. It’s the long-standing East Asian stereotypes of East Asian women being docile and exotic, while also being the dragon lady or tiger mom. The term also impacts how much space I take up, because as an East Asian woman, I’m expected to not take up space. The model minority myth compounds that by making me think, “Oh, maybe my struggles are not as marginalized as another person of color and I cannot take up as much space.”
You’re expected to be submissive, not speak up, and just do what you’re expected to do. And when you do speak up and contribute, you’re seen as too strong, aggressive, bossy, a bitch. — Erinn Wong
I’ve heard both East and South Asians say ‘we’re not really people of color,’ which is not true. I think it’s the model minority myth that creates this feeling that we’re not “POC enough.” But something that helped was what Haas alumna Michelle Kim said to me: that we need to think of ourselves as co-strugglers with Black people and other people of color, not as perpetual allies because that’s a white model of allyship. And when I really sat with that and made the connections to how the model minority myth makes me feel shame and guilt for “taking up space,” I saw how it’s white supremacy that makes me feel like I can’t take up space alongside other people of color because white supremacy creates and thrives from scarcity, that there is only enough space for one marginalized group to share their struggles and to thrive.
Mia: As a Black person growing up in a state with a fairly large Asian American population, the model minority myth had an adverse impact on me. It was created to pit Asian American and Black people against one another by saying, “if Asian people can thrive in America and be exceptional and thrive in their roles in our capitalistic society, then Black people should have been able to do it, too.” But if you take a step back and look at the different histories, they aren’t comparable. They don’t need to be compared and contrasted because we faced different kinds of oppression that all stem from white supremacy. Growing up and not understanding this, it was easy to feel like you have to be just as “perfect” to be worthy of respect. That you have to get the best grades, be a part of multiple clubs, and go to the best universities to prove that as a Black person you are worthy.
Growing up and not understanding this, it was easy to feel like you have to be just as “perfect” to be worthy of respect. That you have to get the best grades, be a part of multiple clubs, and go to the best universities to prove that as a Black person you are worthy.—Mia Character, BS 20
How do you think that the model minority myth hurts your community?
Erinn: The model minority myth has real impacts on the Asian community. For example, in tech, East and South Asians are overrepresented in certain departments. But as a whole, we don’t hold a lot of power, which is another reminder that under/overrepresentation is different from marginalization. We are least likely to be promoted to management, and there’s still a “bamboo ceiling.” This can be attributed to people internalizing the model minority and stereotypes of how we’re supposed to just shut up and work hard, or that somehow we don’t have “leadership potential and qualities,” communication skills, or “executive presence.” Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are severely underrepresented in tech, and data on Asians is rarely disaggregated.
Beyond tech, Southeast Asians are systemically impacted by deportation, ICE raids, and poverty, Chinatown neighborhoods and Asian-owned businesses have been struggling in this pandemic, and Filipino nurses, Pacific-Islanders, and Native Hawaiians have had some of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates. The model minority myth ignores our struggles and our communities lack sufficient resources and attention. And I learned last year that less than 1% of philanthropic funding goes to Asian American Pacific Islander causes, which proves the model minority myth is at work again.
What are your thoughts about how the myth is connected to the recent anti-Asian violence?
Mia: This was happening long before Trump, but violence against Asians is never talked about. In some ways I think that’s also part of the model minority myth. We’re taught that because Asian Americans are the “model minority,” they can’t face racism and the violence that comes with it.
Vivian: It’s nothing new. Historically, many fail to recognize xenophobic practices, such as The Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, as well as the murder of Vincent Chin. Asians are never really talked about in our history classes, and if it is, it’s always about East Asians from a divisive Eurocentric perspective. Now, the main difference is that anti-Asian violence is captured on camera and that more people are open to talking about it in the younger generation. Social media has changed everything in the way we approach politics. The elderly, especially Asians, are either scared or there’s a language barrier and they won’t report the incidents. And at least in Oakland, the violence has happened for as long as I can remember. I know so many people who have been affected by the violence before the pandemic and it’s a shame that it wasn’t recognized until now.
We’re celebrating Black History Month with words and images of members of our Black community. We asked students and staff what the unique history and achievements of the Black community mean to them, and why taking time to honor the month is so important. Photo illustrations and interviews by Natasha Payés.
David Brown-Dawson, MBA 21, former VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, FTMBA Association
“Black History Month is a time to reflect on the past, assess the present, and plan for the future. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on accomplishments and progress made and the pain endured by Black Americans who came before us. Many times these accomplishments and atrocities were left out of history books.
It’s a great opportunity to reflect on accomplishments and progress made and the pain endured by Black Americans who came before us. Many times these accomplishments and atrocities were left out of history books. —David Brown-Dawson, MBA 21
It’s great to see examples of Black Americans excelling in their respective areas. It’s also an opportunity to see the work being done currently by Black Americans and look inward to identify the actions I am taking to leave a legacy for those who come after me. Lastly, it is an opportunity to identify, discuss, and address the root problems which led to our country needing Black History Month, while ensuring that textbooks reflect both the beauty and accurate history of this country.”
Cheukai Makari, BS 22, Vice President of Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association (HUBBA)
“Black History Month represents a time of learning, remembering, and celebrating. Every year, I’m reminded that there is so much to be proud of, yet so much to work toward. I’m reminded of the sheer greatness we hold within ourselves to make our own mark on future Black History Months. I’m reminded of the power of community, especially on this campus, as revolutionary students find ways to come together and uplift each other. This month allows us to look at where we are and acknowledge, highlight, and celebrate the people who paved the way.”
D’Juan Wilcher, EMBA 22
“Black History Month reminds me to forge a path and create a legacy for future generations. It’s never lost on me that I’m the product of resilience and unyielding ambition. It’s not lost on me that I carry the great privilege and responsibility to be a shining example of excellence and humanity for my children and their children.
Black History Month means possibility. Every day of the month, I’m reminded and enlightened about the unimaginable accomplishments of those who came before me. I beam with pride knowing the same imaginative spirit and fortitude courses through my veins.
Black History Month means unity and education. As Dr. King said, ‘All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.’ This is one month of the year in which most people are willing to accept and learn about the endless contributions Black people have made to our society.
Black History Month means unity and education…This is one month of the year in which most people are willing to accept and learn about the endless contributions Black people have made to our society. —D’Juan Wilcher, EMBA 23
Black History Month means everything to me.”
Tiffany Shumate, EWMBA 23
“Black History Month has changed in meaning for me over the years. Before, I saw it as an opportunity to showcase Black Americans’ past contributions to the country. There would be talks about DuBois, Madam CJ Walker, Douglass, Tubman, and all the ancestors we honor today. Their experiences, though related, seemed disconnected from my Black life in America. Though the message was always relevant—Black Lives Matter—I had difficulty relating the stories to my life today.
In 2018, things shifted. I began to hear the word ‘Afrofuturism‘ to describe Black joy and the possibility of what it means to imagine our community today and 100 years from today. Afrofuturism is more expansive. It connects Black people across the African diaspora and focuses on uplifting a Black identity that exists on its own—instead of in opposition to whiteness.
Before this, BHM felt like an ode to the past—a reminder of a painful history Black Americans have endured. I like to call it Black Futures Month now, because it flips the frame. I honor our ancestors and use their learnings to build for future generations. My Afrofuturist perspective is inherently rooted in joy for today—what’s more joyful than imagining Black communities healthy and thriving, globally?”
Tyrone Wise, Associate Director of Student Experience for the full-time MBA program
“Black History Month is an opportunity to tell the history of Americans who have oftentimes been misrepresented. As a descendant of slaves, it’s important that I acknowledge and celebrate the leaders who’ve come before me—people like Frederick Douglas, a former slave and prominent abolitionist, as well as the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first Black military pilots who fought in World War II. (Being related to a Tuskegee Airman is even more inspiring.)
It’s important that I acknowledge and celebrate the leaders who’ve come before me—people like Frederick Douglas, a former slave and prominent abolitionist, as well as the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first Black military pilots who fought in World War II. —Tyrone Wise
Their perseverance and drive to create a better country has afforded me the opportunities that I have today. All in all, Black history is my history and it shows me that I can be a leader and create the change I want to see.”
Amber Moore Harrold, Assistant Director of Financial Aid
“Black History Month is a time to reflect on how far Black people have come in America and how much further we have to go. This past year has truly shown the world that while we have made progress, we still have a long road ahead. It’s a time to highlight and celebrate Black excellence and the many contributions that Black people have contributed to the fabric of this country. It’s a time to celebrate and honor our ancestors whose shoulders we stand on. It’s a reminder that Black history should be recognized, appreciated, and celebrated every day.”
Tamarik Rabb, BS 21, President of Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association (HUBBA)
“Black History Month represents acknowledging our community’s contributions to society. I love that during this month, Black stories and achievements are amplified. I feel a great sense of pride when learning about our passionate and dedicated advocates, inventors, artists, scholars, and leaders from the past because they’re exemplars of Black excellence. I’m fortunate to have more opportunities, by way of countless Black individuals who found the strength to endure incomprehensible challenges to their bodies, mental health, and culture as a result of deeply-rooted racism. This month will continue to remind me of the work that still needs to be done to increase opportunities for Black people, while providing greater confidence that through both individual and collective efforts, the work can be accomplished.”
Haas Voices is a new first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. Our first perspective is by “double Bear” Luis Alejandro Liang, BS 12, EWMBA 23, who is among the approximately 644,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients granted special immigration status because they were brought to the U.S. as children. Liang’s path to Berkeley was challenging—he’s been accepted three times. He shares his story below.
Many times over these past four years, I’ve woken up in fear. Fear of deportation. Fear about what was going to happen to our community. Fear that ICE could knock on my door and take me away.
I grew up in Sinaloa on the Pacific coast of Mexico. I’m half Chinese, half Mexican. I grew up multicultural—going to Catholic church on Sundays but celebrating Chinese New Year. I started helping my family in their Chinese restaurant when I was six years old. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs.
When I was 14, my mom moved me and my three little sisters to Orange County because she wanted to provide us with better chances. I entered high school as a sophomore without knowing any English. It was a culture shock, but I wanted to honor my mom’s sacrifices by excelling academically. I was put back in algebra, even though I was taking calculus when we left Mexico. As a senior, I got into a couple of UCs, but my first scholarship was taken away because I didn’t have a social security number.
So I decided to go to Fullerton College. In high school, I had been really shy because I was new, so I didn’t know anything about things like AP classes or honor society. When I got to community college, I decided to get involved. I joined the Puente Program, which is mostly for Latino students to help get us into four-year colleges. I was really active, working long days because I was also a tutor. The Puente Program gave us a tour of all the UCs. That was the first time that I actually went to visit the campuses.
When I visited Berkeley I fell in love. I remember the Campanile, Sather Gate and thought of all the famous people who went there, including Mexican presidents.
I knew that I wanted to study business. I also knew that I was gay by that time too, and that San Francisco was LGBTQ friendly. I knew I could be myself at Berkeley.
My dream came true when I got accepted to Haas as a junior and received the prestigious Regents’ and Chancellors’ Scholarship, given to the top 2% of students. But when I went to the financial aid office, they again took away my scholarship because I still didn’t have a social security number. I was crying, and the woman who broke the news to me was crying too.
They again took away my scholarship because I still didn’t have a social security number. I was crying, and the woman who broke the news to me was crying too.
I remember seeing the César E. Chávez Student Center in front of me and I just went in and I started walking around. I thought, “If this is César Chávez’s building, there’s going to be a Latino person here who can help me.” I ended up meeting Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, director of the Chicano Department at Berkeley. Lupe became a support for me when I returned to community college more determined to achieve my dreams.
I became more politically active, creating the Fullerton College Dream Team to support undocumented students. In 2010, I got into Berkeley Haas for the 2nd time, having raised $70,000 to cover my tuition.
When I graduated, I was a first-generation Berkeley Haas grad deemed ineligible to work in the U.S. I felt lost, but by then I knew I wasn’t alone. My life took a turn when President Obama passed DACA in 2012, extending opportunities previously unavailable to those of us brought to the U.S. as children. A door of possibilities opened up and led me to a job at Salesforce, helping non-profit organizations leverage technology to amplify their impact.
My life took a turn when President Obama passed DACA in 2012.
Being the first DACA employee at Salesforce motivated me to use my voice in a space where underrepresented groups lack a sense of inclusion. I worked with the chief equality officer on a podcast about diversity and inclusion, served on the leadership board of multiple employee resource groups, and came out of the shadows by sharing my story on a video called “Proudly Me.”
In 2013, another dream came true when I traveled to the White House and met President Obama after I received the LGBT DREAMers Courage Award, which honors individuals who have shown courage and perseverance in the face of injustice.
Still focused on social impact at my current job at Twilio, I decided it was time to go back to school for an MBA. I applied to the Berkeley Haas Evening and Weekend MBA program and got into my dream university for the third time, starting last fall. My focus is to become a chief social impact officer and a social leader at a company. In my classes, surrounded by fellow Type As, I’m learning things that I put into practice at my job. I love the community and I can’t wait to get back to campus.
Growing up, I thought that life would change the day I could finally get my residency—that something would change inside of me and that things were going to be better. But as the years passed, thinking that way made me believe that I was incomplete and something was missing. But being paperless doesn’t make us powerless. We have purpose and an eagerness to give back, by creating communities, by finding the power in helping people. I now find so much joy in helping other “Dreamers” get into school and finding their dream jobs.
But being paperless doesn’t make us powerless. We have purpose and an eagerness to give back, by creating communities, by finding the power in helping people.
There are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., not by choice, but because we needed to survive. I hope to highlight the narrative of joy, love, and pride that comes from living a life dedicated to serving our families’ and communities’ dreams.”
Luis Liang, an account manager in social impact at communications company Twilio, is passionate about advocating for human rights and supporting Latinx, LGBTQ, and undocumented immigrant communities. Liang has served as a board member for the Association of Latino Professionals for America, The Greenlining Institute Alumni Association, and on several corporate Employee Resources Groups.
If ever there was a year that called on all of us to embody the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles, it was 2020. It so happened that this tumultuous year also marked the 10th anniversary of codifying these principles, which have become deeply embedded throughout our school over the past decade.
This year, many in our community went beyond themselves to help those struggling with pandemic impacts, while others questioned the status quo, speaking out against racial inequities and violence against Blacks and African Americans. Others showed confidence without attitude in sharing expertise and skills to help small businesses or solve other problems related to the pandemic. And we were all reminded to be students always as we adapted to life online.
While 2020 challenged us in many ways, it also taught us that a global pandemic can bring out the best in ourselves and our community, and there is a lot worth recognizing—and even celebrating—as the year comes to a close. Here’s what we’ll remember.
Black Lives Matter
As waves of protests swept the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Haas community members spoke out publicly about violence against Blacks and African Americans, sharing deeply personal narratives of anguish, frustration, and devastation. “If you read no further, understand this,” wrote Marco T. Lindsey, associate director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Berkeley Haas, in a widely shared letter to the community. ”Black Lives Matter = if anyone kills a Black person, their punishment should be the same as if they killed someone from any other race.” Responding to BLM, students, faculty, and staff rallied together, leaning on each other for support. They raised funds to rebuild damaged Black-owned businesses and for racial equity organizations, and embarked on personal journeys toward allyship through campus study groups, anti-racist challenges for students and staff, and “Ask Me Anything” sessions.
Students stepping up
Among the notable 2020 projects were the Berkeley Community Business Partnership, led by Lokilani Hunt, MBA 22. As president of the group, Hunt led 60 MBA students who worked with local community groups to offer consulting support to small Bay Area businesses. Their work ranged from organizing a worker-owned cooperative for struggling restaurants to developing new financing pipelines for women-owned businesses to helping small grocers build their online presence and upgrade their payment systems. The effort builds on a project launched last spring by theSustainable and Impact Finance (SAIF) initiative at Berkeley Haas. Meanwhile, Peter Gallager, EWMBA 22, a member of the University Development & Alumni Relations fundraising team, helped raise $10 million in three weeks for a pop-up coronavirus testing lab at the Innovative Genomics Institute. Raising that kind of capital can take months or even years to accomplish in normal times. “I’ve never experienced anything like that, but these are unprecedented times and people are responding in unprecedented ways,” he said.
Janet Yellen nominated for Treasury Secretary
Berkeley Haas Prof. Emeritus Janet Yellen’s career has been brilliant, groundbreaking, and defined by a commitment to public service. Among her many accomplishments: She was the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, she chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and she taught thousands of Berkeley Haas MBA and undergraduate students from 1980 to 2006. Now poised to become President-elect Biden’s lead economic advisor at one the nation’s most challenging periods, Yellen is expected to be a champion for all those facing the economic devastation of the pandemic.
Former Dean Laura Tyson, professor of the graduate school and her longtime close colleague, told the Financial Times that Yellen is driven by neither the “power” nor the “kudos” of the position. “She is doing it to serve the public, through the tools she has to understand economic issues.”
The passing of faculty greats
Nobel laureate Oliver Williamson, a pioneer of organizational economics, passed away on May 21 at age 87. Williamson, known to friends and colleagues as Olly, shared the 2009 prize in economics with political scientist Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University for his insight on the “make-or-buy”decision—the process by which businesses choose whether to outsource a process, service, or manufacturing function. “Williamson’s work permanently changed how economists view organizations,” said Prof. Rich Lyons, who was dean when Williamson won the Nobel. “Yet for all of his intellectual creativity, I most often think of Olly as a person who lifts others.”
Last month we also lost Prof. Emeritus George Strauss, who passed away Nov. 27 at age 97. An icon in the field of industrial relations who served as a professor from 1960 until 1991, Strauss helped establish Haas as an organizational theory powerhouse starting in the 1960s. He was a prolific researcher and top scholar of organizational behavior, unions, workplace participation, and comparative industrial relations.
The scramble to move online
On March 9, it was all-hands-on-deck after Chancellor Carol Christ announced the campus would suspend in-person classes to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Haas had to move 270 classes online virtually overnight. Faculty members scrambled to adapt, with Haas Digital, graduate student instructors, and other staff working overtime to support them. Those with more experience online stepped up to help colleagues. The work continued all summer, as faculty and staff worked to re-imagine classes, learn online pedagogy, and pre-record asynchronous material, while Haas invested in new technology. Dean Ann Harrison commended the efforts. “After watching our faculty and staff move within 36 hours to online teaching when the coronavirus broke out, I believe there’s little that we can’t do virtually going forward.”
Financial creativity to save small businesses
The Haas School of Business and Berkeley Law came together to play a critical role in developing the State of California’s new fund to support small businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. The California Rebuilding Fund, a new public-private partnership operated by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), uses government capital to attract private lenders to offer low-interest loans to small businesses—particularly the smallest firms and entrepreneurs from communities that have been historically disenfranchised. Professors Laura Tyson and Adair Morse contributed their finance and policy expertise to the innovative design of the fund. “The state put many groups together to try to get the best of the best ideas,” said Morse, the Soloman P. Lee Chair in Business Ethics. “We all came together to try to optimize a plan for the people of California.”
Haas had a banner year for welcoming new leaders to the Dean’s suite, including Loretta Ezeife, chief financial officer; Howie Avery, assistant dean for Development & Alumni Relations; Michele de Nevers, in the newly-created position of executive director of sustainability programs, and Michelle Marquez, assistant dean of Human Resources. On the faculty side, nine new professors, including five women, joined Haas. The diverse, international group hails from Italy, Argentina, France, China, Canada, and California.
Pride in our big wins
Alum Collin Morikawa, BS 19, stunned the golf world last August by winning the PGA Championship, making history as one of the tournament’s youngest winners. Highlights from our many student competitions this year include a FTMBA team win at the Berkeley Haas Spring 2020 Tech Challenge, and a first-place FTMBA finish at the inauguralOxford Global Private Equity Challenge in March. Yashoraj Tyagi and Akshay Gupta, both MFE 20, took first-place wins in the Moody’s Analytics competition. And another team of MFE students won first place in theCitadel West Coast Datathon. Eugene Kim, Zhuoran Li, Zixuan Chen, and Chen Su, all EWMBA 23, won the inaugural John E. Martin Healthcare Tech Challenge.
As the executive director of Sustainability Programs at Berkeley Haas, Michele de Nevers has spent the past few months working closely with Dean Ann Harrison to shape the school’s long-term sustainability vision.
De Nevers might well be the perfect person for the newly created job: Her impressive career has included teaching graduate students in Barcelona about international climate change policy to co-authoring a paper for the Center for Global Development that argued that developing countries should receive performance payments from richer countries for keeping their tropical forests intact and reducing deforestation.
At the World Bank, where she spent three decades, she managed environmental projects ranging from pollution reduction to conservation of biodiversity. And she led global consultations on the corporate Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change, a strategy report that outlined the World Bank Group’s plan to respond to new development challenges posed by climate change.
In this interview, de Nevers discusses how Haas can deepen its existing sustainability strengths through efforts to support faculty, students, and programs.
Haas News: Can you summarize your vision for sustainability at Haas?
Michele de Nevers: Our vision is to make Haas the No. 1 business school in terms of sustainability. That means a focus on leadership: developing our future leaders who will go out into the world and actually implement the transformation of economic and social systems—energy, transportation, land use, cities—that will be required to avoid and respond to the impacts of climate change.
How do you define what sustainability means to our community?
At the most basic level, I think it’s important that every Haas graduate comes away with basic literacy on sustainability, which means understanding the challenges, the opportunities, and the risks that will be needed to manage in the business world. This includes leading the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, responding to the impacts of climate change, and working toward building climate resilience. Future business leaders will need to manage stresses on natural resources, particularly water scarcity in western states like California. And they will also need to manage the social side of sustainability, which will increasingly determine support from constituents—shareholders, employees, customers and communities.
At the most basic level, I think it’s important that every Haas graduate comes away with basic literacy on sustainability.
What is Haas already getting right?
Haas is already doing a lot. About 20% of the professional and ladder faculty are working on environmental, social, or governance areas that can be considered part of sustainability. There are many areas where we are very strong, have huge recognition, and a great reputation. Examples include the Energy Institute, which has a very deep bench, and a critical mass of experts from the ladder faculty, and the Sustainable and Impact Finance Initiative (SAIF), which is hugely popular with students. The Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics is transitioning its program toward sustainability through low-carbon built environment (LCBE) projects, which give students opportunities for hands-on experiential learning in local communities. The Center for Responsible Business helps students work directly with leading companies on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issues. The Sustainable Food Initiative links food, land use, and regenerative agriculture, and the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGAL) addresses the social side of sustainability, including diversity, equity, and inclusion and the gender-pay gap. What we are hoping to do is to build on these pillars of strength, and deepen and reinforce each of these areas, some of which need additional financing and ladder faculty support.
What we are hoping to do is to build on these pillars of strength, to deepen and reinforce each of these areas, some of which need additional financing and ladder faculty support.
Another example of sustainability on campus is Chou Hall, which continues to have considerable support from the Haas community.
The Haas Sustainability Task Force, led by Danner Doud-Martin, is terrific. Her group includes faculty, staff, and students, a whole community that’s passionate and motivated, working on making Chou Hall and the rest of campus Zero Waste. They’re looking at initiatives to reduce paper and plastic use, to encourage reusables, and to make travel carbon free. Working with the task force can give students the hands-on experience that potential employers are looking for. Haas is really in the lead here.
How is sustainability included in the curriculum?
In the recent review of the core curriculum the faculty agreed to weave sustainability considerations into the core courses. This is already happening in several courses. One of my next areas of inquiry is to work with the faculty to examine what’s in the curriculum for core courses, and to collaborate in areas where we might be able to help to build in sustainability. We need to look at whether we need to commission more case studies or provide other kinds of support. We also need to figure out how to fund and support more faculty research on sustainability.
What do you and Dean Harrison consider the top funding priorities for sustainability efforts at Haas?
The main priority for Haas is to raise money to hire more ladder faculty, to expand funding for student research and for fellowships, and to provide reliable funding for the centers and institutes and for capstone programs like Cleantech to Market (C2M). So, fundraising is important. Luckily Dean Harrison is very good at that, and she’s on it.