Humans of Haas: Emma Desilva

Emma Desilva graduated last spring with a degree in Business Administration and a Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Technology. She was a Track & Field student athlete and a writer for the Haas Undergraduate Blog.

How has Haas shaped you?

When I first came to Berkeley I wanted to major in business because I really wanted to work in fashion, but I never really knew what that meant and what kind of roles I wanted to take in the industry. Then in Fall 2019, I took UGBA 107 with Alan Ross, and we had to write a paper on anything that had to do with ethics and political social issues. I was researching ethical issues in the fashion industry, and I found out all about the conditions of factories, the increasing prevalence of sweatshops, and so much more. I got the highest grade I’ve ever gotten on a paper, which I think showed how much I cared about the subject. From there, I took classes that had an emphasis on human rights and sustainability, as well as entrepreneurship because I wanted to learn how to innovate and think on my feet. I think all of that really helped me find my passion. 

Favorite Class at Haas?

Well I’m a big fan of Alan Ross and his classes, but I also took another great class last fall called, Equity Fluent Leadership with Professor Kellie McElhaney. We talked about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and how it pertains to us as individuals, as well as in the business world. I grew so much in that class and got really close to my classmates and the professor, and it really solidified how much I want to do this type of work. Professor McElhaney is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met—she founded the center for Equity, Gender and Leadership (EGAL)—and I feel so honored to be close with her and to have learned from her.

What’s your favorite place on the Haas campus? 

I would say my favorite spot in Haas would definitely be the courtyard. I would spend so much time there sitting in the sun in between classes. I loved to watch all the different people coming through and bugging my friends to sit and have a chat. I also had this tradition of sitting there with one of my friends on Fridays, in between our discussion classes, where we’d play Taylor Swift and just catch up. So it’s a very special place for me.

Future plans?

In the beginning of this year, I planned on moving to Sri Lanka, where my parents are from, and volunteer there for a few months, as well as traveling within the area. I still am planning on my move to Sri Lanka and to volunteer, although traveling is up in the air right now. Post volunteering, I am looking to find a job there working on women’s rights and entrepreneurship in the country.

Advice for underclassmen?

One thing I regret is not taking more classes that I was interested in. When I came in freshman year, I just wanted to take the minimum amount of classes to help ease my load with track practice and extracurriculars, but I wish I understood the value of the unique classes Berkeley offered back then. If you can, use the pass/no pass option to your advantage, although I’m not sure how that will be now with COVID. I especially encourage Haas students to take more Haas electives and/or non-Haas classes, as I have found them to be integral to my time at Berkeley.

What are some of the things you’re gonna miss about Berkeley?

What I am gonna miss most is the type of lifestyle you have when you’re here—your schedule, your routines, the proximity to friends you grew so much with—after college you never really have that same kind of life again. Of course we’ll still meet up with people, but at Berkeley, I knew I could just walk over and chat with my friends whenever I wanted to vent about an issue or just hang out. I’m also going to miss the city of Berkeley and the Bay Area. Originally, I was planning to go to college on the East Coast, but when I came here, it was the perfect combination of city vibes and California sun, and I’m grateful that I decided on Cal.

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