By Carolyn Gray Anderson
In 2016, UCLA Anderson alumna Andrea Wade (’96) celebrated her 20th reunion. “What started out as a way for me to see what old classmates were up to turned into something much more meaningful,” she says. Now, six months later, she finds herself working with UCLA Anderson’s office of alumni relations (OAR) as the director of alumni programming and events to develop the strategy to engage alumni where they live, work, think and play.
A few of her past employers include Creative Artists Agency, Bank of America, e-commerce pioneer eToys and Arthur Andersen, where she worked as a business consultant following graduation from Anderson. She has also worked as a brand marketing consultant, helping organizations and individuals amplify their brand positioning to improve awareness and profitability. Amid that range and variety, Wade is an ambassador for continuity.
Walking the talk of an alumna for life, Wade says she has “a tradition of involvement,” whether professional or academic. She made commitments to Anderson’s Los Angeles alumni chapter starting in 2000, even before the office of alumni relations as we know it existed. She says, “I’ve been involved with a lot of other institutions, and when they’ve meant something to me — my high school, my college or even my first employer, Teach For America — I try to stay connected.”
And connection is what OAR cultivates. Wade’s particular strength is in marketing segmentation strategy. Having marketed to consumers based on their preferences, life stages, demographics and other criteria, Wade is ready to understand each group’s unique needs. If the business school’s “customer” is the student, OAR has that exact customer for life as an alumnus. But individual alumni change time and time again as they progress through careers and various life stages, and OAR needs to keep pace with what will serve them best.
Wade’s goal is to provide something approaching a bespoke experience for alumni in every phase of life and career. She notes that many things compete for alumni’s time and attention, so for Anderson OAR offerings to stand out, value and relevancy are critical. “Growth, development and curiosity don’t end because you graduated,” she says. “The school still serves you. OAR provides a way for alumni to continually derive value from their relationship with Anderson.”
At age 55 or 65, professionals may be retiring from a career but they’re not retiring from work, Wade says. “We’ve identified huge opportunities to help people reposition or rebrand themselves, to figure out what their ‘next’ is.”
Wade is living proof that alumni benefit from the resources of their network. Coming from a liberal arts background, she says, she applied to b-school with trepidation about the quantitative requirements. “Everyone I spoke to who had graduated from or was currently enrolled at Anderson seemed like they were really enjoying it. It seemed like Anderson was going to be a supportive environment — and it is! Anderson helped me to reposition myself so I could transition into more traditional business functions. My MBA put me on an entirely different career path.”
From high school and college studies abroad to forays in the toy industry to consulting with a legendary accounting firm, Wade has acquired a solid set of skills transferable across industries. “Andrea is a self-described consumer advocate,” says Associate Dean of Alumni Relations Jill Baldauf (B.A. ’79, ’81). “She will bridge our strong data analytics team with alumni chapter and special events teams.”
“I have worked in several different industries, and in a variety of environments, including corporate, nonprofit and startup,” Wade says. “With each transition, I focused on the experience I was getting. Is it interesting to me? Am I working with people or in an environment that I can learn from? Can I tie it all together? That’s been the through line on everything.”
And so she knows first hand how Anderson alumni might switch careers or work cross functionally or narrow their focus within an industry; they might be starting a family or retiring; and she also knows what remains consistently valuable to them as they travel those routes.
Wade looks forward to coming up with different hypotheses and trying different strategies to test alumni responses. Maybe this means a new strategy of focusing on a narrower segment than before. Anderson’s worldwide alumni network includes some 37,000 members and, Wade says, “I want to make sure we’re a resource and a partner for them wherever they are — literally and figuratively.”