WeFinance: Funding for the Student Crowd

It’s a common student dilemma: you’ve got a full-time offer post-graduation, but you still have several more months to finish your degree. And you’re facing the up-front costs of relocating—before your first paycheck or signing bonus hits your account.

What do you do? Often, your only option is to pile more credit card debt on top of your student loans, and bite the bullet on the high fees.

WeFinance_WillyChuEnter WeFinance, a crowdfunding startup co-founded by Willy Chu, MBA 15, that launched last week. Though crowdfunding is becoming a crowded space, Chu acknowledges, WeFinance is the first platform focused on truly peer-to-peer loans.

“Many students are paying seven to 8 percent on their student loans—even higher if you’re international—and they have living and moving expenses,” Chu says. “They’re low-risk borrowers but their credit scores don’t reflect that, and they can’t refinance until they have more credit history. Meanwhile, a peer lender in these students’ network could earn four percent or more on their extra savings.”

Built-in Assets

WeFinance launched with two critical resources. First, it has a software platform built by co-founder and CEO Eric Mayefsky, a Stanford econ PhD grad and ex-Facebook product manager who spearheaded the concept. This platform fully automates disbursements and repayments between borrowers and lenders, allowing both parties to rest easy that payments are made on time. Second, WeFinance has been tested by Chu’s network of fellow Haasies, a dozen of whom have signed on as guinea pigs seeking funding.

“My classmates have been incredibly supportive, willing to try out the product,” he said. “Faculty members have provided core guidance.”

Ton Chookhare, MBA 14, used the platform to refinance some of his higher-interest student loans, raising $5,000 in just a few weeks and lowering his interest rate from 8 percent to 4 percent. He already had accepted an offer with Kaiser Permanente, and was working on a side project involving custom suits made in his hometown of Bangkok, Thailand. “I think many people will be surprised at how willing people in their network are to offer financial support, especially when they’re getting much better returns while supporting someone they know and trust,” he says.

Entrepreneurial Evolution

Chu says when he came to Berkeley-Haas, he thought he might end up working for a startup—but had no intention of launching his own. His thinking evolved while taking Entrepreneurship with Prof. Toby Stuart and Lecturer Rob Chandra. His new path began last summer when a Stanford MBA friend saw an email from Mayefsky seeking help with the venture. After a few months of working well together, Chu—who previously worked at Credit Karma and Kiva—became a co-founder. He’s focusing on marketing, partnerships, and growth while Mayefsky develops the technological infrastructure.

“I’ve benefitted from starting this in my second year, after I had a strong base, and I’ve been able to piggyback on my coursework and lessons learned from my peers who launched businesses last year,” he says. “In particular, New Venture Finance with Asst. Prof. Adair Morse has been useful.”

Chu’s goal is to expand WeFinance to 40 schools within a year, beginning with Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton. In addition to MBAs, the company will focus on law and other top master’s and undergrad program students.

Read more about WeFinance in TechCrunch.

The Rise of Big Data at Haas

Big Data Students

Haas Data Science Club leaders Claire Bianchi, Antoine Bruyns, Scott Crider, Samy Merzgui, and Pete Dillon, all MBA 16.

By Kim Girard

When Antoine Bruyns, MBA 16, arrived at Haas last year, he was already addicted to the power of Big Data.

A native of Belgium, Bruyns and several friends had started a mobile data-crunching company in Tanzania in 2010. The company, Real Impact Analytics, has since grown to 70 employees and recently helped track the spread of the Ebola virus using anonymous data.

But the draw of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture led Bruyns to leave the growing startup for Haas.

“The way I see it, Silicon Valley is like Italy during the Renaissance,” he says. “It’s like being among the Medicis, among all of these great minds. That’s why I came.”

In Berkeley, Bruyns immediately jumped into his passion. He connected with the Berkeley Institute for Data Sciences (BIDS), a five-year, $38 million collaborative effort established to promote data-driven scientific breakthroughs, and to the AMP lab, which focuses on the intersection of three trends: machine learning, cloud computing, and crowdsourcing.

Bruyns found kindred spirits among his classmates, and joined forces to increase Haas students’ access to Berkeley’s top-flight data science resources. He and fellow MBA 16 students Scott Crider and Samy Merzgui co-founded the Haas Data Science Club last fall, as a spin-off of the Haas Technology Club. Classmates Claire Bianchi, Pete Dillon, Dale Alejandro Robinson, and Peter Jordan joined soon after the first meeting, and the group enlisted Assist. Prof. Tom Lee as their faculty advisor.

ClaireQuoteIn tandem with the students’ work, Prof. Greg LaBlanc says the MBA curriculum is changing to reflect industry changes. Data analysis has become much more sophisticated since he began teaching his Data and Decisions course five years ago with Assoc. Prof. Lucas Davis.

“We realized that business was being transformed through data-driven decision making, and companies were engaging in experimentation—moving away from decision by gut,” he says. “So we reconfigured the class to be more about understanding data and inference and not just about  statistics.”

This quarter he’s introducing a new course, Data Science/Data Strategy, centered on how big companies build strategies around data, and exploring data science techniques and business models built around data. The class is already full, with 60 full-time and 60 part-time MBA students enrolled.

Two years ago, Asst. Professsor Minjung Park also launched a Marketing Analytics course, which focuses on understanding and using Big Data in marketing.

In addition, LaBlanc is working with Data Science Club members to organize a speaker series this fall, inviting executives from Wells Fargo, IBM, Facebook, and Walmart to discuss how they use data in business. The goal is to give students the tools they need so they can leave Haas with the confidence to immerse themselves in a data project.

“When they walk into a meeting with a team of engineers they can’t come in cold,” he says. “They have to bring something to the table.”

The Data Club, which is open to IT, engineering and business majors, is also organizing technical workshops run by companies that show students how to use different data tools.

Big Data can be difficult for business majors who lack a technical background, but Bruyns says he knew they were on to something when more than 60 people showed up for an data visualization event last fall with Tableau software.

Bianchi, MBA 16, says the club was exactly what she wanted as part of in her MBA program. She has worked as a senior database marketing analyst at Hotwire and as a manager of customer relationship management at UniversityNow. Those experiences taught her that deep-data knowledge is crucial for any MBA working with engineers, analytics experts, or business intelligence managers.

“You’re at the mercy (of others) if you don’t understand data,” she says. “At Hotwire, the people who didn’t have that background struggled. They might think that the data someone pulled for them was pulled incorrectly, but they don’t understand why and they’re not able to have a conversation with that person.”

Root Beer Floats With the Oracle of Omaha: 2 MBAs Recount Their Visit With Warren Buffett

On Feb. 27, a group of 20 Berkeley-Haas MBA students from the Investment Club trekked to Omaha, NE, to meet Warren Buffett. Every year Mr. Buffett invites students from MBA programs around the country to tour some of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio companies and participate in a two-hour Q&A followed by lunch.

In a guest blog post, two students share what they learned from the legendary Mr. Buffett.

By Ben Ferrara and Sulaiman Al-Bader, MBA 2015

If we had to choose our Top 5 favorite nuggets from the many that Warren Buffett shared with us, it would be these:

#5. Some people go back and relive their youth by finding old Playboys; I buy old Moody’s reports.

#4. Risk is losing purchasing power—NOT volatility.

#3. Always surround yourself with people better than you are.

#2. Study success and failure through the biographies of leaders like Sol Price and Sam Walton, who didn’t care about money but about being the best and winning.

#1. Success comes from thinking and by creating time to think without meetings, committees and PowerPoint.

But there’s so much more to say…

Buffett Trek_1200

It’s a brisk 8 degrees Fahrenheit and far from California 20 Berkeley MBAs are embarking on an adventure in Omaha. This special day includes company visits at Nebraska Furniture Mart, Borsheims, and Oriental Trading Company. Yet all of us are laser-focused on catching a glimpse of, inspiration from—and yes, a group photo with—the Oracle of Omaha. Warren Buffett is one of the few living and actively working legends in the game of finance.

En route to Berkshire Hathaway headquarters in Kiewit Plaza, we actively prepare for our Q&A with Mr. Buffett. We gather in a room with 160 MBAs—from Canada, Boston, and Austin—where a deep appreciation of capitalism and opportunity is brewing. When Mr. Buffett (and his world champion bridge partner, Sharon Osberg) enter the room, there is silence—and then, a feeling of warmth and familiarity when we see Mr. Buffett’s contagious smile and ever-present Coca-Cola product (which happened to be Cherry Coke).

Over the next two hours, the 84-year-old Buffett shares his wisdom on how to pick winners (both companies and people), personal models of success, how to develop a contrarian viewpoint, trends in income equality and philanthropy, and more. What makes the most impact on us is the importance he puts on picking “first-class human beings.” Mr. Buffett shares a story of meeting a Holocaust survivor who told him that whenever she makes a new acquaintance, she hears her internal voice asking: “Would this person hide me?” Her story provided a life lesson to Mr. Buffett, and now to us. He sums it up like this: “If you’re 70 years old, even wealthy, but you don’t have people in your life who would be willing to hide you in that scenario, you have not succeeded in your life, no matter how other people see you.”

Our Omaha adventure does not stop there: Mr. Buffett generously invites us to join him for lunch at Piccolo Pete’s, where we socialize with other MBAs. The two of us have the tremendous good fortune to sit with Mr. Buffett at his table, where we enjoy a plate of steak and fries, along with more of his pearls of wisdom in this intimate setting. One of these pearls is Mr. Buffett’s sharing his self-proclaimed favorite investment: GEICO. He says investing in the insurance company was a turning point for his career, and positioned Berkshire Hathaway for long-term success. He also encourages us to challenge the status quo by avoiding shortcuts in finance—for example, relying too much on third-party analyst reports—and thinking for ourselves, citing an example of exciting South Korean companies he found from a paperback book on equities.

“You’re unlikely to get great ideas from others,” Buffett tells us. This is a recurrent theme for him: thinking for yourself and following your own path, surrounded by gracious and giving people, is the recipe for success. It’s hard to argue with the sweet success of the Oracle of Omaha. As we finish our root beer floats, and leave that afternoon for Berkeley, we feel we have gained not only a renewed sense of purpose, but also inspiration about the endless possibilities we have to make a difference in this world over the course of our entire life journeys.

Sold-Out Crowd Expected at Women in Leadership Conference, March 14

When organizers of the Women in Leadership Conference began planning this year’s event, the impact of empowering the next generation of women felt tangible. Some of the organizers are in the Full-time MBA Class of 2015, whose work with admissions helped boost the percentage of women in the Class of 2016 to 43 percent. Energized by their record-breaking class, the first-year students are building on that work in what they are calling the Haas Gender Equity Initiative.

WIL organizers 2015

The 2015 Women in Leadership Conference organizers

The conference theme, “Empower Me: Invest in All,” reflects those experiences, says Co-chair Carmela Aquino, MBA 15. “This came about exactly because we were seeing the momentum at Haas around these ideas,” she says. “We wanted this year to embody the positive drive we were seeing, so attendees walk away feeling empowered to go beyond themselves in their respective paths and do more to help other women aspiring to leadership.”

The 19th annual conference, organized by the Women in Leadership club, is expected to attract more than 500 business leaders and students to the Haas School from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sat, March 14. Click here to learn more .

The primary goals of the conference are to help women gain concrete skills for advancing in their own careers, connect with others, and get inspired, says Co-Chair Libby Hadzima Perkins, JD/MBA 15. But that’s not to say it’s geared exclusively toward women. In fact, “manbassadors”—as the male student actively involved in gender equity are calling themselves—have been key.

“Without the support of men in the workplace, there is only so much we can do to help promote more gender-equitable outcomes,” Hadzima Perkins says. “That’s why we wanted our theme to focus on the benefit that investing in women lifts everyone up, and provides a benefit to society as a whole.”

Conference Highlights

Keynotes: The morning will kick off with Ann O’Leary, Director of the Children & Families Program for Next Generation and former Legislative Director to Hillary Clinton, in conversation with Prof. Laura Tyson. In the afternoon, Donna Morris, Sr. Vice President, Global People and Places for Adobe will be introduced by Asst. Prof. Kellie McElhaney to close out the conference.

Leadership Stories: For the lunchtime session, attendees will get “an intimate look into the cycle of confidence and failure in leadership” from four leaders in diverse fields.

Invest in All Alley: This new addition to the conference is a space for companies, organizations, and entrepreneurs to exhibit their products or services, to showcase their dedication to gender equality, and to raise their brand awareness.

Panels will focus on tangible skills, from mastering difficult conversations in the workplace to taking control of finances for the future.

One Day, Triple Play: 3 Competition Wins in Finance and Sustainability

Braving the cold: Akshay Yadav, Jessica Holland, and Carl Olson (not shown: My-Thuan Tran). All are MBA 16.

Big Impact in Boulder

The Win: First place in the Leeds Net Impact Case Competition in Boulder, Feb. 20-21

The Team: Akshay Yadav, Jessica Holland, Carl Olson, and My-Thuan Tran, all MBA 16

The Field: Twenty-five teams of four graduate students each, competing to solve real-world sustainability business cases

The Pitch: Our team was asked to plan the optimal coastal restoration infrastructure for a city that is facing a growing threat of erosion and severe flooding due to climate change. Our approach was to minimize costs and risks and develop a diverse capital expenditure plan to ensure long-term protection. Our solution was a three-pronged approach of green infrastructure funded by water protection taxes; earthen berms funded by FEMA grants; and wetlands protection funded by wetlands mitigation banking.

The Clincher: One thing our team kept top of mind was the Haas defining principle “question the status quo.” The solution we came up with was not a conventional way of financing similar projects, according to our research. However, we knew we needed to take a bold approach for a bold solution. We worked to mitigate the risks in our proposal, and we prepared for the tough Q&A session.

The Investment Club team, left to right: Miran Ahmad, MBA 15; Carl Choi, MBA 16; Scott Furumoto, MBA 15; and Zane Keller, MBA 15

The Investment Club team, left to right: Miran Ahmad, MBA 15; Carl Choi, MBA 16; Scott Furumoto, MBA 15; and Zane Keller, MBA 15

Stars in LA

The Win: First place in the Fink Center Stock Pitch Competition at UCLA on Feb. 20

The Team: Miran Ahmad, MBA 15; Carl Choi, MBA 16; Scott Furumoto, MBA 15; and Zane Keller, MBA 15, all of the Haas Investment Club

The Field: MBA students from 10 other business schools across the country

The Pitch: Our team, “Get Shorty”, pitched a short recommendation on insurance company Assurant in the first round. Living up to iour name, we also decided to short Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba in the final round. We defended our investment thesis in front of a panel of judges, from hedge fund managers to equity research analysts.

The Clincher: While our team fielded difficult questions during the Q&A, one judge later remarked that what helped the us stand out was our ability to defend its thesis confidently but without sounding defensive. 

Veteran team member Zane Keller believes that the difference came down to the team’s decision to take a controversial short position on final round stock Alibaba.  “After thoroughly reviewing the macroeconomic assumptions and the underlying fundamental growth projections required to justify its lofty stock price, we knew it would be difficult to make a long recommendation.”

RotmanWinFeb2015

Going International in Toronto

The Win: 2nd Place in the Rotman International Trading Competition, the largest trading competition in the world, in Toronto, Feb. 20

The Team: Master of Financial Engineering students Simon He, Yi Lu, Tanya Gupta, Tong Lu, Wontai Cho and Maoqi Wang, all MFE 15. MFE Lab Manager Charles McCutchen helped prepare the team.

The Field: More than 50 teams from universities around the world, including MIT, Columbia, NYU, Princeton, the London School of Economics, and 1st-place winner LUISS Guido Carli/University of Rome.

 

New Global Norm: “Superbrands” Converge at Asia Business Conference, March 6

companiesExecs from border-spanning tech powerhouses like Houzz, Evernote, and LinkedIn—which already have tens of millions of users across Asia—will be featured at the 15th annual Asia Business Conference on Friday, March 6.

This year’s theme, “Converging on a New Global Norm,” will explore the long-term implications of increasing globalization for both Asian and Western firms. The student-run conference will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the San Francisco Marriott. Register here (use the code HAASASIA for $15 off).

“We wanted to take a step back from the latest headlines on emerging competitors from Asia and really think about where this is all leading—for startups as well as multinationals,” says conference Co-Chair Blake Street, MBA 15. “As we thought more about it, we kept coming back to the notion of global convergence.”

Street used Alibaba as an example: “Will it look more like Western tech giants in 10 years, or will it retain a uniquely Asian identity and operating model?” Already, Asian firms are undergoing significant reforms to become more like established multinationals in the West. And Western firms are adapting to local markets in Asia in order to capture growth opportunities, conference organizers pointed out.

The keynote speaker is Thomas Clayton, vice president of international operations for Houzz, which announced its first foray Japan in December. Other speakers include Ying Liu, principal international designer for LinkedIn, which surpassed 50 million users in the Asia Pacific region last year, and Linda Kozlowski, vice president of worldwide operations for Evernote, which has more than 30 million users in the region. The lineup also includes executives from Goodwater Capital; Kinzon Capital; Founders Spacebtrax; and 500 Startups.

“San Francisco and Silicon Valley are the Pacific Rim gateway for countries in Asia to do business and build partnerships for success in the US,” says Susan Hsieh, EWMBA 16, who plans to attend. “I want to hear from today’s business leaders on their exciting initiatives and how they are leveraging US and Asian talents to build better companies.”

Berkeley-Haas students explore Shanghai's Nan Jing Road during an International Business Development consulting project.

Berkeley-Haas students explore Shanghai’s Nan Jing Road during an International Business Development consulting project.

In addition to Street, the conference is co-organized by Simon Yoo, MBA 15, along with Danny Wang, EWMBA 16; George James, MBA 16; Sydnie Reed, MBA/MPH 16; and Sandeep Srinivasan, EWMBA 17.

MD + MBA = Improved Health Care System

HaasDiPerna-034-WebDr. Costanzo “Zino” Di Perna is a successful thoracic surgeon, Medical Director for the Dignity Health Cancer Institute of Greater Sacramento, and a physician with Mercy Medical Group Inc. He handles about 500 cases a year and oversees a large practice.

So why did he decide to enroll in the Berkeley MBA for Executives program?

In the first installment of two-part series, Zino talks first about why—in the rapidly changing healthcare system—he feels a business degree is critical to his own professional success.

In Part 2, he discusses why it may be important for more MDs to add MBA diplomas to their office walls.

 

 

 

 

Students, Staff, Faculty Give Big Thanks to Donors

Berkeley-Haas students, faculty, and staff stopped by the Bank of America Forum last month to thank donors, and to acknowledge the fact that tuition only covers about half of the cost of running Haas. Philanthropy covers one-third of the other half.

1

Donor Appreciation Week is celebrated each January, halfway through the school year, to honor donors’ generosity.

Students, faculty, and staff wrote hundreds of personal notes, thanking benefactors for keeping Haas a top-ranked business school. Many students reflected on the value of their Berkeley-Haas education and shared their commitment to become supporters of the school one day.

Dean Lyons, BS 82, had this to say:

“This outstanding institution would not be what it is—not anywhere close—without private support like yours. Thanks for being part of all the momentum.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Student Spotlight: Nikita Mitchell, Full-Time MBA Class of 2015 President & Diversity Leader

Nikita Professional optionIt was the scariest thing she could think of doing as a new MBA student.

When Nikita Mitchell arrived at Haas in the fall of 2013, her top goal was to develop her leadership skills—which she knew would require stepping outside her comfort zone. So instead of heading up a club or organizing a conference, she decided to run for class president.

“I’ve never been in a big public role. I’ve never had to be the face of something, and the idea was terrifying,” says Nikita, MBA 15. “Ultimately, I decided I should do it because I didn’t have anything to lose.”

A few months into her first semester at Haas she was elected, and in 2014 she served as the first African-American woman to head the MBA Association. She also served simultaneously as a liaison to the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, which works to bring more under-represented minorities into top MBA programs. Along with co-liaisons Kory Vargas-Caro and Dan Wong, both MBA 15, she led the Haas group to win the Consortium’s highest honor and $10K to build on their work.

Just after passing the mantle to the 2015 MBAA President Dan Fishman, Nikita spoke with us about her leadership style, her accomplishments, and what she learned.

TEAMwin

Nikita and Kory Vargas-Caro, MBA 15, celebrate winning the T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More) trophy from The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management in June 2014. Not shown: Dan Wong, MBA 15

Team spirit

“I’ve grown a lot,” she says. “Most importantly–both personally and professionally—I’ve also learned how to ask for help when I need it.”

Nikita is up front about the fact that balancing outside leadership activities with the rigorous academic demands of the MBA was the biggest challenge she’s faced. During her first semester as president, she took on some big issues for the program, including how to make changes in the academic culture.

She credits the support of her classmates, and former MBAA President Stephanie White, for going out of their way to support her. “It was really incredible what people did to help me, often without even being asked.”

Her approach to managing it all was to build a strong team.

“I feel I created a high functioning team where everyone has been able to accomplish a lot in their own roles,” she says. “And I feel like I’ve been a strong voice for students.”

With the Berkeley MBA members of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Classes of 2015 and 2016

With the Berkeley MBA members of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Classes of 2015 and 2016

Making choices

As a natural collaborator, she knew being at the top of an organization would sometimes mean making tough calls.

“Being at the point of making a decision, where you know not everyone is going to be happy, was the biggest development area for me,” she says. “I think my biggest lesson was the realization that being in a leadership role among my peers wouldn’t harm my friendships. In fact, the relationships I built fueled my leadership.”

Though Nikita says the experience underscored how critical it is to not go at decision-making alone, she also learned that sometimes people don’t want to have input.

“That’s part of leadership too—knowing when people want to be brought to the table,” she says. “It started to become more instinctual toward the end.”

On a student trek to Morocco, spring break 2014

On a student trek to Morocco, spring break 2014

The importance of community

As the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Nikita is proud that she was the first African-American woman to serve as Full-time MBA class president—and it was important to her family in the tight-knit community around Howard University where she grew up.

Her father came from Trinidad on a soccer scholarship to Howard, and her mother immigrated from Barbados. They met in the 1980s at Howard, where both worked as accountants. Nikita and all four of her sisters earned their bachelor’s degrees at Howard as well.

After graduation, she landed a position at Deloitte Consulting. She later earned a fellowship through ProInspire, which matches young professionals with nonprofits, as she explored careers in social impact.

She applied to MBA programs through the Consortium, which offers full scholarships to students who get into their top-ranked school. At the last minute, she ranked the University of Michigan’s Ross first, which has a large and active minority population. But in a twist of fate, she visited Haas during the Women in Leadership conference weekend, and knew it was the right place for her.

“I was so surprised by how right the culture felt. The warmth was there. The connections I made with people felt authentic,” she says. “I felt included immediately, and I thought ‘that’s somewhere I’ll continue to grow.”

As she looks toward graduation in May, Nikita summed up her biggest takeaway:

“What this leadership experience taught me is that I like to run things,” she says.

No doubt she will.

Update, March18: Nikita has accepted a job as Chief of Staff for Cisco Consulting Services.

Haas ranked #1 in support for LGBTQ students: one student reflects on being an ally

Last week, the organization Friendfactor ranked Haas #1 in the MBA Ally Challenge—a quarterly award that recognizes business schools for creating a culture that’s supportive and inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (or questioning) students. Twenty-two schools participated in the challenge.

Friendfactor says Haas moved to the top by:

“…Engaging a whopping 75% of their student body in their LGBT ally initiative through 13 activities over the fall. Their biggest hits were a 200-person speaking event with openly gay Brigadier General Tammy Smith, an Ally Pledge and t-shirt sale during National Coming Out Week, and an educational Ally Guide distributed by the dean to every student.”

In today’s post, a full-time MBA student reflects on what he has learned about being an ally, and what it says about the culture at Haas.

By Sandeep Pahuja, MBA 15, Outgoing VP of Allies, Q@Haas

Back in September, the Q@Haas board was preparing for Coming Out Week and one of our goals was to have allies—friends and supporters of the LGBT community—make a big public showing. We planned on making t-shirts that our students could wear to show their support. We ended up selling about 250 “PROUD” shirts and took a couple of sweet photos in the process.

Proud_group shot

Dean Rich Lyons stands with students during National Coming Out Week.

My original plan for the shirts was something entirely different. I wanted to really call out the allies, and be very explicit about it. Our original designs looked like this:

Ally out

In talking to the Q@Haas board—mostly gay males—we were quite happy with the design and thought the shirts looked really good. It was a conversation I had with Nikita Mitchell, our Haas MBA 2015 class president and LGBTQ member of Q@Haas, which made me realize that my myopic focus on allies would force everyone else within the community to label themselves as “out” or not participate.  There are certainly peers at Haas who had not come out, or weren’t sure if they were “out.” What shirt would they wear? Our conversation made me realize that the shirts would accomplish the opposite of what we hoped for, and in fact exclude some people. I was so focused on the ally perspective, thinking about how allies would want their own shirt so that no one thought they might be LGBTQ based on the shirt they were wearing. That was my own insecurity shining through.

Final designs were due to our printer in two days, and we were just about to take orders. We had gone through multiple designs already to pick those two shirts. I got on the phone with our co-presidents and we knew that we had to change the shirt. We decided we’d create shirts around the theme of Pride. We landed on a simple design, and in the process we found a term that encompassed all of us, allies included: Proud.

To me, this story highlights that being an ally is an ongoing process. Allies need to remember to ask questions and recognize the gracious understanding we get from our LGBTQ peers. Without that frank conversation with Nikita, a well-intentioned project could have alienated some of our Q@Haas community in the process. Instead, thanks to dialog and understanding, we were able to make something that brought people together, and that people wear almost every day. These shirts are a visible symbol of the inclusive culture we’re actively trying to build at Haas.

Read more Berkeley MBA student perspectives on why it’s important to be an ally: 

Berkeley MBA Students: Proud to Be LGBTQ Allies, Part I

Berkeley MBA Students: Proud to Be LGBTQ Allies, Part II