With 18 years of service at UCLA, Gerrie Zvara is now assistant director for organizational effectiveness and development with UCLA Administration. In that role, she is leading the “continuous process improvement” effort to advance goal 5 of the UCLA Strategic Plan: Become a more effective institution. Here, she discusses her work and her passion for creating positive change at her alma mater.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What specifically do you do in your job?

I lead a team under Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck that supports all nine of the operational functions within the unit, with relation to strategic planning, continuous process improvement, change management and leadership development.

In my role, I lead the implementation of key initiatives that are designed to create a high-performing work environment for UCLA Administration. We gather data to assess levels of engagement and work conditions to ensure a productive workforce. We partner with departments to look for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively and to focus on developing our future leaders. I’m especially proud of our award-winning Leadership 20XX Program, which focuses on mid-level managers. The program’s cohorts participate in numerous activities to prepare them for future leadership opportunities, including a capstone project on which they collaborate and which they implement to contribute to improving our unit or the campus. For example, one cohort developed a ‘research concierge’ program now used by the Office of Research and Creative Activities.

It’s very rewarding work — and provides positive, tangible benefits to individuals, to the Administration organization and to UCLA as a whole.

What is a project you’re working on — and why is it important?

I’m leading the effort on continuous process improvements for the campus. The objective for year one is to implement improvements that reduce administrative burden, which will contribute to goal 5 of the strategic plan.

We will distribute a campuswide survey to gather input on available opportunities that could lead to greater efficiencies and effectiveness for the whole campus. The survey will focus on seven areas: human resources, finance and procurement, technology, safety, teaching/learning, facilities and space management, and research. The goal is to locate the pain points and prioritize what will make an impact right away, in addition to longer-term improvements.

One short-term example is space management. Post-COVID, the work environment has changed; not everyone is on campus at the same time. What opportunities do we have to maximize space usage through consolidations or collaborations, creating cost savings that could be applied in other areas?

Of course, what’s going to be important in conversations around this is that any type of improvement introduces change, which can be challenging. Education is important. Change is constant — we have to continue to address it. And it’s not a one-time event; we’ll always strive to be more efficient.

What do you love about working at UCLA?

Well, I’m biased — I’m an alum, I bleed blue and gold and there’s a certain pride about working at UCLA. I just love being able to give back to my alma mater, and I love the people I work with here. I love my job. I get to work with every department within Administration, as well as academic departments. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn new things.

While I was an undergraduate here, I studied psychology with an emphasis on business. One of my professors told me to look into industrial/organizational psychology. That was really good advice that led me to the Ph.D. program that put me on my career path today.