If you ask any University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business student where their favorite place on the Haas campus is, you’d get a bunch of different answers. Top of Chou Hall (for the breathtaking views of the Bay). Cafe Think (because of the food, obviously). Study Rooms (so during finals season, you aren’t fighting anyone for a spot to sit). However, few would say Haas Courtyard. Why? Because there’s no fanfare about it. Frankly, it doesn’t serve a particular functionality.
Just like the little things in life, something doesn’t have to be big or flashy to be important. This goes for the Haas Courtyard as well. So, where exactly is the Haas Courtyard? Smack dab in the middle of the Haas campus! Haas Courtyard serves as a passageway for students to come and go from class. It is a meeting spot for clubs and project groups, and study space for those who want to catch some rays in between classes. It really is a beautiful space with tables and chairs lined with trees; you won’t find another spot like this on all of Berkeley’s campus. You may think that that’s where the beauty ends. However, here’s why the Haas Courtyard means so much more.
Place of Entrepreneurial Venture
One afternoon, I was sitting at one of the tan tables in the courtyard with my friend trying to get some work done before class. Another student approached our table and the conversation went like this:
“Is your phone screen dirty?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“For a dollar, I can clean your phone screen right now.”
“Yeah, go for it.”
This is not how most services are rendered. Usually, someone comes up with an idea and when it’s ready for market, they put out ads and other marketing materials before people start paying for their service. Not in the Haas Courtyard. Here determined student entrepreneurs venture out into the courtyard, identify a need, and get paid for services rendered on the spot. In a less than five-minute interaction, I got my phone screen cleaned, something that I didn’t even know I wanted.
Speaking of things I didn’t know I wanted or needed, it was at the Courtyard where I was introduced to jitter-less coffee, an entrepreneurial venture started by two Haas alums. My first thought? This is amazing, I don’t have to feel like my heart is beating out of my chest two hours after I drink drip coffee. My second thought? I want to try it. Unfortunately, they weren’t carrying any product on them at the time, but I was directed to someone who could get me in touch with the spunky new brew. If I could think of anywhere that could be a perfect place to market this new jitterless coffee, it would be the courtyard. You are guaranteed to have a massive amount of foot traffic from tired college students walking to class or the Haas Library, the perfect target market.
Place of Career Dreams
Throughout the fall semester, one of the most common sights you’ll see at the Courtyard are colorful canopy tents with company titles in big, bold lettering providing some shade for students and recruiters. It’s a sight for sore eyes, especially for the juniors and seniors, who are looking to land internships and post-grad jobs. I remember my sophomore year, I attended an Accounting Ice Cream Social to meet recruiters from KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, and EY, and (equally as important) to grab my ice cream sandwich.
The beauty of this setting is that the social aspect didn’t occur in some official, manicured event room that gives off an aura of attendance by invitation only. It took place out in the open. Any upperclassmen interested could introduce themselves to a recruiter and set themself on a path to a coveted internship. And, any underclassmen can realize what opportunities are out there to pursue.
On a normal Tuesday afternoon, I was walking out of Haas Library, ready to head home for the day, when I saw a big banner with bright bold letters: Audit, Tax, Consulting.
I was a sophomore at the time with no idea what a career in accounting would look like. I opened with, “Hi, I’m Grace and I’d love to learn more about this program.” After striking up a conversation with a Haas Alum and learning about his 20+ year experience as an auditor, I left the Courtyard with a new perspective and a lot more excitement about UGBA 102A: Financial Accounting.
Place of Responsibility
As a New Jersey native, coming to Cal was an initiation into corporate social responsibility I didn’t know I needed. My first shock was seeing a trash bin, recycling bin, and compost bin altogether. You see, compost bins are a foreign concept on the East Coast. Then, I was introduced to The Haasome Freecycle. This initiative enables you to get rid of some stuff you don’t need anymore or want to sell online. Here, you just “donate” it to this large table in the Haas Courtyard. Anyone from the community can then come and grab what they may want or need. It’s an incredible effort that redirects some things that otherwise would’ve filled landfills and gives it a home somewhere else.
The power of seeing these initiatives so boldly held at the courtyard is that it can immediately change the actions someone takes that day. Haasies walk through the courtyard every day, and I know every time I passed the Freecycle I made a mental note to donate the reusable water bottle that was sitting on top of my drawer.
More importantly, though, this also changes future actions of Haasies as we are reminded of all the ways they can be more socially responsible and support companies that make corporate social responsibility a priority. The Haasome Freecycle is just one among many different programs that Haas spearheads which put social responsibility at the forefront. So, maybe, it’s a cliche that everyone at Haas owns a Patagonia. Or, maybe, it’s also a culture thing that permeates to our very closets…but let’s not forget that it starts in our Courtyard.
Place of Versatile Ideas
On any given afternoon, I can be seen occupying the tan tables, by myself or with my friends, as we plug away at our assignments and projects. The Courtyard isn’t just the place that Haasies can cram last-minute information before heading into our classrooms. It is also a place of discourse and engaging conversations. If you overhear any of the conversations held around these tan tables, chances are the conversations will span from the relaxed casual ‘how are you’s’ to intense productive discussions of economic policy to optimistically serious networking consultations.
The true beauty of the Haas Courtyard is the fact that it holds space for everyone and everything. It’s the kind of forum space that reminds me of how the birth of the Roman Republic started. At any given moment, at the table to your left, you can overhear a Haas MBA discussing her newest venture into the education arena with a groundbreaking new Artificial Intelligence technology. And, on your right, you can see a group of friends decking their slides for a presentation on target market segmentation for their consulting class. At that moment, you can be in the middle of a coffee chat with your favorite professor discussing your post-graduation plans.
The Haas Courtyard isn’t a secret nor exclusive. It just happens to be a place so comfortable Haasies don’t mind hanging out while all around them impactful and important things are being set in motion. That’s why the Haas Courtyard is my favorite spot on campus.
My name is Grace Huang, a rising senior studying Business Administration at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and a member of the founding class of the Global Management Program. Passionate about traveling, writing, running, and finding the perfect scrambled egg recipe, I want to explore the world at the speed New Yorkers walk.
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