2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Parth Chauhan, UCLA (Anderson)

Parth Chauhan

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“A teetotaling consultant, former farmer, and wannabe comedian goes to business school to create a digital sports media company (I’m waiting on the punchline, too).”

Hometown: Voorhees, NJ

Fun fact about yourself: I genuinely love airplane food. My mom is an amazing chef and would always make Indian food…but sometimes I just want Lufthansa pasta.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The George Washington University, BA in International Affairs & Political Science

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Deloitte Consulting, Strategy & Operations as a Senior Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Major League Cricket in sunny California Zoomland

Where will you be working after graduation? Amaara Sports – a digital media company that I built to focus on promoting sports content in the South Asian market

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

* Community: Junior Achievement Mentor; Special Olympics of Southern California Volunteer; Vice-President of Challenge for Charity (C4C); AnderCup Founder (internal school Olympics); Anderson Career Team & Interview Prep Team Coach; MBA Battle Royale for Charity Planning Committee

* Leadership: UCLA Anderson ASA (Student Council) VP of Social; Anderson Onboarding Committee Co-President; Anderson Comedy Club President; Entertainment Management Association VP of Career Development, South Asian Business Association VP of New Initiatives, Entrepreneurship Leadership Development Program Group Lead

* Awards & Honors: Anderson Exceptional Student Fellowship; Anderson Scholarship for Outstanding Students; Management Development for Entrepreneurs Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was elected to a few different roles that gave me the opportunity to create and grow a sense of business school community despite COVID’s best efforts. UCLA Anderson was particularly affected by COVID closures; LA County has been devastated by the pandemic and our campus was completely closed off to students for the vast majority of the year. While the experience has not been perfect, I am proud to have played a part in building a sense of togetherness between Anderson’s first- and second-year students. As the Co-President of the Anderson Onboarding Committee, it was my responsibility to welcome admitted students from the Class of 2022 to “campus.” My team and I were their first touchpoints and set the tone for the familial and energetic culture of the class in extremely uncertain times. We actively crafted a theme of positivity throughout the summer – our first Zoom session was attended by over 350 students, and we continued to have a variety of events that were engaging and allowed for classmates to meet each other organically and safely on a weekly basis. Onboarding is usually concentrated in a three-day, in-person social celebration, but we flexed into a broader, online community engagement-centered Spirit Week that continues to be recalled fondly by the 2022s.

After Onboarding was complete, I resumed my duties as the Vice-President of Social for the Anderson Student Association. While I was unable to fulfil our original hopes of class-wide parties and in-person events, I tried to create opportunities for classmates to continue mixing, including across classes. Socially distant food truck crawls to improv team-building sessions to standup comedy nights – we had a little bit of everything! In normal times, the school hosts AnderNoons, weekly happy hours that allow people to mix and mingle over free food and drink in the courtyard. When these became impossible, I created online AnderNoons centered around themes of comedy, music, and happiness to maintain the ethos of joy and positivity at Anderson. After founding AnderCup in 2019, I launched an online version for 2020 and beyond, as a year-long, Hogwarts Cup-inspired inter-class tournament between sections. We find opportunities to win points through charity donations, volunteerism, and competitions – we even flexed into an online pet talent show with faculty judges and a tipsy spelling bee. I work with my team daily to keep our sense of community active at UCLA. My last initiative will be to continue the Lit Club tradition – an annual roast session of students, by students, featuring skits and sketches about the MBA experience. After all, what is business school if we can’t take time to laugh at ourselves!

For the student leaders in the Class of 2021, we know we are serving as torch passers who keep the culture and traditions of Anderson alive. We understand that giving our full energy towards keeping Anderson’ spirit intact is even more important during an otherwise downcast year. I am proud of the efforts I have made to keep our Anderson culture as close as possible – even if we are six feet apart.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was a strategy and operations consultant for much of my career before Anderson. As part of a smaller firm that focused on disaster recovery, I assisted the State of New Jersey in disbursing FEMA and HUD funding after Superstorm Sandy. Through my three years on the project, I helped to stand up the $250M federal cost share program to rebuild public infrastructure projects, led the communications and appeals team for a $110M home elevation program, and developed a toolkit to leverage a HUD database that identified low-income communities that deserved additional aid.

The team worked long hours, and despite the positive impact we had in rebuilding our community, I learned the hard way that government programs often let politics get in the way of policies. We overcame bureaucratic decision paralysis, communication barriers between applicants, and outdated technology infrastructure, and we were eventually able to bring our programs online after eight months of hard work. Each day, I was able to send my parents newspaper clippings that celebrated bridge re-openings, highlighted newly enhanced electrical grids, and the generally positive reviews for our program development. Even now, when I visit the Jersey Shore (don’t believe what you see on TV, I’m begging you), I see houses that are safer from storm surges because of our elevation program. I learned a tremendous deal about the power of team motivation and maintaining mission-orientation. Despite the hurdles of working with a government client, I was honored to assist on such impactful work in the first few years of my career.

Why did you choose this business school? My path to UCLA Anderson was a bit nontraditional – I knew I wanted to pivot into the sports and entertainment space, and that Anderson would be a great location to make that transition. Unfortunately, my initial interview offer went to spam. It took me three weeks to respond by the time I saw the email, and when I finally was scheduled to fly out to Los Angeles, my flight was extremely delayed, and I missed my class visit. The run of bad luck continued when my second-year interviewer was sick, so I instead interviewed with the director of admissions. I felt totally out of whack and was feeling down as I packed up my resume, but out of the blue, I ran into my freshmen year RA from undergrad – he happened to be pursuing his MBA at Anderson and was in his final year. He introduced me to a few students, gave me a tour of the beautiful campus, and chatted about all the opportunities he had gotten from the program. The odds of running into him were so minuscule that I took it as a sign that the universe was telling me to come to Anderson – and it totally sent me the right way! .

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The obvious answer might be to apply to an earlier or later class that was unaffected by COVID. But in all honesty, I am so happy that I am part of the Class of 2021 at Anderson. I have so many incredible classmates with vast professional, personal, and social experiences. Had I known back in March that I would likely never see many of my classmates (outside of Zoom) again, I would have maximized the chances I had to forge deep connections with friends. I have always been social and open to interacting with many different people at Anderson – but I wish I had taken more time to have the one-on-one conversations with more classmates, if only to create more memories to look back on once this crazy ride is over. I also wish I was less worried about the academics in the beginning of the year and more focused on the amazing professional centers and resources available to Anderson students.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was happily surprised to see how many of my classmates are genuinely trying to do good in the world. In college, I thought all business students just wanted to make a quick buck, regardless of costs – but I have found at Anderson that creating a positive impact is the first objective for most of my classmates.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Be authentic. At the end of the day, each person comes to business school for their own purpose. There are so many different paths to choose from and so many opportunities to take advantage of – but each person can only take one. I tried to be as authentic as possible in my application process. Be authentic to yourself and you will find the school that is right for you.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am constantly impressed by the dedication of Garrett Szafman to the wider Anderson community. Garrett is the Executive Vice President of UCLA Anderson’s ASA (Student Council). He is constantly willing to be the person behind the scenes and never asks for credit for all his hard work. Garrett runs the election schedule for all of Anderson, ensuring that candidates have equal access and that all voting rules are followed. He serves as an admissions ambassador, helping to discover the right combination for the next generation of Anderson students; he is a member of the onboarding committee, tasked with welcoming admitted students to Anderson. On top of all this, he has found time to operationalize both in-person and virtual versions of the AnderCup competition for classmates.

Garrett knows exactly when to straight talk to constituents and administration, and when to discreetly use the power of his position to ensure that Anderson’s wider objectives and initiatives remain at the forefront. The one time I saw Garrett take the centerstage, he decided to share his hardships with coming out in front of the entire school at AnderStories.

Garrett has been one of the most active leaders in our class – all while promoting other organizations and students into the limelight ahead of himself. It has been an honor getting to know him and work with him on a daily basis. We are a better place to be because of his quiet, powerful energy and initiative.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? COVID-19 was a difficult transition for many of us. While professors and the administration did as much as they could to reproduce the in-person experience via Zoom, outside factors in Los Angeles prevented us from replicating the true MBA experiences for which we came to Anderson. Many of my classmates left the city to stay at home with family, and those of us who remained created small pods for safety in uncertain times. The Class of 2021 stepped up to the occasion and created a wide variety of online programming, from Zoom cocktail making classes to massive professional conferences to virtual networking & DJ sessions. Zoom gave us an opportunity to connect with companies and Anderson alumni from around the country and world. Thankfully (for our sanity’s sake), we have also been able to take advantage of our location to safely enjoy the warm weather outside with beach days, hikes, and sporting sessions.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents and sister, Gauri, (and a large portion of my extended family) are in healthcare – everyday, they improve the lives of patients and customers in a very tangible way. Gauri’s job required that she pursue her doctorate degree, and she changed so much for the positive while training to become a clinical pharmacist. From my post-college career, I knew I wanted to work in the business world, but I was a bit unnerved by my lack of business degree. Gauri encouraged me to pursue my MBA to grow as an individual leader and to build the necessary professional and personal skills I felt were missing from my repertoire.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I plan on: 1. Running for elected office, either in New Jersey or in California, and 2. Producing a sports documentary series for a streaming service (I would love to say that I plan on “starring in a Netflix comedy special but I try to #stayhumble”).

What made Parth such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“The word that most readily springs to mind when I consider Parth and how invaluable he has been to the Class of 2021 and beyond is CONNECTION. Parth. Knows. Everyone. And everyone knows Parth. This doesn’t happen by default, especially during this past year of lockdown, with students unable to be physically present on campus. Parth is the answer to the question, is it possible for a student to be everywhere at once during COVID? Yes, it’s possible, but it’s exceptional – Parth is exceptional. He pulls people into his ideas, gets people excited and engaged, and makes them a part of something bigger than themselves. At the same time, he has a calm center, which makes him all the more approachable and relatable to so many.

Parth made it his mission, from the very start of his MBA, to connect with his fellow students, and in turn to connect them to a deeper, more meaningful, more enjoyable Anderson experience. I remember clearly the first time we met; Parth and a fellow student came into my office just after their Onboarding (Orientation) wrapped up, and let me know they’d like to convert what had typically been a one-time Onboarding social event called Section Olympics to a year-long epic AnderCup competition. I let them know how we could help and wished them luck – but since this wasn’t the first time a couple of excited, brand new first-years had a similar idea, I figured they’d get busy and I wouldn’t hear from them again. Cut to a few months later.  Parth let me know they had about 300 people signed up for the first weekend-long event, and wondered if we could help spread the word a bit more. Impressive! When we went virtual, AnderCup became QuaranCup, featuring a week’s worth of online activities; the event is considered by many students to be the highlight of the COVID period, and we’re gearing up for round two this weekend – Parth has us all stoked for it!

Parth’s abilities and personality naturally led to significant student leadership roles at Anderson, including those in Challenge 4 Charity, South Asian Business Association, the Entertainment Management Association, the Entrepreneurship Leadership Development Program, A Comedy Club, and as VP Social of Anderson’s Student Association; but I’ve had the privilege of working most closely with Parth in his capacity as Anderson Onboarding Committee (AOC – yup, AOC) co-director. Parth and his fellow co-director and committee members thought they had signed on to lead a relatively short period of in-person Onboarding social events for the incoming class in late September; the pandemic had different plans. Parth and his co-director took it upon themselves to maintain a months-long ongoing communication with the incoming class, organizing and hosting Zooms as early as May and continuing through October, so that the Class of 2022 would be excited for their online experience of Anderson. As we come full-circle and conduct interviews for the new Onboarding Committee, each applicant to a person has mentioned Parth and his positive influence as their main reason for being excited to give back.

Although his time in club, ASA, and AOC roles officially end in Spring Quarter, Parth is committed to remaining highly active in the transition to new leadership. This crucial transfer of knowledge is key to a successful start for Anderson’s next student leaders, and isn’t necessarily a given year-to-year. It takes a person who genuinely cares about the investment they’ve made and who is determined to cultivate it.

Add to all of this a positivity and a genuine optimism evidenced daily, and you have Parth! We’ve certainly been extraordinarily lucky to.”

Elizabeth McKillop, Ed.D.
Senior Director of Student Life, MBA Student Affairs
UCLA Anderson