Dr. Élida Bautista is Chief Officer for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Berkeley Haas. She oversees all diversity and inclusion initiatives for the university. She has been in this role since 2021 and has dedicated her time to making Berkeley Haas a more inclusive space for all students, faculty, and staff. She is an incredible advocate for marginalized communities and has made significant progress in increasing diversity at Haas. 

Before joining Berkeley Haas, Élida has spent 15 years as an educator and Director of the Multicultural Clinical Training Program. She implemented an evident-based approach to identify the patient’s unique needs going through physical and mental health illnesses. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan, and she is committed to the success of students, particularly members of historically underrepresented groups. 

The Barriers of Accessing Competitive Education Despite Academic Strength

While it’s already a given that diversity and inclusion are essential for any program to succeed, many schools still struggle with the idea of bringing together different people in a single classroom. The Haas School of Business is one of those institutions that have managed to make a significant difference. Élida, who has been serving as Director of Inclusion and Diversity, uses her years of experience in education to design and implement programs that can promote access and inclusion for underrepresented communities like Latinx and African Americans. She draws from her own personal experiences as a child of immigrants from Mexico City who moved and raised their family in Chicago.

“I grew up in Chicago at a time when I think all of us in that generation were benefiting from the gains that were made across a variety of civil rights movements that happened in the ’60s and early ’70s. Not perfect, but in that era, we had our first Black mayor. We had our first woman mayor. All of my teachers were of a variety of different ethnicities. I had a Mexican teacher, Puerto Rican teacher, Filipino, Japanese, several Black teachers, Italian Polish, and I went to a better-resourced school. I think now as an adult, I can think critically that it would’ve been better to resource the local schools, but I was fortunate enough to have access to a school that had a lot to offer for me academically, that was stimulating.”

For Most People of Color, Failure is Not an Option

As a student, Élida observed what was happening around her. She felt internal pressure to succeed, as not everyone in her family could attend college. Her sister had to work and earn money so she could support the family. She soon became aware of the narrative that people of color couldn’t go to college, not because they didn’t want to, but because they rarely afford to pursue higher education and were just forced to join the workforce after high school. She also observed how they were often given limited access to competitive education despite her academic strength.

“My older siblings had gone directly into the workforce to help contribute back to the family expenses. California is super expensive compared to Chicago, and we were living in a farmworker community. So my older siblings went on to do essentially office work and order to meet all the family needs, not just rent and bills, but also they were helping out with the kids essentially, which is the rest of us. So the lack of income from me was negative for the family.”

High school was a challenging time for Élida, but it also provided her the foundation to pursue higher education. The counselor at her school gave her a strange look when she decided to apply to UC Berkeley, believing that she was not sufficiently qualified to be accepted to a competitive school. But her determination to pursue the best education was unwavering. She applied to a few other private schools. With the help of the student government advisor, she got into Claremont Mckenna College in Southern California and was granted stable financial aid.

“Failure was just not an option like I had to do well in school and continue getting scholarships. I was on the cafeteria meal plan, and my food in housing was coming from this school, and I needed to just keep moving forward and make sure that I was doing everything that I could to make sure that I was gonna get into a Ph.D. program, which was also just not necessarily guaranteed.”

Serving the Community with a Cultural-Sensitive Mental Healthcare

While struggling to overcome economic challenges and overwhelming pressure back home, Élida obtained her college degree and entered graduate school at the University of Michigan at the age of 21. She went on to become a Dissertation Fellow at the University of California Santa Barbara, where she developed research methods courses within the Chicano Studies department. She also developed and ran a training program at the University of California San Francisco. They implemented a culturally informed approach where they partner with families to reduce the barrier to access mental health care.

Élida’s expertise in culturally informed care led her to develop an evidence-based training model for staff and student success coaches. She has also worked closely with community-based organizations to implement practices grounded in cultural humility to reduce barriers to accessing mental health care for immigrant parents and children. In addition to her work with community organizations and universities, Élida has extensive experience working with schools and school districts to develop effective social-psychological learning programs for both students and teachers from marginalized populations.

“We operated from a framework of cultural humility and took it into consideration. What evidence-based interventions are based on in the research, and how might we adapt them to fit the communities we’re serving, where there are multiple types of traumas they experience. And how can we use that to understand what they’re presenting with psychologically?”

Building a Diversified Student Body in Haas School of Business

Following her time at UCSF, based at San Francisco General Hospital, Élida relocated to the Bay Area and took on the responsibility of overseeing diversity, equality, and inclusion at Haas School of Business. Haas is an institution that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. It’s a community of students who rally behind the DEI initiatives to make sure it reaches all degree programs and alumni relations career management throughout college units. The business school teaches leadership principles that promote cultural understanding, which allows people from underrepresented groups to be more empowered–teaching them how to unify each other through these lessons learned while working together on shared goals.

Building a diversified faculty representing minority groups can be a long battle; it cannot be achieved overnight. The university’s ability to produce more diverse faculty relies on ensuring a more diverse Ph.D. student body. It takes time and effort to build up faculty representing minority groups. Additionally, it can be challenging to encourage other schools to do the same because empowering these communities can’t be a solo work for Haas. The absence of data and data collection itself is a challenge because they were lumped together as “minority groups,” but the specifics were not stated as to who comprises them. 

“I think our defining leadership principles are very accurately reflective of our culture and certainly there are pockets that we still need to continue to cultivate more belongingness, the relationships and the pipelines and partnerships that will allow us to increase the diversity. There is a lot more work to do, absolutely. But I am always reassured by the level of partnership that I see in who shows up. I know there are also always going to be folks that are not quite sure or are worried about backlash or direction, but I can at least have a conversation with them about what’s behind that and how can I address it and support them in getting beyond that fear.”

DEI Initiatives: How Alumni & Students Can Help

Élida emphasizes that Haas has made great strides in recent years to become a more diverse and inclusive community, but there is still work to be done. The alumni community can play an important role in continuing this progress by getting more involved and promoting diversity equity and inclusion not just on campus but also in the world that we live in. And it’s not just about donating money or time; giving employment opportunities to Haasies is another way you can help make a difference. Finally, mentoring is always another way to give back and support the next generation of leaders.

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