1st Thrive Fellows complete Latinx MBA pipeline program

Group of students under a thrive fellows sign at Haas
The first Thrive Fellows cohort gathered to celebrate finishing the program on June 8 at Spieker Forum. Photo: Jim Block.

A new Berkeley Haas program that’s helping Latinx students navigate acceptance into top-tier MBA programs celebrated its first cohort of graduates last weekend.

The June 8 ceremony capped the inaugural year of the Haas Thrive Fellows MBA pipeline program, which brought together Latinx students and professionals for a year-long deep dive into the intense MBA admissions process—everything from prepping for entrance exams to mapping a career trajectory to developing a personal narrative to applying for financial aid to bolstering interviewing skills.

“I have nothing but good things to say about Thrive,” said Amy Camacho Mayorga, BS 24, who as a 2024 Thrive Fellow recently applied to the full-time MBA program at Haas under Accelerated Access, a program that allows a two- to five-year deferment period for professional experience. “I felt like I was being seen and everything was so empowering.”

Mayorga was among a cohort of seven undergraduate seniors, like herself, and 20 working professionals who completed the program, which included free GMAT test preparation and test sitting, along with an application fee waiver for Haas graduate programs.

man wearing a suit and woman, who is holding a certificate on stage
Anthony Whitten, director of Diversity Admission at Berkeley Haas, founded the Thrive Fellows Program to encourage more Latinx students and professionals to apply to MBA programs. Photo: Jim Block

Tackling application hurdles

The program’s goal is to encourage more Latinx candidates to apply to MBA programs at a time when fewer students from underrepresented racial groups are applying nationwide. This year, less than 8% of Berkeley Haas MBA students identified as Hispanic or Latino.

 “Applying to a top tier business school has its challenges, but is a manageable process with support,” said Anthony Whitten, director of Diversity Admissions at Berkeley Haas, who launched Thrive Fellows last fall with the help of a seed donation from Adrien Lopez Lanusse, MBA 99, and two successful rounds of crowdfunding. “From test prep to interviewing to essay writing and recommendation letter gathering, there are a lot of boxes to check.” 

The benefits of earning an MBA from a top-ranked business school are profound, Whitten said. An MBA program allows students to explore new industries or functions, accelerate their career paths, increase their life-long earning potential, and expand and diversify their networks. 

Former Haas Dean Rich Lyons on a zoom screen
UC Berkeley Chancellor-Elect Rich Lyons, former dean of Haas, called Berkeley an “astonishing social mobility engine.”

UC Berkeley Chancellor-Elect Rich Lyons, former Berkeley Haas Dean, congratulated the students in a video played at the ceremony in Spieker Forum. Lyons emphasized the role an MBA plays in changing a person’s life and identity, something he said that students don’t understand before they earn the degree. While neither of his parents held a four-year degree, Lyons noted that he graduated from UC Berkeley and went on to earn a PhD. “Many of you, not all, are (part of a) first-gen advanced degree group,” he said, noting how UC Berkeley opened possibilities for him and that the school is an “astonishing social mobility engine.” 

A growing program

For Gina R. Garcia, senior associate director with the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group who helped develop the Thrive Fellows program, graduation provided a moment to reflect on the program’s growth over the past year. “It’s wonderful to think that I was a part of this important moment for our founding fellows,” said Garcia, who is also first-gen in her family to go to college and earn an advanced degree, and serves as the chair for the UC Berkeley Cal Women’s Network (CWN). “It’s a huge deal and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Jorge Rodriguez, a first-generation college graduate with eight years of career experience in public policy, said he found applying to an MBA program daunting before becoming a fellow.

“I didn’t know what it took, in terms of the year-long process of prepping for the test, crafting a story in a way that makes sense to be competitive, and to be seen as a strong candidate,” he said. “As a first-generation college student, it’s a world that I knew nothing about.” Rodriguez’s work paid off; he will enter the Berkeley Haas FTMBA class of 2026 this fall.

Mayorga, also a first-generation college student, said part of what empowered her as a Thrive Fellow was being in a room with people like her.

“It allowed us to be vulnerable with each other,” she said. “People shared very personal experiences they’d faced in the workforce or in school. I feel like that allowed us to have more authentic conversations.”

woman wearing a yellow shirt with arms around family and friends
Monica Mendoza (in yellow) celebrates completing the Thrive Fellows program. Photo: Jim Block

The Thrive Fellows program aligns with UC Berkeley’s 10-year plan to become a Latinx Thriving Institution, by enrolling and educating more Latinx students.  Whitten is now accepting applications for a second Thrive Fellows cohort. “Ultimately, our focus is centered around empowering, enabling, and really allowing people to achieve their aspirations or goals, regardless of whether or not they’re at Haas or another top business school,” he said.

Haas Voices: Tsadiku Obolu, BS 24, on the power of therapy

Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. Here, Tsadiku Obolu, who is graduating from the undergraduate Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) program this week, shares the wisdom he gained while working on his mental health.

man wearing commencement sash standing next to Berkeley Haas sign
Tsadiku Obolu is graduating from the Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology (M.E.T.) program this week.

While serving as the senior advisor for the Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association, or HUBBA, I typically ended each of our meetings with some ‘senior advice,’ or words of wisdom.

Some of that advice included ‘Know what you don’t want as much as what you do want,’ and ‘You don’t become a leader to be acknowledged by everyone. You are a leader when everyone acknowledges you.’

I was only able to give this advice because I learned it in therapy.

It’s strange to find myself talking about mental health therapy as a Black man. In our culture, men are already looked down upon for being vulnerable and aren’t given the space to talk about their mental health. On top of that, Black men are seen by many as hyper-masculine and are often forced to hide their emotions, so they don’t seem weak.

I started therapy 10 months ago because I had difficulties relaxing and was having issues with sleep and focus. I am a very deep thinker and a hard worker. This deep thinking has helped me to achieve high goals academically, which got me admitted into the highly competitive M.E.T. program four years ago (after my mom convinced me to apply!). But it also had a downside: I couldn’t stop fixating on my thoughts.

Since starting therapy, I’ve become a convert. Not only have I found it incredibly helpful to have someone who helps me work through my problems—the sessions also opened up a new way of thinking for me. My ability to deal with problems in a constructive way has increased tremendously. I started to look at the world differently. I think of therapy like the gym. If you want to train your body, go to the gym. But if you want to train your mind, go to therapy.

man sitting on a wall wearing commencement sash with campanille in back
“One of the greatest lessons I have learned in therapy, and at Berkeley, is the great power of vulnerability.”

 

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in therapy, and at Berkeley, is the great power of vulnerability. In being truly vulnerable and speaking my truth, I believe that I brought the people into my life who were meant to be there. I attracted the right circle of friends and pushed out the people who weren’t supposed to be there. It was only when I began being true to myself that I was able to create that community. I found true friends, and I accomplished more than I ever could have imagined.

Some of those accomplishments included being the first-ever Black person in my consulting club—a club that now has seven Black members. I recruited members by engaging with the the Afro Floor (short for the African American Theme Program, a community at Cal that enables students to exist in Black spaces, where they can learn from Black/African theorists, scholars, and organizers), and Black Wednesday, spaces that consulting clubs typically don’t enter because their members don’t come from these communities.

One of my close friends, UC Berkeley student Marcus Aina, and I also founded HUBBA’s first consulting fellowship for Black students on campus, which provides access to previously unavailable skills and resources to help them apply and make it into competitive consulting or professional clubs.

Lastly, therapy helped me redefine how I view success. Success goes far beyond career, money, or any particular job.

I believe that my success is defined by who I am, not where I will work after I graduate (though I am thrilled to be heading to Google). My beliefs are more aligned now with one of my favorite Japanese manga shows Jujutsu Kaisen. ‘Are you the strongest because you’re Satoru Gojo? Or Are you Satoru Gojo because you’re the strongest?

he asked. To me, that means you are not defined by the job or accolade you get; you are defined by the person you are to get it. Being the best version of yourself brings the achievements. You are not your best version because of what you achieved.

I believe everyone should get a therapist. I have helped people at UC Berkeley, friends, and even family connect with therapists. It can be difficult to take that first step, to make the phone call to your doctor and talk about your needs. But as someone who has been in therapy for the last 10 months, I couldn’t be more happy with how much I have grown.

Reflecting on my time at UC Berkeley, true success is measured by the positive impact you have on others and the world as a whole. My time at Berkeley was not successful because of a job I got. It was successful because of the people I was able to impact along the way.

The poet Rumi once said, ‘You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.’ To that, I say that when you impact a person’s life, you are not impacting a single drop. You are impacting an entire ocean.

New program gives undergrads space to develop resilience

 

class of students with their professor
Tarun Galagali, CEO of startup Mandala, (far right) with his class of undergraduate students in the new Foundations of Resilient Leadership Program.

Julianna De Paula, BS 24, approaches life a little differently since she finished the new undergraduate Foundations of Resilient Leadership program at Berkeley Haas.

First, she pauses to think before having difficult conversations. She also takes time out to breathe—truly pay attention to the inhale and exhale—throughout  the school day. She believes that both changes will help her as she gets ready to move to New York City to launch a career at L’Oreal this fall.

“There’s a lot going on with the war in Gaza and the protests and a lot of my friends are impacted by what’s going on in Palestine,” said De Paula, one of 30 students, largely Haas undergraduates, enrolled in the class. Being a more active listener helps guide her navigate the stress, she said. 

These skills will also make her a more resilient leader, which is the heart of the new six-week certificate program founded by Tarun Galagali, CEO of startup Mandala. The program, also used to train employees at corporations like Microsoft, covers topics that range from having difficult conversations to navigating imposter syndrome to listening mindfully to understanding the meaning of values-based leadership.

Woman standing next to a man on a college campus
Emma Daftary, assistant dean of the Haas Undergraduate Programs, with Tarun Galagali, CEO of startup Mandala.

Galagali worked with Emma Daftary, assistant dean of the undergraduate programs, Lauren Simon, associate director of Student Life & Leadership Development for the undergraduate program, and Katrina Koski, director of inclusion and belonging at Haas, to launch the class at Haas this past spring. (Mandala is an ancient Sanskrit word that means circle—referring to community and connection.) 

Developing “skills to navigate”

The program provides students an open space to discuss their struggles and challenges. In doing so, it normalizes feelings and experiences that can otherwise leave students feeling isolated and alone, Daftary said. 

It is our role as a business school to help shape and inform inclusive, resilient, effective leaders,” Daftary said.We launched the program to provide our students with the skills to navigate situations that are personally and professionally triggering.” One catalyst for the program, among others, she said, was the turmoil on campus following the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7, and the resulting war in Palestine. “We were meeting with students and they were reporting that they were having a really difficult time processing their grief while balancing the demands of their classes,” Daftary said. “They were feeling alone and disconnected.”

It is our role as a business school to help shape and inform inclusive, resilient, effective leaders,” —Emma Daftary.

man teaching at a podium
Tarun Galagali, CEO of startup Mandala, asks students to share “glacier stories,” and open up to each other about their struggles.

In class, Galagali starts by sharing his own story, beginning with his childhood as the son of Indian immigrants growing up in Cupertino, Ca.  After earning a Harvard MBA, he worked as a product marketing and strategy lead at Google, a management consultant at EY Parthenon, as a director of strategy at online therapy platform Talkspace, and as as a senior political advisor to Congressman Ro Khanna. Under the surface of the names on his resume, he said, there are “glacier stories” of feeling isolated, inadequate, or not belonging at times.

“I share (my story) to show that there’s a story behind each of the resume logos and resilience embedded in them,” he said.  There are positives to these stories, too, he said, as he used what learned about leadership and teamwork at Google and from his experience lobbying for mental health of kids in California to build out the Mandala program. 

Balancing stress and anxiety

Coco Zhang, BA 26, who lives with and supports her single mother by working part-time jobs as a full-time student, said she often feels over-committed and burned out at Berkeley. What helped, she said, was learning that she was not alone. “Before I joined (Mandala) I thought I was one of the few who struggled a lot,” she said. “It helped to hear other students’ experiences and to know what they are doing to balance stress and anxiety. It motivates me to see what they have done to handle imposter syndrome and to learn some invaluable mental well-being concepts that have helped me to ground my true self to go beyond my boundaries and rise above the horizons.” 

Jacob Williams, BS 24, who was part of the founding group that worked with Mandala to launch the program, said the principles explored have provided him with tools he has already deployed in daily life. 

man wearing a suit jacket in front of a building
Jacob Williams

“I think this semester has been revolutionary for me” he said. Through the program, he said he has learned to “jump across domains,” and make new connections, such as connecting the dots between his cancer research and his DEI efforts, which has made his work a lot more meaningful. “On the first day of Mandala, Tarun explored the concept of an underlying glacier,” he said. “Among the many interpretations shared, the concept of a subconscious root to the way we think, behave, feel, and act really resonated with me. Realizing the deeper motivations behind my intuition and the ways I’ve chosen to govern has allowed me to communicate in a way which ultimately generates greater value, meaning, and impact for the people I work with and the public I’m honored to serve.”

A successful outcome

Galagali said the program is particularly relevant at a time when people are “quiet quitting” at work due to burnout. People lack critical things at work, he said, including psychological safety and a sense of belonging and connection.

Galagali said he would like to expand the Berkeley program, based on the success they’ve had so far: 88% of students who finished the program reported an increase in resilience; 94% of students reported reductions in burnout; and 100% felt the program improved their confidence in entering the workplace. 

A lot of this is a personal deep desire to create community,” he said, noting that students who have completed this program have reported that they are better able to show up for hard conversations, that they’ve learned something new to make them better at their job, and that they have more self awareness and awareness of others.

De Paula said she hopes the program will continue. “It was surprising to see so many Haas students opening up to each other,” she said. “Tarun is also very inspirational as a mentor, so I have only good things to say about the program.”

The Bigger Picture

Online images promote gender bias

Ten images of the same man dressed in clothing representing different careers. Clockwise from top left the careers are: traveler, gardener, chef, business executive, doctor, spy, painter, plumber, construction worker, and lounger. Next to each images are objects indicative of that role.These days, we’re bombarded with images on picture-packed news sites and social media platforms. And much of that visual content, according to new research, is reinforcing powerful gender stereotypes.

Through a series of experiments and with the help of large-language models, Assistant Professors Douglas Guilbeault and Solène Delecourt found that Google Images exhibit significantly stronger gender bias for both female- and male-typed categories than text from Google News. What’s more, while the text is slightly more focused on men than women, this bias is over four times stronger in images.

Delecourt says that most of the previous research about bias online has focused on text. “But we now have Google Images, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram—all kinds of content based on modalities besides text,” she says. “Our research suggests that the extent of bias online is much more widespread than previously shown.”

To zero in on gender bias in online images, Guilbeault, Delecourt, and colleagues designed a novel series of techniques to compare bias in images versus text and to investigate its psychological impact in both mediums.

First, the researchers pulled 3,495 social categories—which included occupations like “doctor” and “carpenter” as well as social roles like “friend” and “neighbor”—from Wordnet, a large database of related words and concepts. To calculate the gender balance within each category of images, the researchers retrieved the top hundred Google images corresponding to each category and recruited people to classify each human face by perceived gender.

Large-language models measured gender bias in online text by noting the frequency of each social category’s occurrence alongside references to gender in Google News text. The researchers’ analysis revealed that gender associations were more extreme among the images than within text. There were also far more images focused on men than women.

In another study, 450 participants searched Google for apt descriptions of occupations relating to science, technology, and the arts. One group used Google News to upload textual descriptions; another group used Google Images to upload pictures of occupations. Compared to those in the text and control conditions, the participants who worked with the images displayed much stronger gender bias associating women with arts and men with science (a bias linked to systemic inequalities in academia and industry)—even three days later.

“This isn’t only about the frequency of gender bias online,” says Guilbeault, the paper’s lead author. “There’s something very sticky, very potent about images’ representation of people that text just doesn’t have.”

The Decade Project

Catalyzing American entrepreneurship to look like America

Students sitting at tables in an entrepreneurship class. Above them is a message on the wall reading Question the Status Quo.Even though professional faculty member Maura O’Neill, BCEMBA 04, started her first company 40 years ago, the hurdles she faced as a female entrepreneur are largely the same ones currently faced by her students who are women and/or students of color. “These Berkeley students are super smart, have great ideas with grit oozing out of their DNA,” says O’Neill. What are we missing as a community and as a nation, she wondered, by leaving this talent on the sidelines, particularly when both the problems and the opportunities are huge?

O’Neill analyzed big data sets and found that if American business ownership reflected the race, ethnicity, and gender of the nation’s population, the country could have 2.4 million more businesses, 20 million more jobs, and a $4 trillion increase in annual GDP. At the state level, those whose business ownership more closely reflects their population have 2.5 times higher GDP than states lagging further behind. “Everyone wins when this happens,” O’Neill says.

At current rates, it will take over 700 years for American entrepreneurship to look like America. But O’Neill launched The Decade Project to accelerate the path to parity in 10 years. “If we can put a man on the moon in a decade and bring him back safely without first knowing the technology,” she says, “we can do this.”

TDP’s research shows that four areas are key to success: role models, financial capital, knowledge, and connections. In addition to mobilizing a national ecosystem of partners in each of the areas, TDP is identifying ways to leverage the flood of federal and private investment dollars (estimated to be $8 trillion) associated with the transition to a sustainable economy to seize this opportunity and catalyze local leaders across the nation.

What’s in it for Your State?

The Decade Project data indicates that if American business ownership reflected the local population, the country could have over 2 million more employer firms. How many would your state gain?

Illustration showing Decade Project data by state.

How Long to Reach Equality?

At current rates, if nothing changes, it will take over 700 years for American business ownership to look like America.*

Circle chart demonstrating the length of time required for different ethnicities to reach equality in business ownership. The outer ring is for indigenous Americans followed in order by Black Americans, all women an the Latinx community, and Asian Americans. For the latter, they are at parity but only in a few states for Asian women business owners.

*Trends based on 2019 Census Data.

**As a whole, Asian Americans are at parity, but it is not true for every Asian subgroup.

Asst. Prof. Kiera Hudson receives prestigious National Science Foundation award

portrait of a woman wearing a white collared shirt and tie
Assistant Professor Kiera Hudson studies schadenfreude and the psychological and biological roots of power hierarchies.

Assistant Professor Sa-kiera “Kiera” Hudson has received a 2024 National Science Foundation CAREER award, the NSF’s most prestigious awards program in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education.

Hudson said she is thrilled to receive the award and will use the $850,000 grant to fund new research on schadenfreude, which is pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.

Empathy is often hailed as the emotion to target in intergroup conflicts, as it predicts consequential behaviors that can help reduce inequality, said Hudson, who earned a PhD in the (social) psychology department at Harvard University in 2020. “In many social conflicts, people struggle to feel empathy for those not part of their social groups,” she said. But in the study of empathy, behavioral scientists have perhaps overlooked schadenfreude’s relevance to conflict among groups of people, which is why it’s crucial to learn more, she said.

“If we better understand what drives intergroup schadenfreude—and the consequences—we can better understand how to design interventions to decrease the harm it causes, particularly to marginalized groups,” she said.

How schadenfreude harms 

In her new research project, Hudson, a member of the Management of Organizations Group (MORS) at Haas, will investigate how schadenfreude contributes to harm, attempting to understand the cognitive mechanisms that allow it to flourish. The project will put a strong emphasis on research and education, including training minoritized scientists, collaborating with organizations focused on equity and social justice, and disseminating research to interdisciplinary communities.

Hudson said her goal is to bring a broader understanding of people’s more “nasty, harmful behaviors,” at a particular time in history. 

“Across the world, there has been an increase in rigid beliefs of who belongs to ‘us’ versus ‘them’ fueled by perceived threat and competition, leading to intensified intergroup animosity,” she said. “These are the exact conditions under which schadenfreude thrives, suggesting that we are not only in an empathy deficit as a nation, as proposed by Obama in 2006, but perhaps also in a schadenfreude surplus.”

More broadly, Hudson’s research at Haas is focused on two main areas: the psychological and biological roots of power hierarchies, and how these hierarchies intersect to influence experiences and perceptions.