UCLA Anderson Community Ensures Jordan Barillas (’21) and Her Family Feel at Home


Fellowships allow MBA students to pursue career goals while helping to support loved ones
UCLA Anderson MBA student and fellowship recipient Jordan Barillas
  • MBA student Jordan Barillas (’21) found community at UCLA Anderson
  • When the pandemic hit, the One Anderson Student Relief Fund helped her meet the needs of her family and focus on her studies
  • Barillas credits the Parker Career Management Center for facilitating her career evolution

Jordan Barillas (’21) was living life and loving it. She was working in finance in New York City and had no plans to abandon the industry or the city. But you know what they say about plans.

“In another world, I would have just kept doing it,” Barillas says. “But I met somebody who happened to have been born in Los Angeles, and my now-wife made it very clear that she wanted to go back to L.A.”

Barillas says she used the move west to think deeply about what direction her career might take, what industries she wanted to try. She wasn’t necessarily thinking “MBA,” but as she explored her options and began building her California network, she realized that a lot of roles she was interested in required the advanced degree. She applied to a few schools in the area and held out for the chance to enroll at Anderson, which she says was “by far my first choice.”

Barillas’ Anderson experience was made possible, in part, by several fellowships that offset the cost of tuition and two years without a salary. She entered school with an academic fellowship. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Barillas found herself with additional financial needs, as she and her wife Tiffany help support Tiffany’s mother and also send money to Guatemala to help Tiffany’s family. The pandemic cost Barillas’ mother-in-law much of her own income, increasing Barillas’ financial responsiblities. When UCLA Anderson Dean Tony Bernardo reached out to the community to create the One Anderson Student Relief Fund, the community stepped up to give. Barillas was among the many students who benefited.

“The money specifically helped us ensure that our family in Guatemala, who actually did end up getting quite sick and accumulating a number of hospital bills, were able to continue seeing doctors and getting the groceries they needed day to day,” Barillas says.

Of course, finances were not the only consideration. “I wouldn’t have considered this school if there wasn’t a welcoming, robust and really enthusiastic LGBTQ community,” she says. She wanted a place where Tiffany would also feel welcome and be part of the experience. She was out professionally and she desired a supportive community — from the alumni network to the career center — that would ensure she felt safe and comfortable.

At Anderson, she found the right fit.

“Being part of the Anderson LGBTQ community has been phenomenal,” Barillas says. “My experience as co-president of Out@Anderson has been the best. What I think is so unique is that there are people who are in different parts of their journey. There are people — like me — who have been out professionally and are married. Then there are people for whom this is the first time that they’re able to be open about their sexuality. It is so cool to be there for your peers and really help them through this tough process that you’re still working on yourself, but we all do it together.”

Barillas also cited how the school’s Black History Month celebration transitioned into LGBTQ Awareness Week in 2020. “It was almost like a transfer of allyship, where for a month the whole LGBTQ community came out for the black community and then the next week, at every single event we hosted, there was a huge contingent from the Black Business Students Association. That, to me, solidified what I felt about the Anderson community: You have these really great safe-space communities, but there’s so much support between them.”

Her Anderson education has enabled a “double shift” in her career — shifts in her industry and job function. She credits the staff of the Parker Career Management Center for facilitating that evolution, citing the importance of everything from personality tests to weekly meetings with career advisors. Ultimately, the personal touch made all the difference.

“There were some things that I thought I knew. But my career advisor would say, ’Hey, I’m hearing what you’re saying but I also know what was important to you, and they’re not really lining up. What you think you want isn’t exactly what you want.’ At first I thought, ’You’re totally wrong!’ But it’s funny, because I called her the other day and told her she was totally right.”

Barillas came to that conclusion after trying out a few internships, including one in entertainment brand management. “From that internship I learned that I wanted something that was more quantitative and more analytical, and that was how I found my current summer internship at The Wonderful Company. All we do is we run models and budgets. It’s really fascinating and it’s converged into being exactly the thing that I wanted.”

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