Anne Dela Cruz: Alumna Smooths Path to Graduate Studies at UCLA

The true blue Bruin - with four UCLA degrees - will speak on issues of diversity in higher education at the ELP 20th Anniversary Symposium on Sept. 28.

As UCLA’s Graduate Division director of diversity, inclusion, and admissions, Anne Dela Cruz (’12, Ed.D., Educational Leadership Program) relies on her managerial expertise and her own personal experiences as a graduate student to help smooth the path to advanced degrees for prospective graduate students including underserved and underrepresented students. Also an alumna of the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Executive Program, she focused her doctoral dissertation at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS) on the decision-making process for women who apply to graduate business schools.

“It’s so wonderful to work with graduate students, having been a graduate student with that perspective,” says Dela Cruz. “My career trajectory was definitely not the typical career path to higher education administration. When I graduated as an undergrad, I went into banking and finance for about ten years. However, I really knew that I wanted to eventually land in education, so I applied for a job at UCLA in 2008.”

“I was fortunate enough to be working at UCLA as assistant director of operations at the Anderson School of Management’s part-time MBA career center while [in the ELP program], because it really gave me a sense of what a rich university we have… and to learn skills in terms of leadership and organizational change, and to be able to use them on the job. And what I learned from my dissertation really translates to what we do in the UCLA Graduate Division.”

Dela Cruz oversees diversity initiatives and pipeline efforts relating to outreach, recruitment, and admissions for masters and doctoral programs at UCLA with the exception of medicine, dentistry and law, which each has its own admissions process and applications system. Working largely with minority-serving institutions, including the California State University system, minority-serving institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and tribal colleges, her office seeks to expose prospective students to the options that await them in a graduate program at UCLA. Cohorts of students from initiatives like the McNair Scholars Program and the Minority Access to Research Careers-Undergraduate Student Training for Academic Research (MARC-U*STAR) Program are invited to UCLA for daylong visits including tours, workshops on the application process, and strategies for getting accepted to graduate school.

“For students who are first-generation [college students], this is their opportunity to interact with so many different stakeholders at the university,” says Dela Cruz. “They get to meet administrators, graduate students, and faculty. We really want to show students that there is support for them during graduate school, promoting the retention process. A lot of students don’t necessarily know what they want to do career-wise, but when they come here, they can start exploring graduate programs of interest, and that is where we would like to start that conversation with them.”

Working with more than 100 academic departments across the UCLA campus, Dela Cruz and her colleagues encounter and advise students ranging from recent undergrads to experienced professionals who want advanced degrees to help achieve career objectives or even to change careers.  Her office also deals with current issues among graduate school hopefuls, such as undocumented students, veterans and foster youth students. She says that while the STEM fields are among the most popular doctoral programs, there is widespread interest from students in various areas spanning arts and humanities, social and behavioral economics, as well as education.

“When we attend graduate school recruitment fairs between the months of September and December, we see so much interest in how UCLA’s GSE&IS addresses issues of social justice and equity,” says Dela Cruz. “We’re really fortunate to have programs offered by Center X and the School’s various programs to help students understand how they can incorporate social justice and equity into their future education careers.”

A member of the planning committee for the ELP 20th Anniversary Symposium, which takes place at UCLA on Sept. 28, Dela Cruz will participate in a roundtable discussion on diversity issues in higher education. Of her own personal experiences as a student in the ELP Program, she says, “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

“When I was looking at graduate programs, I myself was debating whether I would pursue an MBA or an Ed.D,” she recalls. “ I knew when I came to an info session and spoke to alumni, this was the right program for me. The hands-on experience that I got throughout the program was so valuable.

“The program equipped me for leadership positions that involve complex problem solving and strategic planning amidst ever-changing environments,” she says. “Everything from conducting action research at specific sites to my dissertation work really gave me a sense for not only understanding my own leadership style, but also strategies that would allow me to incorporate research into my daily work. From assessment to qualitative and quantitative research, these are definitely skills that I’ve learned and that impact how I do my job every day.”

Dela Cruz is a Bruin four times over. In addition to her Ed.D. from the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, she earned bachelor’s degrees as a double major in English and economics, and is an alumna of the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Executive Program. She also holds her master’s degree in English with an emphasis in composition and rhetoric and a master’s degree in teaching ESL from CSU Los Angeles.

To attend the ELP 20th Anniversary Symposium, email Shan Boggs or contact (310) 206-0558 no later than Sept. 18.