Mike Fleiss has made a name for himself as a writer and producer but before he created some of the most successful reality shows in Hollywood, he was a student at the University of California, Berkeley.

He was invited back in 2012 to deliver a commencement speech — but recalls that his nerves almost got the best of him.

“It was scarier than any movie I’ve ever seen or made,” Mike Fleiss jokes. “Literally five minutes before I was going to come up, I thought to myself, ‘I wonder how bad it would look if I just ran away right now into the woods. It was just unbelievable, but I did it. I mumbled my way through a 20-minute speech.”

Perhaps imagining everyone in their underwear did the trick, because Fleiss pulled through and did his peers and former profs proud.

“The professor named Bert Dreyfus taught me so much about how to use your own mind to try to break through conventions and try to be able to really think outside the box and to not be constrained by assumptions and rules and become a real free thinker,” Mike Fleiss recalls.

He also peppered his speech with tips on resisting conformity of creativity and pushing boundaries through art.

Fleiss says standing there with the deans of the colleges, the salutatorian, and the valedictorian was a humbling moment. “It was a tremendous honor for me,” he shares, “to go back to my alma mater and speak there and try to pass some old Berkeley hippie wisdom to this new generation.”

The school is famous for offering more than 120 graduate programs in 15 schools and colleges and awarding over 4,000 master’s and professional degrees annually alongside around 800 doctoral degrees. It impressively graduated 35 Nobel Prize winners and the founders of more than 270 companies.

The university also counts actors Gregory Peck and Chris Pine, 14th Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren, and Olympic gold medalist skier Jonny Moseley among its alums.

Berkeley’s commencement speech has also been given by luminaries including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, legendary news anchor Ted Koppel, and one year after Fleiss took the stage, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak put on a cap and gown.

“From early on, we learn to be loyal to our school,” Wozniak said during his 2013 speech at Berkeley. “Your intellectual and physical energy is at a peak at this age. Trust in yourself and know what your internal passion is and that’s what will drive you to success.”

Wozniak, lovingly dubbed Woz by Apple fans, said the greatest moment of his life was graduating from the California university that he says is a “symbol of intellectual thought” and that he was proud to be part of a place that offered freedom to explore, set new directions, make choices, and develop values.

To that end, Fleiss has done plenty. The producer, writer, and director, has several credits under his belt like executive producing The Bachelor franchise, and producing box office thrillers like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Shark Night, and Hostel.