2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Jorge Santana, UCLA (Anderson)

Jorge Santana

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“Mexico City-born cis-gender gay male; advocate for equity, education, jazz music, and HIIT workouts!”

Hometown: Millburn, New Jersey

Fun fact about yourself: My first language was Spanish and when I first started attending school in the U.S. and learning English I went by my translated name, “George.” One day, my kindergarten teacher offered to call me by my name “Jorge” and I agreed.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Princeton University (Bachelor of Arts in Economics and certificate in Latin American Studies)

City University of New York – Lehman College (Master of Science in Education)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?

Teach For America – New York (Managing Director)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018?

Deloitte Consulting, LLC in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Where will you be working after graduation?

Deloitte Consulting, LLC in Los Angeles, California (Human Capital Consulting)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

President – Anderson Student Association (ASA)

Vice President of Corporate Relations and Professional Development – Out@Anderson

Director of External Affairs – Management Consulting Association

President – Class of 2019, Section E

Mentor – Project ECHO (Entrepreneurial Concepts Hands On)

Recipient – Consortium Fellowship, Class of 2019

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In the spring of 2018, I was elected President of the Anderson Student Association (ASA) and set out to establish a vision that would align the efforts of all student-led organizations and initiatives on campus. I led my cabinet and club presidents through vision-setting exercises, resulting in the creation of our ASA pillars: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, One Anderson, Enduring Partnerships, and Catalytic Agency. I am proud of how our class of 2019 has embraced this vision. Some of the most significant initiatives I was able to accomplish with my cabinet stemming from the pillars include:

  • Instituting a grade non-disclosure policy (the first of its kind being spearheaded at UCLA Anderson) to elevate the academic experience of our students,
  • Adopting a more advanced collaboration and communications platform for all Anderson students (Slack), and
  • Proposing the creation of a new Vice President for Sustainability on the ASA cabinet to champion sustainability-focused initiatives on campus.

I am proud of the culture shift the pillars have cultivated at Anderson. Students have embraced the notion of agency in service of positive enduring change in the community. Personally, I feel that I was able to leave Anderson a better place than what it was when I first arrived and I am confident that the changes we have worked to implement will be institutionalized and endure long after I leave Anderson.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the leader I have become and who I strive to be in a professional context. I have worked in a variety of functions and industries in my career – finance, public education, non-profit and consulting – and with each experience, I have been challenged to continue defining and strengthening who I am as a leader. Today, I feel that I can describe my leadership as one that embodies these qualities:

  • Serving my peers
  • Cultivating a community where all voices are valued
  • Embracing conflict as an opportunity to learn
  • Aligning my actions with my words
  • Never compromising on my values of hard work and responsibility

I am grateful to the mentors, peers, professors, and managers who have all influenced the leader I am today.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Terry Kramer – Decisions, Operations and Technology Management. Professor Kramer has taught me some of the most important lessons I have gained in business school: always substantiate my claims with clear and compelling evidence, and never overlook the context in which I operate to inform the leadership imperatives that will ensure success for my team, my organization and myself. Most of all, Professor Kramer is incredibly dedicated to his students and to the learning experience. As a former teacher, I admire his commitment to education.

Why did you choose this business school? I will never forget the first time I read UCLA Anderson’s promotional materials. What captured me most was the pie chart that showed the industries and backgrounds that represented the student body. There were so many slivers in the chart because the makeup of the students at UCLA Anderson was so diverse! I knew I wanted to attend a business school where the backgrounds and experiences of students were diverse and highly celebrated. I was sold. Beyond its diversity, UCLA Anderson is a mission-driven school where people authentically embody its core values. Since arriving on campus, I have felt that Anderson is a place where I can have a transformative experience and take risks including classes to challenge myself with, clubs to join, and leadership experiences to pursue. As a member of the Anderson community, I am also accountable for ensuring my classmates feel equally supported by me. Most importantly, Anderson’s mission to create an environment that thrives not just during the two years of the program but throughout the career of its alumni strongly resonated with me.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Don’t underestimate the value of self-reflection and being clear on what your motivations are for attending business school! Before you start the application process, schedule times to meet with people you trust and who can offer valuable perspective (a mentor, a close colleague, a dear friend, your manager or family member) to discuss why you want to pursue an MBA. I found that speaking with people who know me well and having them ask me tough questions about my motivations challenged me to clearly articulate what I wanted to accomplish with an MBA. Then, make a date with yourself: spend time someplace that inspires you (local coffee shop, park, a study, etc.) to reflect on the conversations you had and write down where you see your life going and how an MBA will enable you to get there. Not only will this exercise give you clarity on why attending business school is the right path for you, but your reflections can also serve as the foundations for your application essays. Attending UCLA Anderson is a highly rewarding and transformative experience. Students who arrive with this clarity of thought are best positioned to fully leverage the many opportunities the school offers (and support others in doing so as well!).

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Before you get involved with the many opportunities available to you on campus – clubs, case competitions, conferences, events, etc. – revisit your goals for business school and ground yourself once again in what matters most to you. It is very easy to lose your way and go with the flow with what the majority of your class may be doing. However, business school truly is a unique experience that needs to be carefully planned out and nuanced for each individual. Spend your precious time engaging in the experiences that will make your time in business school most rewarding! It’s all about your ROI!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my friend and classmate on the Anderson Student Association (ASA), David Leal Alonso. As the Vice President of Financial Development, David is someone who has demonstrated an unwavering sense of ethical leadership and transparency with how funds are being used. David has been an advocate for making responsible fiscal decisions that benefit the entire Anderson community and has grounded his work on financial transparency and student empowerment. Most of all, he is someone I can rely on. I believe that trust is one of the necessary conditions for great leadership and I very much trust David. There have been many instances when I have turned to David for his guidance and input on complex decisions. I am grateful to have met him, to consider him a very close friend and to have him as a leader and role model on the ASA cabinet.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? A mentor of mine at Teach For America once told me that a Chief Executive Officer should embrace two roles for an organization: being the chief visionary officer and chief inspiration officer. As I spoke to her about her insights and how I could grow as a leader, many of the skillsets and learnings that she identified for me to embody were aligned with the curriculum that many business schools offer. Our conversations turned into brainstorming sessions for ways I could leverage an MBA to accomplish my goals and served as the impetus for me pursuing a business degree.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Pursuit of Happyness. I love how this film depicts the value of hard work and grit in a sometimes cut-throat and competitive environment. The message I took from the film that is relevant to business is that we all have the ability to achieve success no matter what our background or context is.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? “Lit” Club. This is an unofficial club for Anderson students. Each year, a group of first and second-year students gets together at a local bar on a quarterly basis to present and have laughs over some of the funniest happenings on and off campus. The name “Lit Club” comes from a passed-down tradition where Anderson students performed funny skits and drew from popular pieces of literature. Additionally, these roasts can get rowdy and “lit,” hence the name.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…leading a network of public schools serving some of our country’s most at-risk students who need access to opportunities to pursue their goals.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I would value my MBA education at approximately $300K and it was well worth what I spent! I learned so much about how to be a strong business leader and feel confident in the skills I have honed to make an even greater impact on the teams and organizations join in the future and on society more broadly. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have pursued an MBA at UCLA Anderson.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Train for and climb Mount Kilimanjaro
  2. Write and publish a book – either about what I’ve learned about leadership or a memoir (or combination of both!)

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Jorge was a consequential ASA President and was someone I could trust, who always brought a valuable perspective to the conversation and who was a part of the memorable and fun experiences I had while at Anderson.

Hobbies? Running, listening to jazz, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, traveling and eating a lot of cheese!

What made Jorge such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Jorge mentioned that he would like his peers at Anderson to remember him as someone they could trust, who brought a valuable perspective to conversations and was part of the positive experience at Anderson. Reality is, Jorge will be remembered for that, and for leaving an indelible mark on the school, in both concrete achievements such as leading grade non-disclosure and by setting a tone that brings out the best in the people around him.

I really cannot say enough about the kind of leader Jorge is. Whether serving as a section president in his first year, or as ASA president his second, Jorge has always been the best kind of leader—one who listens, asks questions, builds consensus and, when needed, presents solutions. Too often, leaders (not just business school leaders, but throughout industries of all types), are quick to profess that something is broken and then proceeds to ‘order’ someone to fix it. Jorge, however, is a leader who identifies a problem, and through conversations and compromise, arrives at a solution that can then be implemented—Jorge is always part of the solution, not just someone who tells others to fix things.  That aspect of Jorge’s style has made working with him this past year and a half one of my greatest pleasures. Because his empathy is so well-developed, he is often quick to anticipate a potential issue, long before it becomes one—that foresight, stemming from his care and concern for others, has made him an exceptional leader of peers at UCLA Anderson.

While Jorge cares about the individual and always attempts to see all sides to an issue, that empathy never gets in the way of progress. He is quick to study competing views, asking questions and building consensus. Like any great leader, Jorge is not afraid to challenge an idea or view, but he does so in a completely disarming way, that builds comradery and a comfort level of the most productive kind. His skills in this regard are rare and will serve him well as he takes his next step in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice. I am really looking forward to watching the impact Jorge will have, and would not be surprised to call him Senator (or even President) Santana someday!”

Rob Weiler

Associate Dean, Full-Time MBA Program

UCLA Anderson





Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.