Where Does Your Inspiration Come From? 3 Stories From 3 Top MBA Scholarship Winners


By Kirsten Mickelwait

This year, Berkeley-Haas grad students will receive scholarships totaling $6 million—and a record-breaking 50 percent of the incoming Full-time MBA class will receive financial awards.

These scholarships are awarded based on merit, need, and specific criteria such as leadership on diversity issues.

Here are three inspiring stories of new full-time MBA students who have received some of the most prestigious awards.


Dean’s Fellowship: This $110,000 scholarship is awarded based on career potential as a "path-bending leader."

West Point-educated Benjamin Raphael spent nine years in the Army, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan and rising from infantry platoon leader to Special Forces battalion operations officer. When he left the military in 2014, he was rated in the top five percent of captains after serving in the elite 7th Special Forces Group, and had been selected for promotion to major.

Though he had achieved military distinction without formal business training, he realized that a Haas MBA would equip him with the skills to create global economic opportunities.

As a Green Beret in Afghanistan, Raphael earned the Army Commendation Medal for Valor after planning and leading the rescue of a helicopter crew, recovering sensitive material, and evacuating wounded soldiers under fire.

He also reduced conflict in a notoriously violent Afghan province by innovating with local leaders. Raphael noticed that pomegranates, which grew abundantly in the area, weren't being well-marketed or distributed. In addition, vendors from lucrative marketplaces were reluctant to deal with the pomegranate growers because of the region's violent reputation.

Raphael convinced the growers to overcome their bad image through advertising and networking, and created new ways to package and deliver the pomegranates to large external markets. His efforts ultimately increased local employment by 25 percent and decreased violence.

"I'm passionate about developing and employing unconventional solutions to complex problems," he says. "Through business, I want to make the world a better place for children like my two young daughters.”

Zara KhanZara Khan, MBA 16

Dean’s Fellowship

Zara Khan believes a path-bending leader is “someone with a stubborn itch, a vision fueled by passion, and a persistence fueled by courage.” She should know.

Raised in the comforts of suburban American and the realities of rural Pakistan, she grew up alternating between field hockey skirts and burkas, with a growing determination to fight poverty as her life’s work.

By the time she applied to Haas, Khan had worked at a non-governmental organization in Rwanda, where she designed projects to deliver farm extension services to 60,000 coffee growers. At the International Finance Corporation (IFC)—the private arm of the World Bank—she structured an investment in a Ugandan powdered milk plant that reduced dependence on food imports and increased incomes of 10,000 dairy farmers.

But Khan soon decided she needed an MBA to broaden her skills in operations and general management. She was attracted to the Haas culture of open-mindedness and innovation, as well as its small class sizes and tight-knit alumni base. With her Haas degree, she plans to continue her career in international development and eventually start her own development consulting practice that will focus on high-impact sectors like agribusiness.

“In my village in Pakistan, farmers are still struggling to feed their families and make ends meet," she says. "The economy is shrinking, schools and hospitals are starved for resources, and there is little hope that the children will live a better life. I can change this in my lifetime, but it will take more than just money.”

Gerardo Ruiz de Teresa_sizedGerardo Ruiz de Teresa, MBA 16

Maxwell Scholarship: Established in memory of Brian L. Maxwell through the generosity of Jennifer Maxwell, the Maxwell Fellowship of $110,000, goes to individuals who have demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to create and implement innovative projects, products, and ideas.

Gerardo Ruiz de Teresa was working at his dream job for General Electric, selling gas and steam turbine parts in Latin America, when he had a true “lightbulb moment.” After reading that 97 percent of Mexico had electric power, he realized that still left more than three million people in the dark. With his GE cubicle partner, he began thinking about how they could get electricity to his country's poorest people

Ruiz de Teresa was inspired to leave his secure position and cofound Iluméxico, a social enterprise that provides solar energy systems to replace such hazardous energy sources as candles and diesel lamps in remote communities. In just four years, Iluméxico has brought light to more than 15,000 people in 11 Mexican states.

Trained as an engineer, Ruiz de Teresa soon realized that building a social enterprise also requires expertise in finance, administration, and strategy. He set his sights on Haas because of its focus on new technologies and social impact.

“My goal is to be an integral contributor to the development of my country, with a company that nourishes the economy through job creation and a strong social and environmental focus,” he says.

Ruiz de Teresa was also been recognized by Ernst & Young as 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year in social impact, and was a Fulbright Scholar.


MickelwaitGuest blogger Kirsten Mickelwait is a local freelance writer and third-generation UC Berkeley graduate specializing in higher education, business, health care, and nonprofits.



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