2020 First Generation MBAs: Carmen Andrea Chávez, UCLA (Anderson)

Carmen Andrea Chávez

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

Class: 2021

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: At NBCUniversal, I worked the Primetime Emmy’s and met Gina Rodriguez when she was walking down the red carpet.

Undergraduate School and Major: UCLA, Sociology and Spanish

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate Brand Management Intern at General Mills

What did your parents do for a living?  My mother is a domestic worker and my father was a maintenance worker.

What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your father? Both of my parents attended elementary school for a few years before leaving to work and help support their parents and siblings.

Which family member or mentor is your biggest inspiration or role model? Why? My mother is my biggest inspiration because she had the strength and courage to confront great obstacles in order to provide me and my brother with the opportunity to pursue higher education. At a young age, my mother immigrated from México to the United States without knowing anyone or understanding English. Fortunately, she met my now Godmother, a compassionate and selfless woman from whom I received my name, who treated her like family and took it upon herself to help her acclimate. My Godmother is my role model for helping those less privileged than she in order to form a more equitable society. Both of these women never gave me any idea that I could not do whatever I wanted to do or be whoever I wanted to be.

What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? This was a never question. Since I was a child, I witnessed the hardships my mother endured because she did not have an education. I knew that I had to pursue higher education not just for myself, but for my mother so I could help provide for her in the future.

What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? My biggest worry before going to pursue my undergraduate degree was the move to Los Ángeles. Growing up, my family rarely traveled outside of San Diego with the exception of visiting our relatives in the pueblitos of Mexico. I was nervous about the transition from a small, laid back city to a much larger, unfamiliar environment.

What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? As a freshman, I felt overwhelmed with the coursework, but I was reluctant to ask for help. I felt that I should be able to figure it out on my own just like my peers. As a result, my grades suffered. Fortunately, when I joined Lambda Theta Alpha, Latin Sorority, Inc., I found a support system among my sisters, who were also first-gen, and knew that we could count on each other to make it through to graduation.

What didn’t your family understand about the higher education experience that you wish they would understand better? The most difficult thing for my mother to understand about the higher education experience is that there is more to it than getting good grades. It is equally important to build a strong professional and social network as well as gain hands-on work experience. Now that I am in business school, she trusts that I am doing all the necessary things to succeed.

What led you to pursue an MBA degree?  As a woman of color, I knew that an MBA would better equip me to be a successful business leader so that I could advocate for myself and promote parity in the workplace. Knowledge is power and no one can take my education away from me.

How did you choose your MBA program? I participated in Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s (MLT) MBA Prep Program, which helped me to evaluate different MBA programs based on criteria that were important to me, such as a quality education, location, cohort size, and career services.

What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? Aside from my concerns about the quantitative coursework, I was worried about finding a support system like I did during my undergraduate years. I feel very fortunate to be a part of The Consortium and can personally attest to how the people in this group have made all the difference in shaping my b-school experience.

If you are not familiar with The Consortium, “The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management is the nation’s largest diversity network, linking top tier students, leading MBA programs, and corporate partners, including Fortune 500 companies.” The mission of The Consortium “is to reduce the underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in education and the ranks of global management.” A common misconception is that membership is only open to those who identify as one of the aforementioned racial groups, but in actuality, all U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have demonstrated a commitment to The Consortium’s mission are eligible to apply.

In the Anderson class of 2021, there are 23 Consortium fellows and were split among five different sections during our first year, but we continued to connect with each other during our monthly dinners. Even during COVID-19, we’ve continued to meet up for virtual happy hours, which have been some of the positive moments during these unprecedented times.

How were you able to finance your MBA as a first generation student? As a Consortium fellow, I received a merit-based scholarship, which covers tuition. I am also taking out loans and using savings to finance the additional MBA related expenses.

What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? I advise that first-gen students find out how the college will support them. For example, UCLA Anderson and the larger UCLA school provide resources that focus on the retention and success of first-gen students. During my first-year, UCLA Anderson’s First Gen network organized a lunch with Senior Associate Dean Miguel Unzueta, who is also a first-gen college student, which was a great opportunity to build connections with faculty members. Also, Student Affairs is working to find new ways to help facilitate connections and programming.

What do you plan to pursue after graduation? After I graduate from business school, I plan to pursue a career in brand management. I also plan to be involved in ERG’s that focus on diversity and inclusion to help diminish the opportunity gap and help other underrepresented minorities succeed.