We are catching up with our former Latinx ULAA Scholars to hear about their lives after school and the impact of ULAA's scholarship! Check out Andrea Arias's responses below.
Interview by Jessica Zaldana
Time at UCLA
1. How did you hear about the UCLA Latino Alumni Association (ULAA)?
My mentor through the Center for Community College Partnerships told me to apply to the ULAA scholarship for incoming transfer students! CCCP’s mission is to support community college students applying to transfer to a four-year university. The Center for Community College Partnerships (CCCP) is housed under the Academic Advancement Program (AAP). AAP’s mission is to support historically underrepresented students at UCLA and ensure their success.
2. How did the ULAA scholarship impact your transfer experience?
The ULAA scholarship was a crucial element to the success of my transfer experience. Without it, I would not have graduated debt-free from UCLA or met the incredible community of Latinx alumni I love so much!
3. What was the transition from Santa Monica College to UCLA like? Was your transfer a smooth process and/or what was the biggest challenge or pleasant surprise?
I am grateful to say that my transition from SMC to UCLA was smooth. This was all thanks to the Transfer Summer Program (TSP), hosted by AAP. TSP is a rigorous six-week ‘boot camp’ that prepares transfer students by taking twelve units over the summer for their first fall quarter at UCLA. After ‘surviving’ twelve units in six weeks, I felt invincible. As a result, my first fall quarter was a piece of cake. I highly recommend the program to all incoming transfer students! A similar program is the also available to incoming freshmen. It's called the Freshmen Summer Program (FSP), available to incoming freshmen and I have heard great things about it, too.
4. Did you apply to additional scholarships and/or student services programs?
I did not.
5. As a transfer student, what was your time at UCLA like?
My time at UCLA went by too fast!! But I had an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. UCLA challenged me every single day. There are so many things I loved about my experience: studying English at one of the best English departments in the country, the gorgeous campus, and my loving community of Hermanas in Hermanas Unidas. I also appreciated the seemingly endless opportunities to network, volunteer, and grow professionally. I miss the oat milk lattes from Kerckhoff Coffee House and visiting the botanical garden!
6. Were you involved on campus and if so, which clubs or activities did you participate in? Is there anything you learned from your involvement that you would like to share?
I was involved in the Alumni Scholars Club, a club for undergrad students who received a scholarship from an alumni association, that made it possible for them to attend UCLA; Hermanas Unidas (who are the literal loves of my life), a club where undergrad Latinas support each other through higher education; I frequented the University Catholic Center to enrich my spiritual life. I also helped organize Raza Grad 2020 with MEChA, which transitioned to a virtual ceremony once the pandemic hit. Through my involvement, I had the privilege of meeting a diverse range of Bruins and learned how passionate each Bruin is about their major or campus involvement. Being a part of such a passionate community inspired me every day.
7. As a student you were an intern for UCLA Ventures through UCLA External Affairs. Could you tell me more about this experience?
My internship with UCLA External Affairs was one of the highlights of my experience at UCLA. I grew professionally and plus had the privilege to meet the incredible staff who work so hard to ensure UCLA remains open for generations to come. The state government provides a shockingly small percentage of the funding UCLA needs to run. As a result, UCLA is left to raise more than half the money needed through alumni and other sources. I would never have known this had it not been for my internship. This experience and left me with a newfound appreciation and respect for UCLA External Affairs - not to mention a possible career interest in the future!
1. Currently, you work at PLEDGE. Could you tell me more about your role? How did you start there?
I am currently an Events Coordinator at Pledge. I help nonprofits integrate our fundraising technology into their fundraising events. I love it so much! I got my start at Pledge thanks to a fellow Bruin! UCLA offers students the opportunity to create their own class and teach it for a quarter. After taking my fellow Bruin’s class on social impact, we connected on LinkedIn. A few months later, I saw her LinkedIn update that she was hiring for a full-time position at Pledge. I messaged her congratulations and she replied back saying she’d let me know when they were hiring interns. Sure enough, she did and I was hired. A year later, I was hired to join the team full-time. I share this story to hopefully motivate undergrad students who might be reading this to network, reach out, and most importantly, make a LinkedIn profile as soon as possible!! I’d recommend making it as early as your freshman year at UCLA.
2. How was your role and/or workplace affected by the pandemic?
Similar to other teams across the country, we worked from home and started to hire folks from all over the country because of virtual office flexibility.
3. What skills from your major and previous experiences translate to your current role?
As an English major, I learned how to communicate effectively in written and verbal forms. The magic of school is that your major does not equal your career. I never thought my first job would be working at a tech startup! For any undergrad students who might be reading this, don’t feel confined by your major. Study something you love and the job will come - just focus on following your curiosity, passion, and graduating!
As a recent graduate…
1. How did graduating debt-free impact your life after graduation?
Graduating debt-free because of a scholarship from ULAA gave me the gift of financial freedom and peace in my post-grad life. I recognize my privilege, which is why I encourage others to support ULAA so that more Latinx students can be positively impacted. I will always be grateful to ULAA.
2. What do you think is next for you? Are you planning ahead, taking it one step at a time, or enjoying the present?
Getting my MBA is next for me! At least that’s what my plan is for now. I am definitely taking it day by day, trying my best to enjoy the present and growing as much as possible at Pledge, while also excited to see where the future takes me.
3. Is there anything you would have done differently if you had more time at UCLA?
I would have double majored in Sociology! I fell in love with Sociology at SMC. I almost double-majored but didn’t want to put more stress on myself to finish two majors as a transfer student. There are many incredible transfer students who do double major and/or minor, so it is possible if that’s what you want to pursue!
4. Are there any additional resources or hidden gems you discovered at UCLA?
If you’re a transfer student, definitely take advantage of the Transfer Resource Center!! Think of it as a space just for you: to study, to meet other transfer students, and other goodies. They are located in Kerckhoff Hall. Also, visit the botanical garden located on the south campus if you like the idea of being surrounded by nothing but green plants and trees. You can take a book or watch the turtles swim in the pond.
5. Any advice for future students, transfer students or recent alumni?
For future students and transfer students:
- Prioritize your mental health
- Don’t be hard on yourself: your best is good enough!
- Take advantage of the endless resources and network UCLA has to offer you.
- Try new things and explore! Don’t be afraid to mess up - you can always start again.
- Follow your curiosity and passion inside and outside the classroom
- Advocate for yourself
- Meet new Bruins, current and alumni, as much as possible. Make new friends and connections!
- Make good memories and have fun!!!
For recent alumni:
- Celebrate the milestone
- Trust the process!