At UCLA, generations of Latinx students pursue higher education, build a cultural identity and create a legacy for future Bruins.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15), UCLA Anderson celebrates the contributions our students, alumni, faculty and staff have made to the university, to business leadership and to the community.

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In 2023–24, the Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson and Latin American Business Association will be augmenting the celebration of Latinx and Hispanic cultures in the Anderson community by introducing new programming around National Hispanic Heritage Month and focusing on ally engagement more than ever before.

Latinx en Anderson

“National Hispanic Heritage Month brings awareness to sacrifices overcome by Latinx Americans and gives us a chance to share our pride with the wider community.”

Marysela Garza (’24)
Co-President, Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson

latinx in business

“Latinx culture has made very influential contributions in America. Having a month when we can showcase our beautiful culture brings a sense of belonging and community to all.”

Jessica Naves (B.A. ’16, Riordan MBA Fellow, ’20, ’24)
Co-President, Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson

“In addition to our classic Latin parties, a new speaker series and the traditional Mexico trek, LABA is introducing a thrilling Colombian trek to the Anderson student experience.”

Maria Ignacia Marchant (’24)
Co-President, Latin American Business Association

For more than 35 years, the Riordan Programs at UCLA Anderson have opened up leadership and management education opportunities to students traditionally underrepresented in business. Among alumni of the Riordan Scholars and Riordan MBA Fellows programs are success stories that include a UCLA physician involved in bringing health care technologies to underserved communities, a U.S. Navy officer who now works in cybersecurity and an investor who also serves as an instructor in the Riordan Programs’ annual Stock Market Analyst Competition.

Alejandra Perez (’22)

Alejandra Perez (’22)

Founder, IMA Blends

Alumna, Venture Accelerator at UCLA Anderson

Entrepreneur Alejandra Perez (’22) holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from Universidad Simon Bolivar, Venezuela’s No. 1 engineering school. She represented her school at Harvard’s Model United Nations conferences in Singapore and Vancouver. At UCLA Anderson, she served as president of the Entrepreneur Association and mentored high school and college students in the Riordan Programs, which provide a pathway for young people in underrepresented groups to excel in business education and leadership.

With this broad, international reach, Perez is certain of one thing: nursing mothers the world over face exhaustion and flagging nutrition. “Motherhood is a bumpy ride,” she says. “I could not keep up with my baby’s appetite and felt guilty. I was desperate for a solution.” So she pioneered IMA Blends, a line of healthy “lactation snacks” for moms at every stage, including preconception, pregnancy, postpartum, nursing and beyond.

Alejandra Perez (’22)

Founder, IMA Blends

Overcoming adversity made me realize that I could achieve anything I set my mind to, as long as I did it with love and purpose.

When you incubated your startup in the Venture Accelerator at UCLA Anderson, what were the main resources and lessons that informed your company launch?

I completed the Accelerator’s summer 2022 Activate program, where we had weekly sessions with industry experts and successful entrepreneurs, and met with a team of lawyers who guided us in business law. The most valuable aspect of the Accelerator is its community, and being able to reach out to others who have launched before. For instance, a fellow Accelerator founder introduced me to a food scientist he had worked with. This introduction was pivotal to my CPG business, IMA Blends. The scientist helped me develop my product, source ingredients and find the best co-packer to manufacture it. The Accelerator has also provided very useful feedback to my pitch and helped me fine-tune it.


Have you secured funding to back your startup? What have you learned about raising capital?

So far, I’ve used my own savings to get started. My next steps include a crowdfunding campaign and a pre-seed round. I have also been applying for grants for new entrepreneurs. This fall, I will launch a Kickstarter campaign — stay tuned, I will need all the help I can get to bring my product to consumers in early 2023!

Raising capital tests our resilience, since we constantly face rejection. However, I’ve learned that finding investors is mostly about qualifying them first, researching online and asking as many questions as possible before scheduling a meeting. It’s easy to feel as if you are making progress by booking meetings, and it’s nice to feel validated. Your business might be exciting, and the investor might love it, but they won’t invest if it does not match their portfolio or their profile. Truth is, most investors will agree to talk even if they are not planning on investing, because they are curious about what founders are doing. Save your time and energy for the important meetings and tasks.


What in your background prepared you to become an entrepreneur?

I grew up in Venezuela, a once prosperous country that has been facing a socioeconomic crisis and turmoil for the past two decades. I had the wonderful opportunity to start a more auspicious career in the U.S., but before doing so, I wanted to provide financial support to my parents, so I started a transport business that they would operate. This was my first entrepreneurial experience, which happened more by chance than by planning. I continued with my career as a chemical engineer, and then transitioned into sales and marketing. I kept thinking of my days as an entrepreneur but was not sure what kind of business I could create, or how to start. As I was starting to consider an MBA, I became a mother. I took a year off to focus on this stage, and felt firsthand the pressure to juggle that new role with a career. I then discovered that my “why” was to help mothers achieve their full potential.

I realized that the MBA was the missing piece that would lead me to discover my “how,” to bring my business idea/solution into reality. At Anderson, I learned from peers and faculty, polished my skill set, grew my network and utilized school resources to launch a business that would support women throughout motherhood, I hope setting an example and blazing a path for other young women and mothers.

Will you continue as a serial entrepreneur?

My biggest motivation is to help others. I am passionate about finding ways to make other people’s lives easier in some way, and figuring out how a product or brand can address a pain point or bring joy into someone’s daily life. On the macro level, I see my entrepreneurial journey and what I am learning today as the stepping stone to becoming a mentor to others in the future, helping someone else’s vision come become reality.

On the micro level, I started IMA Blends wanting to help other moms who are struggling in their motherhood journey. I experienced first hand specific nutritional needs and discomfort, nausea, constipation and milk supply problems when breastfeeding — plus the pressure to be the perfect mother. I slowly discovered ways to make the journey easier, and I want to help other women achieve their full potential.

What was the most valuable lesson in business school you feel like you can apply every day to developing your own company and products?

Business school trained me to handle many things at once and to divide big projects into smaller tasks to tackle so I could succeed at the end. The MBA experience was one of overcoming adversity, starting from my application process. I struggled to achieve the GMAT score I needed to get accepted. Then, as a mother (especially during the first half of the pandemic when schools and daycare were closed), I had to push myself to work while parenting and juggling what felt like thousands of projects at the same time: academics, staying highly involved in the Anderson community (including student leadership roles) and recruiting for brand management internships. Every single day, I had to push myself to keep on going, and that is something that has served me in my entrepreneurial journey.

Another lesson is that half of the work is just showing up. Go to that event and bring all your enthusiasm and best self. You never know who you might meet when you go.


Research Spotlight


Fernanda Bravo

Assistant Professor of Decisions, Operations and Technology Management

“The management of health care delivery systems, health organizations and policy-focused institutions affects everybody, not just providers.”

From timely research that demystifies the complicated FDA approval process to collaborations that improve hospital efficiency and patient outcomes, Fernanda Bravo’s goal is to inform health care policy and decision making to help ensure that good business is also good medicine.

In Their Words


“Many young people in our community don’t have someone in their lives who knows how to help them get on the road to success.”

Katelyn Bowyer (’22) was fortunate that her school teacher father was aware of early testing to qualify her, at the age of 4, for enrollment at a Houston magnet school. Katelyn, now a brand manager and marketer, is conscious of how rare that formative opportunity might be for other LatinX youth. As a volunteer mentor at Minds Matter Los Angeles, she embraces Anderson’s ethos of sharing success and feels a responsibility as a future business leader to help track high-achieving students from low-income families on a successful education path.

“Here at Anderson, we really are an ecosystem and we all support each other in different ways.”

Coming from the creative side of public relations, communications professional Marcella Thompkins (’23) enrolled in UCLA Anderson’s Fully Employed MBA program to fill in gaps in her knowledge about the business side. She is building a solid foundation in finance and strategy, but finds that Anderson’s challenging curriculum offers so much more, and she looks forward to continuing to take classes that are outside her comfort zone. “No matter how difficult the course is,” she says, “I have so many incredible resources surrounding me and so many brilliant classmates to learn from.” Now manager of fine wines at Constellation Brands, Marcella says, “I can honestly say this program has impacted my career immeasurably. This program is the very reason I have the job that I have today.”

Diego Benitez ('19)

“I always wanted to start a business ... Brewing is an alternative career in chemistry.”

What’s it like to come to the United States with no undergraduate degree, earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from Caltech, publish more than 45 peer-reviewed articles, pivot to brewing beer and then embark on your MBA? With credit for contributing to prize-winning research by two Nobel laureates, alumnus Diego Benitez (’19) founded Progress Brewing in South El Monte, California, in 2012. The former academic, now a successful full-time businessman, said as an Anderson student, “FEMBA is one of the best decisions of my life.”

Liz Cercado (’19)

“How great would it be if we unlocked each person’s potential?”

At the close of her UCLA Anderson executive MBA, mechanical engineering professional Liz Cercado (’19) observed that, in hindsight, some of the experience looked different than she had expected, and some looked better than she’d ever dreamed possible. Recognized by Profiles in Diversity Journal as a Woman Worth Watching, Liz said, “Thinking about societal expectations of who we should be, what careers we should pursue and what success looks like is exhausting. Good people doing great things deserve to be celebrated and reminded of how amazing they are.”

Faculty Spotlight

Miguel M. Unzueta
Professor of Management and Organizations
Award-winning instruction in diversity and organizational behavior
“It is often said that perception is reality. My research explores the psychological motivations that underlie people’s perceptions of diversity-related phenomena in the present day.”
Miguel M. Unzueta
Professor of Management and Organizations

Organizations Have Committed to Better Representation, But Really?

Riordan Programs


Providing a pathway for underrepresented students to excel in business and leadership

Tomorrow's leaders emerge from a transformational experience with Riordan mentors, educational workshops and community service. The Riordan Scholars Program, College to Career Program and MBA Fellows Program provide leadership and management training to diverse individuals all over the country.

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Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Mission