Haas expands annual Diversity Symposium to alumni and community

The Berkeley Haas Diversity Symposium this month will bring together prospective students, and—for the first time—alumni and the Haas community for a weekend of events featuring top industry speakers and showcasing the school’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Rosanna Durruthy
Rosanna Durruthy, vice president of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at LinkedIn, will deliver the keynote.

The annual symposium will be held virtually this year over three half-days from Friday, Oct. 22 to Sunday Oct. 24. Organizers, including Berkeley Haas Alumni Relations and the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, in partnership with MBA Admissions, expect about 600 prospective students and 200 alumni to join. While the symposium has traditionally been an event for prospective students, a special morning of programming on Friday is also geared toward alumni and the the Haas community for the first time. 

Elida Bautista
Elida Bautista will give a “state of DEI at Haas” talk.

“We’ve expanded the symposium to make it a signature event for Haas that showcases the school’s DEI strategy and highlights areas where Haas is leading the way,” said Liz Rosenberg, director of Alumni Engagement & Leadership Development at Haas.

The program on Friday, Oct. 21 includes:

  • A talk on the state of DEI at Berkeley Haas with Interim Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer Élida Bautista.
  • A keynote conversation with Rosanna Durruthy, vice president of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at LinkedIn. “For over 35 years, Rosanna Durruthy has advocated for a more inclusive corporate America as an openly queer leader,” Business Insider wrote of Durruthy. “Now, as LinkedIn’s head of diversity, she’s clearing the path for other LGBTQ professionals.”
  • A discussion addressing “Business as a Catalyst for Social Change,” featuring alumni thought leaders including Rachel Williams, BA 97, head of equity, inclusion & diversity at X, the moonshot factory; Marcus Chung, MBA 04 and vice president of manufacturing & supply chain at ThirdLove;  Elisse Douglass, MBA 16, co-founder of the Oakland Black Business Fund;
    and Robert Chatwani, EWMBA 07, CMO of Atlassian. (Hector Preciado, MBA 11, will moderate)

On Saturday, Oct. 22, Dean Ann Harrison will welcome prospective students. Other highlights include tips from admissions officers, an interactive discussion on “crafting your authentic story” with Doy Charnsupharindr, a member of the Continuing Professional Faculty at Haas, and information on financing an MBA.

On Sunday, sessions include a networking event for prospective students, a mock class with Kimberly MacPherson, executive director of the Graduate Program in Health Management at Haas, and an overview followed by a Q&A with the Haas Career Management Group (CMG).

Register for the Diversity Symposium here.

Haas refreshes core MBA curriculum, adds three new courses

Berkeley Haas is rolling out core curriculum changes designed to prepare MBA students for a fast-changing workplace by equipping them with enhanced communication skills and deeper data knowledge.

The refreshed curriculum includes additional training in business communications and persuasion skills, doubles the coursework in statistics and data analytics, and adds a brand new course—perhaps the first required core business class in the U.S., on leading diverse teams. The new courses will be rolled out in the full-time MBA program during the 2021-22 academic year. 

An eight-member faculty task force worked throughout the pandemic to rethink the MBA core experience. The faculty in April unanimously approved the task force’s recommendations. 

Dean Ann Harrison
Dean Ann Harrison

“I am so proud of the hard work that our faculty-led team put into these transformative core curriculum changes,” said Dean Ann Harrison, who created the core committee, which was led by co-chairs Prof. Ross Levine and Assoc. Prof. Dana R. Carney. “We are rolling out innovative courses that will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions.”

Three new courses

The MBA core consists of 14 required courses that form the fundamental building blocks of a general management education. The classes are designed to build on each other, providing students with the analytical tools and knowledge required to manage complex managerial problems–skills every employer expects from an MBA. 

The MBA core consists of 14 required courses that form the fundamental building blocks of a general management education.

The three courses added to the core include:

  • Data Analytics will provide more extensive training in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and related approaches to using big data for decision making. The course is a companion to the existing Data and Decisions statistical analysis course. 
  • Data-Driven Presentations: Making the Business Case will better prepare students to make persuasive arguments using data and narrative. It builds on the knowledge and experience developed in the courses Data and Decisions and Leadership Communication.
  • Business Communication in Diverse Work Environments will help students navigate diverse settings more effectively to improve their ability to create, work within, and lead diverse teams and global organizations. It also develops critical thinking on topics such as identity, relationships across differences, bias, and equality of opportunity in organizations.

Levine said he was proud of the group’s camaraderie and collaboration and the transparency of the process.

Prof. Ross Levine co-chaired the curriculum review task force.

“It’s very important for any type of program to re-evaluate, reassess, renew, modernize, and make things as relevant and useful for students as possible,” said Levine, the Willis H. Booth Chair in Banking and Finance. “We worked very hard to make some changes that would help our students achieve their professional ambitions.”

Jay Stowsky, who served as Senior Assistant Dean of Instruction for the past 13 years, added that the curriculum changes will make it easier for faculty “to address, with relevance to each of their courses and academic disciplines, the broader social impacts of business.” 

Evidence-based changes

Dana Carney
Assoc. Prof. Dana Carney co-chaired the curriculum review task force.

Copious research enabled the task force to have full confidence in the proposed core changes, said Carney, a psychologist who studies racial bias and is the director of the Institute of Personality and Social Research at UC Berkeley. “We knew that we had to have a lot of data to guide and substantiate the changes the data suggested we make; we made sure the data we collected were unimpeachable,” she said.

As part of this research, the task force members sought extensive feedback from different groups before making its recommendations. They met with tenure-track and teaching faculty and current students and separately with MBA students active in the Race Inclusion Initiative (RII) and the Gender Equity Initiative (GEI) at Haas. 


“We knew that we had to have a lot of data to guide and substantiate the changes the data suggested we make.” – Assoc. Prof. Dana Carney.

The task force also worked closely with the Haas Board and the Career Management Group (CMG), which developed a survey of recent alumni and collected data from corporate recruiters on the skills they seek when hiring. Early in the process, two clear areas in the existing curriculum emerged that would need a fresh and upgraded experience—interacting with people and interacting with data, Carney said. 

Jenn Bridge, senior director of employer engagement & industry readiness at Haas, said her team’s interviews with recruiters and alumni surveys aligned with findings in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, confirming the demand for strong data and people-centered skills. 

“Being nimble as a leader and managing people through change are skills that are highly desired,” she said. “The pandemic has accelerated all of this.” 

Learn by doing

One of the ways the task force made room in students’ schedules for the new core courses was to to shift the decade-old Fundamentals of Design Thinking course from the core to an elective. 

Haas pioneered teaching design thinking as part of an MBA core refresh in 2010. Since then, design thinking has become a standard approach to problem solving, woven throughout the curriculum, especially in the required project-based Applied Innovation electives. MBA students will continue to “learn by doing” through design thinking and other decision-making approaches, Stowsky said.  

The part-time MBA programs are considering the core refresh in light of the needs of their students. In the Evening & Weekend MBA program, the Business Communications in Diverse Environments core course will be added to the core and become the capstone course, while the two new data-focused courses will offered as electives. Implementation in the MBA for Executives program is under discussion with the EMBA Academic Program Committee.

Verse Gabrielle on the revolutionary act of being a proud Black queer woman

One, light-skinned black girl and a dark-skinned Black woman sitting in car.
Verse Gabrielle (with daughter Lyric Assata Gabrielle) is an associate director for the full-time MBA admissions program.

Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. 

Born and raised in Chicago’s South Side, Verse Gabrielle is an associate director for the full-time MBA admissions program at Haas. Gabrielle, who uses “shey, sheir, shem,” pronouns that are preferred by some nonbinary and trans people, is also a poet, a playwright, a wife, and mom to four-year-old daughter Lyric Assata. In this Haas Voices interview, Gabrielle talks about growing up, being queer, and the healing power of intellectual curiosity and the spoken word.

I knew from as early as six years old that I was queer. But queerness was not celebrated in my family. I enjoyed having male friends and playing sports with boys my age, but I was never interested in the male gaze. I despised wearing dresses, playing with Barbie dolls, and never considered myself overly feminine, which was met with a lot of disdain.

When I was a freshman in high school, I told a family member that I liked girls. I was advised to keep the secret and not to disclose it to anyone. So I did. I suppressed my queerness until I deemed it safe to come out. Unfortunately, I was forced back into the closet until I turned 18. 

Book smarts and intellectual curiosity are what saved me. 

I graduated as valedictorian of my elementary school. Instead of attending my neighborhood high school, I went to De La Salle Institute-Lourdes Campus (DLS), one of the top private schools in Chicago. After completing my freshman year, I transferred into the honors program at DLS. I was ranked #6 in my class, graduating with a 4.667 G.P.A.

In my senior year of high school, I applied for and was awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship. I felt like I had secured my financial future and could leave behind all the drama. I decided to go to the University of Minnesota, where for the first time in my life, I could be my authentic self. I started dating women, joined the LGBT student union. It was freeing. 

While my intellect saved me, my spoken word helped heal me. I started writing poetry when I was about 10 years old, performing at talent shows and school assemblies, but it wasn’t until the summer before I went to college that I started performing at open mics in Chicago. 

In college, I joined a student club called Voices Merging and later established the group Poetic Assassins. We’d travel and perform at different universities and colleges around the U.S. My poetry spans topics of internalized homophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny, the prison industrial complex, and gender roles. 

Spoken word was my therapy: it helped me escape and process all the trauma I endured in Chicago. That’s where I let out all of the anger, rage, and pain. It also opened many doors for me. My poetry has been published in a few anthologies, including “When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwestern Experience.” I’ve also written and collaborated on a spoken-word play, and facilitated poetry workshops focused on the intersectionality of race, class, and gender through a hood-feminist lens (i.e. Black feminist critique of traditional feminism).

I’ve been called dyke, bulldagger, male-woman, he-she, and chi chi man, which was hurled at me as I walked the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. 

My artistry allowed me to move and operate in different spaces, but it didn’t shield me from bigotry, homophobia, and microaggressions on and off campus. I remember going to a rally almost every other weekend to protest against police brutality and crimes against Black and Brown people. I’d go to these protests to show solidarity because I am Black and I’m absorbing the pain like everyone else, but I’d also face homophobia from members of the Black community because my physical appearance and queerness didn’t fit the mold of what an “ideal Black woman” looks like. I’ve been called dyke, bulldagger, male-woman, he-she, and chi chi man (which was hurled at me as I walked the streets of Kingston, Jamaica).

A Black woman wearing dark sunglasses and pink shirt
Portrait: Verse Gabrielle

Being queer and masculine-presenting has affected my relationship with straight men and women. I get weird looks and sometimes I’m questioned when I enter the female restroom, which is where I am most comfortable. I have had verbal altercations with men who’ve had issues with how I express my queerness being masculine-presenting. I’ve also had women express their discomfort with my presence in professional and communal spaces because they feared I was romantically interested in them.

I have many identities, however the core of my identity is my unapologetic Blackness: Black Buddhist, Black mother, Black queer, Black wife, Black woman, and so on. I am proud of my heritage and culture. I embody the beauty and duality of masculine and feminine traits without denying either. I demand the world see me the way I want to be seen. As a result, my identities have evolved from strikes against me to badges of honor that I wear proudly. To walk this earth against society’s expectations of what womanhood looks like is revolutionary.

A black woman and her daughter sits on a blue-and-white checkered blanket.
Gabrielle’s wife, Dominique, and four-year-old daughter Lyric Assata.

As parents to a four-year-old daughter, my wife, Dominique, and I strive to be the best parents. We have taken parenting classes and joined groups to prepare and round out our parenting techniques. It’s important for us to not only model Black queer love, good communication, and healing, but also to support and celebrate our daughter’s Blackness, femininity, intellectual curiosity, athleticism, and spunk. We support our daughter, Lyric Assata, in everything she does. We take the time to listen to her and truly understand her love languages. Dominique and I are just two Black queer womyn who’ve shared their visions and created the family we always wanted to have—and that’s revolutionary.

I’ve had an amazing experience since joining Haas in 2019. By far, Haas has been one of the best communities that I’ve joined. As a Black queer woman, I feel heard, my identities are celebrated, and I’m part of a diverse staff who support me. My colleagues and I regularly participate in Courageous Conversations where we discuss difficult topics like race, gender, and class. It’s rare to find a work environment where I can be my authentic self and I think much of that has to do with Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs). Students Always is my favorite DLP because I’m an intellectual at heart and will forever be a student. 

Now that I have transitioned from an admissions manager to an associate director, I feel like I have a seat at the table, I can make admissions decisions, and I can serve as a support system to all of our students, especially those who have similar backgrounds to me. When I was applying to college and graduate school, there was neither a blueprint nor a support system for me; I had to figure out everything on my own. But now, I can be of service to others.

Five questions with Juan Alba, BS 21, “The Juan and Only”

As commencement approaches, we’re interviewing students from different Haas programs about their experiences at Berkeley Haas and where they plan to go next. 

Undergraduate Juan Alba, BS 21, is the star of the YouTube channel The Juan and Only, where he dishes about everything from how he got into Berkeley to his experiences interning at Warner Brothers in LA. He’ll start working at Google in July.


Tell us a bit about your background and your path to Berkeley?

I immigrated from Colombia to the United States when I was 10 years old with my mom. It was hard learning English and adjusting to this new culture since I didn’t have a community or a network of people to fall back on. There are few Colombians in the Sacramento area and that was something that motivated me to go above and beyond to make a difference in my community. I turned to food as a way for me to feel in touch with my culture and I came to Cal with the mistaken understanding that I could only enter the food industry through nutrition. So I was in the pre-med track my first year.

What made you decide to switch to business?

I became interested in business after realizing in my organic chemistry laboratory that I longed for a more collaborative environment where I could help people on a greater scale.

You’re a big supporter of mentorship, and you mentor students at Cal who are interested in Haas. You also launched your YouTube channel, where you talk about what it’s like at UC Berkeley for Latinos. Why is mentorship so important to you?

There are so many underrepresented minorities who come to Cal with dreams like mine.

I started my channel because when you look on YouTube for videos about UC Berkeley, you don’t see a lot of Latinos. I wanted to show a different face of diversity. I wanted to set an example that you can be successful, you can thrive, you can make friends, and that was the initial mission of my channel, The Juan and Only.

People mentored me when I was applying to Haas and I’ve helped over a dozen peers through the process since then. I am a teacher at heart and I find immense value in sharing my knowledge with peers, especially when they support others in the future. In the Becoming Business Leaders DeCal course that I co-teach at Haas, I make it my mission to get to know my students outside of lecture and share my insights to help propel their goals.

The question of identity is a struggle that a lot of people have, especially a lot of Latinos, and it’s hard to understand if you’re not from the culture. When I go to Colombia, I’m always a little different from everyone else because I do not live there. And here in the U.S., I’m from Colombia. But I’ve come to understand that I’m myself. I’m the Juan and Only, and I don’t have to be either Colombian or American. I can be both. That’s a lesson that I always share with my mentees—the importance of not comparing yourself with anyone else. And I really find that my work is valuable because I can connect with many people through my diverse perspectives.

What are some of the skills you learned at Haas that have made a difference in how you see the world?

For me, the most impactful classes were in leadership, personal development, and communications—the soft skills that really make you as a person stand out. My favorite class was Leadership and Personal Development with Cort Worthington. That class has been critical to my professional development. It really teaches you to dig deep into your past and understand yourself in order to move forward and be a better leader.

I want to emphasize how meaningful Haas has been for me. The ability to feel a personal connection with my professors is something that I could not have received anywhere else. I’m so incredibly thankful. I say I’m graduating from UC Berkeley Haas, not just UC Berkeley, because Haas has such a special place in my heart. I feel like Haas really helped empower me in finding my own voice.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I feel like I’m in a good place. I’m going to be working at Google as an associate account strategist. I want to learn more about the tech space in a big organization before I start my own social enterprise business in the future.

What I really love about this position at Google is that it’s about doing my best to help small businesses grow. Like these restaurants in Berkeley that have faced difficulties with COVID-19—in doing my job, I can help them boost their sales and support them to stay open. Having ideas that create a positive impact is very important to me, and that’s why I’m very excited for my future projects to come.


Haas Voices: Staffers reflect on “creating the campus we want to see”

portraits: susie jordan, Tyrone Wise, Seren Pendleton-Knoll.
From left to right: Susie Jordan, Tyrone Wise, Seren Pendleton-Knoll.

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: How the ‘model minority’ myth hurts Asian Americans

Haas Voices is a new first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. 

Undergrad student photos
L-R, clockwise: Erinn Wong, BS 21, Mia Character, BS 20, and Vivian Feng, BS 24.

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.

The students also created a list of Asian American resources on campus and beyond.

Our interviewees:

Erinn Wong, BS 21, who grew up in Sacramento. Wong is a queer Chinese American; her parents are from Hong Kong.

Vivian Feng, BS 24, a freshman in the Berkeley Haas Undergraduate Global Management Program who grew up in Oakland. Feng is Chinese American and a graduate of Oakland High School.

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
Erinn Wong

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 Feng
Vivian Feng

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 Character
Mia Character

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.

Black History Month: “A time to reflect on the past, assess the present, and plan for the future”

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.

Portrait: David Brown-Dawson
Portrait: David Brown-Dawson, MBA 21. Former vice president of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the full-time MBA Association.

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.”

Portrait: Cheukai Makari
Portrait: Cheukai Makari, BS 22. Vice President of the Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association (HUBBA).

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.”

Portrait: D'Juan Wilcher, his wife and son
Portrait: D’Juan Wilcher, EMBA 22, and his wife and son.

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 educationThis 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.”

Portrait: Tiffany Shumate, EWMBA 23
Portrait: Tiffany Shumate, EWMBA 23.

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?”

Portrait: Tyrone Wise
Portrait: Tyrone Wise, associate director of Student Experience, Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Program.

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.”

Portrait: Amber Moore Harrold, assistant director of Financial Aid.

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.”

Portrait: Tamarik Rabb, BS 21
Portrait: Tamarik Rabb, BS 21. President of the Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association (HUBBA).

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: Luis Alejandro Liang on being “paperless, not powerless”

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.

Liang and his motherxico when Liang was 14, celebrate at his 2012 Haas undergraduate commencement.
Liang and his mother, Rosario Garcia, celebrate at his 2012 undergraduate commencement.

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.

Liang, an advocate for undocumented immigrant communities, marching to defend DACA at San Francisco’s City Hall in 2017.

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.”

Liang, second from left, with President Obama at the White House in 2013.

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.

Luis Liang with family
Luis Liang with (left to right) sisters Jeniffer Liang and Marisol Looper (with daughter, Isabella); mother, Rosario Garcia, and sister Janette Liang.

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.

Tiffany Santana on raising the profile of Native Americans on and off campus

Two women with dark hair. Woman on right wears headdress.
Tiffany Santana, left, attends a protest at UC Berkeley with her sister.

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.

Woman holds large drum
Tiffany Santana and her father attends a march in Downtown Oakland.

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.”


Alum Victor Santiago Pineda, director of UC Berkeley’s Inclusive Cities Lab, on making the future accessible

Victor Santiago Pineda
Victor Santiago Pineda (right) at UN headquarters in New York with Cornelia Henriksson, policy officer for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2019.

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.

College Leap: Startup helps students navigate transferring

Jay Zhao of College Leap
Jay Zhao, BS 21, who transferred to Haas as a junior, founded College Leap to help ease the process for other community college students.

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.

College Leap team
UC Berkeley students who are working with College Leap

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.


Gerardo Campos: How a student walkout changed my life

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.

Gerardo Campos with his family
Gerardo Campos (second from left) celebrates his birthday with daughter, Celeste, son, Marcelino, and wife, Michelle.

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.

Creating change

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.

Coverage of the walkout in local paper El Tecolote
Coverage of the walkout by the English/Spanish paper El Tecolote. Campos, who helped organize the walkout, saved the news clip.

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.