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.
Tiffany Santana, a financial services analyst at Haas, is shaking things up as treasurer of the UC Berkeley Native American Staff Council (NASC). Working with her executive team, she aims to expand the council’s mission to help address the inequities that Native American communities face on and off campus.
“We want to launch initiatives and push for policies that create more equitable outcomes for Native American communities, in addition to letting the campus know that we exist,” said Santana, who joined NASC a year ago.
Native American students make up about two percent of Berkeley undergrads. Among NASC’s proposed initiatives are recruiting more Native American students; creating college scholarships to help fund their education; paying a portion of students’ debts; working with admissions offices campus-wide to hire admission counselors to recruit Native American students; and educating the campus and public about issues concerning Native American communities.
While UC Berkeley has worked towards creating more awareness about Native American issues and the societal structures that impact their communities, more work needs to be done, she said.
For Santana, serving on the council allows her to engage in social activism, bond with other Native Americans on campus, and connect with her Native roots.
A descendant of the Esselen Tribe, Santana said she didn’t grow up with a deep connection to her heritage. “My uncle, whom I consider my dad, introduced me to my culture when I relocated from Fresno to Oakland to live with him,” she said.
By the time she was 12, Santana started participating in sweat lodges, spirit runs, and Aztec dancing. She learned about the history of her tribe, which has origins in Monterey County, along with the long-term effects of colonialism, and federal and state policies that damaged Native communities. These experiences ignited her inner social activist and led her to serve on the board of the NASC.
As treasurer, Santana is working to find funding to carry out initiatives and collaborates with staff groups across campus. She’s already making headway with one of her goals.
Earlier this month, the NASC partnered with Alianza and the Black Staff and Faculty Organization to organize a virtual networking event for Berkeley staff. The NASC also co-hosted and participated in other events this month to commemorate Native American Heritage Month, including a socially-distanced pow wow and film screenings.
Personally, Santana plans to become an enrolled member of her tribe, strengthen ties with fellow tribe members, and share her personal story with others.
“My story is not just mine or my family’s,” Santana said. “It’s yours, it’s Haas’, it’s Oakland’s. My story belongs to the community.”
Berkeley Haas was among the top US business schools ranked by Corporate Knights in the 2020 Better World Ranking.
Haas rose to #19 this year, climbing steadily from #39 in 2017 to #23 last year, as the school increased its offerings and research related to diversity, equity & inclusion, corporate social responsibility, cleantech, and sustainability.
Schools are evaluated on five performance indicators (with weighting in brackets): core course integration of sustainability (30%), faculty research publications on sustainability topics per faculty in calendar year 2019 (30%), number of citations per faculty for those publications (20%), sustainability-focused research institutes and centres (10%), faculty gender diversity (5%), and faculty racial diversity (5%).
For urban development expert Victor Santiago Pineda, BS 03, no other legislation has altered the face of our nation as much as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
With the United Nations estimating that two-thirds of the global population will live in urban areas by 2050, cities like New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Dubai have sought Pineda’s input on how to redesign their physical and digital landscapes.
We spoke with Pineda, who also holds a master’s degree in city planning from UC Berkeley and a PhD in urban planning from UCLA, about the ADA, his lifelong mission to build cities for all, and what the Haas community can do to help. He directs UC Berkeley’s Inclusive Cities Lab and is the founder and president of World Enabled, a global education, communications, a strategic consulting firm.
As a leader in the disability community, how do you view the ADA’s legacy?
I stopped walking when I was seven years old, and by the time the ADA passed, I was using a ventilator to help me breathe. The ADA made sure that I was not “confined” to my wheelchair, but rather empowered by it. Beyond changes to our physical infrastructure, the law ushered in a paradigm shift in attitudes toward people with disabilities. This law also inspired over 180 countries around the world to follow our leadership. Today, we have a generation of leaders who expect the future to be accessible.
For companies, was that realization universal?
There are companies, like Microsoft, Accenture, and Google that recognized early on that the ADA is not something that hampers business, but rather transforms it. Others learned this the hard way. Netflix, for example, took its opposition to closed captions in its programming all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. Then, once they added captions, their sales went through the roof. Their shows became more accessible to more people. It’s a great example of how the ADA, instead of seeing it as a compliance issue, has been a source of innovation and a driver of growth.
Are laws enough to ensure cities are accessible?
To build cities and communities that are equitable, you need more than laws mandating wheelchair ramps. There is a broad spectrum of unmet needs inherent to the human condition, including aging and psycho-social disabilities, that have to be considered. Sixty percent of urban planning experts say that even the most innovative cities are failing persons with disabilities. Consider that 96% of ongoing digital development projects worldwide do not even mention people with disabilities.
How can this be addressed?
I have five criteria for making cities accessible. The first is about laws at every level of government and what they say about building accessibility into city services or the technologies that cities use. The second is about leadership: Are city leaders talking about these issues and using their budgets to identify barriers and remove them?
The third area, which is critical, is about institutional capacity. You need a cross-agency approach. For example, do all 56 agencies in New York City’s government understand what digital accessibility is? My fourth criterion is about participation and representation. Are you only talking to people who use wheelchairs about how to build an accessible smart city, or are you also asking people with dementia?
Finally, we need to change attitudes. We continue to have a divergent set of implicit biases around race, gender, and something called ‘ableism.’ We’ve inherited a public infrastructure that is ableist by design—meaning that, even with the ADA, it still gives preferences to people who can open doors, climb stairs, run around. Now, because of COVID-19, many more people are experiencing how it feels to have barriers and restrictions placed on how they access public spaces and services, so there is a greater appreciation for the challenges persons with disabilities have long experienced.
Your work on urban development is jaw-dropping in its scope. Let’s focus on your most recent initiative, Cities4All. What is it about?
The Cities4All Initiative is hosted at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Urban and Regional Development (IURD). We are building a global Knowledge Hub for Inclusive and Accessible Cities. The Knowledge Hub identifies and scales up best practices for transforming 100 cities worldwide to be more inclusive, accessible, and resilient by 2050. Our plan is to develop new data partnerships to monitor and evaluate inclusion in cities by creating a dashboard to better assess areas for improvement. Thirty cities, including Abu Dhabi, Helsinki, Berlin, Chicago, and Amman, have signed on to the campaign. Now they are asking for support in building capacity for their staff. They want training, tools, and technology, and we are partnering with business leaders from Haas and the World Economic Forum to deliver.
How can the Haas community support this work?
We’re asking the Haas community to question the status quo—to realize that, when it comes to people with disabilities, what we’re doing is not enough.
Alumni can join the Valuable 500 and put disability on their board agendas. They can ensure that disability forms part of their diversity and inclusion efforts. They can also support a crowdfunding campaign we will launch soon to raise $250,000 to support our Cities4All campaign.
The Defining Leadership Principle of Beyond Yourself reminds us that building more inclusive cities isn’t just about altruism. It’s in everyone’s self-interest, it’s about shaping the future.
As a Berkeley student, you were very active in student government and disability rights issues. What was your undergraduate experience at Haas like?
For me, Haas was an artistic enterprise. It was about the art of the possible and how bringing together engineers, managers, people in finance, strategy, and HR can unlock the capacity of a team to change the world through business.
I have also stayed in close contact with many classmates, including Eric Jones and Jared Dalgamouni, with whom I have had a friendly competition for the last 18 years. It was after we had won the Haas Social Business Plan competition in school and we were sitting in the library near a glass case that features prominent Haas alumni. We bet that whichever one of us gets featured in the glass case first gets a trip anywhere in the world and a glass of beer. Just the other day I told them about this interview and how it might get me one step closer to winning.
Lokilani Hunt, MBA 22, watched her partner battle the coronavirus and friends lose jobs and businesses due to the pandemic. So for Hunt, becoming president of the Berkeley Community Business Partnership was deeply personal.
“I jumped right in and said, ‘I don’t care what it takes,'”said Hunt, who oversees a group of 60 MBA students who came together this fall to consult on volunteer projects that support small businesses.
The consulting work, which ranges from organizing a worker-owned cooperative for struggling restaurants to developing new financing pipelines for women-owned businesses, builds on a project launched last spring by the Sustainable and Impact Finance (SAIF) initiative at Berkeley Haas. That program aimed to assist hundreds of small business owners in Oakland who face language, technology, or income barriers, to help them access federal relief funds including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, and unemployment insurance.
Over the summer, Katherine Baird, SAIF’s program director, worked to expand the program within Oakland—and beyond.
Baird put together a leadership team of first-year MBA students including Hunt, Crystal Ang, Drew Schneider, Stuart Fram, and Colin Ridlon, who reached out to 19 organizations that are supporting small businesses across the Bay Area and the Central Valley.
That included surveying the needs of city economic development teams from Daly City to San Leandro and business associations like the Black Cultural Zone in East Oakland, the Fresno Hispanic Foundation, and the Chambers of Commerce for both Berkeley and Chinatown, among others.
“We are at risk of losing 30% of our small businesses, and all of these projects are designed to help support small businesses during this critical time,” Baird said. “Our program is also asking students to go beyond themselves, engaging support for low-income and marginalized communities that have been even more hard-hit than most.”
“We are at risk of losing 30 percent of our small businesses and all of these projects are designed to help support small businesses during this critical time.”
Under the new program, teams of MBA students are matched with one of the organizations for two months to tackle a project that supports areas of need identified by small businesses.
Ang, MBA 22, is helping the nonprofit Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center develop a step-by-step guide for digital marketing for businesses in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. “Equity in economic opportunity is something that I’m so passionate about,” said Ang, who worked at an economic development agency in Singapore before coming to Haas. She’s working with two other MBA students, Alyssa Zhu, MBA 21, and Juliana Rivera, MBA 22, on a toolkit, which covers everything from helping businesses take more eye-catching photos of their products for social media posts to helping businesses navigate Facebook Marketplace and Instagram Shopping.
“Working with small businesses has been incredibly humbling,” Ang said. “A number of the businesses we’re working with were very successful before the pandemic, and built that success through hosting in-person events and trade shows. All of that is off the table now so we’re working with them to develop a social media and a digital marketing strategy.”
Schneider, who formerly worked at a startup that provided loans to small businesses, is working with the nonprofit Pacific Community Ventures in San Francisco. He and teammates Vishal Desai and Lifan Wang are creating a series of webinars and workshops focused on digital marketing and pivoting a business.
As president of the partnership program, Hunt oversees the progress of the student teams, keeping them on track with nonprofit clients. Hunt said the program has received a great response so far from MBA student volunteers, though at times it’s been frustrating to reach some of the struggling small business owners. “The virtual environment is limiting and has proposed unique challenges,” she said. “One team servicing Oakland expressed frustration with the barriers owners are experiencing that they’ve never experienced before.”
After conducting a midpoint survey of what teams have accomplished to date, Hunt said they’re planning a Nov. 20 virtual event to showcase all that they’ve accomplished.
“We’re still a long way from full economic recovery, but by dedicating over two months of their time, our MBA students are having an incredible, tangible impact right now on small businesses in our communities,” Baird said.
Jay Zhao, BS 21, might just be able to add “life changer for transfer students” to his resume.
That’s now a part of his job as a founder of College Leap, where he’s making community college students’ dreams of transferring to four-year colleges come true.
College Leap supports community college students, particularly international students, many who want to transfer to a four-year school but are daunted by the process. The organization provides guidance on everything from course selection to personal essay advice to recommendations for extracurricular and volunteer activities that will help students build a competitive application. With 16 chapters at community colleges in California, New York, and Washington state, Zhao’s goal is to establish 50 chapters.
Carlos Maldonado Vega, who is from Honduras, runs the College Leap chapter at the Community College of San Francisco (CCSF). He plans to apply to Berkeley Haas this fall, a goal he set for himself after taking an Intro to Business course at CCSF.
When a College Leap chapter launched at CCSF, Maldonado Vega said he quickly volunteered to become president, as well as regional manager for College Leap’s upcoming National Business Plan Competition, which will be held in October.
Volunteering has given him leadership experience and enabled him to meet people from all over the world at information sessions he runs. “I’m gaining a lot of experience,” he said, particularly with international students who face unique challenges and need mentors.
A lack of resources
Speaking from his personal experience, Zhao, who is from China, said transfer students face plenty of challenges, including fewer connections and a limited personal network. That’s why he founded the nonprofit. “All of us at some point faced a lack of resources and opportunities.” said Zhao, whose resumé includes working at two startups and studying at the University of Rochester and at Foothill College, a community college in Los Altos Hills, before transferring to Haas as a junior.
This month, College Leap is hosting the National Business Plan Competition, a startup pitch competition which is open to all community college students, including those at schools where College Leap doesn’t have a chapter.
Teams must have at least one student enrolled full-time in community college and submit a business plan for a startup idea. The competition’s first round will be held Oct. 8-18, the regional round will be held Oct. 24, and the final round is Nov. 7. Teams who make the final round will be connected to mentors at Berkeley Haas. “Because College Leap is based at UC Berkeley, which has one of the strongest entrepreneurship ecosystems in the country, this competition is an opportunity for community college students to tap into the Berkeley ecosystem,” Zhao said.
To help participants prepare, College Leap is providing a series of nine free virtual workshops taught by community college faculty on a range of business topics including customer acquisition and finance. Participants will present their plans, which must have a section on their startup’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and take questions from the judges.
A message of inclusion
Richard Lyons, UC Berkeley’s chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer and former dean at Berkeley Haas, says that competition participants will develop knowledge and gain hands-on experience. “That’s big by itself, given the terrific diversity of the participants and the competition design,” Lyons wrote in an email. “I especially want to highlight the indirect value: The message here is deeply one of inclusion. Yes, the world of innovation and entrepreneurship includes you, whatever your background. It’s a doubly powerful transition from thinking, ‘they do that’ to thinking, ‘I do that.’ ”
Faculty at both community colleges and Berkeley Haas will serve as competition judges. Teams that advance to the finals will be matched with one of the many programs and incubators at Berkeley that support entrepreneurship.
For Latinx Heritage Month we’re featuring members of our Berkeley Haas community. Our first profile is of Gerardo Campos, facilities manager for the Haas faculty and student services buildings. Campos, who is Mexican, discusses early activism that significantly impacted his life.
In December 1993, Gerardo Campos helped organize a walkout with hundreds of Latinx students at San Francisco’s Mission High School to pressure the school board to change the curriculum.
“We marched, demanding that they add ethnic studies, demanding a review of materials and the curriculum, because we weren’t hearing our story in class,” said Campos, who was student body president at the time.
The walkout, which led to the addition of new ethnic studies courses and expanded college prep and job readiness courses, not only politicized Campos, it changed his life, laying the groundwork for Campos to receive a scholarship to UC Santa Cruz, where he was the first in his family to attend college.
Mission High then housed 1,415 students, 37% who were Latinx and 26% who were Chinese. Many of the students were newly arrived immigrants from around the world.
Campos recalled that some students in the high school’s newly formed Latino Club had started talking about diversity issues. The San Francisco Independent weekly newspaper reported that the students believed that “many of the high school’s staff members were insensitive to minorities” and that the curriculum didn’t align with their diverse histories.
The walkout led to a new ethnic studies alliance between Mission High and San Francisco State University, where Campos thought he would end up going to college. However his activism and leadership as student body president led him down a different path. A high school counselor nominated Campos for a citywide $5,000 SF Rotary Club scholarship that enabled him to afford tuition at UC Santa Cruz, where he graduated with a degree in psychology.
“Huge pride and a sense of accomplishment”
After graduation, Campos, who is 45, worked as a substance abuse counselor, slowly moving toward a career in facilities management at Kaiser Permanente, and then as an administrator at a nanotech startup in Emeryville. In 2004, Campos arrived at Haas, where he’s worked as a facilities manager, one of few people who comes to campus daily to manage the buildings during the pandemic.
While Campos’ activism has taken a back seat to his demanding job and raising two children, he was active over the years in the UC Berkeley campus staff Chicanx/Latinx community Alianza.
Campos and his wife, Michelle, have two children: a son, Marcelino, who is a college sophomore, and a daughter, Celeste, a Berkeley High School junior. His family is close, including five brothers and 60 cousins. Of his family members, he’s the only one who made it to college, he said, adding, “I always feel huge pride and a sense of accomplishment that I did it.”
Campos said he tries to return to Mezcala, a small town in Mexico about an hour from Guadalajara, every year to visit his family.
In recent months, Campos said he’s followed the Black Lives Matter protests and kept informed on what Haas is doing to support diversity and equity for people of color. The Trump administration’s immigration policies toward his community anger him, and he challenges the idea that people are “legal” or “illegal.” “It’s not right that if I was born over here and somebody else is born over there that we should be treated differently,” he said. “I am against it to my core.”
Reflecting on his past, Campos said he’s grateful for his experiences, including the walkout that he believes awoke him to fight for justice as a teenager, a story he recently shared with his daughter. “I’ve had a lovely life,” he said.
Celebrating Pride Month on the OneHaas Podcast, host Sean Li spoke with Stacy Nathaniel Jackson, MBA 90, an African-American transgender artist-activist, about how being an over-achiever helped him land senior positions in the corporate and nonprofit world. (Élida Bautista, the director of inclusion and diversity at the Haas School of Business, joins Li for this interview.)
Jackson served on various community boards including mayoral appointee of the San Francisco Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force, the UCSF Chancellor’s GLBT Advisory Committee, San Francisco LGBT Community Center Project, and former board president of Fresh Meat Productions, a leading transgender and queer performing arts nonprofit.
Stacy has since retired and is now focused on being an author, artist, and activist.
Michelle Kim, BS 11, is co-founder and CEO of Awaken, which leads interactive diversity, inclusion, and leadership workshops. We spoke with Kim about her political activism at UC Berkeley, why she studied business, and how she’s making honest conversations about social justice happen in corporations. A lifelong social justice activist, Kim has served at organizations including the LGBTQ Speakers Bureau, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, and the LYRIC board of directors.
Hear Michelle Kim discuss how to create systemic change.
Can you talk a little bit about where you grew up and what that was like for you.
I grew up in South Korea and immigrated to San Diego when I was 13. It was a tumultuous time as a teenager, navigating a world that is so drastically different, while also coming to terms with who I was as an Asian person, and as a woman. Right around the age of 16 I started grappling with my sexual orientation. I had my first crush on a girl, and that was very confusing, with a lot of internalized homophobia coming out. When I was growing up in South Korea, there weren’t conversations around LGBTQ issues, at least not when I was in school, where it was a foreign thing. Being in so many different spaces geographically, mentally and emotionally, has a lot to do with why I’m doing the work that I do today.
Were there many Asian students where you went to school?
There were but I grew up in a predominantly white suburb. It was weird because my family was low income, but the school district that I was a part of was not. It was a very stark mix of very affluent families and also folks living on financial assistance. I was in the midst of navigating what that meant for me and how that was affecting the way that I was showing up in school. My dad was undocumented for 10 years and he was not making a lot of money when we came to the States to live with him.
How did you come out?
I came out to my friends first. It wasn’t like, “Hey, everyone, I am gay,” because I was not sure. I first started talking to my high school biology teacher, who was an out lesbian woman, and she was probably one of the first people I admired who was a lesbian. She was one of the first people I told. She pointed me to the underground support group that I didn’t know about, where during one period every week, LGBTQ identified or questioning students could meet with an advisor. That group, quite frankly, saved my life when I was in a very confused state of mind. They welcomed me and created space for me to explore without shame and blame. After questioning for awhile, I decided that the term that I’d like to describe myself is queer.
You became politically active at a pretty young age and that continued at Berkeley, right?
Berkeley is where my identity as an activist solidified and where my philosophy, my principles, and orientation toward social justice became defined much more clearly. I chose Berkeley because of its legacy and history with the social justice movement, and it was exciting when I got accepted.
I had envisioned Berkeley to be this very progressive, radical agent of change in the social movement. There was a little bit of a surprise when I got here and saw that you really needed to seek out those groups. I started a student organization that’s still in existence called the Queer Student Union. It was called Queer Straight Alliance when I started it, and it was a space predominantly for people of color and a variety of identities. I wanted to create a space where we could all come together and talk about intersectionality and coalition building. So we carved out the space for us to be able to really engage in that dialogue. And that’s really what propelled me to be more involved in social justice movements.
How did you end up studying business?
I studied business because this one white boy told me, “You’ll never get in.” That’s what lit the fire under me to do it. But as I began studying, I thought business was fascinating. I wanted to understand how these big corporations really operated, which is a big reason why I decided to go into consulting right after school, aside from the fact that I actually needed to make money. The business degree gave me the language and access to the world that I never knew about before. Neither of my parents had worked in a corporate setting, where they could have helped me to navigate getting a job in a big company.
Where did you work after graduation?
My first job was in consulting. I learned a ton and I also witnessed and experienced a lot of harm. I chose the company based on its external marketing and statements around how they cared about diversity and inclusion. I had my own idea of what that meant, but I had no idea what it really translated into in a corporate setting. I decided to join an employee resource group and figured out quickly that the group was all about happy hours and social networking and not about the movement and social justice work that was needed, so I was so disillusioned. I think in my young, activist mindset, I was angry, upset, and cynical.
So did you leave that job?
I left that environment to go into tech because I’d heard that the tech environment was a lot less rigid, more innovative, younger, and therefore that it must be more radical, which also wasn’t the case. I worked for a couple of different tech companies, building customer success teams, and also trying to push diversity, equity, and inclusion forward. I think time after time what I felt and what I found was diversity and inclusion being diluted to a point where it wasn’t recognizable as a social justice movement. To this day, I tell people that diversity, equity, and inclusion work is actually just an extension of the social justice work that’s happening in the streets. It has to be founded and grounded in social justice principles.
Do you see attitudes changing now? Does this time feel different?
I will say that I have never seen this level of appetite to actually say and name the things that we need to talk about, so that has been very reassuring for me. I have a healthy dose of cynicism and skepticism toward the surge of statements that are coming out of corporations, because I do feel like people are rushing to make statements before taking a deeper look at how their organization operates and what commitments are being made behind these statements. It’s questionable. But I will say that this is the first time in a very long time where I feel like there is space for us to actually go in and talk about the hard stuff, and actually use words like white supremacy and anti-black racism in a corporate setting. We’ve been doing it over the last few weeks and it feels different, and I feel hopeful because of that.
In honor of Pride Month, we’re highlighting members of the LGBTQ community at Haas.
In this interview, Peru native Eduardo “Eddie” Consigliere, MBA 21, talks about coming out to his mother, his leadership role in Q@Haas, and his love for the annual Coming Out monologues.
Tell me about your background and where you grew up?
I am originally from Lima, Peru. My parents separated when I was three years old so I lived with my mom, grandparents, aunt, and uncle in one big house. On the weekends my aunt and cousins would come over for family gatherings so the house was always loud and filled with laughter. I always enjoyed being around my family, especially during the holidays. My mom moved to the US when I was 12 and I joined her when I was 14. I’ve hopped around California ever since.
How old were you when you figured out that you might be gay?
I think a part of me always knew I was different. I just didn’t have the tools or language to identify what that difference was. I remember telling my mom that when we watched Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, I would pay more attention to the boys. I think I was worried that there was something wrong with me and I wanted her to fix it.
In school, while most of the boys played soccer during recess, I hung out with my girlfriends and secretly watched Sailor Moon. Obviously athleticism and sexuality are not correlated, but I felt different than the rest. I always thought it was because I was an only child growing up with a single mom, and I took after her. When I was a first year in college, I avoided parties and alcohol because I was afraid that if I drank too much, I would accidentally do something to out myself.
What was the process of coming out like?
It was difficult. It was the night of my 21st birthday and I had been hinting to my friend that I wanted her to ask me. So she did and that’s how I came out. Even though I was surrounded by an incredibly supportive community, there was a part of me that was afraid of being vulnerable, and still carried that mentality that there was something wrong with me. After that I started coming out to friends in casual, and sometimes completely uncomfortable and awkward ways, like typing it on their computer during class or screaming it at the top of my lungs.
I came out to my mom about two years later. We hadn’t been getting along and one day she called me during the middle of a work retreat. She asked me if the reason why we hadn’t been getting along was because there was something painful I was hiding, and if that had to do with my sexuality. Needless to say, I had to leave the work retreat because I was bawling uncontrollably. Because of the circumstances, I thought she was going to be fully on board, but it still took a little while for her to understand. She eventually came around and is now so supportive and my biggest cheerleader. She dabbles in gay pop culture, sends me articles, and always takes a moment during Pride and national coming out day to celebrate my holidays and tells me she’s proud of me.
What about the rest of your family? Have you come out to them?
I’ve come out to my family in the U.S. and they’ve been very supportive. After all these years living here, I don’t see or speak to my family in Peru very much, so I don’t feel the need to come out to them. I’m also hesitant because of some anti-LGBTQ views and comments that they’ve posted on social media, so I’ve decided not to share that part of myself with them. At least for the moment.
How are you promoting inclusion at Berkeley Haas?
One of my goals for business school was to be more connected to the LGBTQ+ community. So I was excited to join Q@Haas. This year, I’m one of the co-presidents. One of our main priorities is to make sure that we sponsor events that are inclusive to all our members, not just one segment of the population, for example gay men. We’re also engaging with other clubs to create programming to not only cultivate the relationship between our community and our allies, but also to create a space to acknowledge the intersectionality of our identities.
My favorite event is the Coming Out Monologues, which happens early in the school year. Last fall, I was helping set up Spieker Forum and we set up around 320 chairs. By the time we kicked off the event, there was standing room only. It was so powerful to see classmates whom I’ve met just three weeks ago show up and hear people’s coming out stories. Those are so personal and sometimes painful to relive. So to see all of that excitement, support and respect, and to be embraced by the broader community like that was huge. I think it speaks volumes about the type of people that we have at Haas and how much they care.
What does intersectionality mean to you and what can we learn about a person through this lens?
Intersectionality means we all have multiple identities. It’s beautiful yet complicated because it’s difficult to piece out an individual part of your identity. It all plays together. For me, my immigration story was one of the biggest influences in how I approach life and it influenced my level of self-acceptance and comfort with others. Coming to the U.S. is one of the hardest things a person can do. To do that, I told myself that I needed to be strong and build walls around me. Coming out was one of the steps towards chipping away at those walls.
While we can think of things in isolation, we also need to think about the broader context of a person’s experience, like their race, socioeconomic background, immigration status, ability, or education to understand their lived experiences. I think we’re getting better at understanding individual differences, looking at the whole person, and not making blanket statements, but it’s a constant struggle. Intersectionality of identity means that no two stories (and no two people) are the same.
As a student in the MBA for executives program, Adam Rosenzweig found that most of the cases used to teach real-world business problems in his classes often featured the same sort of leader: a white male.
“Our experience was definitely that case protagonists were overwhelmingly not diverse,” said Rosenzweig, EMBA 19, now a Haas lecturer teaching Introduction to the Case Method in both the EMBA and Full-time MBA programs.
Feedback from MBA students like Rosenzweig—who co-wrote a case with a female protagonist last year with senior Lecturer Drew Isaacs—and faculty members inspired the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership (EGAL) to dig into the problem. That digging led to a catalog of diverse business cases called the EGAL Case Compendium. The compendium, a spreadsheet shared with the Berkeley Haas faculty this month, includes 215 cases with diverse protagonists and 215 cases specific to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) topics.
“A general lack of diversity”
The project, led by Genevieve Smith, associate director of EGAL, was partly funded by a $5,000 Haas Culture grant that the center’s Program Director Jennifer Wells applied for last year.
Smith argues that the limited range of protagonists in typical business cases is a longstanding problem that leaves students with gaps in understanding the connection between classroom learning and future workplace environments.
“This lack of diversity perpetuates a status quo in which traditional business leaders are primarily both male and white,” she said. “We see this as a big problem in business schools globally, and if we’re going to address the gaps around diversity in business, we need to address it in business schools.”
It’s a problem that impacts all business schools who use published cases, Smith said. Harvard Business School publishes the vast majority—some 19,000 cases—which represent roughly 80% of the cases used in business schools globally. Just over 1% of those Harvard Business Review cases include an African-American/Black person as a protagonist, and 9% include a female protagonist, the team estimates based on its analysis.
“That the majority of cases taught in business schools center on white men in 2020 is unacceptable,” said Kellie McElhaney, founding director of EGAL and a Haas faculty member. “If we hope to educate students who are equity fluent leaders, it will require a sweeping effort on the part of business schools and their faculties to make changes.”
That the majority of cases taught in business schools center on white men in 2020 is unacceptable.
Including people of different races, ethnicities, genders, ability, sexual orientation, and religions will help on multiple fronts—from increasing awareness of different life experiences, to fostering sensitivity among students, to helping with recruitment of students who “need to see themselves represented as leaders,” Smith said.
Cases that perpetuate stereotypes
To build the Case Compendium, EGAL hired research assistant Diana Chavez-Varela, BA 19, (now a summer legal investigator at Berkeley Law’s Human Rights Center), who began by searching existing cases under many keywords related to diversity, cataloguing the cases by author, topic, discipline, target segment, identities of focus, and industry sector.
She also flagged discriminatory language against any group, noting a few standout cases that perpetuate stereotypes including “Director’s Dilemma: Balancing Between Quality and Diversity,” a headline that infers that companies that hire for diversity sacrifice quality. Another case study summary: “How do you manage talented people who are different from the typical corporate profile — like women, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and others?” presents white men as “typical” and other people as “atypical.”
Most of the non-white-male protagonists that Chavez-Varela found in the 215 cases were women (84%)—primarily white females working in the human resources management or organizational behavior areas. Cases with female protagonists also largely touched on topics like culture and workforce representation, but failed to address other issues such as labor rights, government policies, workplace harassment, or challenges for dual-career couples.
The researchers, who also wrote a report based on their findings, found that more than half of the cases that centered on topics related to DEI in the business world focused on advancing DEI among entry- and mid-level employees, with just 15% focused on more-senior leaders. And among DEI cases, the most common focus was advancing women in the workplace—with fewer focused on race, ethnicity, or other identities.
“There is much room to grow in terms of new DEI case studies,” Smith said. In particular, the EGAL team is interested in supporting the faculty and writing new cases with protagonists representing intersectional identities and in industries/disciplines outside of HR and organizational management, and on DEI-related topics that are relevant to core courses.
There is much room to grow in terms of new DEI case studies.
Prof. Catherine Wolfram, associate dean for academic affairs & chair of the faculty, who shared the EGAL Case Compendium with the faculty, said she’s receiving positive feedback so far.
“There have definitely been discussions about addressing diversity topics in the classroom in faculty meetings and we’ve had people describe the issues that have come up around the lack of diversity and the topics that students want to talk about,” Wolfram said.
What makes a good case?
While the Haas curriculum isn’t as case-driven as many other business schools, such as Harvard Business School, faculty members still consider cases integral to teaching.
Chatman, an expert on culture who teaches organizational behavior, said EGAL is helping to raise awareness of the diversity problem in business school cases by both cataloguing and providing an easily searchable clearing house. Chatman, who writes a case every four or five years, has long been a leader in featuring diverse protagonists, such as leaders at Genentech and Walmart.
Yet she acknowledged the challenges with overhauling business school curricula, adding that many professors try to avoid switching cases too frequently due to the difficulty in finding well-aligned cases. “The case needs to be timely, relevant, and it needs to be about an organization or industry that students will find interesting,” she said. “A good case is also easy to read, not too long, and will preferably include video—and the professor should be able to extend the story by easily adding material related to, but not included in, the case. So the list is long!”
“No magical solution”
Assoc. Prof. Dana Carney, who researches racial bias, power, and nonverbal behavior, says she’s always on the hunt for new cases that are relevant to her courses. She agrees that cases with diverse protagonists—particularly race/ethnicity— are hard to find.
Carney currently uses five cases, two with a total of 4 female protagonists, one with predominantly male protagonists (although ethnic/racial identities are ambiguous), one with no protagonist, and two more with ambiguous race/ethnicity and names that could be either female or male because only last names are used.
“I’m always looking, always thinking of cases I could and should write, always trying to be inclusive and evolve,” Carney said.
For example, Carney, along with Economics Prof. Paul Gertler, developed a negotiation case with Ugandan protagonists to be used in Uganda. But the case is so culturally bound to the Ugandan context it wouldn’t be usable in a U.S.-based undergraduate or MBA business context, she said. The bottom line? “We need more cases,” she said.
While there’s no magical solution to the case dilemma, Prof. Don Moore came up with one idea that might help: a spreadsheet Berkeley Haas faculty are using to list cases taught in their own core classes. Faculty interested in finding a diverse case may now cross-check on the EGAL list to see if there’s a match between a case that’s included on both lists, he said.
(Read EGAL’s full report, The State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Business School Case Studies, here, or the executive summary here.)
“The privilege of growing up surrounded by so much nature affected me profoundly,” said Kennard, who is from the Clackamas, Chinook, Atfalati, and Kalapuya territory, also known as Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
The privilege of growing up surrounded by so much nature affected me profoundly.
But for Kennard, a mixed race, third-generation Korean American, a youth spent in a white suburb was also alienating. “I grew up being called exotic,” they said. “Older white ladies told me I looked like an Indian princess.”
Arriving in the Bay Area seven years ago, Kennard said, “I had a radical reorientation with race in this culture of organizing and resistance to white supremacy.”
Kennard’s art explores sexuality and race in their illustrations, paintings, comics and zines, with subjects that intersect gender, bodily identity, science, environment, and cultural survival. Their work has exhibited locally and nationally, hung in Congressional halls, and been recognized by the Society of Illustrators. “There’s always a story being told,” Kennard said. “That’s what drew me to art school.”
Here Kennard describes a few of the stories behind some favorites.
“This illustration for Mother Jones accompanied an article called Ghost Stories by Delilah Friedler, which was about hooking up while trans. There’s a beautiful end note in this article in which Delilah speaks to the potential for beauty that exists between trans women and cis men in relationships when men are capable and willing to engage with their own vulnerability and to engage with unlearning toxic masculinity, and embrace the love, the sexuality, whatever the relationship offers them that shame and homophobia and transphobia would otherwise block. And while the bulk of the article speaks more to the impact and the violence of that shame, which is very important to discuss, so many of the stories about trans people, they’re not authored by us and they’re about our deaths. Most of the time when you hear about a trans person in major news it’s because one of us has been harmed or killed, and disproportionately it’s Black trans women and trans women of color. It was really important to me to create an image that didn’t erase the reality of the pain that we experience, but also helped visualize this beautiful open door that Delilah points to at the end of her article, the potential that exists if we could collectively move past the shame. And so that is where the idea for the sense of reveal and removal, taking off a mask, came from.”
“This mixed media piece was inspired by an article from the science magazine Nautilus. The original title of that article was Against Willpower. The article critiques the modern concept of willpower against the modern knowledge of psychology and how the human brain works, and makes a case that willpower as we have come to culturally understand it today is really repressive, and creates false and unobtainable goals of self control that are not actually healthy. While the article doesn’t explicitly address queer experience, there’s obviously a lot of connections that could be made. I thought about the experience of being closeted and the really harmful ideas that many people still hold that sexuality or gender can be fixed or need fixing, and the abuse that is conversion therapy. That was an immediate personal connection I made to the article, and I wanted to make an image that captured that sense of holding it down, keeping it in, trying to keep something that really wants and needs to be released repressed.”
“This is an illustrated demon’s monologue about rebelling against tyranny and embracing one’s own power. It takes and remixes lines and words originally spoken by Mephistopheles and other demonic figures in Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Dr. Faustus.
There’s this one scene where Faustus summons Mephistopheles from hell. Faustus is trying to argue with Mephistopheles that hell isn’t real, which is absurd in the context of this play and this scene. And Mephistopheles is baffled and insulted. And while I don’t remember the exact lines, his response to Faustus in essence is, ‘I know hell is real because I have suffered through it and how dare you.’ And I had a really powerful moment of recognition that I didn’t expect in that scene where I saw in that exchange myself and I saw all of these interactions that I, and many of the trans people in my life, had had in real time with cisgender people who are trying to convince us as we’re standing in front of them that we’re not real.
It’s also true that part of the hurt of being unacknowledged as real is that often we are put through a great deal of suffering for being who we are. Regardless of our own relationship to our bodies, regardless of how we feel about our own lived experience, suffering is imposed upon us externally, and I really felt Mephistopheles in that scene. I had this deep sense of understanding and connection with his character.”
“This was a canvas painting, and I made it for this wonderful art show that I was invited into by friend and mentor Channing Joseph, a Black educator, journalist, advocate, member of the queer community, and just a phenomenal person.
The concept of the show, called Octavia’s Attic, was that Octavia Butler’s sci-fi novels were actually documentary accounts, because she could time travel, and she could visit alternative timelines and universes. What if this was recently discovered and made known to the public and her attic was opened up for public visit? What would it contain? I love this concept.
Around that time I’d learned a little bit more about gender expressions and identities in pre-colonized Korea that today we might consider queer—practices by what in English we call shamans; the Korean term is mudang. Often these roles were embodied by women, but not always, and there was this sacred femininity in these spiritual roles.
I was also learning more about queer relations in Korean royalty among men and women, and I had this idea of a queer funeral and a literal replanting. So much of my own access to this history is really limited. I didn’t learn Korean growing up, and even my halmeoni, my Korean grandmother, doesn’t know a lot of this. And so I was really compelled by this idea of planting a literal piece of someone and having them, through some spiritual process, grow and transform into a tree and be present as an ancestor as a living tree.”
As protests erupted across the U.S. in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the MBA community at Berkeley Haas and beyond jumped into fundraising action.
Harshita Pilla, a Berkeley alumna and incoming first-year at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, emailed students in the Consortium — an organization whose mission is to increase representation of underrepresented minority students at top business schools–asking if anyone would be interested in fundraising for organizations supporting the Black community.
Within hours, Pilla formed a committee, which included Juliana Rivera and José Avellana, both MBA 21, along with MBA students from five other business schools, to raise $20,000 for Color of Change, an Oakland-based racial justice organization.
“Raising that kind of money in such a short amount of time is incredible,” said Pilla. Having met their initial goal, Pilla, Rivera, Avellana, and the rest of the fundraising committee, have decided to extend the campaign through the end of June, setting a new target goal of $100,000. So far, they’ve raised more than $50,000.
One motivation for launching MBA Students Care was to show “allyship through action,” Rivera said. “I firmly believe that rising tides raise all boats. It’s not a zero-sum game.”
They also said they were motivated because, as people of color, they empathize with the Black community and are aware of the long history of racial injustice against Black people in the U.S.
As a civil engineering student at Berkeley, Pilla said she remembers learning about government-sponsored practices like redlining and how it barred Black people from purchasing homes in primarily white suburban communities.
“Taking those classes at Berkeley shaped my viewpoint as an urban planner,” she said. “Not only do I think about how to build infrastructure on a large scale, but also how infrastructure is accessed.”
The MBA Students Care fundraiser is just one of many projects that the trio plans to do to tackle racial injustice, said Avellana. “We’re playing the long game. We want to strike while the iron is hot and build on what we started, whether that means doing subsequent fundraisers or creating spaces to educate people at our respective schools,” he said.
Rivera agreed. “To quote a line from the musical Hamilton, ‘This is not a moment, it’s the movement’ and as allies, it’s our responsibility to continue the conversation and bring it to any forum.”
In addition to the MBA Student Cares Fundraiser, Haas students have also created The Haas Clubs Solidarity Fund to support Black Lives Matter and racial equity organizations. The fund’s organizers hope to raise a total of $12,000 by June 19, or Juneteenth. To make a donation, visit here.
In response to the violence against Black and African-American people and the wave of protests and unrest across the country, we’re sharing some of the perspectives of our Black students, staff, faculty, and alumni.
Clockwise from left: Marco Lindsey, associate director at DEI at Haas; Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate program; Dan Kihanya, MBA 96, Elisse Douglass, MBA 16; Ace Patterson, MBA 16; and Bree Jenkins, MBA 19.