Full-Time and Evening & Weekend MBA Commencement: Slideshow & Student Speeches, & Video

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 Photos: Jim Block

Evening & Weekend MBA Brandon Middleton’s Commencement Rap

IMG_0258Dearly beloved as we close this last chapter

It’s appropriate to be sent off by the class’s favorite rapper

When I heard I’d been elected to give to you this message

I knew I had to try to do it big and make it epic //

For the record this was the last assignment I accepted

First commencement rap ever … Guinness Book of World Records? … hmm

Student Always, Beyond Yourself … forever

Questioning the Status Quo so we can change the world … together//

DCF, SG&A, and WTP,

LBO, IRR, and EVC

All foreign concepts to Brandon at the start

Thousands later though they’re tattoed on my heart//

MBA equals marriage babies and academics

Manifestations from all three I’ve seen from the beginning

I’ll miss a lot of things like taking naps on that shuttle

Like sometimes not reading a case and somehow not getting in trouble//

Like rich case discussions, the insights and lessons

Not getting to the insight because we asked so many questions

Like Jim the photographer and Dean Lyon’s dances

Like Saturdays not checking and showing up at the wrong campus//

Y’all never did that right, probably wasn’t your struggle

But you must admit that being EW teaches you how to juggle

It teaches you how to hustle, my look at how we’ve grown

Multitasking homework, family, and watching Game of Thrones//

So thank you Haas for the challenge and thank you for the love

We did more than what we thought we were capable of

Congrats to the spouses, professors, and the staff

On a job well done filled with lots of fun and laughs//

And finally my hats off to the class of fifteen

You’re a good looking group … you’re So Fresh and So Clean

This for gold and for oski to axe and to blue

It’s B. Middleton signing off I will now bid you adieu//

 

Full-time MBA Sandeep Pahuja’s Commencement Speech

IMG_9438My greatest fear in life is that I won’t live up to my potential. And two years ago it seemed more certain than ever that I would have to settle for a life I didn’t want to lead. There was that nagging voice of self-doubt in my head telling me, “You’re not ready.” Round 1, rejection email. Round 2, rejection email.  Round 3, rejection email. Each time, every successive round that voice screaming louder and louder in my head “I told you so.” In those moments of intense self-doubt, when all that I had worked hard for seemed futile, my family and friends picked me up—because they knew that I could. And they believed in me when I stopped believing in myself. And they gave me the gentle push to go after the life I wanted and I applied to Berkeley in Round 4.

I remember getting the phone call, and being so afraid of the possibility of what might happen that I let it go to voicemail (sorry Stephanie), because something I worked so hard for was about to happen and it was scary.  I like to think that I was the last person the school let in, the one that Haas took a chance on, the one with below average GMATs, but above average facial hair growing ability. I wanted to come to Berkeley not only because Haas creates leaders, whether in investment banking or non-profits, but because Berkeley teaches us how to think differently, find the right problem to solve, and most importantly, helps us find the right path for us.

But we never would have gotten here today if it weren’t for all of those people that believed we could even when we were sure we couldn’t.  To the partner who told you that you needed to go across the country to go to Berkeley-Haas even if it meant a long distance relationship, the friends that continued to ask you what you really did at business school since all they saw on your Instagram feed was pictures of HaasBoats and VegHaas and HaasLoween and HaasDogs and #HaasTag and #Haasome and every other event we like to combine with Haas, the professors who’ve dedicated themselves to teaching us to recognize the pitfalls of the leaders that came before us, and the amazing staff that does all of the little things with no fanfare and makes this place better year after year. THANK YOU.

But I want to especially want to thank our families who made us we are—I am thinking of my family today, that couldn’t be here today because my mother needed emergency surgery yesterday, who thankfully is doing okay—love you Mom. Hopefully the livestream is working better than AirBears2. But most of all, thank you class of 2015. Because if you happen to be by yourself today, I want to remind you that you have 250 family members sitting with you today in this audience. We’ve spent the last two years growing into this family, and we’ve accomplished amazing things. And we did it because we pushed, challenged, and supported each other.

Take my friend Gordon Yu, who pushed me to join Ben Killmer’s Lean Launch Pad team.  A push and a challenge that’s changed my path and led me to co-found a startup. Together we won 12 case competitions, started 10, soon to be 11, companies, raised over $170,000 for charity and volunteered the equivalent of 155 days, had more than 5,000 people attend the 9 conferences we organized, created our own signature cocktail, and incredibly had 9 babies born in two years.  We were all admitted to Haas because they saw who we could be, we’ve spent the last two years pushing each other to reach new highs, and now it’s our time to go out into the world and live up to that potential.

I want to turn my fear into an asset so I am going to leave you with a challenge today. Find your own path. Don’t go follow someone else’s because it’s what you are supposed to do. Associate to engagement manager to partner—throw it away.  Make your own—skip around, skip ahead, go backwards, but do it because it’s yours and it’s the one you want to be on, not the one you think you should be on or the one that’s going to give you the most money. You have to. You’ve given so much of your heart and soul, and frankly, your bank account, to become the leader Berkeley believed you could be. You know right now in your gut if you are on the right path or if you aren’t. I want you to make calendar invite for one year from now, and invite the classmate that has pushed, challenged, and supported you the most. If you haven’t found your right path yet, spend the next year doing what you’re passionate about in all of your free time. On May 22, 2016 call that person up, and talk to them about where you are at because you’ll need a push to walk away from a comfortable life to go for one that holds meaning for you. And if in a year you don’t get the push you need, call me because we’re family, and I know you can.

Our lives are short, and our time is fleeting. Spend it with the ones you love, doing the things you want, with the people who matter the most. We are ready.

 

Xendit: Cash Without Borders

The Xendit Team

The Xendit team, left to right: Bo Chen & Juan Gonzalez, both BS 13 (computer science); Vivek Ahuja and Moses Lo, both MBA 15

Moses Lo, MBA 15, has lived a border-spanning life. Born in Singapore to a family with roots in Malaysia, Indonesia and China, he spent his early years in a one-room house with a bucket shower before moving to Australia—and indoor plumbing. For a time he had a business selling custom suits made in Thailand and China. He has studied in Sydney, New York, and now at Berkeley-Haas; he worked at the Boston Consulting Group and Amazon.

It was this global existence that inspired Xendit, an cross-platform app that lets anyone transfer cash around the world in seconds, for a fraction of the cost of established services like Western Union—or even upstarts like Transferwise and Xoom. The funds can go directly into a bank account, or even to a post office or convenience store where the recipient collects it.

“I grew up in one world, and moved to another, and I’ve gone between different worlds all my life,” says Moses, Xendit’s CEO. “I know first-hand how difficult it can be to move money across borders, especially for people who are outside the traditional banking system.”

The startup team includes COO Vivek Ahuja, MBA 15, a U.S. Navy veteran who spent five years on a nuclear submarine; Casey Lord, MBA 15, who worked at Paypal and in impact investing, and is serving as head of Asia; as well as as CTO Bo Chen, EECS 13 and Lead Engineer Juan Gonzalez, CS 13.

Traction

The group has made quick progress: they won the Andreessen Horowitz’s Bay Area Bitcoin Hackathon last November, coming in first among 200 competitors. They took 2nd in last week’s LAUNCH startup competition, and Xendit was a finalist at the Global Social Venture Competition in April. The team has recently been funded by one of the most prestigious names in the Valley and will spend the next few months preparing for a public launch.

Xendit is focusing first on Asia, a massive market. Remittances from the U.S. to Asia alone are estimated at $50 billion, according to World Bank estimates; transfers within Asia are billions more.

Xendit screenshot 250Seven Clicks

Xendit’s user interface couldn’t be simpler. Simply choose a contact’s email or phone number, choose a currency and amount, and hit “send”. The app displays real-time exchange rates, and the cash is transferred in seconds. Within seven clicks, you’re moving money across the globe.

The back end is a bit more multifaceted: The cash moves through a combination of traditional bank channels and crypto-currencies like Bitcoin and Ripple. Xendit has already negotiated relationships with banks and non-bank cash-out locations in Asia and moved $35,000 in a six-week pilot.

For bank-to-bank transfers, fees are between 1 and 2 percent. For a non-bank transfer—to someone who does not have an account and may be picking up cash at a 7-Eleven in Malaysia, for example—fees are considerably higher, because of extra service charges along the chain. Xendit is aiming to keep the fees about half of what current competitors charge.

Support Back Home

It’s that market that gives Xendit a social-impact component. Moses says he has met many low-wage immigrants over the years who lose thousands of dollars annually to send support back home. He describes Thomas, a friend in Australia who was a South Sudanese refugee.  His father died during the civil war, he arrived on a UN passport and with a scholarship to study in Australia. He was always working two jobs to put himself through school, and paying 15 percent fees to send money to his family in a Ugandan refugee camp.

“Banking is unjust. It’s simply inefficient and too expensive to serve these markets,” Moses says. “I believe that a business worth pursuing should add value to our world.”

Berkeley Built

Moses says he came to Haas specifically to build an entrepreneurial venture. After taking time to build a team that spans Haas and the engineering school, he and Vivek have been able to leverage their 2nd-year MBA coursework this year to strengthen Xendit. They took Entrepreneurship with Toby Stuart and Rob Chandra, then Workshop for Entrepreneurs, offered through the Lester Center and taught by lecturers Nancy Kamei and Doug Galen.

“Startups are about the right team, the tech talent and access to funding networks,” he says. “Berkeley is the place to be for all of that.”

Xendit was the runner-up at LAUNCH, the Berkeley startup accelerator and competition

Xendit took 2nd place at LAUNCH, the Berkeley startup accelerator and competition.

Haas Help for Nepal

The women of Beauty for Ashes

The women of Beauty for Ashes, a Nepali organization that MBA students in the International Business Development program worked with last spring. The group helps survivors of sex trafficking earn money through handicrafts.

UPDATE: The campaign wrapped up May 8 with $6,000 raised! Many thanks to all who went beyond themselves—after already contributing to other C4C campaigns throughout the year. The organizers will keep donors informed on which organizations receive the funds.

MBA students who traveled to Nepal last year with the International Business Development program, and with Challenge for Charity (C4C) leaders, have spearheaded a crowdfunding campaign for earthquake relief in the devastated country.

Launched on Tilt, the campaign funds will target non-governmental organizations on the ground in Nepal. Student organizers are working with international contacts in their networks to quickly identify the most high-impact organizations, and will keep all donors apprised of how the funds are distributed.

“It’s a very, very scary situation over there,” says Jackie Laird, MBA 15, who was part of Team Beauty for Ashes in Kathmandu last June. “We are trying to get funds there sooner rather than later.”

You can learn more and donate here.

Jackie says she and other students have been in touch with the women they worked with, and all of them are OK—but their families are not. They are not only trying to get help to their relatives, but they are fanning out throughout the city on foot—the only way to get around at this point—trying to help others in need, especially children.

“The way the hospitals work in Nepal is that you don’t get anything for free—including water. Your family and friends have to bring it to you,” she says. “Hospitals are way underfunded. Many of them only have one bathroom.”

Jackie says her team’s experience in Nepal was eye-opening. “Nepal was far worse than I expected, in terms of how destitute it is. If that’s the way it was like in good times, I can’t imagine what it’s like now,” she says.

With monsoon season looming and tens of thousands without shelter, the situation is critical. The 7.8-magnitude quake that rocked Nepal last Saturday killed more than 5,500 people, and injured at least 12,000. The death toll continues to rise, with many remote villages still inaccessible.

MBA students will be in the courtyard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday (with baked goods!) to raise awareness for the campaign. If you have any questions, please reach out to the C4C organizers: Marisa JohnsonJohn Maus, and Sara Oon, all MBA 14. You can also contact Jackie Laird with questions.

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First-Ever African Business Forum to Explore the New Mobile Frontier, May 2

Forum organizers: Serge Ouedraogo, MBA 15; Ould-Ali Najat, MBA 15; Ahmed Khada, MBA 15; Oseyi Ikuenobe, MBA 15; Remona Moodley, MBA 16; Sadiya Abdullahi Nur, MBA 15

Forum organizers: Serge Ouedraogo, MBA 15; Najat Ould-Ali, MBA 15; Khadar Ahmed, MBA 15; Oseyi Ikuenobe, MBA 15; Remona Moodley, MBA 16; and Sadiya Nur, MBA 15

The first-ever business forum at Berkeley focused on the world’s second-largest continent—and second-fastest-growing economic region—will take place at Haas on Saturday.

MBA students organized the Africa Business Forum to fill a gap at the school, where students have long held regional business conferences focused on Asia and Latin America.

“Our vision is to make Berkeley-Haas the premier destination for the development of innovative business solutions to Africa’s challenges, and a home for visionaries who want to develop these solutions,” says Oseyi Ikuenobe, MBA 15, one of the event organizers.

They chose the theme, “Africa: The Next Frontier For Mobile Technology,” to resonate with the larger Berkeley community.

“We didn’t have to look far to find our theme,” says Serge Ouedraogo, MBA 15. “Mobile is where everything is happening in Africa—when you talk about access, it’s through mobile devices. As a business school, we should not be missing this emerging market.”

Growth Leader

The forum is not only a first for Haas, but for the larger Berkeley campus as well, organizers believe. Conferences and panels have focused on politics and policy, development, and advocacy, but never business. But given the growth forecasts for the continent, that’s likely to change.

A few stats:

  • For 2015, Kenya has the world’s 3rd-fastest growing economy, behind only China and the Philippines, according to an analysis by Bloomberg. Nigeria has the 6th fastest-growing GDP.
  • Only about 16 percent of Africa is currently online; the connected population is expected to grow to about 50 percent by 2025.
  • Africa’s middle class is expected to double over the next ten years.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be the global leader in growth of mobile usage over the next seven years
  • Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana have emerging Silicon-Valley-type tech ecosystems.

Gathering of Big Thinkers

In the face of such rapid growth, what will Africa look like in ten years? That’s the central question of the symposium, to be explored by entrepreneurial speakers and panelists who are pioneering a range of innovative ventures, as well as in a hands-on business-model-design session for attendees.

Sophia Bekele, founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica—which has advocated for .africa domain names—will give the keynote address. Panelists include Shashi Buluswar, co-founder and executive director the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab; Stephen Ozoigbo, CEO of the African Technology Foundation, Sarah Kunst, venture partner at Future Perfect Ventures; Twitter developer advocate Bear Douglas, who will talk about Twitter’s Digits—a free mobile app authentication framework suited for emerging markets; and Kevin Schuster, growth director for VOTO Mobile, a Ghana and U.S.-based enterprise working to amplify disenfranchised voters’ voices through mobile phones. See the full speaker list.

Organizers expect a crowd of about 70 people, including students from Haas and other schools, and working professionals. The group has also been marketing the event at meet-up groups focused on African business.

The event will be held from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 2 in the Wells Fargo Room. Click here to register. Follow the forum on Twitter: @HaasAfrica.

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.

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.

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.

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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.”

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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.