This post is part of a “From the Dean’s Desk” series, where we hear directly from our UCLA Anderson leaders across the school.
In November, UCLA Anderson hosted its annual event – Embracing Diversity – on its campus. I believe current student Alex Cain ‘17 did a very thorough job of capturing the various elements and essence of the event from a student perspective. For me, the constant reminder, is that diversity is not just about counting heads … it’s about inclusion and making the heads count.
I remember when I was nominated and accepted into the inaugural class of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAoC) Fellowship.** I felt that this year’s Embracing Diversity conference came very close to emulating the culture, goals, and ambitions of the UNAoC Fellowship. The whole idea of bringing together individuals who, in some cases, are like-minded for a serious dialogue about the importance of diversity is not new. However, the challenge and opportunity is bringing individuals who are not like-minded who can share their experiences and thoughts to address an issue that challenges society. Race, gender, ethnic groups, age, personality, communication, and more encompass diversity which makes the subject exciting and difficult to explore, to leverage, to improve. This year, having a stronger corporate presence at the event definitely exposed many of the younger participants to issues that they may have faced in the workplace, but not had the opportunity (in an open forum) to have an honest dialogue of how it feels to possibly be the only female engineer in a department, or being LGBT in an office environment that may not be as progressive as others, or being the lone African-American working on a team of all white men. There are many instances where you, the individual, are probably put into an uncomfortable position. That is an opportunity to challenge yourself – how are you going to make others around you aware of the environment? How can you improve that situation? Fortunately, many of the good organizations value diversity and have systems, programs, values in place that are easy to identify and integrated in the culture/operations of the business. UCLA Anderson had many of those organizations, partners of the school, on display throughout Embracing Diversity.
And then on Saturday, the MBA Admissions team created the environment that allowed current students to share their experiences not only as a student, but as an applicant and an active member of the community. Participants witnessed Veronica Perry’s testimonial about her experience, not only as an African-American female, but as a valued member of the Anderson community who has made it better than when she first stepped on campus. Blair Nichols talked about his experience and contributions not only to the Anderson community but to his corporate client throughout the Global Access Program (GAP) experience. But don’t forget the fact that Blake is a cherished member of the LGBTQ community. Our alumni came out in large numbers to share their career and the impact of the Anderson degree. Dean Al Osborne gave a passionate testimonial of how UCLA Anderson will change you when you fully embrace the experience as an applicant, student, and alumnus for life.
I could write more about the individual conversations that I personally experienced with the 150+ attendees. But, I want to hold back in sharing those stories because I want to hear your own. If you are interested in an experience that is life changing, an experience that allows you to change the lives of others, and an experience that continues long after you graduate, then check out UCLA Anderson. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
-- Alex Lawrence
**UNAoC (United Nations Alliance of Civilizations) program’s mission was to recruit exceptional young leaders and take them to the Middle East and Africa, immerse them in the culture and introduce them to like-minded and similarly qualified locals, and then encourage serious dialogue aimed at fostering better understanding of each other’s country and culture, goals, and ambitions.