Editor’s note: This page was updated on Feb. 20, 2024, to clarify this is the first graduating class with students who started when Geffen Academy was established in 2017.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Geffen Academy’s graduating senior class sat down for a fireside chat Feb. 9, as both face a pivotal moment in their lives. The high school students, who have been part of Geffen Academy since sixth grade, are preparing for the transition to college — while the chancellor will step down later this year after 17 years as UCLA’s leader.

The talk, moderated by UCLA alumnus and Geffen Academy Head of School Sibyll Carnochan Catalan, focused on the significance of this shared experience as Block and the seniors discussed their respective paths — as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Block recalled his early days as chancellor by sharing a personal story about his meeting with Peter Guber, entrepreneur and executive chairman of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who gave him advice on decision-making and knowing the right time to make certain choices.

“It takes courage to reinvent yourself, and that often means being willing to end things,” Block said. “It is also important to allow others to take the lead, as this brings new energy and creative ideas on how we can further succeed.”

The conversation included changes UCLA has undergone during Block’s tenure, from the physical footprint of the campus to enrollment growth, student housing, affordability, diversity, access, service, entrepreneurship and international engagement.

The seniors then had a chance to ask the chancellor questions. When asked about his proudest achievements as chancellor and hopes for UCLA’s future, Block said he would like to see continued growth and expansion — and for student diversity on campus to reflect the demographics of Los Angeles.

And his vision for Geffen Academy? The chancellor first shared that the school was founded in part to support the recruitment and retention of UCLA’s faculty and staff by providing an educational option for their children. It has surpassed his expectations, Block said, as a learning environment that allows students to be their most creative selves. But since the school’s growth is limited by its physical size, he hopes for further expansion to serve more diverse learners.

As the event drew to a close, Chancellor Block left the seniors with three key pieces of advice as they get ready for the next stage of their lives:

  • Lead with confidence.
  • Be open to new ideas.
  • Have a love for learning.