University of California Opens Pathways to Graduate Management Education

University of California Opens Pathways to Graduate Management Education


UCLA Anderson hosted 50 HBCU and HSI students, and is home to a broad unified strategy for equity

October 10, 2022

UCLA Anderson’s Dean Tony Bernardo (third from right) with 2022 SIEML graduates Braxton McMillon, Clara Garcia, Ogunbiyi Oluwabusayomi, Miguel Ramos and Marla McGhee

Throughout their SIEML at UCLA experience, participants like Iman Davis and Katrina Navarro took part in a variety of educational and practical activities while building their personal and professional networks with likeminded fellow students.

  • The University of California’s Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders is a system-wide effort to increase the diversity of prospective graduate management students from underrepresented groups
  • UCLA Anderson hosted SIEML in 2022, supporting 50 undergraduate students from 31 institutions nationally
  • Anderson’s Pathway Guidance Program, SIEML and UCLA Extension’s Business School Readiness course are components in the school’s broader unified strategy to achieve equity, diversity and inclusion

Iman Davis participated in SIEML in 2021 and returned in 2022 as an alumni coordinator

“My personal story is probably the same as many of the other students’ in the SIEML program,” says Iman Davis, a Howard University marketing major and a 2021 graduate of the University of California’s Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders (SIEML). “I come from a single-parent home, and my twin brother and I are the first ones to attend college in our family. I grew up in New Orleans and my mom, who happens to also be deaf, always told us we could accomplish anything we wanted.”

Founded in 2012, SIEML is a UC system-wide initiative. Every summer, one of the six UC management schools hosts the two-week SIEML program, offering participants an immersive experience of graduate business school life on campus. Equally important, the program introduces participants to the thriving economies and business communities throughout California.

But until Davis participated in SIEML, his vision for himself was, he says, restricted, as he envisioned earning his undergraduate degree and embarking on a career via an entry-level position.

After attending the SIEML program held virtually in the summer of 2021, and serving as alumni coordinator for the 2022 program at UCLA Anderson, he saw many additional paths to success, in industries he had never even imagined would be open to him. “I began to finally think that getting an MBA was not only feasible practically, but also doable personally. SIEML changed how I thought about myself. SIEML helped me expand my internal definition of what I can do with my life.”

SIEML’s mission is to increase the diversity of graduate management students within the UC system. Through an intensive two-week, all-expenses-paid program, SIEML prepares high-potential candidates from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs) to make confident, informed choices about their management education possibilities.

Many applicants come from challenging backgrounds. They have not had the opportunity to seriously consider an MBA because they thought it was out of reach — or they never had enough awareness of the degree to think about it at all. The SIEML program aims to rectify this inequity by giving qualified candidates the tools and resources they need to make choosing and succeeding in graduate business education a real possibility.

Left to right: Holly Jane Sy (’23), Jesse Meza (’22), Chantel Diaz of AEG and Gaelen LeMelle-Brown (’21) participated in a SIEML panel on MBAs in entertainment careers

“At Anderson,” says Heather Caruso, UCLA Anderson’s assistant dean of equity, diversity and inclusion, “the SIEML program is part of our growing ecosystem of programs supporting high-potential student candidates from underrepresented groups. We want everyone who dreams of a graduate business education to be able to make an informed and confident choice about their potential future in business, and to succeed in achieving their graduate management education goals.

“What informs this comprehensive strategy is our commitment to the intrinsic value of equity,” says Caruso. “It is inherent in our character as a leading public institution to prioritize equal opportunity and provide the supports necessary to ensure it. SIEML is one such support targeting prospective students.”

Anderson has a long history of charting underrepresented students’ paths to both college and graduate education. UCLA Anderson’s Riordan Programs, for example, actively prepare applicants for the testing and application process. In 2022, Anderson’s newly expanded strategy focuses on reaching and developing high-potential candidates who are just beginning to think about their future education but until now have had few avenues for exploring that future in an informed and supportive environment.

“That’s where UCLA Anderson is doing things differently, we’re leading the way with a unifying strategy no one else has tried,” says Roy Quinto (’19), head of pre-admission initiatives at UCLA Anderson. “We understand that most of these students likely do not have access to mentors or anyone with knowledge of graduate management degrees and the careers associated with them. If they do dream big dreams, they often suffer from ‘impostor syndrome,’ lacking the confidence to present themselves in the best possible light during the application process,” says Quinto.

The programs currently united within the pre-admission ecosystem that Quinto oversees are SIEML, Anderson’s Pathway Guidance Program and a Business School Readiness course through a collaboration with UCLA Extension. “Our strategy is to unify UCLA’s pre-admission development efforts under one umbrella, ensuring that candidates receive all the support they might need — from information about career paths, degree options and campus life, to psychosocial support and mentoring throughout their decision journey.”

The SIEML program is open to college students in their sophomore or junior year who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or who are undocumented students with AB540 or DACA status. Students can pursue any undergraduate major but must be interested in attending a graduate business program. During their time in SIEML students live on campus, attend workshops, visit leading companies, listen to lectures on topical business issues by UC professors, present a case study analysis and have ample opportunity for interacting and networking with other participants, program leaders, professors and even UC deans and associate deans.

“This personal interaction with some of the most accomplished professors and deans in the UC system is one of the biggest benefits of the program,” says Davis. “Meeting them, being able to engage them with questions, helped me imagine — for the first time — succeeding in a business school setting,” he adds, “But it wasn’t just access to the deans and professors that helped me imagine success. It was being able to share stories and experiences with other students like me, from HBCUs and HSIs, and realize that I was not the only one struggling with the issues we were facing. I felt less alone, and made friends that I am sure I will stay in touch with as I move along my education journey.”

SIEML graduate Katrina Navarro with Dean Tony Bernardo

Katrina Navarro, a senior at San Francisco State University, completed the SIEML program at UCLA in the summer of 2022. “For the first time,” she says, “I felt like I could be who I really am, without worrying about what others thought about me.

“I like to push myself, volunteer for lots of things, dream big and work hard. At SIEML everyone was like me, if not more so, and it really motivated me. They were all so welcoming and open, sharing their experiences and thoughts. It wasn’t just the participants. It was the program leaders, the advisors, the students we ran into on the UCLA campus. I felt totally comfortable. It was all so genuine. The networking was just a natural part of the whole experience. I didn’t expect to get so close to my peers,” Navarro says. “I am still in touch with lots of them.”

“SIEML boosted me up, it helped me realize that I am equal to everyone. Nothing — not my background, my gender, my religion — should limit how successful I am going to be.”

Katrina Navarro
Senior, California State University, San Francisco
SIEML Graduate, Summer 2022

Katrina is of Spanish, Salvadorean and Palestinian descent. She went to public schools in South San Francisco and was on the varsity soccer and track teams all four years of high school.

Katrina earned her A.A. in cosmetology, and later decided to finish her B.A. in business at San Francisco State. Thanks to the SIEML lectures by UCLA Anderson professors, Katrina realized that an MBA was much broader than just business administration. There are many different specializations and degree programs within graduate management education, like entrepreneurship, finance, data analysis, marketing, human resources and more.

Katrina particularly enjoyed the company visit to SpaceX, where she learned about the many different business management functions that are vital to all companies. That visit helped her realize that if she really loves a specialty (human resources is her current favorite), she could lead any company in that area.

Both Davis and Navarro cited the case study project as a major highlight of the SIEML experience. For people like Navarro, who have never analyzed business issues using the case study approach, the experience taught her a lot about the analytical process and how to condense an analysis into a presentation summarizing the key points and recommendations. For someone like Davis, who was more familiar with the case study method, SIEML offered the opportunity to dig into an MBA-level case, and get feedback from graduate school professors while he was still in college. In addition, the opportunity to collaborate with high-performing peers in developing a succinct presentation taught him how to work as a team at the graduate level.

Davis and Navarro deeply appreciated the enormous benefits of completing the SIEML program. The intellectual and professional development experiences transformed them personally, and the broad range of resources and financial support available to SIEML graduates — including free or reduced-fee test prep, waivers on application fees and enrollment deposits, and a full-year fellowship at UC system schools of management  — added up to concrete support that could make their dreams of graduate management education come true.

Like SIEML, UCLA Anderson’s Pathway Guidance Program is about building nurturing communities that help talented students from underrepresented groups explore education paths and career opportunities in business. The goal of PGP is to build a more inclusive and equitable business world by nurturing and guiding a more diverse applicant pool toward success in their graduate business education and careers. The program matches “Explorers,” or students from underrepresented communities, with “Guides,” UCLA Anderson alumni who mentor the Explorers in one-to-one and small group discussions. Prospective MBA students discover the full range of options within graduate management education and their associated career opportunities.

The 11-week Business School Readiness course through a collaboration with UCLA Extension exposes students to the major topics they would encounter in a full-time MBA program. In addition to management, leadership and communications topics, the course covers quantitative subjects such as how algebra, calculus and statistics are used in business analysis. All the courses are taught by UCLA Anderson faculty and staff and help students assess whether they are ready to commit to a top-tier MBA curriculum.

These three programs are the core of UCLA’s pre-admission development ecosystem that seeks and supports talented students from the full range of underrepresented groups. “Research has shown that businesses can reap unparalleled value from diversity,” says Assistant Dean Caruso. “Under the right conditions, interaction between different groups fosters creativity and provides a richer set of inputs to promote wise and efficient problem solving.

“This invaluable opportunity is ours: As educators and members of the business community at large, we are uniquely positioned to develop the most vibrant, skilled and diverse pool of future managers and leaders the world has ever seen,” Caruso says. “That’s why UCLA will continue to invest in its equity, diversity and inclusion strategy: because a thriving diverse community at all levels of business education leads to a thriving diverse business community at all levels of the workforce. And with that kind of human capital in play, our success as a society knows no bounds.”