On Graduation, Uncertainty, and Unexpectedness

One of the blessings of writing for the Haas Undergraduate Blog has been to give voice to people and ideas, not always in name, but certainly in spirit. And as we head into the last week of our undergraduate careers, I would like nothing more than to give voice to two individuals, dear friends who I have been fortunate enough to meet very early on at Haas and with whom I could not be more proud to toss my cap at the Greek. With a message on uncertainty, unexpectedness, and graduating, fellow Class of 2014 Cohort Leaders Nik Crain and Angie Ngo.


With Haas Graduation in less than a week, it seems like a few test are in between us and the “real world.” May 19th—our graduation day—will be a day that we’ve envisioned for quite some time. We’ve imagined where we would sit, what we would wear, and who would cheer along our side. But never could we have imagined how the person graduating on this day would be so different.

In Fall 2012, we entered Haas as 385 diverse individuals. Although we traveled near and far, with many different cultures and backgrounds, we shared one goal to gain a top-notch business education at the renowned Berkeley-Haas. We enrolled to gain essential knowledge and skills guided by Haas’ four defining principles—Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Student Always, and Beyond Yourself. According to Business Insider, we entered the #1 program that would give us the best return on our college degree.

ImageWe will always remember the hours spent learning Finance equations to calculate Net Present Value. And that we cluttered our computer desktops with PowerPoint presentations. And, who could forget how Thursday nights turned out different than expected, when we raced to complete spreadsheet assignments before the computer lab closed. We focused on finishing our projects, papers, and exams with certainty— determined to find “correct” answers to the problems we’re given.

But as we clImageose our senior year, our Haas journey has proved otherwise, and we face what we aim to ultimately overcome—uncertainty. The times we didn’t have the correct answer, or know which to take. It was through enduring uncertainty that we found our greatest rewards—the real treasures lie in risking ridicule and rejection, and stepping out of our comfort zones.    

We both agreed that Fall Semester is a time filled with uncertainty. Football season brings tailgates and game days, but also Recruiting Season. We face the line up of career fairs and interviews, forcing us to bring our A-game. The new school year sets our scoreboards to zero. Stressful or exciting—it is a period of uncertainty.


For me, it was uncertain moments in the Fall that I embraced Confidence without Attitude, and learned to be myself.  Like everyone, I remember signing up for the interviews one after another. I was anxious–not knowing if the recruiter liked me, wondering if I said the right things, or if I was a fit for the job. I always feared the dreaded question — So tell me about yourself —? And each time I got the question, the more I questioned my interests, my strengths, and who I wanted to be.

It wasn’t until I took Professor Worthington’s Improv class that I realized I did have the skills to succeed, but I just didn’t see them. Improv drills caught me off guard and forced me to act on the spot—sometimes with unnatural gestures, unfamiliar group exercises, and spontaneous stories. Looking back at moments, when I felt uncomfortable and accepted failure, I became aware that I can’t control what happens, but I can control how I respond.
I trust that wherever I go, I will remember to take “expressive risks” by acting on my own intuition. With new confidence, I will find success in uncertainty.


I, too, found my last Fall full of uncertainty, as I learned how to be a Student Always in any part of the world. Traveling overseas for a semester was not in my plans when coming to Haas. It was a routine visit to the undergrad office that landed my eye on the study abroad handouts. Come August, I was on a plane to the Netherlands—my new home for the next 5 months.

Today, I am reminded of how uncertainty brought me unexpected lessons. It was through the generosity of new friends that made my mistakes lasting impressions. I remember when I fell asleep on my first train ride, and I was left stranded in the middle of Germany. At 5AM, it was the help of a kind stranger that helped me decode the map that would get me back on course. Surprisingly, that stranger was sitting in my class on the first day, and I can now call him one of my greatest friends. I turn to my future with the lessons learned: navigating any new way of living is best steered with patience, a sense of humor, and the tenacity to ride out the ups and downs.

Angie and Nik:

Reflecting on the past two years, we can all agree that Business Insider was right—we did receive an excellent return on our college degree. We will soon join our alumni as Students Always – innovators who take calculated risks, based on Confidence without Attitude. The combination of our classroom instruction and our relationships with classmates and professors provide us the strength to embrace uncertainty with a new degree of confidence and excitement. This is the investment we couldn’t have possibly planned for.

On graduation day, when we will turn our tassels and toss our caps, we can celebrate uncertainty as a unique opportunity. Our well-deserved Haas diplomas serve as a reminder of our aptitude to embrace uncertainty, and that all 385 of us are prepared for anything that comes our way. With such confidence, we can be certain that the best is yet to be.


Congratulations, Class of 2014!


Nik Crain & Angie Ngo




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