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Bringing Bruins Closer

By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Published Apr 1, 2015 8:00 PM

Our alumni are united by their gratitude and goodwill toward UCLA. In return, we want to strengthen their bonds with their alma mater, making it easier for ideas and support to flow back and forth.

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Photo: Amanda Friedman

Wherever I travel — in California, around the nation and overseas — I encounter UCLA alumni who are applying the knowledge, skills and wisdom they acquired during their time in Westwood to lead, to teach, to discover and to heal. UCLA graduates are leaders in every profession, actively transforming our world for the better.

Indeed, a central aspect of the Centennial Campaign for UCLA is the highlighting of several noteworthy game-changers, pioneers, visionaries and heroes who got their start at UCLA and went on to achieve stunning breakthroughs in science, the humanities, the arts and more.

While their career paths vary greatly upon graduation, our alumni remain united by a tremendous sense of gratitude and goodwill toward their alma mater. From Brentwood to Beijing, alums I visit are always eager to share their stories of how UCLA shaped their lives.

I continue to find inspiration and to gain new insights through my conversations with our graduates. Their love for UCLA is apparent, and their desire for closer ties to the university strikes me as particularly significant as we prepare to celebrate our 100th anniversary in a few short years.

UCLA is proud of every one of its graduates, and as a sign of our esteem, the UCLA Alumni Association is set to offer complimentary membership in the association to all 427,000 living alumni. I’ll explain more about that in a moment.

If students are the heart of a university, then alumni are its lifeblood. Both are indispensable to an institution’s health and critical to its future success. If we are to match, and surpass, UCLA’s legacy of extraordinary accomplishments in the next century, we must strengthen the bonds of affiliation between UCLA and its alumni now.

That is why I am pleased to say we have been working very hard to reimagine and repurpose our alumni association so that it serves as a central connection point and portal between our graduates and the university. Let’s envision the UCLA Alumni Association as a conduit of support and ideas flowing back and forth between the university and alumni, for the enrichment of both.

Beginning in April, the UCLA Alumni Association will shift to a more inclusive model, one designed to provide all graduates and friends of the university with such benefits as access to regional events, the UC system library, and career and recreation resources, as well as discounts for courses at UCLA Extension and for BearWear.

And, as I mentioned above, every one of our graduates will automatically become a basic member of the UCLA Alumni Association at no cost, regardless of one’s history of giving to the university. We want each of our graduates to know that UCLA is there for them, wherever they may be.

Alumni and friends of UCLA will also be provided the opportunity to support scholarships and to become more engaged with their alma mater. Current UCLA Alumni Association members will be transitioned into the new model, retaining their full benefits.

Additional staff and programming are in place to reach and serve our graduates’ various needs and interests. UCLA Alumni Association staff are focused on academic, affinity, athletic and professional networks; career, diversity, national and international networks; parents’ programs; travel; and young alumni. Their goal is to ensure that there are welcoming places and support for everyone, so that all UCLA graduates can belong, learn, mentor and receive mentoring, socialize and volunteer, no matter where they live.

You’ll be hearing more details about these exciting initiatives in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’d like to extend a personal invitation to all alumni and friends to visit campus as often as you can. There is so much to see and do: enjoy a sporting event, see a museum display, relax in the gardens, attend a play or musical performance, or audit a lecture. And, please mark your calendars to join the excitement of UCLA Alumni Day on Saturday, May 16.

When you visit the campus, please make it a point to stop by the James West Alumni Center, which has been transformed into an inviting space with comfortable seating and free Wi- Fi-enabled workstations. Soon, some of the center’s exterior walls that block its hidden gardens will be removed, allowing sunlight and visitors greater access to these beautiful areas.

Finally, I look forward to meeting you at a future alumni event in your area. Please come up and say hello!