Why Haas Hired An Inclusion Director

Élida Bautista is the director of diversity and inclusion at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Photo by Jim Block for Berkeley-Haas

It’s not uncommon for business schools to spend big bucks on top faculty and staff members. At most elite B-schools in the U.S., top administrators and faculty members make well over six figures annually. But while many of those employees are research gurus or industry experts, the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business recently made a hire that is a bit more offbeat for the traditional business school world. The Northern California state school plucked Élida Bautista away from nearby University of California-San Francisco’s departments of Psychiatry and Diversity and Outreach for a newly created position — the Director of Inclusion and Diversity.

Bautista comes to Berkeley with zero business school experience or business training, but with more than a decade in multicultural and psychiatric training and leadership, providing further evidence American full-time MBA programs are continuing to distance themselves from the good ole boys clubs they have traditionally been.

“It was clear that there was a real commitment here to this work,” Bautista says of her initial impression in taking this sort of position at a business school. “There were already a number of initiatives under way.”

Haas’s full-time MBA program, in particular, launched a Gender Equity Initiative a few years ago to boost female enrollment. Students have also pioneered a Manbassadors club and launched a Race Inclusion Initiative. Linking those sorts of programs to other degree programs at Haas will be one of Bautista’s first projects, she tells Poets&Quants. “My purview here is to focus initially on climate and support all the student-led initiatives — it’s a student-facing position,” Bautista says. Working with staff, faculty, and even alumni relations on inclusive efforts in programing and curriculum will also be an early priority for Bautista.


Bautista grew up in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in what she describes as a “pretty large extended Mexican family.” Her mother was one of nine siblings, and Bautista herself had four other siblings. “We were in a Puerto Rican neighborhood but very much had a Mexican experience,” Bautista recalls. She spent summers visiting family in Mexico and learned to read and write in Spanish before learning English in elementary school.

Her potential was recognized early in life. She was one of a few students chosen to be bussed to a middle-class school in northern Chicago that was stronger academically and better resourced than her neighborhood’s school. The school, Bautista says, bussed kids from her neighborhood and similar ones throughout the metro area. On her bus were primarily Puerto Rican and African-American kids, except for her and a girl her age from a Taiwanese family. Bautista and the Taiwanese girl became friends almost immediately, Bautista remembers.

“To this day, I’m not really sure how that worked because it took me about a year to learn English,” Bautista says, laughing. “But we sat next to each other every day on the bus.”

In the third grade, Bautista’s new friend gave her some Buddhist prayer beads as a gift from Taiwan. The kind gesture sparked a conversation, especially because of Bautista’s Christian cross neckless. Raised in a Catholic family, Bautista had never really been exposed to many different religious or ethnic backgrounds. But her school had teachers from all sorts of backgrounds and even that early in life, Bautista knew she loved learning about those different cultures.


Dating back to the 1960s, UC-Berkeley has long prided itself on being a beacon of free speech and inclusivity. Still, in 2015 the incoming class of full-time MBAs at the Haas School of Business had only 29% women. While the class also had 40% U.S. minority students and 37% international students, the lack of women set off a gender parity drive led by a group of first-year MBA students. The efforts paid off in class profile stats immediately. The percentage of women in the incoming class of 2016 surged to 43% — a rate that has yet to be matched again by the school, or indeed by most schools. This past fall’s incoming class maintained a rate of 40% women, representing an 11-percentage-point increase since the 2015 low. At the same time, however, U.S. minority enrollment at Haas has plunged from 40% in 2015’s entering class to 29% for last fall’s incoming class.

At age 13, Bautista’s family moved from their urban Chicago environment to a rural agricultural town in Southern California. The community was prominently Mexican and lacked the diversity Bautista had grown accustomed to. Once again, she found herself in a community with poorly funded schools and little guidance. “My parents have a sixth grade education and nobody in my family had gone to college,” Bautista says. Her father came Dad came to the U.S. in the late 50s soon after the establishment of the Bracero Program, a set of laws and policies that caused a massive migration of Mexican immigrants mainly for agricultural work purposes. “For them, a high school degree was the aspiration,” Bautista continues, noting at that point in history people could still get pretty far in life with a high school education. But that would never be enough for Bautista. Why? “I loved school, I was a bit of a nerd,” she laughs.

She loved school so much, Bautista enrolled herself in summer school before beginning her freshman year of high school, thinking she’d get a jumpstart on earning credits.

“I misunderstood it,” Bautista admits. “It was kind of touted as a place to get more credits and I thought I could use it to graduate early from high school. But really it was a place for students who hadn’t completed enough credits to graduate from eight grade.”

Bautista didn’t need the credits they were offering — she’d already earned them. Instead, the teachers put her to work as a tutor for the other students in the class, which in turn, led to an early outreach college prep program through the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB). “That was where I was first exposed to the possibility of going to college,” she says. Being a first generation college student, Bautista had no idea where to even begin on the college process. She wasn’t aware she had to take certain classes before college, or how or where to take standardized tests, or how to apply for financial aid. Until she participated in the program, which explained all of that and took her to UCSB’s Isla Vista campus for a tour. “The whole roadmap was presented to me as a possibility,” she says.


After graduating from high school, Bautista enrolled at Claremont McKenna College, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. The college had traditionally be a male-only school, and when Bautista enrolled, she said there were still less than 40% women making up the undergraduate population. “For me, that was a challenging environment,” she says. But on her first day of class, Bautista had a serendipitous moment. Her psychology professor was the only person of color on the faculty at the time. At the end of class, he asked Bautista to come to his office hours, where he asked her what she wanted to do with psychology. Bautista described her goals and what she dreamed of doing after graduating. The professor informed her what she wanted to do was clinical psychology, which required a Ph.D., which would also require a lot of prep. Once again, a road map and support system was laid out for Bautista. And once again, she took advantage.

Upon graduating, Bautista already had a spot in the clinical psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan with a fellowship. The school invited her to come early during the summer to take statistics and research methods courses. “Being the geek I was, I was like, ‘sure, I’ll start in the summer,'” Bautista quips.

Her formal education came full circle when Bautista spent the final year of doctoral school as a dissertation fellow in the Chicano Studies department at UCSB in 2001 and 2002. The position led to a post-doctoral position through the University of California-San Francisco and what is now the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Bautista quickly rose positions and was a staff psychologist a co-director of clinical training, focusing on multicultural clinical training. Before leaving the hospital some 15 years later to join Haas, Bautista was an associate clinical professor and director of clinical training.


Her experience working with hospital staff has prepared Bautista to work with “non-psychologist” types on matters of diversity and inclusion, which she says will help her transition to a business school.

Haas’s general openness and support of inclusion and diversity is a natural fit, Bautista explains. “Haas is interested in preparing leaders to be able to work with anybody, anywhere in the world, from a variety of identities,” she says. Less than a couple months on the job, Bautista says she has already been bombarded with emails from students, alumni, and staff wanting to create partnerships and work together on issues of inclusion — proof that what she saw from the outside while researching the job is accurate.

“I’ve seen similar job descriptions posted before and it seemed more like they wanted someone to do lip service or good PR,” Bautista says, “but here it really felt like they were really serious about it.”


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