California Senator Alex Padilla Urges Students to Dream Big

California Senator Alex Padilla Urges Students to Dream Big


The Riordan Programs’ Legacy Award recipient was a first-generation college graduate

September 24, 2022

  • California Senator Alex Padilla is a first-generation college graduate and an alumnus of UCLA Anderson’s Riordan MBA Fellows Program
  • His message for current Riordan participants is “Pursue your passions and dream big”
  • He says the energy of young people keeps him optimistic about the future

Early in 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris as the state’s junior senator, as Harris took the oath of office as vice president of the United States. Padilla, a 1997 Riordan MBA Fellows Program alumnus and 2015 recipient of the Riordan Programs’ Legacy Award, remains an enthusiastic advocate of the program. He once said, “The Fellows Program taught me many leadership and management principles that have helped me to be effective.” Senator Padilla is currently running for re-election. He graciously took the time to answer a few questions about the Riordan Programs and leadership.

Q: What is your fondest memory of your time with the Riordan Programs, and is there one lesson or experience that still informs your work today?

As a proud former Riordan Fellow, my fondest memories come from the relationships I fostered and the opportunity to be a part of a community with a shared passion for mentorship, equity and growth. I learned valuable lessons about business that I still draw on today in my work. The Riordan Programs help students dream big, lift each other up and step up to become leaders, whether in the private or public sector.

Q: What advice would you give current Riordan Fellows with an interest in public service?

Pursue your passions and dream big. As a first-generation college graduate, my participation in the program opened my eyes to new possibilities for my own career path. I graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering, and I never imagined myself pursuing a life in public service. It was because of my passion to serve my community that led me to where I am today, serving the people of California in the United States Senate. So I would say: Trust your core values, focus on the good you want to see in the world and don’t stop until you have the resources, the network and the know-how to make a difference.

Q: What would you tell students in the Riordan Programs makes you most optimistic about the future?

Every day in the Senate, I have the opportunity to meet young leaders advocating for what they believe in, and their passion gives me hope. From standing up against powerful gun interest groups to advocating to protect our environment from the devastating effects of climate change, our young generation of leaders bring a driving passion and commitment to key issues. And while we still have some big challenges ahead of us on issues like protecting women’s reproductive rights, expanding economic opportunity and safeguarding our democracy, it’s the energy of young people that keeps me optimistic about our future. If our young leaders are any indication of what our future holds, then our future is bright.