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The campus is her stage


I thought I was going to become an actress."

Things have turned out differently for Kyrie Bass, president of UCLA Staff Assembly — but she's fine with it.

A northern California native, Bass came to UCLA as a student in the 1980s, enrolling in what was then called the Theater Arts Department. Among her classmates were Tim Robbins and Richard (son of Laurence) Olivier. Following graduation, she did community theater and had small parts in television — even a walk-on in "The Young and the Restless."

Meanwhile, she pulled in a paycheck at UCLA Transportation Services, where she started out as assistant to the director. She met a nice guy in her department — Rick Bass — and they got married. And she kept at it with her acting.

Photo by Reed Hutchinson.

Then she had a baby — and an epiphany.

"Once my daughter was born, I realized that acting was more of a hobby for me than a profession. I wasn't making any money. I wasn't going to be a screen star."

Coming to this realization was difficult, Bass recalled, "but it was also easy because I saw a lot of older actors who were still trying to make it, thinking, 'Someday I'm going to get my big break.' I wanted to have more control over where I was going and how I was going to get there."

Bass redirected her energies from acting to her daughter, Vanessa. She volunteered as classroom mom. She became PTA president.

Meanwhile, her ambition found a new focus on her job, where she was rising in the ranks.

"I sort of grew up in the transportation department," Bass said. Eventually she became involved in the department's marketing efforts and something clicked. "I'd found my niche," she said.

Her newfound passion, she discovered, drew on her acting background. "I began to see the connection between what I thought was a useless degree in the business world — theater arts — and marketing. Connecting with people, crafting your message, making your presentation — it's amazing how transferrable acting skills are."

Bass is now Transportation Services' marketing and communications manager, responsible for everything from the department website to the creation and promotion of alternative transportation programs for campus commuters.

She has also discovered in herself a propensity for leadership and community-building.

"People have, for whatever reason, always looked to me to organize things and lead," she said. "I like being in a position where I can influence, where I can make things better."

Which brings her to Staff Assembly (SA), an organization dedicated to promoting the interests and welfare of all staff employees.

"What I love about Staff Assembly is connecting staff with campus and with each other in innovative ways," Bass said.

"Breakfast with the Chancellor" is one innovative SA idea that came to fruition last year, when Bass served as the organization's president-elect. Staff members are invited to apply to attend a breakfast meeting with Chancellor Gene Block every quarter.

"So many people come back from that and say, 'I can't believe I was able to go and talk with the chancellor, to hear from him about UCLA's strategic vision, what's going on,'" Bass said. "That really helps them feel connected with our campus mission and what we're doing."

The chancellor's annual Town Hall and All-Staff Picnic are also co-hosted by Staff Assembly.

Among new projects in the works for Bass and the nine other Staff Assembly board members is the cultivation of greater partnerships among staff, faculty and students. To this end, SA is planning events during which faculty members will make presentations in their area of expertise and get to know staff in a casual setting at the same time.

Another goal is to promote campus sustainability efforts. In response to frequent staff queries about how they can involved, SA recently hosted workshops on alternative transportation and recycling.

Staff Assembly also aims to double membership this year, Bass said, from 1,500 subscribers to the organization’s e-mail listserv to 3,000.

While membership carries no time commitment, Bass said, events like Learn-at-Lunch workshops and the annual Casino Night fundraiser for staff scholarships are enjoyed by many for their friendship-building and networking opportunities.

"But we're all so busy," she acknowledged.

Bass, in fact, is not only presiding over Staff Assembly, working full-time and raising her now-13-year-old daughter, but she's also an active member of the UCLA Prytanean Alumnae Association, which provides scholarships to first-year and transfer students. And this November she will complete an M.B.A., with a focus on marketing, from Pepperdine University, where she's been taking one class per trimester for four years, studying during early-morning hours before her family wakes. ("Kudos," she said, "to my husband, who has taken on major household responsibilities during this period.")

"But you could still be discovered," friends familiar with her theater background have urged. "You could still get your big break."

"Would I even want that now?" Bass wondered. "My life is better than wishing and hoping that someday I'm going to be a big star. What I really enjoy is helping people. If I have an ability to help, I do it."
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