Meet The Berkeley Haas MBA Class Of 2024

Some call it the ‘rebel spirit.’ It is that instinct – that compulsion – to dissent. Being a rebel is a life of discontent, that burden of knowing something is wrong or not enough is being done.  That’s why rebels are suspicious of authority – and the codes and conventions that sustain it. You could call them visionaries, but a better term may be optimists. After all, rebels fixate on the future, never wavering from their principles despite the headwinds against them.

The University of California at Berkeley is known for its rebel spirit. Let’s face it: when isn’t there a knee-jerk march protesting some slight or championing some cause? Still, Berkeley flames insurgency, uniting students whether they’re vegan hippies, uber-competitive overachievers, or fun-loving Greeks. At the Haas School of Business, that rebelliousness is channeled through one of the program’s 4 Defining Leadership Principles: Question The Status Quo. Among MBAs, that translates to never being satisfied and committing to innovation. It also means Haasies are expected to speak up and take risks, always using business as a tool to level hurdles and shrink gaps.


The Class of 2024 has certainly bought into Question The Status Quo (along with the other Defining Leadership Principles). Most joined the Haas MBA community so they could be around classmates who share these values. And each brings a story of ‘breaking the rules’ for the greater good. Take Jake Justice, a former Abercrombie model who describes himself as a “rebellious teen” growing up. For him, Questioning the Status Quo taps into his love of autonomy and pursuit of self-improvement. A Psychology major, Justice eventually found his way into strategy, where he focused on harnessing consumers’ wants and values to motivate purchase decisions. Now, he plans to take the next step, going from “people to product” to take a more holistic approach.

“Frequently frustrated with antiquated approaches, from outdated processes in the office to suboptimal social or political systems, we all often question the impact of one individual to inspire experimentation, stimulate social change, and Question the Status Quo,” he tells P&Q. “As I embark on my journey here at Berkeley Haas, I look forward to learning how I may harness this innate proclivity to Question the Status Quo to drive more macro-level change and impact for people and organizations.”

Andrew Packer embraced a rebel spirit after working in the most unlikely vantage point: a “traditional” accounting firm. Here, he enjoyed a front row seat to a rapidly-evolving business landscape. “I think that leaders and companies that will thrive and create a positive legacy are those who are willing to take risks that differentiate and serve the broader business community. Haas emphasizes embracing new ideas and ways of working, which is critical for survival in today’s business environment.”

Question The Status Quo also resonated closely with Kristina Martinez. An investment associate, Martinez believes this principle acts as a bulwark against deeply ingrained social inequities. “I need to be continually questioning the way processes and group norms function, and challenge inequities that face marginalized groups,” Martinez writes. This can be applicable to the classwork, workplace, and even casual everyday interactions. Innovation would not develop if we don’t continue to question the status quo.”

The school’s defining leadership principles—Question the status quo, Confidence without attitude, Students always, and Beyond yourself—are deeply embedded at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business


Anupama Tej inherited her rebellious spirit from her mother. Growing up, Tej’s mother battled her village’s restrictions on educating young girls. Since then, Tej notes, she has “followed in her mother’s footsteps” by not settling for the way things are. “I believe I have always questioned the status quo. This includes leaving home when I was 10 years old, getting access to education to not letting a lack of funding end my quest to be my family’s first college graduate, and building platforms like Tinystep (a platform that enables Indian mothers to access parenting information in regional languages) and SheEO (an incubator for women entrepreneurs).”

You could say Defining Leadership Principles like Question The Status Quo codify the Haas culture. They explicitly outline what students, faculty, and alumni should expect from each other: openness, respect, teamwork, creativity, and action. In other words, the principles are a unifying force, ones that guide everything from admissions and hiring decisions to budgetary priorities. However, the Defining Leadership Principles are hardly a marketing gimmick. Instead, they grew organically from Haas’ conscious effort to develop leaders who were as selfless as they were strategic.

In past years, Students Always was a popular principle among incoming MBAs. This tenet sets the expectation that Haas MBAs are life-long learners, ever curious and committed to growth. Another is Beyond Yourself, a homage to stewardship, where students are “putting the collective good above [their] own interests. During the application process, Nadia Abbasi experienced this principle first-hand. Her initial impression of Haasies were that “these people are smart and they care.” Now, she knows this impression to be Beyond Yourself – and it was expressed by Haas MBA students returning the favor when it comes to supporting applicants.

“There is this duty to pass on the knowledge and support you’ve received each year, and I was on the receiving end of generations of Haasies going beyond themselves quietly,” Abbasi tells P&Q. “And now I’m paying it forward. This week, I spoke with a reapplicant from Mexico City. Beyond yourself is not something you analyze or talk about, it’s something you do.”


And Confidence Without Attitude is just something you are. This final Defining Leadership Principle boils down to humility – building relationships through “empathy, inclusion, and trust.” That’s the model that Jillian Geary intends to follow in becoming a leader who makes a difference.

“A great leader never stops learning and, therefore, never assumes they know everything there is to know, even within their own area of expertise,” Geary adds. “The best leaders encourage productive and respectful debate in order to broaden their perspective.”

An engineer and product manager from Silicon Valley, Geary practiced Confidence Without Attitude by launching a women’s network at her last employer, a pre-commercial molecular diagnostics company. “I had seen what a successful and flourishing women’s network looked like during my time at Bain and I wanted to be a part of creating that for a young company in another male-dominated industry,” Geary writes. “Our initiatives included a mentorship program, an external speaker series, professional development workshops and networking events. After the network’s first year, we had over 50% company-wide participation as the first, and only, employee resource group. Especially for a pre-commercial company with minimal funding for programs like these, I am proud of my contributions to the network.”

Two MBA students walk through the Berkeley Haas courtyard.


Indeed, you’ll find a strong entrepreneurial appetite in the Class of 2024, an outgrowth of their never satisfied, risk-taking Question The Status Quo mentality. Doris Yuan traveled across the world to launch an EdTech startup in Thailand. In contrast, Nabilla Ariffin, a professional squash player in Malaysia, brought her sport to North America. She helped make the sport more accessible for everyone by spearheading the construction of the continent’s largest squash center.

“Growing up in Malaysia, squash is a public sport accessible to many,” she tells P&Q. “When I came to the US, I was shocked to find how exclusive this sport is. So when the US Squash Governing Body approached my nonprofit to help them dream up and deliver a national center with access as a focal point, I jumped at the opportunity! I also developed partnerships with the Philadelphia School District to design community access programs. These programs introduced squash as part of the physical education curriculum to under-resourced public schools and provided students with the opportunity to compete in school and national leagues.”

Of course, the class has also channeled this same entrepreneurial spirit into their own employers and clients. Along the way, they lived up to Haas’ Confidence Without Attitude maxim. As a Deloitte consultant, DJ Prahladka developed a tool for a large U.S. healthcare provider that enabled the firm to better project future revenues. In the process, he “mitigat[ed] $5 million dollars in daily revenue losses.” Jake Justice rolled out a Human Intelligence practice at sparks & honey, a cultural intelligence consultancy, that emerged as multi-million-dollar revenue source for the organization. At Meredith, a media conglomerate wrestling with a transition to digital properties, Nadia Abbasi masterminded an online shopping experience for two retail clients that resulted in an eight-figure advertising windfall.

“I coordinated design, engineering, sales and reporting efforts to launch and test new shopping cart features required for the campaigns and shifted how our teams collaborate internally. In the process, I bridged gaps between our Innovation and Digital Ads teams. I achieved this by being transparent about coordination challenges, scheduling learning sessions from each function, and building consensus around process change. This personally helped groom softer managerial and people management skills. It was gratifying to see colleagues who customarily didn’t talk to each other, now collaborate and share knowledge as we prototyped and went to market.”

UC-Berkeley Haas students in Chou Hall. All three Haas MBA programs are now STEM programs. Haas photo

Next Page: Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean of the MBA Programs at Haas

Page 3: Profiles Of 11 Berkeley Haas First-Year MBAs

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.