Community is destiny.
It’s catchy, but not all that original. After all, we’re warned as children that “You are who surround yourself with.” Come adulthood, we’re cautioned against the hubris of unfettered individualism. “It takes a village,” some say. “You can go further together,” others assert. Either way, the message is clear: We’re in this together.
The best communities watch out for each other. They are never above serving, always looking to tap into each other’s strengths. Their members are always seen and never forgotten. When times grow threatening, they rally together for safety and support, sharing burdens and celebrating victories. More than that, these communities personify their values; they set high expectations and hold each other accountable for meeting them. They are accepted for who they are, which inspires them to become who they want to be.
BONDING STARTS EARLY
Community is the centerpiece of the MBA experience at University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. It is a business school with a distinct identity, a heritage grounded in innovation and insurgency, curiosity and conscience. It is a community that students choose, a set of values that they share, and a purpose they intend to pursue. Forget the image of hippies spouting off from an Ivory Tower. A Berkeley MBA is a call to act and a commitment to openness, humility, and stewardship.
These values unite the Class of 2022, whether they sit behind a computer screen or stand together six feet apart. A mix of backgrounds and beliefs, the class has already been savoring their time together. together. Not surprisingly, community-building started early with the class. The class bonded over Zoom happy hours and socially-distanced picnics, says Catherine Romero, an investment banker who grew up in Los Angeles. They would even pick classmates up at the airport, help out with health insurance questions, and share lecture notes, adds Sevita Qarshi, who describes her classmates as “caring, brilliant, empathetic, and collaborative.”
Kanyinsola Aibana, a Brooklyn-born Harvard grad, also experienced this same volunteer spirit from the Haas community early on. To her, it showed the class paid more than lip service to Haas’ underlying principles.
“In the past month-and-a-half, I have had the pleasure of interacting with my future classmates through online conferences, virtual coffees, and our class Slack channel. I continue to see how generous they are with their time and resources, from sharing updates on the fall semester to developing a buddy system to have people in the U.S. help international students with their upcoming move. I asked the Slack channel to help me look at apartments since I was in New York, and three people offered to do so in less than 24 hours…Their goodwill affirmed my decision to attend Haas.”
OPEN-MINDED AND MINDFUL
Another quality that describes the Haas Class of 2022? Aileen Lu, a Berkeley undergrad and entrepreneur, would use “open-minded” – particularly during classroom discussions.
“I’ve enjoyed exchanging opinions on some of the most heatedly discussed topics affecting the Berkeley community and American society through student-run dialogues. Everyone did a superb job of putting things into context and recognizing that people from different backgrounds have very different takes on the same issue. I’m grateful to have learned from dialogue participants and how to be more unassuming and respectful.”
Not only open-minded – but also mindful, adds Vasu Panicker, an experimental musician and teacher. At Haas, he says, students take the time to formulate thoughtful responses that carried real weight.
“This summer, Haas offered a robust series of preparation workshops, ranging from Finance and Case Method to DEI. My fellow classmates all demonstrated one crucial quality: the ability to take a gentle pause in order to approach dialogue mindfully. When cold-called upon to answer a question, or when volunteering a viewpoint, my classmates took a moment to think about what they were going to say, slowed down their speech, and only then spoke.”
FROM THE PALMS CASINO TO NIKE
That’s because the Class of 2022 is a serious bunch, diverse in experience and rich in success. Niklas Bretschneider, for one, was a senior consultant at McKinsey who loves to be “thrown in the water” when it comes to absorbing national customs and cultures. In Latin America, Tomás Campos helped to “transform” the region’s largest coal generator into a renewable energy company. Head north and you’ll find Torrey Mayes, a financial manager for the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Responsible for designing the growth plans and tracking revenue for 19 properties, his work produced over $15 million dollars in savings over two years.
Think that’s impressive in scale? Meet Kanyinsola Aibana. In Indonesia, she helped develop a program to boost the savings rates of cocoa farmers – one that was eventually rolled out to 100,000 stakeholders. At the same time, Sevita Qarshi’s reach has extended globally.
“[I worked] on a Nike Dream social media series that focused on four Muslim female athletes in England, Germany, and Turkey. This was the first time I had worked on stories that were similar to mine. These athletes were relatable to anyone who’s been the underdog, but to hear their nuances felt like I was hearing my story on the screen for the first time. Creating a social media series about these athletes and having it sponsored by an influential brand like Nike was huge.”
FOUR DEFINING LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES
Despite their differing career paths, the Class of 2022 has bonded over a unique feature of the Haas MBA: The Defining Leadership Principles. Basically, these principles establish the community’s expectations for each other. They clarify who is accepted and rewarded, what is critical to the Haas mission, and how students interact with each other. Hardly a marketing gambit, the Defining Leadership Principles inform faculty and staff hires, curriculum development, and even how larger institutional decisions are made at Haas.
Overall, the Berkeley Haas community follows four principles, which were defined as the following:
Question the Status Quo: We lead by championing bold ideas, taking intelligent risks, and accepting sensible failures. This means speaking our minds even when it challenges convention.
Confidence without Attitude: We make decisions based on evidence and analysis, giving us the confidence to act without arrogance. We lead through trust and collaboration.
Students Always: We are a community designed for curiosity and lifelong pursuit of personal and intellectual growth. This is not a place for those who feel they have learned all they need to learn.
Beyond Yourself: We shape our world by leading ethically and responsibly. As stewards of our enterprises, we take the longer view in our decisions and actions. This often means putting larger interests above our own.
WHY THE LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES MATTER
For many class members, the Defining Leadership Principles resonate in a very personal way. Before business school, Nathan Mason lived a life of service to his country. In the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, he worked as an expert in countering cyber threats. He even trained hundreds of civilians and military personnel on computer engineering at the Department of Defense College. This drive to give back is one reason why Beyond Yourself touched him deeply since he encountered so many doubters along the way.
“I joined the national security industry because I felt inspired to serve our nation following the September 11th terrorist attacks. That said, my decision to enlist in the United States Air Force (USAF) was difficult. My family did not receive the news well because they were concerned for my safety, and worried about my future. With the exception of my grandfathers who served in WWII and the Korean War, I was the sole member of my family to join the armed forces. I now recognize my decision to put my country’s larger interests above my own. I am satisfied with the time I committed to my country because I know my contributions made a positive impact on the world, and it gave me invaluable experiences that will last a lifetime.”
In contrast, Sevita Qarshi majored in Theater Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University before becoming a television producer and director. She considers herself a risk-taker, be it choosing the volatile creative industry for a career or moving across the country for gigs. This rebellious streak is one reason why Haas’ Questioning the Status Quo principle struck her as so fundamental to who she is.
“I’m a female Afghan immigrant who grew up in California. It took a lot of convincing to get permission from my parents to go to college across the country to Brown University to study of, all things, theatre. Since then, I’ve spent my career in New York and Los Angeles producing and directing documentaries and commercials. Now, I’m pursuing an MBA. Many people doubted my choices, but I’ve learned that if I want to pursue my passions, I have to step out of the norm and carve my own path.”
Our Meet the Class of 2022 Series
Go to Page 2 for an exclusive Q&A with the Haas School’s MBA Director.
Go to Page 3 for in-depth profiles of class members.