2023 MBA To Watch: Lillian Fan, UCLA (Anderson)

Lillian Fan

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly” encapsulates my approach to life.”

Hometown: Walnut, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I keep my own custom blueberry-scented bowling ball in my car in case I happen to stumble upon a bowling alley.

Undergraduate School and Degree: UC Berkeley, B.S. Civil Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Burns & McDonnell, Civil Engineer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Danaher, Remote from Los Angeles, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? Danaher, General Management Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership Roles:

  • Admissions Ambassador Corps, President
  • Christian Student Fellowship, Co-President
  • Craft Beer Club, Vice President of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion


  • Consortium Fellow
  • Dean’s Scholar


Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The Class of 2023 was so fortunate that our MBA experience was, for the most part, back to normal after the pandemic. Because of this, we wanted to ensure past traditions were brought back to life. I am proud of my role as President of the Admissions Ambassador Corps as our team brought back in-person weekly informational events (class visits, tours, information sessions, etc.) as well as large-scale welcome events like Embracing Diversity Conference and Access Anderson.

With this vision in mind, I held a strong position that we needed to accomplish everything with a lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion. It was important to me that we ensure that those who needed a virtual experience to access our community could continue to do so. We wanted this whether it was because they were international, they couldn’t afford to visit LA, or other personal reasons — maximizing access to experiencing Anderson was a key focus. We launched a virtual campus tour experience for those unable to visit our campus that closely mimics our actual campus tour to ensure people are getting as close to the real thing as possible. We also closely looked at representation within our community and engaged leaders from identity clubs as well as the administration. We collaborated on events to create support networks and workshops for applicants from underrepresented backgrounds. It was a constant logistical and strategic balancing act, but we were successfully able to not only get our admissions back in-person but improve the experience from what it was before. It wouldn’t have been possible without the most amazing team of incredible VPs (you know who you are!), the Office of Admissions, and Dean Gary Fraser.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At my last job before coming to business school, I had transitioned into an informal Assistant Project Manager role on a few projects as I continued to also lead the civil design as well. On a multi-million-dollar development project for the U.S. Department of Defense, there were some unexpected circumstances (civil design-related) that arose a couple months into the project that had the potential to lead to a 6-month if not years-long delay. There were many emails going back and forth from stakeholders across multiple agencies sharing what they knew about the situation, but each person only held a piece of the picture. I initiated and led a call gathering all 50+ stakeholders from the government to lay out all of the information we had in one document and presented our options. Through this collaborative process, we formed a strategy that would allow us to stay on schedule and ultimately save the project and the government millions of dollars. I was proud that I was not only able to use my technical skills as a civil engineer to propose viable solutions, but also effectively manage upwards and ultimately gain their trust to reach a consensus across all parties. I always felt weak in my negotiating skills but I was able to handle this high-stakes scenario well with positive outcomes for everyone involved. I’m thankful for my project manager at the time, Mike Betz, for trusting me to handle this situation and giving me the opportunity to manage and lead early on in my career.

Why did you choose this business school? From talking to fellow admits in my class at Anderson, I loved hearing how diverse the professional and personal goals across the group were. Yet, we were all so similar in that we were genuinely curious about each other, wanted to see each other succeed, and were extremely driven. That’s the culture at Anderson: “Share Success.” I wanted to learn from people who were so different from me and be inspired by the incredible ideas they had while sharing values of collaboration and community, and this is exactly what I found at Anderson.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I had a great time learning from my Applied Management Research project advisor Professor Andres Terech. Despite both of us not knowing much about the topic beforehand, he was instrumental in helping our team deliver a great result to our client, Alleviate Care. He always ended our bi-weekly meetings letting us know we could reach out for more advising at any time, and he really meant it. A couple days before our midpoint presentation, he got on a Zoom call with me at 7 pm to give feedback on our slides, and it completely transformed our presentation for the better. He also encouraged us to challenge his ideas in our meetings (which I did often!) but it was always productive and really made me feel like we were collaborators on this project. Our client was very happy with our results and presentation at the end and we really couldn’t have done it without Professor Terech’s support!

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite class at Anderson was General Management with Professor Ian Larkin. What I loved about this class is that the cases and situations we discussed were all so relatable; we could easily see ourselves having to make these tough decisions as managers in the future. I also really enjoyed hearing the varying perspectives and thought processes of my classmates – it really reminded me of how we can all approach something so differently without any of us being right or wrong; it’s just different! Despite this being a “soft skills” kind of class, Professor Larkin also gave us very practical tools and frameworks to apply to these seemingly nebulous types of problems. They really helped me visualize how I’d apply these learnings to my career moving forward. I even found myself quoting learnings from class in my everyday conversations because it was all so applicable and helpful!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? During the pandemic, a new tradition was started at Anderson called Anderstories. Nothing fancy – it’s held about once a month at our outdoor terrace with seating, a microphone, projector/screen, and some food and wine. Two people share an intimate story from their lives, whatever they wanted. I loved that people felt safe enough to be vulnerable in this space and that we were fortunate enough to be the recipients of that vulnerability. I cried many times from these beautiful stories and always came away with new, refreshed perspectives thanks to these brave classmates. It really highlighted that we were a community that values every part of our lives – the successes, the failures, the cleaned-up, professional sides, and the messy sides.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Being in Los Angeles near the beaches, Anderson can appear like a low-key, super chill place where people are more casual about everything they do. In some ways, this was true in that we don’t take ourselves too seriously; we do enjoy a good beach day (who doesn’t?), but this was not true when it came to our drive and our work ethic. I’ve met some of the most hard-working people at Anderson – people are incredibly passionate about their goals and work incredibly hard to make those dreams come to life, whether it’s a business they’re starting or a vision they had for an event at our campus. I want to shout out Amara Barakat here as a prime example of this. She spent months pouring into our flagship Embracing Diversity Week. I know myself and many others were inspired at many events throughout the week and it truly would not have been possible without her diligent commitment to making sure it was a resounding success.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming into business school, I assumed most interactions would be purely for networking purposes and stay surface level. And while those do exist, I realized that the majority of people really want to know each other on a deeper level. We’ll talk about our families, our mental health, our Enneagrams, or my favorite –- “roses and thorns” of the week. I thought people just wanted to make business connections but I’ve built close relationships with my peers from business school that I’ll likely carry with me for the rest of my life.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? We were deep in the pandemic when I was preparing my application. In response, I signed up for a ton of virtual admission events at Anderson – this really helped me see many aspects of the program (academic, clubs, professional, social, etc.) and even helped me get to know current students since I started to see the same people across events. I remember attending a Women’s Weekend event where I was able to candidly ask the then-Women’s Business Connection President about what allyship looked like at Anderson. Her honest yet optimistic answer gave me a lot of confidence that Anderson was a place I could see myself at.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am so grateful to know the amazing Daniela Mayock – she is absolutely an inspiration to me. I love that she is so fiercely passionate about everything that she does, especially when it comes to equity, diversity, and inclusion at Anderson and beyond. She has been deeply committed to improving our community through the Anti-Racism Committee, Alliance for Latinx Management Association, Anderson Onboarding Committee, and so many more. You can always count on her to volunteer for events like Embracing Diversity Week and Black History Month and to come up with new, fresh ideas to increase engagement at club events. On top of her deep commitment to EDI, she is such a joyful, fun person to be around. She reminds me to appreciate the little things in life (she loves food like no other) and she brings a lot of happiness to my life personally as a dear friend. She’s also not afraid to admit when she needs help and is quick to ask for support from those around her with humility. I admire her determined, proactive spirit and I have a lot to learn from her!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1. Health and Education Equity: My long-term career goal is to pivot into a more impact-focused role. This would happen either at a non-profit or in a corporate social responsibility role that focuses on delivering high-quality healthcare and education to under-resourced communities. I truly believe health and education have the power to transform lives and to narrow gaps in income inequality, especially in the United States.

2. A Global Lens: Like many others, I love traveling. I’m just coming off of a trek to Morocco with ~ 30 other Anderson students! I’ve had the opportunity to study abroad in undergrad and I went to Chile as part of the Global Immersion program at Anderson, but I would love to experience working abroad and get a more international perspective on business. If I had to pick a city, I’d pick Taipei, where my parents are from. I’d get to brush up on my Mandarin and learn how to do business in a completely different context all while connecting with my heritage in a new way.

What made Lillian such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Lillian Fan is an ideal example of the benefits of empowering student leaders. My simple definition of leadership is “having a vision and motivating others to help you achieve it” and Lillian is the first student that comes to mind when I think of this definition. To share some background, I’ve worked at two other top 20 MBA programs in my career, and I can tell you that the student effort at UCLA Anderson to recruit the next year of talented MBAs is unparalleled to any other program I have seen. It truly is a part of the fabric of the student community at UCLA Anderson and as President of the Admission Ambassador Corps, Lillian Fan is the leader of this important effort.

One of my first meetings this year was with Lillian. I was impressed with her vision, which was to transition back to a post-pandemic admissions experience for prospective students while making access to UCLA Anderson accessible to all. Some of the hallmarks of a successful leader is to collaborate with others for success, represent all voices, and be an ally for those who may not be in the majority.  In that first meeting with Lillian in her role as President of the Admission Ambassador Corp, she not only shared her vision, but she also engaged me in a brainstorming session on how we could collectively achieve the goals of creating an even more diverse class than the previous year. Her partnerships with the Women’s Business Connection, the Alliance for Latinx Members Association, Out@Anderson, and the Black Business Students Association went beyond just engaging with club leaders – it followed the same pattern of brainstorming objectives and developing programming for our prospective MBAs. The most important part of this effort is that our preliminary numbers for the class of 2025 indicates that we are ahead of last year in all areas that we were underrepresented in last year. Lillian Fan has not only made her mark as a leader, an advocate for diversity, and top performing student, she has also created a platform and a blueprint for those who will follow her in leading these efforts at Anderson next year.”

Gary Fraser, Ed.D.
Associate Dean, Full Time MBA Program
UCLA Anderson School of Management


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