Stacy Nathaniel Jackson, MBA 90: Transitioning—a private decision with public consequences

Portrait: Stacy Nathaniel Jackson, MBA 90
Portrait: Stacy Nathaniel Jackson, MBA 90

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, on social justice and “talking about the hard stuff”

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.

Eduardo Consigliere, MBA 21: Owning all facets of his identity

In honor of Pride Month, we’re highlighting members of the LGBTQ community at Haas. 

Portrait: Eduardo Consigliere, MBA 21
Eduardo Consigliere, MBA 21, is co-president of Q@Haas, the LGBTQ-affinity organization on campus.

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?

student in cap and gown, posing with woman
Eddie and his mom.

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.

Group of students
Q@Haas members attend ROMBA 2019 Conference in Atlanta.

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.

Eduardo Consigliere and classmates.
Eddie and his classmates celebrated the end of the fall semester by attending the Gold Formal.

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.

 

A mission to make business school cases more diverse

EGAL leaders
L-R: EGAL Research Assistant Diana Chavez-Varela, BA 19 (political economy); Associate Director Genevieve Smith, and Program Director Jennifer Wells. Photo: Jim Block

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.

EGAL's report on DEI in business cases
An executive summary of EGAL’s research on the state of DEI in business school cases.

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.

Some of those cases are homegrown, written by Haas faculty and published as the Berkeley Haas Case Series (BHCS).

Five Berkeley Haas cases included in EGAL’s Case Compendium include—Promoting a Culture of Equity in the #MeToo Era: Moving Beyond Responding to Gender-Related Workplace Issues to Tackling Root Causes (written by McElhaney and Smith); Zendesk: Building Female Leaders Through Mentorship (co-written by McElhaney); Eliminating the Gender Pay Gap: Gap Inc. Leads the Way (written by McElhaney and Genevieve Smith); The Berkeley-Haas School of Business: Codifying, Embedding, and Sustaining Culture (written by Prof. Jennifer Chatman with former Dean Rich Lyons); and People Operations at Mozilla Corporation: Scaling a Peer-to-Peer Global Community (written by Senior Lecturer Homa Bahrami).

Prof. Jennifer Chatman, who teaches organizational behavior, writes some of her own cases.

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.)

 

EMBA’s Emeric L. Kennard: Pride in art and identity

In honor of Pride Month, we’re highlighting members of the LGBTQ community at Haas. 

Emeric Kennard
Emeric L. Kennard, experiential learning project coordinator for the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program at Berkeley Haas. Photo: Jim Block

(Note: Emeric L. Kennard, who identifies as a queer, nonbinary, transgender person, uses the preferred pronoun “they.”)

Growing up, Emeric L. Kennard’s sleep-deprived father would hand them crayons and a pile of paper and they’d draw for hours.

That passion to make art never stopped for Kennard, who is also the experiential learning project coordinator for the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program.

An award-winning visual artist and illustrator, Kennard’s art is informed by a love of reading—science fiction in particular—and their work contains magical elements like woodland creatures, horned demons, and moon-soaked ceremonies.

“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.

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories illustration
Ghost Stories

“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.”

Willpower

Willpower by Emeric Kennard
Willpower

“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.”

Mephistopheles

Mephistopheles
Mephistopheles

“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.”

Burial

Burial by Emeric Kennard
Burial

“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.”

Ace Patterson, MBA 16: What it means to be an ally

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.

Ace Patterson, MBA 16

Ace Patterson, MBA 16, aka “Call Me Ace,” spoke with OneHaas podcast host, Sean Li, EWMBA 20, about the death of George Floyd, allyship, and action steps to combat racial injustice. (Listen on YouTube below. Also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts).

Bree Jenkins, MBA 19: Being Black at Berkeley Haas

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. Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, who now works at Pixar, wrote this perspective for the Berkeley Haas magazine Summer 2019 issue.

Bree Jenkins

I toe the line between compassion and anger.

Or maybe it’s sadness or amusement. Probably all of the above. One of my professors, he’s smart and I like him, has called me by the other black girls’ name. She’s a close friend of mine, but she is not me. I know he doesn’t notice because when I nervously approach him after class and explain to him what happened, he looks distressed. I briefly wonder if I shouldn’t have said anything, if I’m being too sensitive or overreacting or putting a “racial lens” on something when it doesn’t need to have one.

Sometimes all you want to be is just another student, but if you don’t speak, your voice won’t be heard. And your voice is representative.

Under different circumstances, I may have just brushed it off. People mix up names all the time. But I feel the need to say something because we have just had a deep Haas-wide discussion on this very topic. It happened with another student whom I care deeply about, and he was brave enough to speak up. It’s not the action as much as it is the feeling of discomfort that has to be addressed lest it become resentment or hate or worse. My professor is apologetic and upset, embarrassed and empathetic. He is considerate of what I’m feeling but doesn’t say, I understand. I know. I appreciate that he doesn’t put words in my mouth. Later that night, he writes me an email. It is kind, thoughtful.

Most of the people that I know at Haas are just that—kind and thoughtful. Being black at Berkeley Haas meant that I was surrounded by many students and faculty who were aware or wanted to become more aware. They took classes and even created classes; classes like Dialogues on Race. They were and are true allies, and I hoped to earn my title as ally from them and have their backs. What a beautiful community I found, starting with the Consortium and my incredible co-liaisons. I also built strong friendships and relationships from being a leadership communications graduate student instructor, a rep for my cohort, and participating in the International Business Development program with a fantastic team. But sometimes, even that didn’t feel like enough.

One day in class, we watch a video about the civil rights movement. There is, of course, violence: hoses, beatings, lynching, death. Lives are changed and lineages destroyed. I soon realize that I’m the only one crying. The only one. Perhaps coincidentally I’m also the only black person in the class. Others are considerate and caring. My friends hug me and classmates and my professor check in on me after class. It could just be that they don’t cry easily, but it seemed like my classmates were observing something far away and long ago, that they weren’t connected to. Which made me feel like maybe they weren’t connected to me.

Haas is diverse. We have 40% international students and many members of the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, women, men. We have diversity of thought and of experience. We openly celebrate this and our cultural backgrounds and gender fluidity. And yet there were only three black women in my class. Two in the class of 2020. I’ve heard people argue that, “Black people don’t understand the value of a graduate degree” or “It’s the pipeline problem.” Pipeline problems exist, but did we check to see where our pipes were connected to? If the line is faulty perhaps it’s connected to the wrong source. Where was our strong representation in Atlanta? In D.C.? In our own staff? How can we expect to attract this demographic without being intentional?

This feeling isn’t new or limited to Berkeley, however. I felt the same in my undergraduate institution where I was one of the few black engineers in diverse Atlanta. Or in my first job after college, where for three years I was the only black person on a team of 70. It’s just getting old at this point.

I was asked what it’s like to be black at Berkeley Haas. What is it like to be black anywhere in America? To be reminded that despite being integral to this country, you don’t exactly belong. To be the first in your household, your generation, maybe even your extended family to attend a place like this and be heaped with praise by how much you’re able to “overcome” and how you must be special and smart. All the while, you know at least 10 other people just as smart as you and even more hardworking who just couldn’t afford your undergraduate institution or the test prep or to take time off of work to come to a place like Berkeley. You don’t feel special—you feel lucky, considering that if your mom had not moved to a city with better schools, perhaps you would be another person with “lost potential.”

Being black means being surrounded by people who don’t think about race every day and marveling at that. Marveling that they don’t talk about the injustices of a society that has already nearly forgotten its past and keeps repeating it with a fresh set of faces. It’s sitting on a panel, leading a small group discussion, or even writing an article— about being black at Berkeley Haas. Sometimes all you want to be is just another student, but if you don’t speak, your voice won’t be heard. And your voice is representative. You have to keep reminding people that you do not carry the perspective of everyone who happens to have your same skin color. You are an individual; sometimes you want to be treated that way.

Then, when you write the article, you decide to tone it down so that readers will take you seriously and not dismiss you as an angry black woman when you decided to try vulnerability. And still you fear the reaction.

Binundu Isaiah Samuel, EMBA 20: It is not OK!

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. Binundu Isaiah Samuel,
co-president of the Berkeley Haas Executive MBA Class of 2020, sent this letter to classmates. We’re reposting with his permission.

Dear Executive MBA Family,

Binundu Isaiah Samuel
Binundu Isaiah Samuel, EMBA 20

I watched the execution of George Floyd in horror and pain. Sadly, images and stories of similar atrocities have become all too common yet, this one hit different! I watched a man cry out for mercy only for his cries to fall on deaf ears. I watched a man in pain and agony cry out for his mother in fear of losing his life! Yet, his cries were drowned out by hate, ignorance, and a lack of decency for a fellow human being. No one was able to intervene, no one was able to save George Floyd, or Ahmaud Arbery, or Breonna Taylor. The cries of the brutalized have echoed for generations, and now here we are. It is not ok!

The history of this nation is marred by episodes of hate. Repetitive cycles, where black bodies and lives are mangled, abused, beaten, disrespected, tortured, and made to feel less than human. It is not ok! 

I cried as I watched another one of my black brothers struggle for his life, and could not help but think about how that could have easily been me or someone I cared about. The video reminded me of the excessive caution that I have to exercise when interacting with police, for fear of becoming another statistic. The video reminded me of the racial slurs that I’ve endured from ignorant groups and people alike. The video reminded me of how I fear for my black friends and family, and how our safety isn’t guaranteed even at the hands of those sworn to protect us. The video reminded me of the anxiety that I feel about how those in positions of power will react to my application for a job or opportunity when they realize that I am a black candidate. Believe me; being black every day in America is a constant reminder of a broken system that screams “we don’t want you” and to be honest, I am tired. It is not ok!

The video reminded me of the anxiety that I feel about how those in positions of power will react to my application for a job or opportunity when they realize that I am a black candidate.

I am sharing this because I feel that it is important and necessary for us to align as an EMBA community. It is time for us to decide where we stand. Are you going to be on the side of justice, equality, and fairness for all? Or are you going to pretend that there are no problems? The time for pretense is over! The mask has been lifted, and the scars are exposed for all to see – just listen to the cries reverberating from all corners of the globe. The world is in pain. It is not ok!

EMBA 20’s, we are the future. Our cohort will give rise to great leaders who will have the opportunity and power to drive change and influence the world! We must heed the lessons of our past and present to ensure our future will be better. We must remember, that in whatever capacity, the change can start with us!

Thanks to those that have reached out to me—it means a lot! Please know that I do not claim to have the answers – I am still learning, analyzing, organizing, and digesting all that is occurring. As I look for ways to contribute towards a solution, I welcome you to join me in dialogue, partnership, and allyship. 

Here is a folder with more anti-racism resources.

Be well and take care, EMBA family.

Binundu Isaiah Samuel
Class Co-President, EMBA Class of 2020

Asst. Dean Erika Walker: Insight into why I’m passionate about social justice and equity

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.

Erika Walker, Assistant Dean for the Undergraduate Program, shared this letter with her team. 

Dear team,

Asst. Dean Erika Walker
Asst. Dean Erika Walker

You may have wanted to ask me how I’m doing but something held you back. I probably wouldn’t have processed my feelings enough to have a response at that point anyway. Some days I can talk about it and other days I’m too drained. I don’t have answers and I shouldn’t be the one who has to give them. And as I’ve been reflecting, the bottom line is that I’m not alright. I’m hurting. It is hard to focus on work. I go up and down between feeling sad, terrified, frustrated, hopeless, and angry. Hearing George Floyd cry out for his mother as he took his last breaths under the knee of a police officer broke me. It is my worst nightmare. This is happening repeatedly. I’m tired. I’m traumatized. I don’t understand what it will take for people to be outraged enough to dismantle systems of oppression. To take bold and calculated risks against the racial injustices that we are born into. These systems are what our country was built upon. The history of this nation is built on looting from others. PERIOD. It is embedded as part of the DNA of each institution that guides our lives be it health care, housing, education, financial, or social. And policing has its roots in maintaining “the order of property” from slavery to present. If we can’t acknowledge that fact and talk about it, then how on earth can we start changing the core of how we operate?

Policing has its roots in maintaining “the order of property” from slavery to present. If we can’t acknowledge that fact and talk about it, then how on earth can we start changing the core of how we operate?

You may not recognize all facets of these disparities but I experience them every single day of my life. My husband experiences it every moment as a black man. My three children recognized it as early as four and five years old. As parents, we have to think twice about them playing outside in front of the house, walking to the store, going to the park, or hanging out with friends. I’m terrified every time my son gets behind the wheel and I’m anxious about my 14 year old wanting to learn to drive. It is a sad reality that is reinforced each time aggression is captured on video. White women weaponizing the police against black people. No one policing the police when murdering black people. It is unsafe for black people in America. It is unsafe for my family. It is unsafe for me.

We cannot be okay with “I don’t see color,” “I’m not a bad person,” or “I’m not racist”. If you don’t see color, you are erasing my existence. The existence of my family tree that has its roots in slavery. The existence of this country. If you are worried about YOU not being a racist and protecting how you are perceived, then you aren’t even halfway ready to focus on anti-blackness and anti-RACISM for the good of all. So if you want to know what to do to support, start with you. Then do something. See an injustice? Say something. Research, ask questions, and take action. Vote differently. Question legislature. Think differently. Whatever level of engagement makes sense for you but please, do something.

See an injustice? Say something. Research, ask questions, and take action. Vote differently. Question legislature. Think differently.

I learned early that I had to code switch at work to make others around me comfortable with my existence. Black people do not have the luxury of avoidance. We work hard to compartmentalize and it is exhausting. Look, it’s common that we separate politics, religion, points of view, and frankly, most of the daily aspects of our lives, cultural or otherwise, from work. (Well, at least in work spaces that don’t have majority people of color.)  For those of you who remember the book, Difficult Conversations, we know that some of this is due to the identity politics that we may struggle with, which hinders our confidence and comfort level in having open and honest conversations. We don’t want to be labeled as “bad” in any way. We don’t want to make mistakes. We want to avoid conflict. We don’t want to talk about pain. Most people who are not black, don’t know how to talk about culture or injustices with black people. But friends and colleagues, WE HAVE TO DO BETTER. WE HAVE TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE. How can we not be uncomfortable with what we see all around us? Black people are being murdered. And for decades, the same reaction, narrative, and justifications immediately follow. “Well, what did he do to provoke the police?” “She did something in her past that may explain how she brought this on herself.” Do you not see the patterns? Ask the right questions. Dig deeper. Even in business we iterate. Let’s do something and see what works. We have to take risks.

And friends, it is not enough to not be racist. You must be anti-racist. Frankly, it is not enough to be an ally. You need to get involved.

And to be anti-racist does not mean being anti anything else. Please don’t start talking about other groups and experiences. It is okay to center on the black experience and the egregious acts against us. As human beings, it is okay to be empathetic and focused on correcting centuries of harm on black people that still plays out to this day.

Watching the news and social media today looks a lot like watching vintage and historical film except these are the same images we see over and over and they continue every day. We’ve been here before again and again. It is imperative that the cycle is broken.

We’ve recently begun doing some work around having courageous conversations and how it can be incorporated into our practice. We’ve discussed being equity leaders at work and taking part in creating equitable spaces for all. How can we be equity leaders in all aspects of our lives? What can you do in this moment?

I just needed to acknowledge what is happening in our country because business-as-usual is severely tone deaf. Amidst a Covid-19 pandemic, we are also suffering through a racism pandemic. And crazy enough, I’m relieved to be able to shelter at home. It’s safer here for my family than out there.

These are my views and opinions. I don’t have the answers. I’m just asking for help in actively creating change. To be silent is to be complicit. I’m tired of just talking philosophically about it. What actions can we take today?

I know a lot of resources are available out there but you may not know where to start. Here are some:

Ally vs. Co-conspirator

75 things white people can do for racial justice

Anti-Racism Resources

I Have Not Missed the Amy Coopers of the World

No need to respond to me. Just please…do something.

In solidarity,

Erika

Marco T. Lindsey: Thoughts from your Black colleague

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.

Marco Lindsey, Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Berkeley Haas, shared this letter with colleagues.

Colleagues,

I’m writing this now, but to be honest, I really don’t want to be bothered. I don’t want to write, I don’t want to talk, I don’t want to work, I don’t want to socialize.

Many of you have reached out to me personally, and I appreciate it. I do. I just feel like shit right now. I find myself crying often, and I haven’t cried outside of a funeral in many years.

Because I am a community activist, I am receiving numerous requests to speak to our community and our youth in Oakland on what we should do next or how we should move forward. But I’m at a loss. I have no fucking idea on where we go from here. Voting seems like the most productive choice, but we’ve voted for a long time, and this problem has never subsided. And me casting a ballot in November does not make my son any safer today (or in November for that matter). Within the last week, even Black politicians have been assaulted and arrested while PEACEFULLY protesting…

There’s social unrest happening in our country. And whatever side you are on regarding looting and/or protests, what’s happening is that people are fed up, disgusted, tired, hurt, afraid, angry, and in mourning.

If you read no further, understand this. Black Lives Matter = if anyone kills a Black person, their punishment should be the same as if they killed someone from any other race. 

No matter if they are White, Black, or Blue. If anyone kills a Black person, they should be arrested, tried and convicted of murder. We don’t hold the false belief that murders amongst humans will stop. If you read the bible, when there were only 4 people on earth (Adam, Even, Cain and Abel), a murder occurred. We live in a cruel world. The request is that when someone Black is killed, the murderer gets treated the same no matter their job, race, gender or nationality.

This is what people are protesting. This is what people are upset about. A quarterback attempted to peacefully protest this by taking a knee, and he was black listed (it’s unfortunate that so many negative connotations are associated with the word “black), called an SOB by the president, and called disrespectful to our flag/nation by many of our fellow Americans. People… Black people are at our wits end because we have no idea what to do to fix this.

There was a time when I was afraid for my life as a Black man. But that fear subsided when I became a father. Because now, for the rest of my life, I live with the fear of my children being murdered by someone from an over-represented group, without consequence. I live with this burden daily. Daily.

The true problem with the recent videos of Black people being slayed is that there are thousands of others who experience the same fate, but because they aren’t recorded, you’ll hear nothing about it. Even George Floyd’s “official” report from the police says that heart disease and “potential intoxicants” in his system played a part in his death. So many people who look like me are dying REGULARLY by those who are sworn to serve and protect us, and it goes unnoticed except by the fatherless children and broken families left behind.

I don’t have faith that we will see a change in my lifetime. I was alive to see Rodney King viciously beaten and have the officers deemed not guilty. That was almost 30 years ago and we are still watching Black men and women be assaulted and killed on camera by the people meant to protect them.

I am sending this to you because I think of you as a friend, but feel free to share (if you didn’t receive this directly from me, please charge it to my mind and not my heart, as I am not remembering or thinking straight much these days). But many times it’s easier to deal with these tragedies because the Black man killed is a stranger. But you know me. As hard as it may be to do, imagine me on the ground, handcuffed, begging for my mother (her name is Dorothy Louise) while an officer has his knee on my neck until I stopped breathing. Until I was dead. I need this to hit home because it not hitting home for so many people is the reason it continues. I need you to think of me lying there dead. Because when I saw this video (like too many others), I see my sons. I see my sons…

In my current state, I won’t and can’t ask much of you. But I do have simple requests.

Talk to your children about anti-Blackness. As a father I know that we want to keep them innocent and naive for as long as we can. But unfortunately they are bombarded with anti-blackness in cartoons, the media, at school, at the park, while shopping and online. Whether you notice it or not, it is embedded in our society. This is why so often you will hear of someone who committed heinous acts, and their parent’s saying that they didn’t raise them like that, or that they don’t know where they got that from. The world is teaching our children lessons that we may not condone. And You have the power to combat this but you have to be intentional. Because while I have very little hope that a change will come in my lifetime, I do pray that future generations get it right. But it starts with us doing something now.

My second request is that if you see a Black person being treated unjustly, speak up. Whether it is by a store clerk, a fellow citizen, a peace officer, or any public official, please say something. Your silence is your approval of negative actions. I get it. Not everyone is an extrovert, and many times we want to just mind our business. But we all would want someone to speak up on our behalf (or our family’s behalf) if we were on the receiving end of mistreatment. Be that someone.

Lastly, I’ll say get involved. I can’t dictate to you what that looks like, but it can be anything from writing an email to public officials, sharing a social media post, learning more about anti-Blackness, being an active ally at a rally, donating, or just sharing this message. But do something. Please don’t sit idly by while I am being murdered.  Make no mistake about it. I am dying.

Marco

Augustine Santillan, MBA 21: Paving the path for others to follow

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re featuring profiles and interviews with members of our Haas community.

Augustine Santillan, MBA/MEng 21, and his parents.
Augustine Santillan, MBA/MEng 21, and his parents in Monterey, CA.

Augustine Santillan, MBA/MEng 21, lived in the Midwest for most of his life. Though he identified as Filipino American growing up, Santillan hadn’t fully explored all of the richness and nuances of his Filipino heritage until he was an undergraduate at Northwestern. At Haas, he hopes to initiate more conversations about diversity and inclusion and encourage more Asian American students to enroll at Haas.

Tell me about your background and where you grew up?

I’m Filipino-American. I was born in Guam, but my parents are from Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines. My family and I moved to the U.S. when I was two months old. My mom is a neurologist and my father is an IT specialist and so we moved wherever the jobs were. I like to say that I’m from the Midwest because I lived in Cleveland, Green Bay, and later the suburbs of Chicago when I was a college student.  As I was growing up in the Midwest, though, I did have some trouble defining myself and my heritage. There weren’t a lot of people who looked like me and so I had to go on this journey of defining my own cultural identity on my own. 

So how did you go about defining your cultural identity?

I think it was difficult for me to relate to my culture because I really didn’t feel like I could own it. I didn’t feel authentic at all, especially since I didn’t speak Tagalog. But that changed when I went to college. When I was a student at Northwestern, I joined a Filipino student group that was open to everyone, not just Filipinos and Filipino Americans. As a group, we reflected and talked about our identities, participated in race-focused workshops, performed traditional dances, and wrote skits about our cultural experiences. All of these experiences have helped me define my relationship to my culture, given me more of a nuanced appreciation for my cultural context, and an even stronger sense of pride and gratitude for my family.  

Growing up, what were some of the ways you connected and explored your heritage?

I explored and celebrated my heritage through food and family gatherings. We’d cook some of our favorite dishes like pork Nilaga, a stew made with pork neckbones, and chicken adobo, chicken cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. My family and I would also go on road trips to visit our extended family in Chicago, especially during the holidays. Karaoke is also a huge part of my heritage. My family and I love to sing.  I’ll always remember hearing my parents and their friends sing songs from the Beatles and ABBA in the basement of my uncle’s house. I’m personally a big fan of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” It’s a great duet for karaoke. 

Augustine Santillan, MBA/MEng 21 and two classmates.
Augustine Santillan, MBA/MEng 21, enjoying a distanced hike with friends to celebrate the end of the semester.

Why did you decide to go to business school and did your heritage play a role in your decision?

I think my upbringing and my love for travel were factors that led me to take on consulting, especially for airlines and hotels. I learned early on that change is the only constant and that there’s always going to be new challenges to tackle. So going to business school and looking at new career paths that address global issues through social impact work is another challenge for me–one that excites me. Soon, I’ll be working at Tesla where I’ll have the chance to combine my passion for transportation with sustainability and clean energy. I’ll be working on strategy for their charging infrastructure, which I’m excited about.

Another reason I wanted to go to business school was because I was excited about creating more representation. Sometimes I feel like people don’t think that they belong in these spaces [business school]. Oftentimes, you hear about Asian Americans being overrepresented on college campuses, especially at Berkeley, and that we don’t need to invest as much energy in recruiting them to come to business school. There’s so much richness and color under this bucket of Asian Americans and I’ve been pushing the community at Haas to think about that diversity. It’s not just Chinese and Korean Americans that are part of the community at Haas, but also Pakistani Americans and Filipino Americans, to name a couple. That being said, I want to be here to pave the path for other Asian Americans and show them that they belong here and that they can be successful.

Building a strong Black community at Haas

Five members of the Black Business Student Association
The Black Business Student Association’s mission is to uplift and empower Black business students at Haas. Five of the seven board members are pictured. From left to right: Nicole Austin-Thomas, Mwita Wambura, Dalayna Jackson, Almaz Ali, and Allison Slaughter. Photo: Jim Block

For Dalayna Jackson, MBA 21 and co-president of the Black Business Student Association, hosting a crowded consumption function in the Haas courtyard during Black History Month was about more than dancing The Electric Slide and devouring homemade soul food.

For Jackson, last Friday was about creating a presence and assuring incoming and enrolled Black students that there’s a supportive and professional network to help them during their time at Haas.

“It’s important for us to be visible on campus for other Black students,” Jackson said. “We’re making sure that there is a space here for you and that you know about it.”

Mission to uplift, empower

A Kentucky native from Bowling Green, Jackson says she has always been a part of communities rooted in blackness, whether at her church or at social gatherings in her neighborhood.

So it’s no surprise that she’s helping to lead the BBSA, which has a mission to uplift and empower Black students on campus by building relationships with current and prospective students and alumni, connecting with Black graduate students at Berkeley and business schools in the Bay Area, and organizing social and professional networking events for its members.

Black Business Student Association visit museum.
BBSA members visit San Francisco’s de Young Museum for the Soul of a Nation exhibit.

During Black History Month, the BBSA will be hosting a variety of Bay Area events and outings, including a visit to San Francisco’s de Young Museum for the Soul of a Nation exhibit, a game night, a mixer with Stanford’s Black Business Student Association, and a luncheon for Black staff and faculty.

Part of Jackson’s mission is to continue to strengthen the Black community on campus. In the 2018 entering full-time MBA class, African Americans represented only two percent of the class, or six out of 291 students. This year, that number of incoming students tripled.

“I knew I wanted to be involved in BBSA because I wanted to help create a sense of community for my class and for those second-years who didn’t have that community,” Jackson said. “I want to make sure that moving forward, students always have a place where it feels like home.”

Building meaningful relationships

Nicole Austin-Thomas, MBA 21, said she, too, felt compelled to join BBSA to build a support network for current and future students and alumni. As BBSA vice president, not only is she helping organize retreats, study sessions, and mixers to foster connections among members, but she’s also benefiting from her efforts, too.

“I know there are 20 people on campus who I can reach out to for anything that I need and I’m willing to give my time and support to them as well,” she said. “BBSA allows me to have meaningful relationships that will carry beyond my time at Haas.”

While the first-year MBA class has many more African American students, and the school adopted a comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Action plan (DEI) in October 2018 that aims further increase representation, both Jackson and Austin-Thomas say there’s still work to do.

“I want students to know that there are people on campus who want to support you and want to see you succeed, but there’s no stasis,” Austin-Thomas said. “By coming here, you’ll be helping us build.”

 

Alum Dan Kihanya’s plan to get black entrepreneurs’ startups funded

Dan Kihanya, founder of Founders Unfound
Dan Kihanya, founder of Founders Unfound

Attracting funding is difficult for any aspiring entrepreneur. But for underrepresented minorities, the challenge can be even more daunting: just 1% of venture-backed founders in the U.S. are black and about 1.8% are Latino, according to a 2019 study.

That’s a big reason why Dan Kihanya, MBA 96, a serial entrepreneur who runs a mobile banking startup, decided to build Founders Unfound, an online platform to showcase underrepresented minority founders whose startups are ready for seed funding. The site features company information, a blog, and podcasts.

“My approach is to find companies that are at the stage of being venture backed so we can highlight them through the lens of getting the attention of investors and the larger startup community,” said Kihanya, whose father is from Kenya and mother is of English and Scottish descent.

The podcast interviews veer in interesting directions, covering everything from family background and life challenges, to sources of entrepreneurial inspiration, to the complexity of taxes and global manufacturing.

Building something that lasts

Interviewees so far include Stella Ashaolu, founder of WeSolv, which uses data analytics to help large companies improve workforce diversity; Baratunde Cola, founder of Carbice, is developing technology to prevent electronic devices from overheating; and AK Ikwuakor, founder of ELETE Styles, is designing fashionable professional clothes for the athletic build.

In one podcast, Ikwauakor, a former collegiate track and field star at the University of Oregon, discussed the link between sports and startup perseverance, comparing the pain of completing the 400-meter hurdle race to the pain of being rejected when someone doesn’t like your presentation. “It’s really about success in life…are you willing to go through the pain, the discomfort, the doubt?” he said.

Cola, who grew up in Pensacola, Florida, with a dad whom he described as a “street entrepreneur from the Bronx,” detailed his decades-long commitment to creating a new kind of thermal material for his startup, Carbice.

“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and build something that would last,” said Cola, who earned a PhD at Purdue.

A mechanical engineering undergrad who formerly worked in the Detroit auto industry, Kihanya moved to the Bay Area to enroll at Haas. “I was drawn to the place where you start something from scratch,” he said.

And Kihanya did. In 1996, he co-founded internet loyalty program MyPoints.com and took it public. A top performing IPO of 1999, MyPoints was acquired by United Airlines’ Loyalty Services Division in 2001.

Showcasing black founders

Kihanya went on to serve as an advisor to many startups, as well as a venture partner for Stockton Ventures on the East Coast. In 2017, he founded Wizely, which provides millennial consumers in India with mobile banking services, and today he commutes between his home in Seattle and Wizely’s India-based headquarters.

Before launching Founders Unfound, Kihanya considered simply increasing his angel investing and mentoring. But he ultimately decided that a digital platform, coupled with social media campaigns, would be a more powerful way to showcase a growing pipeline of black founders.

“I’m at the point in my career where it’s giving-back time,” he said.

When choosing a team of advisors for Founders Unfound, Kihanya turned to Haas, appointing Élida Bautista, the school’s director of inclusion and diversity, and Laurence “Lo” Toney, MBA 97, managing partner at Plexo Capital, whom Kihanya met at Haas.

For now, the website focuses on entrepreneurs of African descent, including Afro-Caribbeans and African-Americans. Kihanya plans to expand to include interviews with Latinx founders this year.

Another goal is to post 100 interviews—as fast as possible.

“If we had 10,000 listeners, 100,000 downloads, and if it’s the right audience, that’d be tremendous,” Kihanya says. “If an interviewee comes to me later and says, ‘This employee, or that investor, or this partner came to me because they heard me on Founders Unfound,’ that’s how I’d judge success.”

 

Haas to publish “playbook” to support dual-career couples

Though women now make up 47% of the workforce and hold over half of management, professional, and related occupations, companies are still struggling to support the needs of dual-career couples.

Enter the Supporting Dual Career Couples: An Equity Fluent Leadership Playbook, launching Jan. 16. It’s the first in a series of guides — dubbed “playbooks”— developed by the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGAL) at Haas.

From more flex-time to paid parental leave for all employees, the guide offers strategies and tools for organizations struggling to create a workplace that better supports dual-career couples. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, which is where the playbook can help,” said Kellie McElhaney, EGAL’s founding director. “We can’t assume that what works for a white woman works for a black woman or what works for a straight woman works for a transgender man. We’ve designed every play to be different based on the myriad of diverse lived experiences.”

An outdated workplace structure

Genevieve Macfarlane Smith, EGAL’s Associate Director, who developed the playbook with coauthor Ishita Rustagi of EGAL, prototyped it with the help of Gap Inc., Zendesk, and the Boston Consulting Group. She said the current workplace structure is outdated. “Though about 62 percent of full-time employees in the U.S. have a partner working full-time, workplaces are built for a traditional heterosexual couple with one partner (often assumed to be a man) who supports the family financially and another partner (often assumed to be a woman) who stays home to support unpaid care and household needs.”

Genevieve Smith coauthored the playbook with Ishita Rustagi of EGAL.

The playbook offers seven evidence-backed actions — which Smith and Rustagi call “plays” — that employers can implement. Each play includes the steps to put it into action, as well as the business benefits and methods for measuring success. Plays also include mini-cases from company leaders such as IKEA, Patagonia, Boston Consulting Group, and Gap Inc.

IKEA, for example, offers 16 weeks of paid parental leave to adoptive and foster parents as well as birth parents at the company’s U.S.-based locations. The company makes paid leave available to all workers, not just top-tier, salaried, and/or full-time workers. Patagonia provides employer-sponsored onsite childcare at its headquarters in Ventura, California, and at its distribution center in Reno, Nevada, with the capacity to serve over 250 children between the ages of three months to kindergarten. Patagonia reports that 99% of working mothers return to work after maternity leave.

More satisfied workers

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) launched a program in 2004 called PTO (predictability, teaming, and open communication), which is now a global initiative across 900 BCG teams in 30 countries.  Under PTO, consulting teams set terms for working remotely and meeting etiquette (e.g., no meetings before 8 am), and set expectations for being accessible online.

Since launching PTO, BCG has seen improvements in personal satisfaction and project performance. Teams that embraced PTO were more likely to be efficient than those that did not (75% vs. 42%) and individuals on those teams were more satisfied with their work/life balance (62% vs. 38%) and more likely to imagine themselves at BCG for the long term (69% vs. 40%).

Abby Davisson, a senior director at the Gap Foundation who founded Gap Parents—an employee resource group at Gap Inc.— in 2019, said she met with McElhaney when she was planning to start the group, which now has nearly 400 members. Gap Inc., where 70% of employees are women, already had a very family-friendly culture, she said, but Gap Parents has brought people even closer together—with even employees who are just starting to think about having children joining.

“A lot of parents were reinventing the wheel with figuring out how to get childcare or how to take advantage of their family leave, and now they have a formal community where they can connect and share tricks and hacks,” she said. Sign up to receive the playbook when it goes live.

 

Questioning the status quo: a Q&A with Chief DEI Officer David Porter

David Porter, Haas' first chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, started July 15. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small
David Porter, Haas’ first chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, started July 15. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small

David Porter, Berkeley Haas’ new chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, believes in questioning the status quo—which happens to be his favorite Defining Leadership Principle.

“I’m not a ‘follow the rules’ kind of guy,” said Porter, who started his job July 15. But before he shakes things up, Porter is getting acclimated with the Haas campus and community, meeting with his team, and setting his priorities.

Porter comes to Haas from the Walter Kaitz Foundation, a media nonprofit, where he served as CEO. He’s also the former director of graduate programs at the Howard University School of Business and was an assistant professor and faculty director at UCLA’s Anderson School.

We sat down to interview him last week.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, although I was born in Nashville. Kansas City was a great place to grow up. It was a large enough city that you had access to all the city stuff, but it wasn’t so big that my parents had to worry about my safety. Of course, it was a different time, so as long as you were in by the time the lights came on, it was all good. My father was a pediatrician. My mother was an assistant dean at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where she ran the medical center’s diversity programs. I have one sister, who’s now a psychiatrist.

When did you first come out to California?

In 1981, I drove cross-country to attend Stanford, where I stayed for eight years. At Stanford, I was very active in the black community. In addition, I was elected president of the student body and later served as the chair of the student senate. These experiences helped shape my understanding of universities and honed my leadership skills. As a student activist, I was the guy who often stood in the middle working to negotiate creative solutions with the administration.

My experience as a leader helped prepare me to serve on Stanford’s University Committee on Minority Issues. This was my first opportunity to think strategically about how one might diversify an organization. The committee was created in response to student protests in the spring of 1987. Its role was to make a comprehensive review of the entire institution. We worked for two years to develop a report which made numerous recommendations, many of which were adopted. That’s where I developed a lot of the skills around exercising influence without authority which I still use to this day.

What drew you to this position at Haas?

What I was really looking for was an organization where I thought the leaders were serious. A lot of diversity roles are what I call “diversity eye candy.” These companies often hire individuals who will come in and make the organization look good, without making real change. When I saw this role, I said to myself, “Let’s go through the process and see.” And as I went through the process, it seemed like Haas was serious with the DEI action plan. The fact that Haas has responded so energetically to the issues raised was impressive. You don’t often see a dean and her senior staff say they’re going to take the next 30 days to dig into a problem and actually take specific actions to address it.

When you first read our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan, what did you think of it?

I think it outlined some great first steps. For example, it recognized that the admissions process has some inherent biases which needed to be addressed. It also made some quick changes that were critical to impact the incoming class and it identified additional resources, including the expansion of the DEI team.  These efforts helped Haas to yield a critical mass of underrepresented students in the incoming class. It is my hope and expectation that these students will have a great experience which they will be able to share with future prospective students.

What are your first priorities here at Haas?

My first priority is making sure that the students, particularly students of color, have the best experience possible. I don’t want any of them to say, “Hey, this was a bad choice for me.” Part of that will be about meeting with them, being a good mentor, being a good resource. Another part of it will be working with my team to make sure that the environment continues moving in the direction that we’re going: to become more inclusive, to make sure that we put true meaning in the word “equity.”

I’d also like to get a better understanding of all the diversity activities going on at Haas. I’ve been amazed that in almost every conversation I’ve had, I’ve learned of another diversity initiative or an individual who has taken it upon themselves to do something to make this place more inclusive. I want to know what everyone is doing regarding diversity-related efforts and I’d love to create a big flow chart, because I think that we can do a better job of telling that story. I also think that better coordination could take place. All of those people who are doing that diversity work in addition to their regular day jobs—they are instant allies.

What are some of the things that can be done inside of the classroom?

There are lots of ways in which we can make a more inclusive experience in the classroom. For example, including more cases with diverse protagonists or covering diversity-related topics or bringing in more diverse guest speakers.  Hopefully, over time as our students see a broader range of individuals who are successful leaders, their view of what a successful leader looks like will change.

Will African American enrollment increase this fall and do you think that will change the campus environment?

We don’t have the final numbers yet, but we’re definitely expecting to have more African American students on campus this fall.

Every class comes in with a different mix. You can never really predict who will step up early on as leaders. But I do think that when you have a more diverse group of folks, there are more ingredients in the mix, and if Haas does a good job of creating an inclusive environment where everyone can come in and feel like they can be who they are and contribute actively, it will be a great experience for everyone.

EMBA students’ Alabama road trip: Reflections on racial injustice

A trip to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, over Memorial Day weekend led Lisa Rawlings, EMBA 19, to redefine courage.

“Putting myself in my grandparents’ shoes, I realized that courage was not always resistance, but sometimes it was simply endurance, which often required unthinkable compromises to their dignity to save their lives and those of their loved ones,” said Rawlings, whose African American grandmother was born in Alabama and left for Memphis as a teenager.

EMBA Students
Left to right: Claire Veuthey, EMBA 19; Travis Adkins; Lisa Rawlings, EMBA 19; John Gribowich EMBA 19; Alexei Greig, EMBA 19; Suprita Makh, EMBA 19; Vansh Makh (Suprita’s husband); and Adam Rosenzweig, EMBA 19, gather in front of the City of Saint Jude Parish in Montgomery, the final campground site for the people who marched from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights.
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John Gribowich (who is also a Catholic priest) at the Brown Chapel AME Church, which was the staging area for the beginning of the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
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The outside of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also called the lynching memorial. "Certain places come to encapsulate large, complex issues: the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Berlin Wall, Robben Island," said Adam Rosenzweig. "Without visiting the place, you can’t fully understand the issue. The National Memorial for Peace & Justice has become such a place for anyone seeking to better understand the legacy of racial terrorism in America."
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More than 4,300 documented lynchings of African Americans took place between 1877 and 1950. "I was taken aback by the horror we are able to inflict on each other," said Suprita Makh. "I knew this on an intellectual level but it was something else to be confronted with in person, to put names and faces behind numbers."
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Jars that contain samples of soil from confirmed lynching sites in Alabama. The victims' names are on the jars. "The sadness and pain I felt while reflecting on the sheer number of people tortured, humiliated and murdered during lynchings or protests... I will not become jaded to the utter terror black Americans experienced for centuries here and continue to experience today," said Alexei Greig.
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"In my mind lynchings had been horrendous acts carried out by tens or a few hundred white men in response to perceived slights," said Alexei Greig. "Learning that they were a class of lynchings that were public events with crowds of thousands, with audiences of women and children who took joy in the spectacle was beyond sickening."
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"I took this trip to honor the legacy and sacrifice of my grandparents...and all of those before them," Lisa Rawlings said. "I think especially of my grandmother who was born in Alabama and left for Memphis as a teenager. She never looked back and never spoke about her life in Alabama."
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"I thought we would have to look harder for signs of “the old South," Adam Rosenzweig said. "I expected that time and modernity would have forced the most visible elements of slavery and racism underground or into sanitized museum exhibits. This was not the case."
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The group walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which is named after a Grand Wizard of the KKK. "This shocked everyone in our group," said Adam Rosenzweig. "We all knew the name of the bridge, but we didn’t know who it was named for. It’s a powerful and not uncommon symbol of the centrality of white supremacy in Alabama."
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"I’d like to think I would have been part of the freedom fighters, willing to risk my life for equal voting rights," said Claire Veuthey, (left). "But I’m not that brave. I’m pushing myself to consider: what’s the analogy today? What’s the injustice we’re too timid to call out, too frightened to push back against?"
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"I still will never comprehend the full extent of the injustice and ongoing plight that exists for people of color," said John Gribowich, left. "I can only try my best each day to be a bit more empathetic and challenge how I am selflessly using my white privilege for the betterment of society."

Rawlings was among a group of six students in the MBA for Executives program who traveled to Alabama to connect the history of racial injustice in America to the present day. Rawlings was joined by Adam Rosenzweig, John Gribowich, a priest who made the same trip last year, Alexei Greig, Claire Veuthey, and Suprita Makh, all EMBA 19.

In Montgomery, the group visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also called the lynching memorial, which opened in 2018 and was built by the the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative. They toured the City of Saint Jude Parish and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the first church where Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor. After visiting the Lowndes Interpretive Center (in 1965, 80% of residents in Lowndes were African-American and not a single one was registered to vote), they walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the scene of the stand-off between the marchers for voting rights and law enforcement on Bloody Sunday in 1965.

(All photos by John Gribowich and Adam Rosenzweig)

 

 

Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, goes beyond herself

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re featuring profiles and interviews with members of our Haas community.

Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, at 2019 commencement last Sunday
Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, at commencement last Sunday, where she was honored with a Culture of Haas Award for “Beyond Yourself.” Photo: Joshua Edelson

When Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, was honored at last Sunday’s commencement with the “Beyond Yourself” Haas Culture Award, few would argue that it wasn’t deserved.

The daughter of immigrants from Delhi, India, Gaelan has served as president of the Haas Business School Association (HBSA), and as an associate consultant with the student-run Bay Area Environmentally Aware Consulting Network (BEACN), helping local nonprofits and small businesses to be more environmentally friendly and profitable. She’s also used her henna and photography talents to collect donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

We spoke with Gaelan, who will work at Accenture in San Francisco after graduating, about growing up Sikh in Modesto, California, her family’s commitment to education, and her commitment to service.

Jas with her parents.
Jaskirat Gaelan, BS 19, with her parents, Manpreet (Mona) Kaur and Bhupinder (Sunny) Singh, who brought her to Berkeley when she was little to show her the Campanile and “what college was like.”

Tell us about your background.

I immigrated to California with my parents from Delhi, India, when I was four years old. We first lived in Alameda, and my parents used to bring me to Berkeley when I was little to show me the Campanile and to show me what college was like. Getting me into a good school was a really big deal for them.

We later moved to Modesto, California. My parents had an ice cream store and a small convenience store and worked from 6 a.m. until 10 at night. I started working when I was young and helped them with whatever they were doing. This year they opened up a beautiful furniture gallery. They inspire me with the mentality: We start with what we have and dream big.

Jaskirat Gaelan in Alameda for her preschool graduation
Gaelan at her preschool graduation in Alameda, about a year after the family immigrated from India. (Family photo)

How did the diversity of California influence you?

I love that my parents chose to immigrate to California. California is a melting pot and I really felt that. My friends were a diverse group—Mexican, Taiwanese, Indian. What brought us together was the desire to learn and ask questions and explore. I think that’s why we all got along so well. We all believed in how important school is and had the curiosity to learn and seek help and ask questions. Many of us have parents who immigrated here and were busy with their businesses and didn’t go through the process of the SAT and learning about scholarships and financial aid.

What do you think people misunderstand about Sikhs?

Sikhs are often misidentified to be of other religions. In reality, Sikhism is a unique faith and is not derived from any other religion. Sikhism spans all geopolitical boundaries. People believe Sikhism is all about outer appearance. In reality, Sikhism is a simple religion with three fundamental principles: Naam japna (remember God and goodness in everything that we do), Kirat Karna (earn an honest living), and Vand Chakna (selflessly serve others).

Has being a Sikh in the U.S. been challenging for you?

The nearest Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) have been 30 to 40 minutes from the houses I’ve lived in, but every trip there has only been empowering to me. Though I may not be a strict follower, I have a deep desire to explore more about Sikhism.

What was your experience as an Asian American and a Sikh at Berkeley Haas?

I took a class in Asian-American history my freshman year. I loved it, I loved the people. It created an avenue for us to open up to each other about our families, our pasts. It’s been exciting here. I’ve met many other Asian Americans, children of immigrants. We realized that so many things about us, from how our parents encourage us to the types of jobs we want, are all very similar.

Before coming here, I never really had other Sikh students in my classes. (The Sikh population isn’t that large in Modesto.) But here, I could connect with many through the Sikh Students Association and other clubs. That was beneficial because they understood what my family is like, what my culture is like. They’ve helped me with applications and job searching, even praying with me before a class or cheering me up. Having that encouragement was why I was able to get through and figure things out.

What lessons have you learned from your community and culture that you want to share with others?

I’ve learned to help others. You can make a difference in more than your own life. Any success we have is much sweeter if it helps more than just you. Incorporate service at every point in your life, however you can, whether it’s helping one person, or a school, or a business, or a community. I’ve also met a lot of Asian Americans who have helped me to learn who I am and who I want to be. Regardless of your background, be willing to share your culture. It’s so valuable to be surrounded by diverse groups of people. Figuring out things together will help empower us even more to make an even bigger impact.

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