As 2019 came to an end, we looked forward to the new year with hope, blissfully unaware of the global crisis it would bring, a bell that could not be unrung. Brash and capricious, 2020 delivered eclectic lessons we’d prefer not to study. New to the idea of a pandemic, we adapted in stages: staying home, adopting pets, and web conferencing, while hoping to never hear the phrase “unprecedented times” again. Decades from now we will tell stories of world-shifting events and chaos: a mishmash of a pandemic, the deaths of beloved, iconic role models, a Duke and Duchess that quit royalty, simultaneous solidarity and polarization between races, civil unrest, political division that severed friendships and family ties, wildfires around the world, a Beirut port explosion, and the arrival of “Murder Hornets” in North America as the cherry on top.
At UCLA, students, faculty and staff were swept up in the same tidal wave of confusion. Students who were able were asked to go home. Services were suspended. Campus closed. Faculty scrambled to teach remotely. Alumni in-person events were canceled. The closing ceremony of UCLA’s first 100 years was put on pause. Commencement was postponed indefinitely. Graduates and parents missed sharing the pride in achievement that was their due. In Alumni Affairs, our cubicles looked like everyone left in a hurry and would be back at any moment. As a month turned into two and three and more, we slowly retrieved plants and borrowed office chairs and computers to set up workspaces at home as we came to terms with the reality of an unknown timeline back to normalcy. With our daily commute suspended, our cars sat idle in the garage, but we were going 80 mph down a road we had never traveled with no time for a quick glance in the rearview mirror as our work, as we knew it, receded from sight.
We left campus anxious and confused, but, like millions of people around the world, we also had mission-driven jobs and a sense of purpose. Our responsibilities did not rival that of first responders and caregivers, but we understood duty and knew that our students, alumni and parents needed us. Every staff member stepped up, making 2020 a defining moment. In the first few weeks, we canceled 24 planned events. Disappointment and fear may have been first out of the gate, but creativity and resilience were coming on strong in the back stretch. We figured out Zoom, webinars and Facebook Live, and there was no looking back. We left no stone unturned. When there was a need, we looked for a solution; where there were questions, we strove to provide clarity.
As COVID-19 spread, we responded in kind. In Q4 of the 2019-2020 fiscal year, we held 76 COVID-related events, such as:
Other outreach included:
When the world as we know it turns upside down, consistency is key to building trust, especially for students who depend upon our leadership. The date for Spring Sing, UCLA's oldest and greatest musical tradition, came closely on the heels of the campus closure and at the end of the school year. A student favorite that packs the seats of Pauley, Student Alumni Association (SAA) leaders believed the show must go on. We were able to pivot the traditionally in-person event to a virtual showcase of student talent from all over campus. The event drew over 2,000 live participants and over 40,000 views to the page.
With no real way to mitigate the disappointment of graduates who would miss one of the most important rites of passage in their lives, we did our best to honor their moment of pride. As the university turned commencement into a virtual celebration, Alumni Affairs brought the heart. We collected and posted more than 500 videos, messages and photographic shout-outs from loved ones to congratulate the class of 2020 and shared exultant Zoom backgrounds, banners and lawn signs that could be downloaded and prominently displayed to proudly honor UCLA’s graduates.
Traditionally, the First Gen Alumni Network hosts a cording ceremony, where alumni present graduation cords to graduating students, welcoming them into the Alumni Association. Not having a traditional ceremony was devastating for our first-generation students, who had anticipated celebrating this moment in their family’s history surrounded by friends and loved ones. This year’s graduating First Gen undergraduate, graduate and postdoc students shared a Virtual Celebratory Toast via Zoom. As part of the Toast, the UCLA Alumni Association and UCLA First to Go office created a video composed of photographs and video clips that students had created depicting their personal feelings about this milestone and their gratitude for those who supported them along the way.
On the heels of graduation comes the time to welcome incoming first-year and transfer students to the UCLA family. For years we have hosted New Bruin Send-off celebrations across the nation and around the globe — joyful and unique gatherings for new and current students, parents and alumni to meet in their hometowns before their arrival on campus. This year, questions loomed: Would campus be open? What would learning look like? With Ivy League universities reporting record-breaking drops in enrollment and in-person events disallowed, we understood the challenge and the need to provide assurance and guidance to incoming students. New Bruin Send-offs went virtual and included games, trivia, breakout room sessions, Q&As with alumni and current students and much more.
Even before the quarter began, students in leadership understood that classwork and labs were not the full college experience. They anticipated the sense of loss UCLA’s student body would struggle with by not being able to attend classes on campus and build the friendships and memories they had worked so hard to earn. The Collective Student Leadership Retreat was attended by board members of the Alumni Scholars Club (ASC), the Student Alumni Association (SAA) and Homecoming at UCLA, three student-run organizations sponsored by the Alumni Association. Student leaders met one another and discussed their mission, goals and challenges for the 2020-2021 academic year. By fostering greater collaboration and coordination across the student orgs, they will harness the creativity, knowledge of technology and the Bruin spirit of innovation to enrich the collegiate experience for all students regardless of their proximity to campus.
Students do not have to wait until graduation to get a step up on the competition in the job market. The Bruin Edge Newsletter is a weekly communication to students from UCLA Alumni Career Engagement that offers inspirational words of wisdom, alumni spotlights, events and opportunities, jobs and internships, and professional tips.
UCLA boasts more than 500,000 living degree-holders, residing on six of the seven continents of the world. The Alumni Association is the caretaker entrusted by the University to enrich and steward these relationships for life. Since mid-March, UCLA Alumni Affairs has brought forth more than 750 engagement opportunities worldwide, many of them reimagined or unplanned before the campus closure. The following is only the tip of the iceberg in this fearless, inclusive and multi-faceted work.
UCLA Alumni Town Halls are the brainchild of Alumni President D’Artagnan Scorza ’07, Ph.D. ’13, with the goal of inviting the greater Bruin community into conversations about current events and issues that affect the university. This live broadcast most recently featured UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and will next feature Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager and State Senator Ben Allen.
Dr. Scorza will also produce a monthly podcast, Bruin Built. He will have one-on-one discussions with experts from a host of industries on current events as they pertain to each guest speaker’s expertise and how they impact the present-day and future of UCLA and the world. The first guest will be Zev Yaroslavsky ’71, M.A. ’72, former member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Council.
The UCLA Alumni Veterans Network (VetNet) partnered with the Veteran Resource Center, former marine Evan Milnor, MBA '17, and David Cooley, CERT '08, director of Alumni Career Services at UCLA Anderson School of Management, to put on a career readiness webinar for UCLA veterans. They showed attendees how to demonstrate their military experience and expertise to the wider business community. This workshop was framed around the idea that veterans face a unique set of challenges when preparing for a civilian career, which requires a more tailored approach. Through this lens, Milnor and Cooley provided insights customized for veterans, covering the topics: Crafting a career narrative, résumé and cover letter writing, interviewing and networking, LinkedIn and social media.
Alumni from diversity networks representing many careers and industries volunteered to share their UCLA experiences with admitted students from historically underrepresented communities to help recruit a diverse Class of 2024. Participating networks:
The Sip & Share series provided a safe space for UCLA alumnae to gather and have intimate conversations on issues that affect women, especially during the pandemic. This series is an extension of the UCLA Alumnae Conference and kicked off with a listening tour of past alumnae programming attendees. From the listening tour, we developed discussions around self-care, women in business, and the 2020 presidential election.
The Alumni Mentor Program enables alumni to share their professional and personal experience and expertise with current UCLA students. The connections made help prepare students for a successful future, navigate uncertainty, and leave a lasting impact on our campus community. This year, 977 alumni mentors paired with 2,020 students.
The Bruin Promise is a commitment from UCLA Alumni Affairs and UCLA Extension to provide access to lifelong learning to Bruins — and all who seek knowledge — through thousands of affordable courses and more than 100 certificate and specialization programs. In response to current challenges, a broad selection of virtual professional development and personal enrichment seminars are being offered at no cost.
With the simple goal of creating an efficient and inclusive way to disseminate information, create community, and keep alumni connected to the UCLA Diversity Programs and Initiatives office, each other and UCLA, the Diversity Digest came into being in March 2020. The distribution list is opt-in only and new readers are added through word of mouth and the Forward to a Friend feature. Following UCLA’s Principles of Community and True Bruin Values, this weekly digest is an inclusive space for Bruins to engage. The Digest has an ease about it that allows content to reflect what the audience needs at that moment. There is usually an inspirational message or informative call to action along with updates inviting participation in a variety of events and programs, including programs of interest from around campus. Alumni spotlights introduce the community to Bruins of heart who are on the move; Bruin-owned restaurants and businesses may be featured, as well as opportunities to give back financially and through action.
The Transfer Student Alumni Network partnered with the Transfer Student Center to host a six-part virtual series of industry specific, networking nights. Each session began with alumni sharing their educational and professional journey and then answering student-submitted questions in a panel setting. After the conclusion of the panel, students were placed in breakout rooms with an alumnus/alumna of their choosing for networking time. Industries represented included STEM, healthcare, education, entertainment, law and government, and business.
Through our partnership with UCLA Athletics, former basketball, football, women’s gymnastics and softball student-athletes were able to meet UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond on his second day of his new job. Meeting with each group for an hour, Jarmond fielded questions on topics that were specifically important to them. The opportunity for these alumni to meet him and his willingness to listen helped to foster a sense of appreciation for the student-athlete experience. With the technology afforded by Zoom, we were able to reach more alumni than we would have if these had been in-person events.
The Lambda Inside Pride Parade allowed members of the LGBTQ+ community an alternative and safe way to celebrate their pride after the announcement that the annual Los Angeles parade and DTLA Proudfest would not happen this year due to the pandemic. People were encouraged to submit their own self-made floats and highlight their individual journeys as well as honor LGBTQ+ icons who changed history.
Former UCLA Gymnastics Coach Valorie Kondos Field returned to host "Choreograph Your Life," a three-part series of leadership empowerment based on lessons she learned during her remarkably successful career. Due to the success of the series, she has agreed to host four additional monthly sessions. In the role of interviewer, she will be speaking to people of insight and wisdom, such as UC Regent and former Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures Sherry Lansing.
The contradictory power of social media has been a hot topic of late. For UCLA Alumni, our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube pages have served as a guiding light of information and pride for thousands of Bruins.
|July 16, 2019 – March 15, 2020||March 16, 2020 – November 11, 2020||Increase|
The UCLA Black Alumni Association presented Road to Social Justice: A Conversation With Jane Elliott on Race and Power. Working with internationally known teacher, lecturer, diversity trainer, and recipient of the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education, Jane Elliot, UBAA hosted an online lecture as a part of their Road to Social Justice series.
Nineteen of the 31 Bruin Success Podcasts were broadcast in 2020. Online for convenient anytime listening, Bruins from all walks of life discuss their careers, what has helped them most in their journeys and their tips for personal and professional success.
Hosted by the Pilipino Alumni Association (PAA), Pilipino Solidarity for Black Lives: Action Planning Dialogue was a two-part general meeting series specifically to discuss anti-Black racism and anti-Blackness within the Pilipino community.
More than 350 UCLA Alumni travelers have loved connecting and participating in dozens of Virtual Travel Reunions that have taken place, reuniting travelers, hosts, faculty and local tour directors from all around the world.
“We’re Still First: Celebrating the First Gen Professional Identity” was part one of a new series celebrating the professional experiences of first-generation alumni. Participants discussed the nuances of the first gen professional identity with a goal to help everyone in attendance to be better prepared to have successful careers and realize the value and significance of their story.
UCLA ONE (Opportunity, Network, Experience) actively connects Bruins in 160 fields and industries through our free online professional community. Network with professionals by industry or location, receive or offer mentorship, and reconnect with classmates and colleagues. If you’re searching for new employment, the platform is a springboard for connections and job opportunities.
Businesses and Services, a self-service directory for Bruins, launched on UCLA ONE. Bruin business owners can advertise services, promote offers and list job openings and internships for the Bruin community. Since April 2020, 60 businesses have been added to the platform.
With more than 100 formal and informal alumni networks scattered around the world, there are multiple events taking place somewhere nearly every day of the year and staff members from across the Association collaborate to ensure the endeavor’s success. Our experience runs the gamut from more than 25 years in Alumni Affairs to slightly over a year, with ages representing five decades working in spirited harmony. Our events reflect the needs and desires of our constituents and sometimes they just want to have fun. We have events that cover the lighter, fun side of alumni engagement: yoga and meditation, bingo nights and yappy hours, sake and cheese tasting, cooking demonstrations, and film and TV trivia nights. If you name it, we can probably figure out how to make it happen, because we’re here for you, every one of you, when you need us.
We’d love it if you’d take our unconventional survey so we can understand you better. This is a safe place, the survey is anonymous and the questions are open-ended. There are six questions and you can answer as few or as many as you like. Take a look. Our goal is not to intrude but simply be of service in the way that you need. We are here for you, now and forever.
Support This Work
If you see the value in what we do, please support this work. We don’t know what the future will bring, except for the inevitability of taxes. If you need to make a year-end gift, your donation will help us to continue to support students and alumni.
We also hope you will want to help us continue to facilitate critical conversations, represent justly in a diverse and complex world, and uplift Bruins with insights, opportunity and support in challenging times. The pandemic has dealt the university with a cruel and devastating loss of revenue. Hard decisions will have to be made but we will be okay because donations from Bruins like you have always been the financial backbone that sustains us and strengthens our Bruin community.
No other university has achieved, innovated or impacted the world more in its first 100 years. This is your legacy. Please help us preserve it by making a gift today.
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