MBA student perspective: A non-traditional student finds her voice

By Nahry Tak

I am probably not the typical image that comes to mind when most people think of a business school student. After majoring in art history in college, I saw myself with career trajectory in the nonprofit sector. That led to stints at art museums on two continents, and positions at an opera company and an environmental organization—doing everything from exhibition planning to fundraising. 

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Making a leap

I decided to enroll in a full-time MBA program because I want to become a leader who can employ the best learnings from both the social and private sectors. I needed to gain experience in both sectors. I decided business school would most readily enable me to make that leap from nonprofits.

While factors like career opportunities and location were considerations when comparing MBA programs, I knew I wanted more than these standard measures of business school fit to be part of my calculus. Finding a community that values inclusion and personal connection was of paramount importance to me.

Classmates helped me develop confidence to participate more fully by amplifying and vocally supporting statements I made in class."

While I was applying to schools, members of the Haas community set themselves apart by framing the value of their experience around interpersonal development and taking steps towards fulfilling life passions. Now that I am part of the Haas community, I can say with even more confidence that these priorities ring true for those whom I have the privilege of calling my classmates.

Even before school started, this focus on community building was evident. A second-year student hosted an evening designed to promote deep conversation through structured activities and facilitation. Classes hadn’t started yet, and here I had the opportunity in a small-group setting to learn about what my classmates are passionate about and why, what they fear, and what experiences had shaped who they are. This example is indicative of an aspect of Haas’ distinctive culture that really matters to me—that is, the willingness of the people in this community to reach below the surface and be open about themselves. 

Setting aside doubt

A key reason why the people at Haas are willing to open up to their classmates is that this is a place that is unbelievably supportive. Time and again, I have found myself encouraging my classmates and being encouraged by them to set aside self-doubt to pursue opportunities. When I first started the school year, I was timid in the classroom, unsure of how to frame my thoughts to contribute to discussions. A couple of my study team members, having noticed this, not only gave me regular pep talks but also helped create space for me to participate. For example, a study team member whispered before we started a discussion that I should be the one to provide a synopsis of the case, and other classmates helped me develop confidence to participate more fully by amplifying and vocally supporting statements I made in class. 

These are just small illustrations of the kinds of people whom Haas attracts and the culture here. This is a place where people clamor to support their classmates at the Coming Out Monologues event, or stand in solidarity with our black classmates who are grieving after a string of police shootings of black men. Haas fosters a community that is less concerned with defining your role based on what job you had and what university you attended, and more interested in understanding the core of who you are and how you will bring up those around you. This is why I am so excited to be here.

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Posted on January 12, 2017
Nahry Tak
Nahry Tak is a full-time Berkeley MBA student in the Class of 2018.