Wanderlust: Talking Soccer, Academia, and Traveling with Derek Van Rheenen

Derek Van Rheenen

Derek Van Rheenen

A Political Economics major and German minor at UC Berkeley, Derek Van Rheenen didn’t know what he was going to do after college.

“Really, I thought I was going to be a spy,” he admitted to Insight. “And I’m not saying I’m not a spy; I’m just saying I thought I was going to be a spy. I couldn’t tell you if I was [sic] a spy because then I’d have to kill you.”

In addition to training (or not training) to be a spy, Van Rheenen played varsity soccer starting his freshman year at Berkeley. He was eligible to play for four years, so he took his junior year off to go to Göttingen, Germany and returned to Cal to play soccer for another two seasons, graduating in 1986.

When asked why Germany, he said that his reasoning was two-fold. First of all, thanks to his German minor, he thought he spoke pretty good German. All of the classes were taught in Deutsch (German), so he thought he’d be all set. Secondly, he played club soccer in the sixteen-and-under league, and his coach was German. This coach took the whole team to Germany to visit his family, and Van Rheenen was completely bewitched by the experience. When he returned home, he took German classes during his junior and senior years of high school and continued to learn the language in college.

“I wasn’t thinking I was going to play soccer,” he said. “I was going as a student to take my academics seriously.”

In retrospect, he may have chosen another country like Spain, Italy, or France over Germany, but he doesn’t regret going to Germany. It further instilled in him two principles that Berkeley had already begun to teach him: wanderlust (or the love of travel) and cultural sensitivity or how to travel with respect.

Born in West Africa, he probably already had a streak of wanderlust in him before his trip to Germany. However, the trip also taught him the value of being uncomfortable in a new place or experience. He said that a year was the best amount of time to be abroad because it allowed him to fully immerse himself in the culture and the language.

“It’s not easy,” he said of studying abroad, “but it’s not meant to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it. […] It’s always a challenge. Be self-critical. [Ask yourself,] ‘Am I doing the easy, touristy thing that is not pushing the boundaries?’”

A view of Van Rheenen's study abroad town: Göttingen, Germany (Photo from http://www.galenfrysinger.com)

A view of Van Rheenen’s study abroad town: Göttingen, Germany (Photo from www.galenfrysinger.com)

Upon his graduation from Berkeley, he still didn’t know what he wanted to do. He worked for a German business in America for a while, but he became frustrated after he realized it would not send him to Germany as originally expected. When some friends from Germany invited him to join them in India where they were making a film, he dropped his job and headed to the source of the Ganges River, a place of astounding spiritual purity. There, he had a very important role.

“I was the pack mule,” he said. “I had no particular skill except for being very strong. I would carry things […] just like ‘pack him up.’”

When he returned from India, he still had “absolutely no idea what to do.” It was then that soccer “kept [him] grounded, [was] [his] saving grace.” After playing club soccer for a little while, he got drafted and became a professional soccer player for the San Francisco Bay Black Hawks. He was the captain of the team. In 1990, they lost by penalty kicks, but in 1991, they won the national championship. This experience too taught him an important lesson about thriving in potentially uncomfortable situations.

He said, “I think the comfort level comes from saying, ‘I recognize that things are coming at me very quickly, but it’s okay. I’m also moving very quickly, and I can adjust accordingly.’”

Though soccer had kept him happily active up until this point, during the buildup to the 1994 World Cup hosted in the U.S., there was a lull in the soccer action. Van Rheenen decided that it was time to move on.

Of course, he ended up at UC Berkeley again to get his master’s in Education and doctorate in Cultural Studies. His anthropology professor, the late Alan Dundes, inspired him by saying, “One minor genre of folklore is children’s’ games, and you, because of your background in athletics and sports, would be perfect to look at this.”

Convinced that sports represented an “international currency” or an “international language of their own,” Van Rheenen began to study the way sports intersected with national and regional identities, social class, ethnicity, race, gender, and sexuality.

With a family full of intellects, it should come as no surprise that Van Rheenen took to the world of academia so easily. However, Van Rheenen was well aware of the “dumb jock” stereotypes and was bent on deconstructing them.

“You can have a well-exercised mind and body simultaneously. They aren’t in conflict necessarily,” he said.

When asked how he managed to bounce from professional soccer to higher education so gracefully, Van Rheenen said, “Everything sort of happens for a reason. It’s kind of serendipitous the way things align themselves. […] For me, I just had to trust my soul in a way. […] I don’t think I could ever do something that I’m not committed to. I don’t think I could stay in it. When I’m ready to move on, I move on.”

Logo of SF Bay Blackhawks

Logo of SF Bay Blackhawks

Today, Van Rheenen teaches at UC Berkeley, has written a book called Out of Bounds and several articles on sports from an anthropological viewpoint, coordinates the Cultural Studies of Sport in Education (CSSE) Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Education at Berkeley, and still has a healthy dose of wanderlust.

Bursting with good advice, he urges students to make active decisions, connect with people who are not like them, push against close-minded thinking, go outside their comfort zones, and open their senses while at home and abroad.

After many years of soccer, Van Rheenen advises all students, “Challenge yourself, every step of the way. […] Many players will never ever develop their left foot. They’re right footed. They’ll keep playing their right foot because they know they’re good at it. For younger people, my advice is to develop the left foot. Develop it now.”

To the Golden Bears of the world specifically, though, he says this: “Berkeley prepares young people to be confident that they can [move between different opportunities]. […] We go out, and we create our jobs. We create the world. We change the world. We can do that. That’s why we’re Berkeley students. We’re not following. We’re leading. That has always served me incredibly well. Make sure you’re true to your heart and make sure you’re true to your soul and do something you’re passionate about.”

His Mau-dus Operandi: Talking Finance with Kendall Mau


Mau in present day. Photo from the Booking Center Website

Mau in present day (Photo from the Booking Center Website)

Kendall Mau went to Berkeley in the late 60s, an extremely happening era. From the Free Speech Movement at Cal to General Franco’s dictatorship in Spain to a changing political system in Argentina, Mau experienced it all.

Mau is perhaps one of the most influential Berkeley alumni to date. He was a double major in French and Spanish. In those days, Berkeley only immersed students in the culture and literature behind a language. If students wanted to learn to speak the language, they were advised to go abroad.

A fluency in French and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry (Mau’s brother had been to France) led Mau to the University of Madrid in Spain.

There, he lived in a Spanish dorm. The main road by the dorm led up to General Franco’s palace. Every week, the general would ride past the dorm in a limo, surrounded by motorcycles, flags, and horses. Often, Mau saw a “fat old man sitting in a car with a beautiful lady.” He later learned that the man was Juan Perón, and the woman beside him, Isabel, his wife. These two people were living there in exile, but both later became Presidents of Argentina.

“Going to Madrid shaped my whole career,” says Mau. “After studying abroad, you don’t want to live in just Berkeley anymore–you want that high of living in a different place.”

Soon after Mau returned, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Not long after, John Kennedy was assassinated. All this got Mau thinking: “You’ve taken from society all these years. What can you give back to society?”

Instinctively, Mau decided to apply to the Peace Corps. Within a month, he was hired. He was sent to Panama, where his Spanish skills proved to be a great resource. A year later, he was transferred to Senegal, Africa, where his French skills came in handy.

Once he got out of the Peace Corps, Mau went back to school.

Juan Peron and his wife Isabel who Mau encountered in Spain. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images).

Juan Peron and his wife Isabel who Mau encountered in Spain. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

He attended the University of Maryland. He went to night school and got his MBA in Operations Research, a degree he says seemed “entirely useless, as useless as [his] language major.”

Two years later, his father saw an ad in the Wall Street Journal, by Castle & Cooke. It read, “Looking for MBAs with passport.”

Mau applied and got in. He worked with Castle & Cooke in South America for ten years. He started out in Ecuador, then moved to Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Haiti. In the end, he had to leave because business was getting really dangerous. Several people in the company were kidnapped by drug mafiosos laundering illegal money. One person was killed. All U.S. citizens were retrieved from the country and brought back to America.

Mau retired early–at the age of fifty. After retirement, he started volunteering for U.S. overseas assignments. He worked on a microfinance program in agriculture. He consulted with the biggest agricultural co-op in Honduras. The co-op was going under, but Mau turned it around.

Then, came the big move. Mau decided to leave the company and create his own bank in Honduras. He offered jobs to all the management personnel he had trained in the Honduras agriculture credit union project and in 1996, launched Ohana Management Consulting Inc. (originally Kendall Philip Consulting), his own microfinance institution (MFI). He handled management financial training, while his sister specialized in microfinance marketing.

A few years later, Mau attended a conference in Mexico, where he met David Sathertwaite, the founder of Prisma Nicaragua, another MFI. When Satherwaite met Mau, Prisma Nicaragua was spiralling downhill. However, they worked together to find a solution and in 2004, launched Prisma Honduras, the second Prisma microfinance bank. Unlike its predecessor, this one did very well. They started out with very little capital–only $380,000. They slowly built up by handing out flyers and going to weekend markets.

“It was almost like being back at Sather Gate!” Mau exclaims.

Mau’s business strategy was very different from those of  other MFI. In Mau’s opinion, “slow and steady” does indeed win the race.

Today, his is one of the strongest MFIs in the industry.

University of Maryland (Photo from UMD website)

University of Michigan (Photo from University website)

Looking back, Mau recalls Bill Swinford–the “most nasty, most terrifying person [he] had ever worked for.” He says, “With him, you had no dignity. He battered you until you came up to his level.”  Every day for two years, Mau thought Swinford would fire him. Finally one day, he impressed Swinford with his work and in doing so, impressed himself. Swinford took a man from Operations Research with no idea how business is done and transformed him into a very effective manager.

Later in life, when he was about forty-five, Mau went back to school. He spent six years working part-time and getting his Doctorate from Golden Gate University; during this time he really learned management.

Along with encouraging mentors, Mau also attributes much of his success to the very liberal atmosphere at Berkeley. There, he could do what he wanted to, free from the academic pressure imposed by his family. He was able to study abroad. He sang for the collegiate singers. He hung out on Sproul Plaza, talking with friends. He was even a passive member of the Free Speech Movement.

Today, Mau continues to be greatly involved with Berkeley. He guest lectures for a microfinance program at Haas, is a speaker at a MFI DeCal, and even provides internships for interested students.

Leaving Insight with his final thoughts, Mau says that your education and the languages you learn are the most important parts of your career.

He advises students to expose themselves to a global environment. He says, “You’ve got to learn one to two extra languages. You need a useful foreign language to push you above the rest of the crowd.”

In his opinion, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian are the most useful languages to learn because they are spoken in Central America and the Middle East. Perhaps a surprise to some, he does not believe that Mandarin is one of the crucial languages for jobs in the developing world. He believes Mandarin is spoken in countries like Singapore, Taiwan, and China, countries that don’t let development in. If students aim for Central America or countries like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, they have a lot more room for growth.

“You need specialty, and you need languages,” says Mau. “Don’t forget about the languages, my entirely ‘useless’ degree!”

Love is Brewing: A Conversation with Dan Gordon of Gordon-Beirsch Breweries

Alumnus Dan (left) with business partner Dean Birsch

Alumnus Gordon (left) with business partner Dean Birsch

“Never trust a skinny brewer.”

This is the advisory slogan printed on the coasters, apparel, and trucks of the Gordon-Beirsch Brewing Company. Dan Gordon, co-founder of the Palo Alto based company and a 1982 Cal alumnus, is a trustworthy brewer. He’s also an extraordinarily accomplished human being, who rowed varsity crew and played in the symphony during his time at Berkeley. Post-graduation, he went on to be the first American in over forty years to graduate from the Technical University of Munich’s rigorous engineering program.

His journey began at age seventeen when he participated in an exchange program the year before going to college. He lived with a host family in Austria, and his neighbors on both sides owned breweries. A beer-lover since as early as fifteen years old, he remembers going to the breweries after school to check things out.

Looking back, he says, “[Those] trip[s] kind of spurred my path. It was a huge stimulus. I realized that [brewing] was something I would love to do and be a part of.”

However, Gordon also says that he didn’t go to college expecting to own a brewery, although he admits, “I certainly liked beer.” During his four years at Cal, he invested time in the varsity crew team, which he credits for teaching him the work ethic responsible for his success today. It also provided him with a summer job opportunity that initially appeared awful but ended up providing him with valuable, hands-on manufacturing experience.

Gordon recalls, “Over the summers, the Athletic Department used to place athletes in different jobs that were supposed to be lucrative and easygoing. Mine was not.” Gordon was placed on the assembly line at a canning facility in the agriculture-based Santa Clara Valley (today’s Silicon Valley).

However, as the summer progressed, Gordon says, “I was plucked from having to work on the assembly line and moved into the engineering department. I learned a lot of the basics that I use today—I just moved from canned fruit to beer.”

Back when he was an undergrad, the rowing team that got him the job was comprised fully of walk-on athletes. According to Gordon, “If you were six feet or taller they’d send you an invite to show up for tryouts, and 400 huge freshman showed up. After running up a hill for a week that number was down to 100, and then they put you in a boat. Two months of grueling workouts and early morning training sessions later, there was a thirty-six person team.” This is the team that he competed with for two years at Cal and for one year during his junior year abroad in Germany.

A view of Dan's study abroad town: Gottingen, Germany. PC: Daniel Schewn

A view of Gordon’s study abroad city: Göttingen, Germany (Photo by Daniel Schewn)

In the early 1980s, Study Abroad was available only for students willing to travel for an entire year and was catered toward those studying in a specific major. As a Political Economy/Natural Resources Major, he wasn’t expected or required to go abroad, but he says, “It was the most important thing I ever did.”

One of the most memorable experiences from his year abroad was a bus tour, heavily subsidized by the East German government. This was in the period before the Berlin Wall came down, and it was very difficult to get into East Germany.

Gordon says, “We had to get special visas and were screened to make sure we weren’t spies. At some points, we were pulled off of the bus, strip-searched, and all of our baggage was searched. But we saw towns that weren’t normally accessible to tourists.” During the year, he also received the networking opportunities and language skills that he used when he returned to Germany after his senior year to attend graduate school.

He returned to California to complete his senior year and took the necessary SAT-like entrance and language exams to apply for the Technical University of Munich (like Germany’s MIT). After receiving his diploma, Gordon worked at Anheuser-Bush in the five-month interim before beginning the prestigious five-year graduate program in Munich.

He began the program as one in a class of ninety-five students, but that number decreased to a graduating class of only seventeen, as people were weeded out by the grueling engineering courses. According to Gordon, the minimum passing requirements at the engineering school were equivalent to A’s at Cal. At the University, students would take a full year of classes and then complete all of their exams the following September.

Gordon recalls the experience as a “hell in which you’re doing eleven to fourteen final exams in a three-week period.”

After putting in the necessary hard work, he graduated with a full business plan, financial backers, and a partner with whom he was ready to begin the Gordon-Biersch brewing company. He and Dean Biersch had been introduced the summer before he went back to Germany to complete his exams. Biersch was a restaurateur with front-of-the-house restaurant experience, while Gordon had back-of-the-house (kitchen), brewing, and finance skills. Their initial business plan was to create five brewery-restaurants.

Dan Gordon plays trombone with Long Meadow Ranch All Star Band Source: All Meadow Ranch

Gordon plays trombone with Long Meadow Ranch All Star Band
(Photo from All Meadow Ranch)

Since the opening of the first Gordon-Biersch Restaurant and Brewery in Palo Alto, the two have been responsible for brewery-restaurants, breweries, and beer that is bottled and distributed internationally throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Now you can buy Gordon-Biersch beer and eat at their restaurants anywhere from Maryland, D.C., and New York to Hawaii, Japan, and even Australia. Their success has far-exceeded their initial goals, and today they are looking to double in size.

Gordon is a frequent lecturer at Stanford and Davis and has also spoken for the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at Berkeley. Every time he talks to students, he offers the same piece of advice, which he has lived by since he first began catering at age fourteen.

“Be authentic and have hands-on experience. A lot of schools make their students feel like they can take on the world without paying their dues and getting the hands-on experience that’s necessary to succeed,” Gordon says. “The intellectual process is fine, but you also have to know what the hell you’re doing.”

Parekhtically Perfect: Chronicling the NGO and Entrepreneurial Efforts of Shayna Parekh


Parekh in 2002 pictured outside of Sather Gate. Photo, Peg Skorpinski

Parekh in 2002 pictured outside of Sather Gate (Photo by Peg Skorpinski)

If you were to run into Shayna Parekh on the street, the first thing you would be struck by is her smile. It is a smile that conveys not only warmth and friendliness but also a genuine interest in helping people.

It is this intense desire to connect with and help other people that has carried Parekh throughout so much of her life–from the time she studied in the township of Johannesburg (as part of a Berkeley program) to her stint as a cofounder of a successful commerce company and even to her recent move to Bangalore, India, where she relocated with her husband and newborn baby in order to pursue a new startup idea.

Though her list of accomplishments would be impressive for someone twice her age, Parekh is disarmingly modest about it, counting herself lucky to be at a place like Berkeley, somewhere that she says “fosters a culture of pursuing ideas.” After her freshmen year, Parekh decided to participate in the Study Session Program offered at Berkeley during that time, which allowed students to travel over the summer to other countries, alongside a professor who had some knowledge and relations to those countries.

Parekh ended up choosing to study in Johannesburg with Professor Robert Price, who taught a course on South Africa during the school year at Cal. Though it was interesting learning within the classroom, Parekh also credits learning outside the classroom and doing things such as exploring the townships in Soweto and even journeying down gold mines for contributing to her new and bigger sense of the world.

While at Berkeley, Parekh says she developed a sense that “there was so much more than what’s in your backyard, but yet your backyard was still really important.” This ignited a desire within her to see the world, while maintaining her roots in Berkeley. It was with this mindset that Parekh decided to participate in a study abroad session in New Dehli, India–an experience that profoundly changed her life.

Johannesberg, South Africa

Johannesberg, South Africa

In India, Parekh also found the time to volunteer with an nonprofit organization called Veerayatan, where she helped organize evening reading courses and broke through gender barriers by convincing the local fathers in the area to allow their illiterate daughters to read.

Now that she currently resides in India, Parekh says, “It’s now Berkeley for me all the time. My first experiences in India were with people from Berkeley. It was because of the Study Abroad Program in Berkeley that I was able to get my feet wet in a country I have now moved to.”

Shortly after Parekh returned from her study abroad session in India, the Indian region of Kutch, Gujarat was devastated by an earthquake.  In response, President Clinton, head of the American Indian Foundation at the time, put out a nationwide search for volunteers to help with relief efforts in the area. The application, which Parekh says she vaguely recalls seeing on some Berkeley listserv, asked for volunteers who had spent time living in India and could speak Hindi. Out of all the applicants who applied nationwide, Parekh was one of the twenty Americans selected.

Parekh would eventually finish her time at Berkeley by being awarded the University Medal–UC Berkeley’s highest honor for students with a 3.96 and higher. From there, Parekh would go on to receive her Master’s at the London School of Economics before going on to attend Yale Law School.

Despite juggling a tremendous amount of schoolwork, Parekh also managed to find time to co-found a wholesale wedding company called Koyal Wholesale with her brother.

Dress My Cupcake

Dress My Cupcake

When asked what the experience was like, Parekh laughs and says, “It was almost like growing up together again.”

Despite juggling a tremendous amount of schoolwork, Parekh also managed to find time to establish an e-commerce company called Dress My Cupcake, one of the leading U.S. companies manufacturing cupcake wrappers and party decor, which have been enjoyed by clients ranging from the Four Seasons Hotel to Google. Recently however, Parekh has handed off the reins of her organization to a friend, to pursue another startup idea in India. After that, Parekh plans to return to work with Veerayatan, the NGO she first worked with during her Berkeley Study Abroad session in India all those years ago.

When asked if she had any advice for students, Parekh states, “I don’t think I would give any advice. I think that’s one of the great things about Berkeley–this thing about perspectives. There is no one right way to do things. I think that’s absolutely the biggest lesson I learned from Berkeley […] no one has a monopoly on the single perspective that will lead to happiness. The more I live on this earth, every year it just becomes more and more clear that there are so many different paths to happiness.”

An American in Paris: Fredda Hurwitz’s Global Strategic Planning, Marketing & Communications

Fredda Hurwitz

Fredda Hurwitz

For many, Paris is the city of glittering lights, deep amour, croissants, and endless streams of coffee and wine. Without a doubt, each visitor would experience his or her own aspects of such nuances, but for Fredda Hurwitz, Paris holds a particularly singular sort of impacting history. It’s both the site of a defining period for Hurwitz during her year abroad and the place she called home for eight years after graduating with a double major in French and Mass Communications in 1988.

During her year at the Sorbonne, Hurwitz experienced a defining period that took her beyond the typical growth and independence of college life.

“When you’re living in a place and living real life, you’re meeting all sorts of cultures and forced to socialize together,” said Hurwitz. “It’s above the academics, and ‘real life’ adds a whole different dimension to things.”

For anyone traveling abroad, there are cultural and commonplace barriers of trying to adjust to the foreign environment. It’s a process of initial discomfort but an eventual shift that makes a new place feel like home.

“There is a feeling, a tipping point, when you’re living abroad somewhere, especially when you’re speaking a language that’s not your own,” said Hurwitz. “You just suddenly get it, and because of that, a whole new world opened up for me.”

Beyond her classroom workload, Hurwitz also worked as an interpreter for a local film society and participated in a variety of activities that allowed her to put crucial relationships into place. Ultimately, securing an internship at the International Herald Tribune (renamed the International New York Times since 2013), headquartered in Paris.

Sorbonne University in Paris

Sorbonne University in Paris

“[My participation] allowed me to ground some of the relationships I was trying to put in place,” said Hurwitz. “When I started looking for my job, I was able to go back and tell them about my background. At the time, there were no interns ever taken on that didn’t have familial connections, which obviously I didn’t have. I got the internship based on my own abilities and hutzpah. So, two weeks after I graduated, I went straight to Paris.”

Looking back on her time, Hurwitz concludes that in contrast to current norms, a semester is really not enough.

“In half a year, you can’t take advantage of everything,” said Hurwitz. “You don’t get into the culture, make local friends, or really experience the country–-and I got to experience absolutely everything. In my first week, I ended up meeting the person who was bound to become my best friend.”

A year and a half into journalism, a mentor helped Hurwitz realize that she did not want to be a journalist, and that she lacked a fundamental feeling in her gut to go out and cover everything.

While it was originally disorienting to shift from a career path that she had worked on for years, Hurwitz has found her way to professional stability since then.

After leaving the Tribune, among other impressive ventures, Hurwitz went on to work as a Communications Director for Disney Consumer Products EMEA, a consultant for the NHL International, and Marketing Director at the NFL International. She currently lives in London and serves as the Global VP of Strategic Planning, Marketing & Communications for Havas Sports & Entertainment.

“The way Havas is set up, we have a global team and thirty-five other offices around the world,” said Hurwitz. “It’s very diverse, and there is not typical day. Part of my role is to help provide, fresh strategic thinking for our teams and clients to help them achieve their business objectives across the sports and entertainment space.”

Despite years of living abroad, Hurwitz retains both her American citizenship and her personal approach to relations.

“An American working abroad can be a real bonus. I can do things the locals can’t and get away with using my personality and accent!” said Hurwitz. “For example, Brits are far more reserved, and I can be the ‘crazy one’ in the room. Americans are taught in a very different culture. We can be very personable. That’s a good thing; don’t try to become what you’re not. Try to learn to work within and not be abrasive but blend in the right way.”

Hurwitz discussing the 2014 FIFA World Cup In Havas Cafe in Cannes Source: Havas Media

Hurwitz discussing the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Havas Cafe in Cannes
(Photo from Havas Media)

Hurwitz is a seasoned professional and well-versed in an international climate. With her undeniable credibility, she offers up sound advice, applicable in any circumstance.

“Be pragmatic; the job you want, you might not get right away. Don’t get knocked back because it’s a really hard world out there now,” said Hurwitz. “Try to have a mentor and be as open as possible. Remain curious; don’t ever stop being curious or asking questions. The minute you stop, life just won’t be as fun. The likelihood of ending up where you originally thought you would [is] pretty slim, but each of those life experiences will get you to where you should be.”

A Journalist All Along: Rachael Myrow’s Not-So-Surprising Return to Her Roots

It is 1991, and Rachael Myrow has just graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a love of stories. After four years, she’s realized that her dream of funding The Great American Novel with a job as a university-level professor of English is no longer appealing. Professors are required to spend too much time on literary theory, and that is not what makes literature captivating to her.

Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow


As she explains twenty-three years later, “I’m interested in the text, in reading it and writing it and engaging with it.” Myrow maintains that this interaction is not unintelligent, but that it focuses on the story rather than the creation of complicated arguments.

This new graduate, unsure of where to go next, takes a job in Berkeley at a children’s art studio, but she eventually heads back to Los Angeles and to Dad. A job at a bookstore follows, and it is a “wonderful bookstore with wonderful people”; however, it does not fulfill the vision that this new graduate has for her career path. Myrow is, at this point “completely lost.” She is a fulltime inhabitant of the post-graduation land of depression. This is the stage that older and wiser graduates warn undergraduates about. This is the sphere of anxious stasis. New graduates will inhabit this sphere until inspiration pulls them out of it.

For Myrow, “inspiration came from watching public television.” While working full time at the L.A. bookstore—whose name, she tells Insight, was hilariously inspired by a series of soft-porn movies on Lifetime—Myrow also spent time watching talented reporters tell stories on public television. Real stories about the creative and social journeys of passionate individuals fueled her imagination.

There are two in particular that she remembers—a Bill Moyers’s documentary on poetry called The Language of Life and a documentary about Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring—as having rekindled her love of journalism. The passionate graduate was struck with Carson’s commitment to the truth, in spite of her well-funded and outspoken opposition. The power of these stories touched Myrow. They were honest; they were insightful, and most importantly, they were stories committed to the public good.

This last aspect struck a deep chord in Myrow, who had understandably been focused on her own story up until this point, and she thought, “What if I freed up my sense of creativity by channeling it into something that was in the public service?” She reframed the age-old question, “What do you want to do with your life?” and instead, asked, “How can my talents best serve others?” In doing so, she gave herself permission to explore previously ignored, creative outlets.

Myrow’s first journalistic experience was writing for the opinion page of her high school newspaper. She loved it, but journalism was not part of her grand plan at the time. It was not until public television jolted her memory that she truly considered journalism as a career choice. Soon after this realization, she enrolled in the Berkeley School of Journalism, and the rest was history.

Stirling, Scotland Photo: Donald MacDonald

Stirling, Scotland: “the highlight of [Myrow’s] college experience” (Photo by Donald MacDonald)

Part of this newfound purpose stemmed from the year abroad Myrow spent in Stirling, Scotland, part of the UC Berkeley Education Abroad Program. She described this year as “the highlight of [her] college experience.” Insight realizes that this may sound disloyal to Cal, but it absolutely is not. For Myrow, a student on financial aid who worked one to three jobs every semester, studying abroad was incredible. She marveled over the fact that her year in Scotland cost the same as a year in Berkley, not to mention the unique exposure to another culture it afforded her. She was nineteen, a teetotaler living in the most alcoholic community she had ever experienced, but she was ecstatic.

From studying drama to navigating the various Scottish accents, Myrow leaped whole-heartedly into this new experience. The year abroad “ expanded [her] horizons incredibly” and gave her a “broader sense of what the world [was] like.” For a girl who grew up in L.A. but did not know where Orange County was, this was amazing. Scotland was a revelation—a new world. She slipped into it surely and easily with a confidence that would serve her later as she rediscovered journalism and returned to Berkeley.

After graduate school, Myrow took a job with Marketplace in L.A., a job she landed on the recommendation of a friend from Berkeley. Myrow moved up the ranks at Marketplace from Associate Producer to Assistant Producer and began training other incomers for radio. She became confident in many roles and gained a larger picture of what goes into producing a radio show, but she eventually felt she had reached the end of her possibilities there.

Deciding that she wanted to spend more time reporting, Myrow took a job with KPCC, becoming one of the first reporters hired for this local news channel in L.A. For Myrow, “broadcast writing is a word puzzle,” one which requires the reporter to condense information, so that it can be easily digested, while still maintaining the truth of the story.

After six and a half years with KPCC, Myrow moved back up to the Bay Area, taking over as host for The California Report. Her work at KQED consisted largely of personal stories that reflected a cultural shift that she felt should be addressed. Myrow believed in cultivating a respectful relationship between herself, her interviewee, and her listeners, and still today, she is careful not to perpetuate stereotypes.

Myrow in her dorm room while studying abroad in Stirling

Myrow in her dorm room, while studying abroad in Stirling

Conveying the importance of this relationship, Myrow tells Insight, “I want you to feel as if that person you’re listening to on the radio is as worthy of respect as anybody you love.” The respect Myrow insists on for both her subject matter and her listeners is reflected in the intimacy that the medium of radio presents, the medium that she maintains is at the heart of radio broadcasting. She likens this intimacy to that of a very late-night, 2 a.m. conversation.

She believes “radio has this capacity to be just me talking to you–the innermost me and the innermost you.” It is clear from her ease and friendliness during the interview that she excels at this aspect of radio broadcasting, and it seems that every conversation with Myrow has the possibility of spilling into this familiar place.

Luckily, Insight caught Myrow at The California Report just before she left to start a new chapter, which means we got the best of her story, as well as the benefit of her latest stage of reflection. While she has loved every station she has worked for over the years, seeing her in the KQED headquarters at the end of her stint as host of the The California Report seems particularly bittersweet. She is leaving behind her “tribe” of like-minded, intelligent, passionate coworkers to try something new. For Myrow, who has mastered her role at KQED in San Francisco, it is time to shake things up.

Insight Reporter Holly Birchfield excitedly strikes a power pose outside the KQED office

Insight Reporter Holly Birchfield excitedly strikes a power pose outside the KQED office

In her mind, the real beauty of life is “to challenge yourself, to throw yourself at new experiences, to feel terror. It’s how you stay alive [both] creatively and as a human being.” Her passion requires that she moves on once she has mastered something, and remaining in any place too long, such that her creativity does not outlive her time there, would be a disservice.

Presented in such a linear way, Myrow’s career trajectory seems obvious and completely natural, but do not be fooled by the straightforward appearance of her professional life. She maintains that finding one’s direction is about timing and perseverance. Some answers are right in front of us but remain enigmatic until the appropriate moment.

As Myrow herself amusedly states, “Life throws you curve balls.” The mix of people in the newsroom of The California Report, many of whom began one career path only to divert drastically a little way down the road, is a perfect example of this spontaneity.

According to Myrow, what at first may seem like a professional leap of faith is often the natural result of a lifetime of experiences and is therefore, embarrassingly clear in hindsight. We Cal students all have friends who watch us struggle through various experiences, only to claim later that they had known that we would succeed all along.

Myrow herself admits that these friends, upon hearing of her original proclivity for journalism, said to each other, “Oh, right. That was obvious. I could have told her that!” Even though she spent time struggling with herself, living in the discomfort of uncertainty, Myrow maintains that choosing a liberal arts degree in English was not a mistake.

“If I was lost for a few years, that’s because I was personally lost,” she promises. For Myrow, this confusion had nothing to do with her choice of major. English, in her words, “made her heart sing,” and she felt a more practical choice would be “cramping.” English led to Los Angeles; L.A. led to journalism, and journalism is where she is meant to be. If at first this realization was clouded by the dream of The Great American Novel and the English professor, it revealed itself eventually–suddenly, painfully obvious, and wonderful. It turns out that in the end, what may come as a surprise is really no surprise at all.

An audio clip of Myrow’s report “Navigating Social Media in Middle School”

Myrow says goodbye to the California Report


Making her Grand Home in Detroit: In Conversation with Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s First Female Governor

Jennifer Granholm

Jennifer Granholm

First generation college student. First female Attorney General of Michigan. First female Governor of Michigan. First governor interviewed by Insight. Jennifer Granholm’s many firsts show only a small part of her journey in which she paved a new path rather than traveling one of those before her. If there’s one thing to take away from Former Governor Granholm’s incredible journey, it’s that it was not a journey about the individual but about collective progress. Her steps forward not only affected those immediately connected to her but also have inspired and will continue to inspire many generations to come.

Granholm’s beginnings start abroad, as she was born in Canada, moving to America at a young age. Between graduating high school and entering college, Granholm spent some time in the working world to save money for a college education. Not long after, however, she enrolled at Berkeley, not only a huge achievement for herself but also an honor to her family. Her motivations for coming to Berkeley? A thirst to make a difference.

Like her earlier years, Granholm’s years at Berkeley were unique. She came in knowing she wished to pursue a Political Science major. As a first generation student, that alone was a jarring experience. Because of economic difficulty, she didn’t have the luxury of the unpaid internships that are now the norm for college students. Instead, she lived on campus, sleeping at the Woman’s Faculty Club where she was the resident manager.

Of course, she did not neglect her academics due to the demands of her job. In fact, Granholm solidified and shaped her ideas of politics while studying at Berkeley. She states that Professor Emeritus, Paul Thomas, instilled in her a love for democracy and how democracy should be the basis for change. In addition to Political Science, Granholm also pursued a French double major which sent her to Bordeaux, France for a year, prefacing her future international travels to Israel, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe. Finally, in 1984, Granholm entered the real world with a double major in French and Political Science and an acceptance into Harvard Law School.

With all that in mind, Granholm said if she could do things over, she would study Spanish instead of French for its more practical applications in her field, as well as studying an additional language, computer code, which applies to her current job, the American Jobs Project here at Berkeley.

Granholm came back to Berkeley after finishing her position as Governor of Michigan. Offered a position at Stanford and one here at Berkeley, she naturally chose the one at Berkeley. In addition to heading the American Jobs Project, she currently works on clean energy policies and technology as well as the Berkeley Public Policy Program. Additionally, she and her husband both teach at Berkeley, Granholm teaching classes on governing during tough times and renewable energy and her husband teaching classes on leadership.

Bordeaux, France (Photo courtesy of Bordeaux Tourist Office, François Poincet)

Bordeaux, France (Photo courtesy of Bordeaux Tourist Office, François Poincet)

Her classes often specialize on governing during tough times because she is no stranger to the experience. Economic hardship was something Granholm struggled with throughout her childhood and young adulthood, but in entering the high profile political world with her eyes on change, she faced additional difficulties–social difficulties. Being the first female Governor of Michigan is a great statement in it and of itself, but as many know, politics are tricky affairs that deal not only with competence but also a slew of social affairs. Not only was Granholm sometimes the only woman in a room full of people who were making decisions that would impact the state, but also some of these people expressed doubts in her competence, asking, “How could you be governor with three kids?” She replied, of course, that her immediate predecessor had also had three kids, triplets in fact, but no questions had ever been raised about him. Still, this did not stop Granholm from proving them wrong and pushing Michigan out of its darkest days.

“It was a difficult time for Michigan and therefore, a difficult time to govern. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else because that’s when your decisions make the greatest impact,” Granholm says. She showed no fear when faced with the prospect of truly being in the middle of a state’s crisis. In fact, when choosing whether to go to Michigan or California to sow her seeds of change, Granholm specifically chose Michigan simply because it was where she felt she was needed most, at the time hoping to become a civil rights lawyer there.

She claims, “I married Michigan,” in reference perhaps to both her Michigan-born husband and the state that she poured her heart and soul into for two terms. Auto manufacturers and suppliers were going bankrupt, and the economy needed to be diversified. However, it could not move forward without government money being used to bail them out.

While governor, she additionally focused on education, seeking to double the number of college graduates, as the American system developed into one where college became an integral part. This was, of course, the dream. Even now, she sees that the education system is flawed in the United States and wishes—but cannot assume—it will move toward the direction of the European system in which price is no longer such a big obstacle. Ironically, this would not only be a step forward but also a reflection of the past, seeing as the UC system was originally intended to be free for in-state students. Unfortunately, she cannot prophesize this change in the system until people are willing to pay higher taxes and contribute to greater welfare.

In fact, Granholm’s greatest advice for how she managed to push through eight years of high stress, high-impact governing, was simply to see, to look at the people she intended to help and ground herself.

“You have to be unafraid to see people who are experiencing pain because those are the people you are leading. You have to understand where they’re coming from,” she says. To explicate this point, she told an anecdote about her body man, her personal assistant, Jerome Marks, who had her stop and see the people who were “normally unseen.” While many politicians are rushed through back doors, a circle of guards protecting their bubble of personal space, Marks made Granholm look at the waiters, waitresses, janitors, security guards, and other faces that were behind the scenes making things happen.

Granholm's Current home: The Capital building in Lansing, Michigan

Granholm’s Current home: The Capital building in Lansing, Michigan

Marks told her, “I am going to continue to breathe oxygen into your soul because you cannot lead them if you cannot see them.” Granholm suggests that one needs to see those who will be impacted by the work or change one seeks to do and make.

Additionally, she adds, “[You should] be humble enough to surround yourself with the best and the brightest people, so that you are able to put in motion the smartest policy decisions, so that you can look out and not only be insular.” Once one has her goals in sight, she should focus on bringing the brightest minds together to piece together the puzzle that depicts the final goal.

Today, Granholm calls us Berkeley students to see outside of our Berkeleyan bubble, saying, “It’s an academic bubble. It’s a bubble because of the beautiful surrounding area. It’s a bubble of progressive politics. It’s all of those things. It’s a delightful place to be.” For her, it’s important for all students, not just those involved in public policy, to take a step outside of that bubble, whether that means simply seeing the areas surrounding campus or even leaving the country.

Granholm’s most resounding words of advice to UC Berkeley students are as follows: “I would hope that students who are here would recognize their responsibility to the world. We all have a responsibility to make a better world.”

Kathleen Barry: Professor Emerita and Women’s Rights Activist

{By Christine Tyler}


Kathleen Barry

Kathleen Barry


Kathleen Barry, an alumnus of the Ph.D. program at Berkeley, has a lively past leading up to her current stature as a leading world figure in the area of women’s rights. Her history, while perhaps non-traditional, has given her personal experience to back up her advocacy for education and the ending of female sex slavery.

Her life is full of venturesome and serendipitous stories that would make anyone long to have been at the forefront of feminist discourse as well. In the ’90s, at a seminar in Vietnam, she sat next to the Chair of the Institute of Social Sciences of the Communist Party, and he asked her, knowing about her work combating sex slavery, “How can we stop the influx of prostitution into Vietnam?”

She promptly leaned over, reached into her briefcase, pulled out a copy of the anti-trafficking law she was working on (and happened to have right then and there), and handed it to him. The next day, the chair set up a meeting to have her present and explain the law, and thus, Barry helped create early anti-sex trafficking policies in Vietnam. Since the late ’70s, Barry’s work has also been used in drafting international human rights legislation on the topic.

Humble yet driven, when describing the causes she had been involved in, Barry was careful to note that successful outcomes were a result of more than just her own efforts, adding phrases like “I’m not trying to put it all on my shoulders,” to her descriptions of past activism. No matter how modest her phrasing, Barry, who is now a professor emerita of Penn State University, has been a force for women’s rights throughout her entire career.

The Path to College

Born in the 1940s, Barry came from a very poor family. When young, she didn’t have a lot of people telling her to set her sights on the world of academia, so in high school, college was a far-off dream, until her shorthand teacher convinced her to apply; “it never occurred to me that I could go,” she said.

After enrolling in college, Barry studied Literature and fell in love with the subject.

“It (college) exposed me to a culture I had never even heard of before,” she said. As a result, she now loves Shakespeare and is a self-declared “opera fanatic.”

Despite how eye-opening she found her college studies, after a few years, tuition left Barry heavily in debt and uncertain about her post-graduation career prospects. For a while, she worked various jobs and took some time off school. Eventually, she found a position as a fourth-grade teacher. While teaching, she took classes on and off at Wayne State University in Detroit and enjoyed teaching so much that she eventually went for a Master’s in Education at Wayne. Working full-time and balancing schoolwork, coupled with breaks in her college enrollment, turned Barry into a non-traditional student.

“If you’re an undergrad and over twenty-two, you’re not part of the college experience; you know, you’re an old person! [As a result of a full-time job], I was tired a lot of the time, and it was a lot of work.”

Photo courtesy of Bettina Flitner

Photo courtesy of Bettina Flitner

Early Feminist Involvement       

In addition to juggling college and teaching, Barry became increasingly involved in local and national civil rights movements. Living in Detroit, Barry became aware of a women’s movement beginning right beneath her. 

A week after the Detroit Riots in 1967, Barry was at a civil rights meeting and heard about a women’s rights meeting group with the goal of “consciousness raising.”

“All over the country, small groups of women were meeting in living rooms,” she reminisced.

At that time, many women were dying from “butcher abortions,” a death Barry viewed as a result of women not being able to control their own bodies. None of the big national rights groups at that time would touch the issue of abortion because it was too controversial.

“So we took that issue and made it political. We did a lot of protesting, a lot of guerrilla action, a lot of testifying before legislature. For us, it was just a basic human right– a women’s right to control her own body,” she said.

In gathering support for the cause of legalizing abortion, Barry said that women didn’t have to have gone through an abortion to understand the issue, so many sympathized with the basis of the movement.

Protests, public speaking, and guerrilla theatre were some means by which Barry and her cohorts publicized the Detroit Women’s Rights Movement. Guerrilla theatre is essentially when one goes out and does dramatic things to call attention to an issue, like the staging of a pop-up theater on a street corner, Barry explained.

“At one of our consciousness group meetings, we made paper maché penises and then had a huge argument about what color to paint them,” laughed Barry. “By this time, I’m a pretty radical, outspoken feminist and being recognized for that.”

However involved Barry was in Detroit, the city was an increasingly difficult place to live after the ’67 riots. Thus, Barry packed up her bags and moved to California.

Berkeley and Beyond      

Accepted for the new post of “Women’s Advocate” at Sacramento State University, Barry settled in Sacramento. However, Barry decided to go back to school after about three years in this position.

Applying to UC Berkeley, Barry enrolled in a Ph.D. program within the Graduate School of Education and eventually wrote a dissertation that was accepted by two departments, giving her a dual Ph.D. in both Sociology and Education.

After obtaining her Ph.D., Barry penned Female Sexual Slavery, published in 1979, a landmark book in the world of women’s rights. With Female Sexual Slavery, Barry considerably widened the dialogue around sex work and generated the necessary publicity for anti-sex trafficking and prostitution-related human rights policies to gain public support.

“When I wrote [FemaleSexual Slavery, no one knew what sex trafficking was,” said Barry. Her book was essentially the first to link forced prostitution to slavery and as a result, changed how sex work was viewed in the eyes of the law.

Female Sexual Slavery actually started out as being a short article, but the topic engrossed Barry. Her background in women’s rights work during the high of the civil rights movement, time spent in Vietnam, and the research she had conducted for her book had her uniquely posed to become an authority on the topic of sex slavery. Thus, the UN began consulting with Barry, and working with them, she co-founded an NGO, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. At one point, Barry was even called to Geneva to testify to a working group on slavery under the Human Rights Commission.

After Female Sexual Slavery, Barry wrote a number of other books, among them a biography of Susan B. Anthony, as a break from the emotional toll of sex slavery advocacy.

“Writing [Female] Sexual Slavery was so painful, I decided to indulge myself by writing and researching Susan B. Anthony,” a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the 1920s, said Barry. “A woman who had dedicated fifty-six years of her life to fighting for women’s rights—you kind of have to love that.”

Photo courtesy of Bettina Flitner

Photo courtesy of Bettina Flitner

A Parting Note

“Find your passion and never, ever, ever, ever, EVER let go of it. Be very sensible about what you need for your future, but there are always ways to do it without compromising your passions,” Barry said. Indeed, Barry has never subdued her fiery determination to advance women’s rights or given into pressure to quiet the force of her pen or speech for fear of reprisal from employers.

“You’re not always going to be popular, and you’re not always going to be funded; you have to realize that,” Barry said.

However, given Kathleen Barry’s life journey, maybe the path a person’s will and heart illuminates is really the only way to tread in order to stay true to one’s ideals.

Desiree Matloob: Director of Trade and Business Development at the Government of Israel Economic Mission to the West Coast

{By Anushri Kumar}

Desiree Matloob

Desiree Matloob

Insight sat down at a small Starbucks table, the smell of Chai Tea Lattes and Chocolate Mochas wafting up to us. We were surrounded by the cheerful babble of the corporate workers of San Francisco at their coffee breaks. In front of us was a very friendly face – Desiree Matloob, a business manager for the Israel Economic Mission to the West Coast.

Matloob graduated from Berkeley in 2009 with a BA in Political Economy. Did she enter Cal with that plan in mind? No. She’d entered Cal wanting to be a journalist. In high school, Matloob had worked for a magazine called LA Youth. The editor in chief there had told her, “If you want to be a journalist, why major in English? Anybody can write. You should figure out how to expand your skill base so that you can write about different types of things.”

Heeding his advice, Matloob followed her interests. She took classes in Farsi, Spanish, Rhetoric, and PoliEcon, among others. She didn’t take classes just to boost her GPA, which, now that she is working in the outside world, she is so glad about. “Your GPA doesn’t matter,” she said, “unless you want to go to law school.” In her mind, everyone in school is stressed about GPA, but in college, what really matters is that you pursue the subjects that you love and network with people that matter.

Next, Matloob told Insight that politics and economy are incredibly interlinked. Majoring in PoliEcon was not the same as majoring in Politics and Economics separately. Economics offers the theory; politics offers the background behind the theory. Both of them merged into one, PoliEcon was like a breath of fresh air for Matloob. It offered her a “Renaissance education.” She was naturally a very curious person. PoliEcon allowed her to do a little bit of everything.

Matloob during her days as a columnist at the Daily Cal

Matloob during her days as a columnist at the Daily Cal

Matloob continued to explore her other interests, though. She wrote for the Engineering Magazine, joined Delta Phi Epsilon (DPhiE), the only foreign relations fraternity on campus, became a columnist for the Daily Cal and eventually decided to study abroad in Argentina. Why Argentina? Because it was the next rising economy, its language was interesting, its population was a wonderful blend of so many different immigrants. Everything about studying there made Matloob’s stomach tingle with excitement.

In Argentina, Matloob stayed in the co-ops with a friend of hers. She said, “If I hadn’t studied abroad, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” She explained that in college, students live in the bubble of the way they are raised, but Argentina exposed her to life outside of that bubble. It exposed her to a different form of thinking. “After Argentina, I knew I wanted to work abroad. I applied to Fulbright. I didn’t get it, but I didn’t let that stop me,” she said. Matloob applied to every Jewish scholarship she could, and voila – that is what led her to Israel.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina

In Israel, Matloob did her Master’s in Security and Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University. After graduation, she returned to San Francisco where she got a Public Relations internship. It just wasn’t for her. She found herself feeling stressed and sad. She had worked so hard. She had gotten a bachelor’s and a master’s and done internships, and now she didn’t have a job. She wondered to herself: should she leave? Should she get hired? What was she to do? Finally, Matloob decided to leave the internship.

After she left, Matloob was updating her LinkedIn profile, when, because she’d studied in Israel, it gave her a job suggestion for the Government of Israel Economic Mission. She didn’t think she’d get it, but it seemed interesting, so she applied. Then, she got an email asking if she was available for an interview the next day. Had she been in her internship, she would not have been available, but she had no job, so she took a train to Palo Alto, and lo and behold – she got the position!

Matloob adores her current job. Day to day, she gets to meet with Israeli entrepreneurs who want to expand to the Silicon Valley. Her job is to help them understand and navigate the American markets and regulations. She said, “I deal with inspiring startups every day, all with crazy ideas.” An Israeli researcher, for example, was the first to create a device that uses human movement to produce energy. Israel is, after all, a start-up nation that wants to expand its ideas to the innovation hubs of Silicon Valley.


Matloob’s journalist dreams are not entirely dead either. She maintains a very interesting Twitter blog, Ideas2Inspire, and she plans on writing a self help book for college students. Anyone interested should stay on the lookout!

When it comes to advice, Matloob believes that everyone in college thinks they need to connect the dots. They need to have life all figured out. What is more important is to do what you love, explore new things, and let these things take you forward. The dots will connect themselves in ways you can never imagine. Little did Matloob know that she would work abroad when she decided to study in Argentina. She had no idea what was going to happen when she left her PR job. She never chose her subjects because they’d give her a high GPA, and the same could be true for other Berkeley students.

For people considering grad school, Matloob does not suggest doing your master’s right after college. She did it because she got a scholarship, but in her opinion, it’s better to get a job after college. She said, “People tend to go to grad school because they like having a plan for themselves.” According to her, they like knowing what they are going to do for the next three years of their lives, but the transition between an education and a job is when students learn the most. Not knowing what they are going to do or where they are going to go is what life after an education is going to be like, and students have to learn to live with that.

Matloob also advocates the embracing of uncertainty. The time between her master’s and her work was one of the most important times in her life. She said, “95% of my friends dealt with uncertainty after graduation, and chances are that you and your friends will go through this uncertainty too.” She has seen an astonishing many people go through this life phase, ranging from twenty-year-olds to thirty-year-olds, and business majors from Stanford to Harvard Graduates. “No-one is too good for uncertainty,” she said. 

So when, as students, our heads are in turmoil and we start questioning ourselves, we should know that we don’t have to suffer. Matloob said, “Don’t see it as failure if you make the wrong move. You never know what life has in store for you!”

Nick Hutchinson: Juma Ventures

{By Lucy Brennan}

HutchinsonNick Hutchinson met his wife at a fundraiser at Twiga Gallery, a Tanzanian antiquities shop on Sacramento Street in San Francisco. The shop’s profits were sent to a small school in southern Tanzania, and he was helping the owner, a friend, raise donor contributions. His now-wife was working for an architectural firm that had projects in the Serengeti. The two traveled to Tanzania for about eighteen months before settling back down in California. Today, they live with their son in a house five minutes away from the Lawrence Hall of Science.

A few weeks ago, Hutchinson was driving down Telegraph and passed the façade of empty buildings on the block between Channing and Haste. As a student at Berkeley eleven years ago, he had lived in an apartment above one of those deteriorated storefronts.

“I had to do a triple take,” he said. “A lot of great things happened at that place when I was a student. There was a little Mexican restaurant on the corner, and I used to hear friends at the bar [Raleigh’s, which also burned down,] late at night.”

Another one of Hutchinson’s favorite memories at Cal was from his senior year when he and a couple of classmates stormed the field after the Bears beat Stanford for the first time in seven years. According to Hutchinson, “It was a random act of violence after seven years of disappointment.” They tore down the goalpost and marched all the way down Bancroft.

Cal was the only university that Hutchinson applied to. He entered freshman year as a philosophy major and four years later in 2003, graduated with his degree. After graduation, however, his direction changed. 

“I had the idea that I was going to do what philosophers do and go to graduate school, then apply to a microscopic Ph.D. program,” he said. “Once I was finally wrapping up at Cal, the idea of eight more years of academia—and then a potential lifetime of it—was unappealing. I wanted to do something.” 

Throughout his undergraduate years he interned for California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who, in Hutchinson’s words, “was a woman who was legislating her values.” When President Bush petitioned Congress to approve the “Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Terrorists” a few days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Lee was the only member of Congress to oppose the bill. Afterwards, one of Hutchinson’s jobs at her campaign was to separate positive mail from hate mail and death threats.

The internship provided him with invaluable networking opportunities that he used to become involved in the social service sector after graduation. When thinking back on his past work experience, Hutchinson said, “There’s a really clear path in retrospect, and you have no idea what the hell you’re doing along the way.”

Screen shot 2014-04-27 at 3.39.50 PMHe used his various networking opportunities to become involved with the public arts project Insight 05, a series of exhibitions in Southern California and Northern Mexico that were created to strike up a conversation about border issues. From there, he worked for the Performing Arts Workshop, an organization that placed working artists in pre-K classes to provide art education to students.

While working for the Performing Arts Workshop, he took a vacation to Tanzania where he became involved with one of the very few grassroots organizations providing rural Tanzanian citizens with access to AIDS healthcare. He began working with the organization full time and made fifteen trips to and from Tanzania while working on fund development and microfinancing before settling back in California to work as the COO of Juma Ventures.

In Hutchinson’s words: “Juma is a social enterprise– an organization that takes a business approach to solving social problems. The enterprise’s mission is to bring an end to the cycle of poverty by ensuring that young people go to a four-year college.”

In order to achieve this goal, Juma provides at-risk youth with employment opportunities and financial counseling. Hutchinson believes that “the best social service program in the world is a job. With a job, students learn to show up on time, to be personally responsible. Jobs create leadership opportunities. There’s dignity in work.”

The enterprise is unique in that it goes further than just providing students with financial counseling. Every dollar saved is matched two to one by Juma, which means that a student’s $1,000 paycheck becomes $3,000 toward college. 

The organization tracks every dollar that its students save and spend to ensure that they are applying their financial education toward behavioral changes. “The idea is to break down that financial barrier to education. For us, it’s not only getting into college but persisting and graduating with little to no debt,” said Hutchinson. 

Hutchinson attributes much of his success to his education here at Cal. “Berkeley is a university full of really skeptical people who aren’t comfortable with the status quo. There’s a sense of challenging the way things are, and that’s a great spirit to take into the world,” he said.

He does have one piece of advice that comes from over a decade of hard work post-graduation, which is for current Cal students to “be self indulgent. Embrace the opportunity that you have to consider big problems and their implications because you don’t really get that opportunity later in life.”