You are welcome here: Q@Haas reaches out to new admits

Wyatt Davis arrived at Haas for full-time MBA orientation last Friday already surrounded by people she considers friends.

Wyatt Davis
Wyatt Davis, MBA 21. Photo: Jim Block

Back in December, she’d been assigned a buddy, Katie Rentz, MBA 20, with whom she shared a passion for triathlons, and the two of them hit it off immediately. By the time Davis visited for admit weekend, she had met so many students on the Q@Haas Whatsapp that many recognized her name and welcomed her as a new member of the group.

“It is really comforting to arrive with friends and a support system already in place,” said Davis, a native of Concord, Massachusetts, who came out as gay three years ago. “Q@Haas was a huge draw for me when applying, and it’s exciting to be in a place where I can really dive into the strong and healthy community and make it part of my experience here.”

Haas over the decades has built a strong queer community in the full-time MBA program, working hand in hand with Q@Haas, the student-run organization that supports LGBTQ students, partners, and allies. This year, the number of admits who identified as LGBTQ during the application process held steady at about 20 students, or 7 percent of the class.

But that number typically grows throughout the year, says Minh Leu, MBA 20, vice president of admissions for Q@Haas. “There are always more students who either missed that section of the application or decided not to identify themselves while applying,” Leu said, noting that in the class of 2020, about 10 more people had come out by year’s end, bringing the total closer to 30.

Being “my whole self”

Q@Haas creates an environment where people feel safe and welcome, students say.

“I wanted to be my whole self and I was more sure that I could do that here than at any other school,” said Fayzan Gowani, MBA 21, who identifies as gender non-binary. During the application process, Gowani, who is from Los Angeles and spent recent years working in international development in Kenya and Kyrgystan, reached out to a second-year Q@Haas student who could speak to Haas’ diverse queer culture.

Talin Abrahamian, associate director of admissions for the full-time MBA program, credits student commitment for much of the school’s LGBTQ traction.

“People come to Haas for our culture and the desire to build a community early on,” said Abrahamian, who is the LGBT+ designated point person in admissions. “Our Q@Haas students play an important role because they have lived the experience of being Q-identified. We have a strong relationship with these admits, but they are the ones who really sell the program.”

Fayzan Gowani
Fayzan Gowani, MBA 21. Photo: Jim Block

While Q@Haas leaders say they won’t change what’s worked to date for the group—such as buddy assignments and WhatsApp—there are a few new efforts, including a welcome party to introduce students from both classes to each other, a potluck at HaasBoats, an Oakland Pride Brunch, and prep sessions for Reaching out MBA (ROMBA), an LGBTQ-focused MBA conference in October. (Last fall, 40 Haas students attended ROMBA, up four-fold from the prior year.)

Q@Haas also worked to bring Backstage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton, who invests in people of color and LGBTQ startup founders, to campus next month for a Dean’s Speaker Series event.

“Elevating this conversation to the Dean’s Speaker Series level is a great reflection of the support the administration has given to students to shape the campus agenda,” said John Monaghan, MBA 20, and Q@Haas’ vice president of onboarding.

Easing the path to coming out

A big part of the Q@Haas mission is to reach all students — no matter where they are on the path toward discovering and sharing their own sexual identities. For students from conservative backgrounds or foreign countries where homosexuality and other sexual and gender identities are stigmatized or even illegal, guarantees of anonymity can be especially critical.

Alan Man, who is co-president of Q@Haas, was born in China and raised in New Zealand, where he grew up in an environment where he didn’t feel comfortable disclosing his homosexuality.

Alan Man, MBA 20
Alan Man, MBA 20

Man came out to friends at age 20 and parents at age 25, when he was planning to move to Australia to be with his now-husband. He interned this past summer at fintech company Credit Karma with the head of diversity and inclusion to drive more inclusion at the company.

“I know from experience how difficult the process of coming out is and that everyone is on a different journey,” said Man. “Whatever their choice, we want students to feel comfortable with themselves and supported and safe so they can bring their authentic self to both work and business school.”

On the careers side, company recruiters and Haas alumni who are committed to sexual diversity and inclusion host get-togethers on campus. McKinsey & Company and Google, for example, meet Q@Haas members over dinner. The chief financial officer of Ford North America was one of several alumni to hold informal chats about their experience as queers in the workplace.

“It’s important that we show LGBTQ students that they can be successful, even if they face challenges because of their sexual identity,” said Darren Le, MBA 19, the first-ever vice president of career services at Q@Haas.

—Krysten Crawford contributed to this article.