Backstage: Salman Khan’s Meet-up with MBA Education Club

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The student-led spirit at Haas recently resulted in a Dean’s Speaker Series event featuring Khan Academy founder Salman Khan, whose simple YouTube tutorials to help young cousins with homework exploded into a “one-world schoolhouse” with 3,900 lessons viewed more than 230 million times.

With an introduction made by Bryan Wong, MBA 14, Co-presidents of the Berkeley-Haas Education Leadership Club (ELC), Erica Butow and Tom Pryor, both MBA 14, took on the initial outreach and legwork to connect with Khan. The Dean’s office then helped to make the talk a Dean’s Speaker Series event—attended by more than 400 people. (Catch Khan’s lecture in the Haas video room.)

Butow introduced Khan before the lecture and says, “While I was thinking on what to say, I started to wonder how this was possible. How was I able to come from Brazil, from a non traditional background, and suddenly be there introducing Salman Khan to the Haas Community?”

“Thinking about it, I got to the core of what I am passionate about,” says Butow. “All of this was only possible because one day I was given opportunities and these opportunities opened doors, including Haas. As with most of us at Haas, I want to make sure I don’t forget about those who are not given the same chances.”

Khan stayed after his lecture to meet with members of the Education Leadership Club in a more intimate setting, an experience called “amazing” by ELC member Mike Ciccarone, MBA 13.

“At one moment, Sal Khan was trying to describe the way in which he thought virtual education might impact the labor market, and you could tell he was going into ‘teacher mode’ like in his videos,” says Ciccarone. “He asked for a piece of paper to diagram on and I was lucky enough to be sitting next to him. He drew a few scribbles in my journal to illustrate his point, and only afterwards did I realize that I now had an original Salman Khan teaching aid. I’m thinking of getting the page framed.”

“For someone like me, who wants to build a career working in the education space and bringing the lessons learned at Haas to bear on the problems of education equality, getting to meet Sal Khan was nothing short of getting to meet a celebrity or a hero,” Ciccarone says.

Butow says Khan exemplifies the mission of the ELC. “We believe that in order to have the impact we want, we need to multiply the effect we could have on our own by empowering others who will empower others and so on. We believe education has the greatest potential to change lives and break the cycle of poverty.”

Adds Butow, “We are really thankful to Deans Lyons and grateful for being part of this incredible and student lead community that keeps opening doors for us.”

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