For UC Merced sophomore Luis Fernando Gonzalez Haro, spending just two weeks at UCLA last month "opened up my world and what I can do and be."
Raised in the small town of Gustine in California’s Central Valley, where his family moved from Mexico when he was in the fifth grade, Gonzalez Haro, who once struggled to learn English, was one of 50 high-achieving college students from around the country selected to take part in the Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders (SIEML) at the UCLA Anderson School of Management June 30-July 12.
A collaboration of the University of California’s six business schools, the institute introduces undergraduates from historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions to the principles of business development, entrepreneurship and other key management skills. Over two consecutive summers, students, who don't have to be majoring in business, attend classes taught by graduate-level UC business school faculty, take part in hands-on workshops, and make valuable connections with high-profile industry leaders.
Luis Fernando Gonzalez Haro, a sophomore at UC Merced, was one of 50 high-achieving students from campuses around the country who learned business basics last month at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Organizers are hoping that the institute will ultimately enhance student diversity in UC’s business schools, said Linda Baldwin, the institute’s director and assistant dean of diversity initiatives at UCLA Anderson. "It’s about building that pipeline … and starting early, while students are still in their initial years of college." Students needn't be business majors to take part.
The institute was initiated two years ago by the deans of UC’s business schools, including UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian, in collaboration with the UC Office of the President and then-California Assembly member Anthony Portantino.
"This is a different kind of program," said Baldwin. "It’s rare to have all of the deans come together and ask ‘How do we address this problem?’ They rolled up their sleeves and committed to making it happen." Together, they enlisted support from corporate sponsors to provide the students with all-expense-paid fellowships. The program rotates through the six UC business schools, with the inaugural session held last summer at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and this year’s session held at UCLA Anderson.
Also taking place currently on the UCLA campus is the Bunche Summer Humanities Institute, which is sponsored by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Now in its 13th year, the institute prepares high-achieving students from historically underrepresented groups, with a focus on African American students, to pursue a graduate degree in the humanities and social sciences.
At UCLA Anderson, students attended a dozen classes that included "Leading Change," "Introduction to Real Estate Investment and Finance" and "High Technology Market Segmentation and Product Differentiation" — all taught by Anderson faculty.
Students in the Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders spent two weeks attending classes, meeting company executives and doing mock job interviews. Photo by Todd Cheney/UCLA Photography.
"Getting exposure to topnotch graduate school professors was the best part of UC SIEML," said Alex Garner, an economics and finance major entering his junior year at Hampton University, a historically black university in Hampton, Va. "It provided somewhat of a benchmark for my knowledge base … an opportunity to evaluate where I stand."
"UCLA’s faculty were really mind-blowing," said Gonzalez Haro, who is majoring in business management and has aspirations of working for an accounting firm and one day starting his own business. "The classes were completely different from the business classes I have taken. I learned to view business in a whole new perspective."
One of the activities in a class titled "Race, Gender and Subtle Bias" was a game called "Starpower," in which students traded chips worth various points in a race to collect as many points as possible. Ostensibly, amassing points depended on strategy and negotiating skills, but students eventually discovered that the game was rigged in favor of those who were dealt higher-value chips from the very beginning. The game, students learned, illustrated the hidden inequities that exist in organizations and communities.
Rather than becoming discouraged by the game, Gonzalez Haro found his determination to succeed bolstered by the program and by faculty like Al Osborne, senior associate dean and faculty director of the Harold Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. "He told us how it was to grow up in America as an African American, and how, as a minority, we don’t need to be good, we need to be excellent," Gonzalez Haro recalled. "There’s no reason I can’t do what others have done, and [do it] even better."
Students negotiate to trade chips of various point values during the in-class game Starpower, which illustrates social inequities.
The program’s financial supporters, among them Wells Fargo, Deloitte Consulting LLP and WellPoint, also arranged for students to meet high-level executives at their corporate offices in L.A. Some sponsors also conducted their own workshops; Deloitte, for example, ran teams of students through mock "case" job interviews in which they were asked to resolve a variety of real-life business problems.
"The teamwork for the case competition was extremely helpful and definitely motivated me to express my ideas or combine them with those of my teammates," said Gonzalez Haro.
"Our sponsors wanted to interact with these students because they realize their talent in the future will come from many different places," said director Baldwin. "They are committed to diversity for the sake of building a strong workforce." The sponsors also provide the students with long-term opportunities such as internships.
Kayla McCollum, a sophomore business major at Florida A & M University, was one of the many students, who, like Gonzalez Haro, said they learned a lot from the experience. "I had always thought about obtaining an MBA, but had not yet considered how it would fit into my future," McCollum said in her written evaluation of the program. "Now I have a much clearer understanding of how I can make it happen, and I want it to happen at UCLA!"