Stern Stories

Define Possible

The first recipients of the William R. Berkley Scholarship Program chart a unique path at Stern

The first recipients of the William R. Berkley Scholarship Program chart a unique path at Stern

NYU Stern welcomed the inaugural recipients of the William R. Berkley Scholarship Program this fall as Caroline Casavant, Ron Edwards, Jim Depeng Jin, Erik Öhrling and Samantha Thiel entered the full-time MBA program. The program supports exceptional college seniors who would like to pursue their full-time MBA at Stern directly following graduation. Students are selected based on a combination of their stellar academic performance and exceptional potential to contribute to business and society.

The program is named in honor of successful entrepreneur William R. Berkley (BS ‘66), chairman and chief executive officer of the W.R. Berkley Company, chairman of the NYU Stern Board of Overseers and chair designee of the NYU Board of Trustees, who donated $10 million to create the program. Immediately after graduating from NYU with a Bachelor of Science in 1966, Mr. Berkley pursued his MBA at Harvard.

Mr. Berkley’s ambitious spirit is reflected in this inaugural group of Berkley Scholars. Caroline, whose diverse academic background spans medical research and finance, explains, “Coming to Stern meant the difference between learning the technical skills in my first job or taking a step back and absorbing the big picture first. When I enter the workforce, I will have a broad understanding of global trends and a readiness for leadership roles as they come.”

Samantha, who studied public policy as an undergraduate student at Princeton, agrees: “This program opens up years of extra opportunity. I’ll graduate with a depth and breadth of knowledge that is rare in your early 20s, and that will enable me to take a non-linear path in my career.” Ron, who grew up in Jamaica and majored in math as an undergraduate, adds, “Having my MBA at a young age and with no debt, I’ll have an opportunity to take smart risks. I'll have the flexibility to do something entrepreneurial. My goal is to make the most of the unique possibilities for my career that this scholarship program opens up.”

In their first semester at Stern, the Berkley Scholars have immersed themselves in academics, club activities and socialization. “As an undergraduate, my studies were very academic and theoretical,” says Erik, a Finland native who studied psychology and neuroscience at Oxford. “Now I’m learning how I can apply my knowledge to create value. The transition to learning something for the sake of practical, real-world implementation is hugely stimulating.” Caroline adds, “I’ve had an incredible learning experience this semester, not just academically but for social and networking skills as well. Finding mentors among my peers, who have several years of work experience, has been a big part of the experience. Stern’s collaborative environment has enabled me to learn from other students rather than worrying about competing with other students.”

The scholars have looked for unique ways to contribute to Stern student life while building their leadership skills. Jim, who is a part-time artist and social entrepreneur in addition to being a full-time student, is coordinating a social impact consulting trek to New Orleans for fellow MBAs in the spring of 2015, and Erik is organizing a career trek to London. Samantha has become involved in Stern’s Gender Project to examine issues such as how women adopt leadership roles differently than men. Jim describes, “I’m soaking up as many things as possible. I’m connecting my experiences inside and outside of the classroom with wider trends in business and society. This early and broad access to Stern’s MBA program is helping me grow and navigate in new ways, and I’m excited for what still lies ahead in our two years here.”

The students are also eager to set a strong example for future Berkley Scholars. “Being in the first class means we can help shape the possibilities and also be mentors for the next class of scholars,” Erik says. Ron agrees, “Having been given this opportunity, it’s up to us to establish the tone for those who come after. We want to set a high bar.”