Editor’s note: This page was updated on Oct. 13 to correct the information about UCPath and the Staff Assembly awards and scholarship program. An erroneous sentence about a department was removed.
Fostering collaboration between north and south campus, being more intentional about access to staff programming and finding new ways to reach campus’ Spanish-speaking employees are all top of mind for Staff Assembly President Ana Esquivel.
“We want people to understand that these opportunities are for everyone, and not just a subset of campus,” said Esquivel, a UCLA alumna who has held positions throughout south campus since graduating with a degree in sociology in 1988.
In her nearly 26 years as a UCLA Health staff member, Esquivel has worked for numerous departments in operations and technology management. She currently serves as an affiliates relationship manager for the health system’s IT department. While she’s left UCLA for two professional opportunities elsewhere over the years, her returns have marked her dedication to campus and the deep roots she has established here.
“Having so many years under my belt, I thought ‘this is a great place.’ So here I am,” Esquivel said.
The last few years have been a flurry for Esquivel, who first joined the Staff Assembly executive committee in 2021 as the health member at large (a non-voting member of the board who is appointed by the standing president) before becoming president-elect in just a matter of months.
The mission of Staff Assembly spoke to her, and she knew that she was well-positioned as a UCLA Health employee to help align the health system with campus, thus opening more channels of communication so that certain campus initiatives wouldn’t get siloed.
“Let’s not reinvent the wheel, let’s try to do things together,” said Esquivel recalling a UCLA Health email she received in August about an initiative to address retention. Knowing that staff on the campus side had presented something similar to Chancellor Gene Block recently, Esquivel reached out to facilitate collaboration.
As president, Esquivel is making it a high priority to find ways to level the playing field for all UCLA staff. She said she’s eager to help campus do its part in the University of California’s electronic accessibility initiative, which aims to make all UC websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Esquivel lauds the work of centers and programs system-wide addressing electronic accessibility, including the UCLA Disabilities and Computing Program, a group of staff and students dedicated to helping units across campus ensure that their websites are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and digital accessibility laws. Compliance can include everything from proper captioning across websites to ensuring online PDFs and scanned materials are compatible with screen-reader programs.
Esquivel also wants to make sure those who might not always work at a computer aren’t missing out on important communications about programming and staff development opportunities.
Spanish-speaking employees and patients are also on Esquivel’s radar. She has urged that UCPath’s centralized human resources processes on the platform be provided in Spanish. (UCLA Health web pages for employees and the public include a translate button and the myuclahealth patient portal is available in Spanish on desktop and mobile devices.)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a colleague of Esquivel’s gathered volunteers to support Spanish-speaking staff in setting up UCLA Health patient portals and scheduling appointments for COVID vaccines.
“The good thing is that there are other people doing some of the work already,” said Esquivel, who immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when she was three, and is a contributing member of La Comunidad, UCLA Health’s Latina and Latino affinity group. Members of the group have been networking since its inception last year to break down departmental siloes and improve Latino representation at all organizational levels within UCLA Health.
Esquivel is also hoping all employees are aware of the Staff Assembly awards and scholarship program, which, perhaps due to pandemic-related distractions, got less response than normal last year. There is no requirement to be a member of Staff Assembly to nominate a peer or to be honored, and additional scholarships can award up to $500 toward career development expenses for staff.
Helping make her alma mater a better place is in Esquivel’s blood. In 2019, after a chance networking event at the UCLA Alumni Center, Esquivel found herself in conversation with peers about starting a UCLA alumni network for first-generation graduates. Before she knew it, she was volunteering her time to get the bylaws passed for a board of directors, of which she would eventually sit on as an inaugural member.
“We've been an example to others who want to start these first-generation affinity groups,” she said, noting that UCLA was the first campus in the University of California system to establish a first-generation alumni network.
In 2019, Esquivel continued her support for first-generation students at UCLA by creating the Mia and Vincent Castillo scholarship award for first-generation students in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. The dedication, named after her then 15-year-old twin niece and nephew, aims to off-set the cost of books and other essential student needs.
“They thought it was the coolest thing to be able to give back and have the scholarship named after them, so I’ve continued to fund it,” she said of her young family members.
With a successful staff picnic already in the rearview mirror, Esquivel is already looking ahead by planning the awards and scholarships ceremony for the spring. She also helped plan the Sept. 29 recognition ceremony for last year’s winners, of whom Staff Assembly was not able to host in person to celebrate at that time.
While Esquivel is anticipating a busy year as many campus events and celebrations return from a multi-year hiatus, she is looking forward to continuing to find volunteer opportunities, spending time with her family and friends and attending sporting events — especially those in which she can cheer on Bruins at the Rose Bowl, enjoying her season ticket seats in the Terry Donahue Pavilion.