Almost without exception, the UCLA Anderson MBA program is bound to on top tech applicants’ lists. Well, now it is even better! The UCLA MBA is now STEM certified, and the staff and faculty are making sure that the UCLA experience continues to be best-in-class (and outside class!) even in these tough COVID times. Located in hustling, bustling Los Angeles, the program is seeing a rising number of applications from top professionals. In this exclusive interview with the UCLA Admissions Director, we provide you with some very specific information that will help you in applying to this great school and program.
Alex Lawrence, Asst. Dean, Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at UCLA Anderson School of Management
GyanOne: In these uncertain times, how do you see things shaping up for UCLA at this point for all its three MBA courses?
Alex: Yes, thank you for that question. Things are changing, it seems almost daily, in higher education. I’m excited to announce that two days ago UCLA announced to the world that we are now STEM certified, in our Full-Time MBA program as well as our Masters of Financial Engineering and Masters of Science in Data Analytics.
Our MBA programs have always had significant quantitative elements throughout the core of the program. Technology has advanced and more MBA students are turning towards tech careers. The number of Data Analytics courses that we have in our MBA curriculum has grown significantly.
The other important thing about that is that STEM MBA is very desirable among employers. It makes it possible for international students, graduates of the program, who typically are now eligible to hold US jobs for one year, they can apply to remain in the country for an additional 24 months after graduation. This has been very well received by our students and prospective candidates in general.
The other part to that, as you mentioned, is investigating new models in the delivery of education. Anderson started this process years ago in creating more of a hybrid program formally with its part-time MBA program, so it wasn’t difficult for us to make the transition recently with our current students who completed their spring quarter.
Looking to the future, we are definitely not going to rely solely on delivery content online. We do believe there is value in personal interaction face to face, but we want to make sure that it is an environment safe for all those involved and that it does compromise the delivery of that content of that MBA experience.
GyanOne: Aspiring MBA students are anxious and they are anxious certainly because of the Covid 19 situation, and also because they feel that part of the class for next year will already be full because people have deferred, and that there are more people applying to B-schools this year because the opportunity cost is lower. And so, they wonder if this is the right time to apply. It might otherwise be the right time to apply for them, given their situations in their own careers. But they wonder ‘am I disadvantaging myself by applying this year, in some way?’
Alex: I totally understand that anxiety, that fear, that sort of unknown about applications and deferrals. At UCLA Anderson MBA we don’t reserve seats for the future for individuals who may been, say, admitted specifically this year – That is our deferral policy. So, having said that, for those individuals who are looking at applying for the class of 23 and beyond, there are no seats that are already spoken for, so that answers that question.
Having said that, when it comes to the current situation that we are in, like you mentioned, the pandemic and other factors, I’m a big believer that if you think that it is the right time for you to apply, because of your interests, whether they are career related or some other growth opportunities, and if you see the full time MBA programs or any graduate business degree opportunity is the right choice for you, do it, because things might be totally different a year from now, you can’t necessarily guess what’s going to happen in the future. But, if you think you have the right story, if you think you have the right work experience, all those things that come into an application, I highly encourage you to do so.
GyanOne: Please highlight some of the benefits of being a part of the larger UCLA Fraternity and Campus
Alex: You hit on a key point. Many who have never lived or visited Los Angeles, they see some of the surface elements, the great weather being one of those. But, when you step on a campus like UCLA, a research institute, there’s so much going on the campus. Academically, like you pointed out, our students can take courses on other parts of the campus.
The engineering school, the law school, the school of public policy, etc. And many of those courses can apply towards your graduation. So that’s one benefit, and that’s the luxury of going to a big university. Another important aspect is that just like UCLA Anderson MBA, when you look at the student body, it’s really diverse. Almost 30% of our class are international students.
Not everyone has a business background. Some of these have engineering backgrounds, there are those who come from the social impact space, those who come from just other areas of business and non-business, which is just fantastic, and people are coming in with different interests as well, so our school and our students are not necessarily just focussed on one or two or even three different types of careers. I think that’s what makes not just UCLA Anderson MBA campus so exciting, but even when you go to the broader UCLA campus, whether it be with the large undergraduate population or in some of the other parts of the graduate school population.
And then you go to the broader UCLA Campus that I just mentioned, but then, you’re in Los Angeles, another world so to speak, to explore. It’s very big, but somewhat easy to get around, Los Angeles, but again, here is a scene, we call Silicon Beach, it’s basically the centre of the technology world, we’re all here in Southern California, and most likely in the future, this area will play a bigger presence, even bigger than Silicon Valley, some have said. It’s just a fantastic place, with UCLA being at the nexus of all that. You can start your exploration at the Anderson campus and then keep broadening to all of the campus into the broader community.
GyanOne: Alex, as you know, the UCLA Anderson MBA has always been a very hands-on program. If we look at the AMR, especially, that is one of the components that almost every student and graduate would call out as being a distinctive part of the UCLA Anderson MBA experience. But given the scenario right now, how are you taking things ahead with it?
Alex: Sure. The AMR is our Applied Management Research Project. We were the first school, many, many years ago, decades, to provide this opportunity for our students to have this type of experience where they engage with an organization to solve a real business challenge. It’s morphed over the years, and what I mean by that is that now, the AMR, is essentially a capstone project where you have two options.
The more formal tradition is the one I just described where our students, say, in previous years, would have options to work primarily with domestic organizations. Now, over the last 6-7 years, our students are able to work on international projects. They still have that ability and some of the framework of creating their own team and looking at a list that is typically of a 100-150 different projects made available by our AMR office.
In some cases, those projects are now looking at the social impact space, so they’re not all for-profit companies, so there’s a lot of variety for our students. Now, the other option that has come on to the scene and that started years ago is the Business Creation Option, or the BCO. Now those students who are more entrepreneurial focused have the opportunity to work on their company while they’re in school.
There are a number of different success stories over the years. Up till 2019, over 30 million dollars had been raised by many of these ventures. Why I say up till 2019, is because last year a student team that focused on a real estate venture looking at a housing solution that had a convergence of housing and healthcare in its plans, they were able to secure over 20 million dollars from the city of Los Angeles for their solution.
That just shows that being in Los Angeles, the opportunity for those who are really, probably, in the number 1 place in the world for entrepreneurial ventures, small business type of operations, to come work on their business and grow, if they’re not necessarily focused on say a corporate career.
GyanOne: Absolutely, and I think one of the things that is really driving that change has been technology, and UCLA Anderson MBA has certainly been at the top of the list when it comes to technology. UCLA has always had multiple resources in the STEM Technology leadership program. The lunches, multiple top speakers, technology CEOS coming to campus to talk about their experiences. Tell me a little bit more about how technology is a part of the MBA program, beyond the bigger name events of STEM program.
Alex: That’s a great question. So, like you mentioned, Easton Technology Centre is one of our research centres at the school. While many students do focus on that type of career, when I look back about 10 years ago, it was probably less than 10% of our students were focused on a career in technology.
Today, a third of students are now focused on such endeavours. But still, like you mentioned, there are some interests in other areas outside a technology career, but what I think is fantastic is the Easton Technology Centre provides for all of our students which is woven into our other courses, like even activities outside the classroom. For example, workshops.
The reason why I mention that is because many times these workshops are not led by administrators or faculty, there are a few, but it’s mainly students and peers, who have that expertise, talking to other students, making the information simple and easy to digest, in preparation for internships or just general awareness, which is fantastic.
Like you mentioned, they are other things, we call them Tech Tracks, visiting companies that may be interesting in internships or full-time employment. Again, when you look at disciplines outside the technology realm, whether students are focused on careers in management consulting or brand management, like you said earlier, technology is really going to be part of that fabric, and having some knowledge and awareness of what’s going on in the technology of the business world.
It’s something that everyone needs to be aware of, because let’s face it, that’s where the world is going. Everything is going to be infused into our daily lifestyle with technology. Even scenarios like we’re going through right now, I don’t know about you, but I found myself ordering food online for delivery, checking bank statements, so that technology aspect is huge for today’s living environment.
A summarized transcript of the initial part of the interview is reproduced here. For the entire interview, plug in your headphones, and listen to Laurel talk about Yale SOM and its programs.