Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Erin Brock, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Erin Brock

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Food justice advocate, leadership nerd, systems change champion with a healthy addiction to glitter.”

Hometown: New Orleans, LA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love thrifting, sewing, and costuming; living in New Orleans has taught me so much about embracing fashion as a form of art and self-expression.

Undergraduate School and Major: Tulane University, Public Health & Latin American Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Policy & Advocacy Director at Feeding Louisiana (The State Association of Food Banks)

Berkeley Haas is founded on four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Which principle resonates most with you and why? Each one of Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles resonated with me and were among the things that initially drew me to the school. That said, the principle that I find myself coming back to again and again is ‘Student Always.’ I love asking questions and learning new things. I often find myself approaching new problems by learning as much as I can about the subjects and context. I also believe that one person can never know everything, especially given the unique backgrounds we all carry; I think the ability to be constantly learning, asking questions, and expanding one’s viewpoint is key to being a thoughtful and impactful leader.

What word best describes the Haas MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why?  I’ve found the Haas community to be completely authentic. Everyone I’ve interacted with is both proud of his/her/their own path and genuinely interested to learn about others. As someone coming into business school with a non-traditional background, I’ve felt not only welcomed but embraced by this community for my unique experience. It has been great to see such a collaborative community built from such a wide range of individuals.

Aside from classmates and the Defining Leadership Principles, what was the key part of Berkeley Haas’ MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was drawn to Haas’ commitment to integrate social impact and equity fluent leadership concepts throughout its curriculum, values, and school culture. Throughout my admissions process, Haas students and faculty alike reinforced to me that these topics don’t stay in their respective elective course, student clubs, or special events. Rather, they underlie many student discussions in and out of the classroom.

I view this integrated approach as not only critical to my own career goals, but also as reflective of the world around us. I want an education that acknowledges the real-world complexities of the intersection between business, diversity, equity, and social impact.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Berkeley Haas? I’m excited for the potential to join the Berkeley Innovative Solutions consulting team. The opportunity to solve a real world challenge within the social impact and/or food industry is interesting in itself, but I particularly like Berkeley’s cross-disciplinary approach. To experience this kind of project with professionals in these industries and students from various graduate programs would be quite valuable.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was the first person to ever hold my position at Feeding Louisiana, focusing exclusively on policy and advocacy work. When I began, the culture of advocacy among our food bank network was incredibly hesitant. This was particularly true as it related to SNAP (aka food stamps) and other social benefits programs, which can be seen as politically contentious (especially in the South). Throughout my time, I was able to lead our network to a place of confident and visible activism in support of these programs. This was a significant mindset shift that will have a lasting impact in how the organization views its role in the larger landscape of systemic food justice.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Throughout the pandemic, I worked every day to ensure that Louisiana food banks had access to every source of funding, food, and program flexibility possible to help meet the immense need for food assistance across the state. Louisiana is no stranger to natural disasters and the sudden need for assistance that disasters can bring, but the pandemic sparked levels of food insecurity that were simply incomprehensible to so many of my colleagues who have been doing this work for decades. Over those first few months, it became incredibly clear to me that we cannot respond our way out of a broken food system.

All it took was two weeks of lockdown for our food system to collapse at all levels, with low-income communities of color feeling the brunt of the damage. I now strongly believe that our national food system can and must shift to a place of resiliency and equity across all sectors. I feel passionate that the solutions to food insecurity and food apartheid must be built from the inside out.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? At this point in my career, I’ve worked on a few levels of food insecurity, from research to community response to policy and advocacy, and I increasingly feel pulled to working toward food security on a systems level. The pandemic increased my understanding that an equitable food system cannot be fixed by mutual aid, policy, or research alone, but rather by large-scale systems change across the for-profit, nonprofit, and government sectors of the food and agriculture industry.

Post-graduation, I hope to work for a large for-profit or non-profit company in the food sector to gain comprehensive experience in strategy, sustainability, and organizational management across the food system. Long term, I’d like to transition back into the food access space and lead a regional organization focused on food justice and equity in the South.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Northwestern Kellogg & UCLA Anderson

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Berkeley Haas’ MBA program? The best advice I received throughout my application process was to shift my mindset from focusing on saying the right things that I thought the admissions team wanted to hear to representing myself in a way that felt authentic and energizing. As I prepared to write my essays and complete my interviews, I spent much more time reflecting on my strengths, my experiences, my values, and what I actually want to gain from an MBA than I did rehearsing my answers.

From the beginning, Haas was my top choice. It was also the school that seemed to show me the most interest in return. I attribute that to our aligned values and how well I fit into Haas’s culture. I recommend this approach to any potential applicants.


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