The Berkeley Haas Global Access Program (BHGAP) truly impacted Natàlia Costa i Coromina. Natàlia thought that her time abroad would simply be a fun, cultural experience—but she got so much more than that.
What she didn’t realize was that taking the Managing Human Rights in Business course would lead her to an amazing internship, while preparing her for her future career. Natàlia can truly say that it was here in Berkeley where she discovered her passion for business and human rights.
With many elective options to choose from, this course caught her eye; she was excited for the chance to take it. In class, she reviewed global business practices while learning about the framework of international human rights. Natàlia then learned in more detail about human rights standards and guidelines within a company and how to manage them. The class also offered her a perspective on how companies can—and should—be responsible for human rights impacts.
“It was in that course where I came to realize that this field is where my background in both business and humanities comes together” says Natàlia.
Human Rights Leads to Corporate Social Responsibility
Full-steam ahead on developing an extensive knowledge base in human rights in a business, Natàlia looked for additional paths to explore this career possibility.
And fortune smiled on her.
During Natalia’s studies, she learned from Professor Andrew M. Isaacs about the business school’s annual Berkeley Haas Case Series, a collection of business studies among Haas students and faculty to conceive, write and develop a case. The Best Case Award is given to the most important contribution to management education, and it can be used within the classroom. After hearing more about this, Natàlia immediately took an interest.
Recognizing Natàlia's commitment and passion, Professor Isaacs agreed to collaborate with her on a case. Working hand-in-hand with a faculty member on a real-world case is not something you often find at other study-abroad programs!
“We all shared the feeling that there is a lack of cases tackling social responsibility, and we wanted to make our small contribution,” she says. That being said, Natàlia, Professor Isaacs and a Haas M.B.A. student chose to do their case on software company Okta's corporate social responsibility (CSR) model.
Months and months of hard work went into their case. Natàlia interviewed the COO of Okta, Frederic Kerrest and researched the evolution of CSR and philanthropy primarily in the Bay Area. The final product, Okta for Good: Pursuing Innovation and Impact in Social Corporate Responsibility, came together, placing second out of 11 submissions!
“Without a doubt, it was a unique learning experience,” Natàlia says. “I never thought something like this would be possible, and I am so grateful that the case has sparked so much debate. I hope it will raise awareness of the need for and complexity of sustaining a CSR strategy!”
From Collaborating With Faculty to Establishing Friendships
From the very beginning of her Fall 2018 term, Natàlia experienced an eye-opening type of learning. She never felt like she was just sitting, listening and taking notes in each lecture; instead, Natàlia felt that she was a part of a discussion among her peers.
Coming from a small university in Barcelona, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC), Natàlia’s experiences outside of the classroom were even different. She loved the large university environment, golden sunsets over the Pacific Ocean and endless opportunities within the Bay Area.
“Back home,” she says, “life is more homogeneous and it’s easy to fall into a routine. Here, I wanted to experience diversity and challenge myself.”
Living in the International House—commonly called “I-House”—made her experience all the better. The unique and diverse dormitory was filled primarily with international students from all over the world.
“One of my favorite parts about studying abroad was being able to sit and meet with different people from all over, for every meal,” Natàlia recalls. She especially loved that the dormitory staff allowed the residents to plan their own events throughout the year. There was never a dull moment when she would return from class to I-House. Although she met many new friends in this setting, she was surrounded by even more international students within her program.
During orientation week, she immediately noticed the diversity of students coming to BHGAP. As the first student to come to Berkeley from her home university, Natàlia knew she would have to go outside of her comfort zone to make friends. But her personality and excitement for this study-abroad adventure gave her the confidence to quickly become friends with her cohort right away. Her classmates came from Mexico, Colombia, China, Netherlands, Germany, India and many other coutiries.
“Something I think the cohort all had in common is that we wanted to experience something more. We wanted to go outside of our own borders,” Natàlia enthuses.
Over the course of the semester, the group spent time studying together, taking trips around the U.S. and attending various events put on by the BHGAP staff.
Natàlia particularly enjoyed the program site visits. These included tours of large companies in Silicon Valley, such as Mozilla and Spotify. They were able to hear firsthand from employees about their experiences working at large corporations in the entrepreneurship capital of the world.
To fully immerse themselves in American-university culture, Natàlia and her friends attended almost every Cal sports game.
“One year later,” Natàlia reflects, “I still keep in touch with people from my cohort and I-House. We became very close and we Facetime often.”
Natàlia enjoyed her free time away from her studies, but this did not stop her from making her mark in Silicon Valley. She took advantage of being in an environment full of entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders.
At the beginning of Natàlia’s semester, she and another BHGAP classmate, Kira, decided they wanted to form a group and an event around the theme of “women empowerment and leadership.” After some logistical support from the BHGAP staff, the group Women Together was formed.
Women Together was full of international women passionate about entrepreneurship. They met often, networked and shared new ideas and challenges. Natàlia had coordinated the participation of diverse, entrepreneurial panelists from all over the Bay Area and moderated the group. They had empowering and inspirational discussions about their experiences being leaders in Silicon Valley as women. Natàlia also coordinated the group to attend various conferences, such as the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in San Francisco. She devoted a lot of her time to these groups in hopes that they will continue for future students.
From Class Discovery to Professional Goals
Just two months after her Spring 2019 program graduation, Natàlia was accepted as a summer intern at BHR-Business and Human Rights, a Spanish consulting firm that focuses on sustainability, innovation, human rights, impact and risk assessment to improve corporate human rights impacts worldwide. During this time, Natàlia worked on a project in the energy sector. She wrote reports, investigated information and built newsletters for the company.
“Enriching myself in corporate social responsibility and human rights allowed me to get this internship, which will give me more opportunities in the future,” she shares.
Looking Toward a Bright Future
Now back in her native Barcelona, Natàlia is looking toward completing her double degree from UIC Barcelona.
And it should come as no surprise that she continues to challenge herself and find new opportunities to get involved. Natàlia is excited to have found her passion in human rights in business and is looking forward to what her future career holds in this field.
When asked what the BHGAP certificate means to her, Natàlia responds, “Don’t get me wrong—the certificate means a lot to me. But what matters most to me is staying in touch with the people I’ve met and what I’ve made out of the experience.”