Julie Brown, BS 14, savors the gift of culture shock
Without the generosity of alumnus Thomas Tusher and his scholarship for international study, Haas undergraduate Julie Brown, BS 14, might never have found her true calling. She certainly would never have met female entrepreneurs in Morocco or been able to protest in support of legalizing gay marriage in Paris. “I also would not have had the space or time to really think about who I am and what I want in life,” Brown says.
Brown is the latest recipient of the Thomas Tusher Scholarship for Study Abroad, an award given to high-achieving Haas undergrads. Tusher, BA 63 (Poli. Sci.), retired president and COO of Levi Strauss & Co. and a member of the Haas School Board, studied in Vienna while he was at Cal. “I would like to see more U.S. students be exposed to other cultures,” Tusher says. “Most businesses today are global in reach and activity, and this is an opportunity to gain some international experience.”
Brown immersed herself in the language and culture of Granada, Spain, and received additional funding from the Institute of International Studies to support research on the effectiveness of tracking the social impacts of microfinance programs in Morocco, which she conducted during spring break. Wanting to learn how to be a change maker drew Brown, who grew up in San Diego, Calif., to study business at Haas, but her semester in Spain helped her define that passion.
“Before studying abroad I felt like I had to fit myself into one of the ABCs of business: accounting, banking, or consulting,” she says. “Now I have realized that I am probably an N, nonprofit, or O/W, other/weird.”
Her new career aspirations tie together the Haas Defining Principles Question the Status Quo and Beyond Yourself, which she contemplated a lot during her time overseas. “After graduation, I plan on doing something most Haas undergraduates do not pursue, like the Peace Corps or a Fulbright,” she says of Question the Status Quo. It’s a sentiment she and Tusher share—one of the things Brown has learned during the correspondence she began with him. Tusher says, “My experience studying and traveling abroad set me on a path seeking an international business career at a time when that was outside the norm.”
As for going Beyond Herself, Brown wants to dedicate her life to giving back to the community. This fall, she and four classmates will begin a mentoring program for at-risk high schoolers in Oakland based on a proposal that won third place in the Big Ideas@Berkeley contest, which provides funding and support to interdisciplinary student teams with innovative projects.
Upon leaving Spain, Brown headed to South Korea for a paid summer internship with Samsung. But she’s approaching the experience with a new perspective. “Living in Granada has changed my opinions on happiness,” she says. “I felt like I needed to get the perfect internship, to get the perfect job, to have the perfect family, and then I would reach ‘the happy successful place.’ But…happiness is about enjoying the dance of life, not trying to be perfect.”