I love UCLA. I love my university and all of the amazing opportunities it has afforded me. Some of the most incredible people I have in my life came as a product of studying at UCLA.
Additionally, my years at UCLA have been some of the most formative of my life. I am beyond grateful for all that I have learned and experienced while studying here.
But, UCLA has a problem — Something I never found an answer to. I was forced to piece together my own solution over the last year.
There is a massive gap that exists at one of the nation’s greatest public universities between well-educated young adults and the real world laying just outside the bounds of our beautiful campus.
Each year, thousands of bright-eyed freshmen flood into the university and thousands of less-bright-eyed seniors pour out into the world and the boundless office-spaces of Los Angeles.
Every 4-years another class cycles through with a degree from the hundreds of hours spent in the classroom.
Every 4-years another cohort of educated adults enters the world with a piece of paper that displays our success in the classroom. But that paper will only carry us so far.
Our ability to excel in a controlled and protected space might serve us well if we intend to halt our learning and growing process upon graduation.
But what about those of us who acknowledge that the end of our 4-year degree is only the beginning of our real education?
In my Junior year at UCLA I realized that my time in this amazing place was already drawing to a close — within a year I would be out in the world. So what was I going to do to prepare for that event?
I began to analyze each class I took, each student organization I helped lead, each journal I wrote for, each term paper I successfully composed and turned in, trying to find the connection between those experiences and my preparation for the day my apartment lease in Westwood ended and my undergraduate status at UCLA was terminated.
What I found was that learning about the world and preparing to enter it from within my own campus was comparable to learning how to skydive by watching YouTube videos.
So, instead, I found a plane and jumped out — that is how I wanted to learn — by DOING.
My “plane” came in the form of thrusting myself into the lives of UCLA Alumni and suffering their constructive criticism.
I turned to our Alumni network and began to search. I did not know what I was looking for but I knew that someone out there had answers to my questions — not the questions on my next midterm, rather, the questions on life outside of my beautiful UCLA bubble.
My first encounters with Alumni were rough. I had attended every Career Center event, I had been to the panels and the workshops, I had searched and learned from many of the opportunities at UCLA regarding Alumni, mentors, and networking…
But YouTube videos only take you so far, at some point you just need to jump out of the plane.
Slowly, over the last year, I developed a network of amazing professionals in Los Angeles who serve as my sounding board for ideas, advice for decisions, checks on my behavior, and firm encouragement toward my constant pursuit of growth.
This network serves as a strong dose of reality that otherwise was unavailable to me at UCLA.
Yes, it is true that UCLA offers various opportunities to learn and grow and connect with Alumni. But they can only go so far before something more potent is required. You don’t take lower division courses your whole 4-years, at some point, you have to upgrade to upper division courses.
The two biggest issues with the current system are:
1. Mentorship and networking are not check-list items to be crossed off toward completing your degree.
2. It is critical that a student’s growth through mentorship be accompanied by a collaborative community of growth-oriented peers.
Bruin Bridges — creating a collaborative community of growth-oriented students and pairing them with impactful mentors for life-changing relationships.
Our mission is to take what we have learned (with difficulty) over the last few years of our lives and pour it into Bruin Bridges. We are creating an environment where other UCLA students can benefit from intentional relationships both with other remarkable students and with experienced professionals.
We hope to create something that lasts due to its formative impact on the lives of members of the UCLA community.
To learn more visit Bruinbridges.com
And, attend our info session on TUE 4/17 at 7:00 pm at Hedrick Fireside Lounge to hear more and meet our Outside Advisor, Marc I. Lipson, Senior Vice President of Wealth Management at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.
We look forward to creating something amazing with you.