August 18, 2002
The Anderson School at UCLA Hosts Outreach Activities with Leaders of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
UCLA Anderson seized the opportunity to connect with the student and professional leadership of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) who were visiting UCLA for their annual National Leadership Institute (NLI). UCLA Anderson students, alumni and staff participated in several activities during the four-day conference August 14-18, 2002, as part of the school’s ongoing outreach to maximize diversity in UCLA Anderson’s MBA population.
Linda Baldwin, UCLA Anderson’s director of admissions, noted that several Anderson students over the years were affiliated with SHPE, including all those involved in this year’s NLI outreach events. Baldwin spearheads the school’s efforts to attract the finest and most diverse applicants possible and provided strong support for the school’s involvement with the institute.
“The invitation-only attendees of NLI are the student and professional officers of SHPE and represent the very best in the organization,” said Baldwin. “They are potentially ideal MBA candidates.”
The initial idea to get involved in SHPE’s NLI conference came from current UCLA Anderson student, Diana E. Cardenas (‘03), who worked at Wells Fargo & Company for her summer internship. As a SHPE student and professional officer herself, she had attended the workshop and retreat two years ago.
“Since the members of SHPE come from all over the nation, including Puerto Rico, and the NLI conference is hosted at a different location each year, I knew this was a rare chance to showcase UCLA Anderson,” Cardenas commented.
Cardenas was very pleased with the enthusiasm that greeted her proposal to participate, both from SHPE and from UCLA Anderson. Fellow current and former members of UCLA Anderson’s Latino Management Student Association (LMSA) volunteered their time to help recruit more Latinos for business schools in general and UCLA Anderson in particular. Cardenas was even asked by SHPE to serve as a judge for the conference’s case competition on Saturday.
The first UCLA Anderson-related event took place on Wednesday, August 14, when undergraduate student SHPE officers were given an introductory tour of the school and an explanation of the value of an MBA degree. Kim George, associate director of MBA admissions at UCLA Anderson, coordinated the event and anticipated that perhaps 20 attendees would be interested. However, she was pleasantly surprised when some 250 students accepted the invitation.
“Engineering majors account for one of the largest groups—22 percent—of the incoming MBA class, as well as the majority of those who take the GMAT,” noted George. “Since there is such a strong correlation between engineering undergraduates and MBA students, we felt this group would likely have an interest, and they certainly did.”
George was able to give the students first-hand information about UCLA Anderson’s Riordan Fellows program, as she was a participant in 2001. The goal of Riordan Fellows is to “change the face of business” by preparing and motivating talented, academically competitive undergraduates or recent graduates of diverse backgrounds to apply to and succeed in a top MBA program. They aim to accelerate the Fellow’s personal and professional development while facilitating networking opportunities. The Fellows meet once a month for eight months with UCLA Anderson MBA students who serve as mentors, and they participate in discussions, lectures and case studies led by UCLA Anderson faculty.
Tour participant Miriam Ceja, who attends the University of Washington and is SHPE student representative from the organization’s Northern California and Northwest region, was already interested in an MBA. She views a graduate degree as an extension of the leadership-building opportunities she has with SHPE and hopes it will give her an edge in the employment marketplace.
“The blend of my strong technical background with the training in business management an MBA would provide should be a great combination,” Ceja said.
Another attendee, Aaron Acuna of the University of Texas Pan American and student representative of SHPE’s Texas region, is also investigating the possibility of an MBA degree, particularly the fully employed alternative. He was impressed by UCLA Anderson’s high-tech facilities.
“I appreciated a chance to actually see the school,” Acuna commented. “As an engineer, I was intrigued with the technology. It is definitely not out-of-date.”
On the evening of Thursday, August 15, a panel of UCLA Anderson alumni and students spoke to the professional portion of the SHPE leaders. Most of these professionals should be at a good point in their careers to consider an MBA, because they have the business and leadership experience that is preferred in applicants. The panelists each gave their personal background and information on a specific topic: Cardenas covered the MBA application process, Antonio Gomez (‘02) detailed the life of an MBA student, Hector Caldera (‘02) reviewed an MBA’s job search and Laura Rivas (‘98) commented on life after obtaining an MBA.
Rivas, marketing supervisor for Toyota and president of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs Los Angeles Chapter, noted that the 40 attendees eagerly questioned the panelists throughout the presentation. The SHPE members recognize that returning to school requires sacrifices and creates challenges in maintaining a balance with personal and family life. Therefore, they were particularly interested in how an MBA would increase their value and broaden their opportunities for employment.
“I was asked if an MBA was needed to perform in my current position, and it definitely was,” Rivas said. “As an engineer I focused on a relatively small function of the overall business, and the MBA enabled me to achieve a ‘big picture’ view with a much higher level of decision-making capability.”
Finally on Sunday morning, August 18, UCLA Anderson alum and former LSMA member, Stephen Torres (‘94), was the keynote speaker at the conference’s closing ceremony for both the professionals and students. Torres, vice president of the western region for FuelCell Energy, Inc., considers himself a product of SHPE.
“My association with SHPE helped me develop the leadership tools and skills I needed to be well prepared, not only for graduate school but also for life after,” said Torres. “It was part of the value of the package I brought to UCLA Anderson, which got me admitted.”
Torres gave a keynote address built around the themes of the responsibilities of leadership, the need for excellence and social responsibility—values that UCLA Anderson seeks to instill in its students. They are principles he practices himself. He continues to give back both to SHPE and to UCLA Anderson, having served for the last two years on UCLA Anderson’s alumni board of directors as diversity outreach chair.