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The Berkeley Changemaker: How Leaders Set Winning Culture

December 2, 2020

As a continuation of its partnership with Berkeley Changemaker™, the Cal Alumni Association held The Berkeley Changemaker Workshop: How Leaders Set Winning Culture! for its current Alumni Scholars. The workshop was facilitated by Rich Lyons, UC Berkeley’s first-ever chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer. Lyons, a Berkeley Changemaker faculty member, previously served as the dean of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, oversaw Goldman Sachs University as its chief learning officer, and taught on the business faculty at Columbia University for six years. His research and teaching expertise is in international economics and finance, with an applied interest in the “how and why” of setting strong institutional cultures.

“We wanted to get these Berkeley Changemaker ideas in front of the Alumni Scholars because they are in so many ways the personification of the narrative: fired with the sense of agency and values that make Berkeley so distinctive in the first place.” —Rich Lyons

Berkeley Changemaker is a campus-wide initiative and curriculum that “codifies an essential part of what [UC Berkeley] stands for.” Namely, the curriculum empowers talented students from one of the world’s leading universities with the necessary skills and mindset to create positive change. It emphasizes that the most impactful changes arise from partnership across multiple disciplines, such as STEM, the humanities, and ethics. Berkeley Changemaker has enacted this mission through launching its gateway course 12, The Berkeley Changemaker, in which incoming first years were taught by 21 of Berkeley’s most distinguished faculty, including Chancellor Christ and Janet Yellen.

The Berkeley Changemaker workshop covered the intentionality of setting organizational culture, drawing on Lyons’s professional experiences.

Emily Gu, a recipient of the Cal Alumni Association’s Leadership Award, is a junior studying molecular and cellular biology and public health, with a minor in data science, and a certificate in entrepreneurship and technology.

“I found the Berkeley Changemaker workshop to be extremely insightful and very applicable to my personal and professional growth. As a student currently involved in leadership for on-campus organizations and industry roles, I strongly resonated with the idea that leaders set culture. This session undoubtedly changed my perspective on the definition of leadership, which not only will shape how I interpret others’ leadership practices in the future, but also my own. I strive to be an effective leader in my future endeavors, and this workshop showcased to me how significant my words and actions are in setting a desirable culture for those I lead.” —Emily Gu

Anmol Walia, a recipient of the Cal Alumni Association’s The Achievement Award Program scholarship, is a sophomore studying microbial biology on a pre-med track.

“This workshop was very insightful and eye-opening for me as a first-generation student. Being in leadership positions, I never really took the time to evaluate what the culture of our organization or team was. I was never really coached on how to be an effective leader and how to create real and valuable change in groups that were not aligning to their goals and purpose. Through this workshop, I learned how significant the culture of a space can be and how much of a role it plays when deciding between two options. As Rich Lyons mentioned in the workshop, culture of different organizations, workplaces always existed, yet recognizing them as a gear factor to contribute to a decision is something that is very valuable and efficient in the long run. I am super grateful for this workshop and am eager to take a Berkeley Changemaker class soon!” —Anmol Walia

Building on the success of the The Berkeley Changemaker course, Berkeley is offering The Berkeley Changemaker™ gateway course in spring 2021. Additionally, students will be able to take connector courses on topics such as “ethics and justice in international affairs” to explore changemaking from an interdisciplinary point of view. Visit for a list of current and upcoming course offerings.