Impressions of a Haas Introvert

Repeating the virtues of leadership development for the 127th time in an attempt to convince doe-eyed freshman to join The Californians (a surprisingly low-profile student organization that has been with the University since its years in swaddling clothes) amidst the student amalgamation that is Calapalooza, it finally hit me – the dawn of a new semester. The end of summer. Junior year. Haas. Recruiting – oh my!

The Californians at Calapalooza
Credit: Innovative Design

Hi, my name is Hillary Le. By way of a quick introduction, I hail from San Jose, California where I have lived for most of my life. Entering Haas as a continuing student and as one of the leaders for the Sproul Cohort of 2014, I am looking to make the most of my remaining years as an undergraduate to build relationships and learn as much as I possibly can, in both academic and personal terms.

I jumped right in on my first evening back in Berkeley with a Cohort Program meeting, finally meeting face-to-face those individuals I had been in virtual communication with throughout summer. We discussed our goals to revamp the program. For the next two years, we would be working together to bring Haas community and culture to the fore, reminding students that academic excellence is only one facet of the college experience.

A couple of days later, the induction took place: Haas orientation. Cohort leaders were briefed on the Journey of 2014 that was to take place before we were set free to roam among our fellow admits. Wearing matching t-shirts and holding up a poster board bearing the name of our cohort, my fellow leader and I headed out into the swarm of students, pumped to meet and greet anyone who came our way. The enthusiasm of those around me only served to bolster my own, despite the toll of talking continuously and forcing my memory to make room for tens and tens of names and faces. My fellow Cohort Leader and I rushed into Anderson Auditorium to find our cohort already sitting together. That small act of organization – of teamwork and togetherness – brought me a disproportionate sense of joy.  I found the administrative introductions to be lively and entertaining, filled with quips that were interwoven like only close friends could create. Then the portion I was most anxious about – Cohort Leader introductions. Perhaps the most nerve-racking component was that we all had to prepare some kind of cheer to boost spirit amongst our members. We decided to go with a classic form: Gooooooo Sproul! Then we were off on our Journey of 2014, maneuvering through a series of riddles toward attaining the ultimate prize: Haas Swag.

Splendid Sproulers!

This seems like a good time to mention that I am an introvert. Disgustingly so, I like to say. I tend to quite reservation in larger settings, particularly when said setting is unfamiliar. I prefer one-on-one meetings and small gatherings to parties and loud celebrations. In all honestly, extensive social interaction on a massive scale tires me out. Nothing like the exhaustion and exhilaration resulting from leading 60 students around on a two hour long scavenger hunt, fueled by caffeine, to make one blatantly aware of the immense amount of social interaction it takes to be a part of a college campus – and to illustrate the immense rewards of jumping into a whole new community of bright individuals that is only beginning to show its colors.

The first week of class came and went in a blur. There was Introduction to Financial Accounting – the first class of my upperclassman college career. Dry, technical, and sleep-inducing was what I expected. Though I cannot yet profess an intense passion for balance sheets, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by the professor’s engaging, light-hearted touch and dry sense of humor (that is, dryness of the good variety). Cue snapping and smoothly sung jingle of “Quick Cheeeeck!”

That sense of pleasant surprise followed me through other encounters with business courses. Organizational Behavior offered a scientific spin on aspects of management and interpersonal relations. Ah, a psychology class for business majors!  Business Communication postponed discussion of the syllabus in favor of an interactive get-to-know-your-neighbors exercise. Last but not least, Improvisational Leadership. Three hours of class time split between interactive lecture and interactive improvisational exercises. Simply put, it was impossible to passively sit and absorb class material. Each and every member in the class – GSI included – put him/herself at risk of social embarrassment again and again. The result? Laughter, learning, and leadership all rolled into one.

The time seems ripe for yet another note: I am and have been a great reader of books. Which explains the English courses on my schedule: Modernist British Literature and The Short Story, both of which have already introduced thematic elements sure to bear plenty of profound intellectual fruit within the coming months. How do writers in the early to mind 20th century use the narrative form as a medium through which to make sense of the world? How does the structure of tale impact our experience of it?

To address some thoughts that may be floating around in the virtual air: Yes, English classes tend to be quieter and involve discussion of abstract concepts. Blame books and literature. Yes, there is a strong sense of competition in business courses, even early in the semester. Blame the nature of business and the Haas Curve. Speaking from the perspective of someone who identifies with both of these worlds, what really impressed me during my first week was not the validity of these stereotypical beliefs, but rather the quality of the campus experience. My professors were fetching and my peers welcoming. Even with reservations, I found introductions and smiles easy to come by – effortless, almost.

Working on that perspective

I am also gathering a different perspective on Haas. I say different because, as a student who is also pursuing studies in the Liberal Arts and whose circle of friends is and has been skewed toward medical and engineering and [fill in the blank] Studies majors, I have noticed that Haas students are not always viewed in the most favorable light amongst the campus community. Being exposed to these perceptions first hand and knowing that I intended to become one of that business community has been an underlying source of personal conflict. When I started to take business courses, finding that business majors really were not as cutthroat as expected, that they were actually people with interests outside their chosen field of study, that Confidence Without Attitude is often unfairly misread as simply Attitude, this sense of conflict was only heightened. How could it be that perceptions were so disconnected from the actual experience?

I have come to realize that my involvements offer me an avenue and a means through which I can share my experience of Haas and of college more broadly. Selfishly, I enjoy the act of expressing my thoughts through writing; patterns emerge that I might not have seen otherwise. Perhaps selfishly, too, I hope that by sharing my thoughts throughout the semester I can make steps, however small, toward bringing nuance to the campus perceptions of Haas – and perceptions of introverts.

They say that the first step to progress is admitting your weaknesses.

Hello again. My name is Hillary Le, and I am a physically-uncoordinated, overthinking, book-reading, coffee-loving Haas introvert.

Here’s to what is sure to be an eventful Journey of 2014.

And we’re off!

2 Replies to “Impressions of a Haas Introvert”

  1. Great post – enjoyable read. Looking forward to your future material. Oh, and from one introvert to another: there’s nothing embarrassing about being introverted. We have our own unique strengths, and I strongly believe we need more introverts in the business world. Keep up the good work. -Glen

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