Dr. Maria Blandizzi is UCLA’s Dean for Students, a role she has served in since 2014. In this role, she spends her time intentionally thinking about how students find a sense of community while managing rigorous curricular and co-curricular expectations that come with being at UCLA. She finds herself inspired by the different life experiences, interests, and passions that UCLA students bring to our campus, and is laser-focused on addressing the complex issues impacting the student experience.

Dr. Blandizzi is committed to meeting students where they are: on Bruin Walk, in the Daily Bruin, on social media, and now in ZoomLand. She believes in her core that we all own the responsibility of supporting one another, and roots her work in Dr. King’s conception of the Beloved Community – one that recognizes that affirms the rights of all students. She is excited to hear students reflect on their experience at UCLA, ask critical questions, and to push us all to build a more just and equitable world. 

To our UCLA families:

I am, by nature, a person who feels more comfortable in the chaos than the calm. I like the hustle, constant forward movement, and tight timelines; most of the time I can see clearly in the eye of the storm. As Dean for Students, responding to crisis and being present with students at a moment’s notice for a critical need have always been central to my work.

Suffice to say, the past several weeks have extended all of us. Even as someone who thrives on the buzz and is fueled by my daily caffeine intake, thinking through our holistic response and support to students during a global pandemic is pushing me in new ways. 

Our campus has endured incredible challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As professional problem-solvers, my colleagues and I have dove headfirst into the work: we are awarding federal emergency grants to eligible students, updating campus resources to be available in the remote setting, and trying to stay up-to-date with national trends in higher education. My fellow Deans from across the UC-system connect on a biweekly basis to check-in and share real-time strategies to support our campus community.

In the hills of Westwood, the emptiness is eerie. Our vibrant community of scholars and activists has made the necessary but difficult transition into an online learning environment rife with challenges: students are tuning into classes from time zones across the world while managing academic obligations in addition to familial responsibilities. While we pride ourselves in the diversity of our student body, many of our most vulnerable student populations are bearing the brunt of this transition: those employed on campuses are losing wages, LGBTQ+ students are moving back home into environments that are sometimes harmful, and others are experiencing incidents of “Zoom-bombing” in the virtual learning environment, compounding the stress caused by a global public health crisis.

Our graduating seniors are perhaps hardest hit, as they now contemplate the possibility of missing out on the most symbolic and memorable day of their educational journey: commencement. As you may already know, across UC, over 40 percent of undergraduate students are the first in their families to attend college. Many others come to UC after attending community college, joining the workforce, or serving in the military. For these students, graduating from one of the world’s greatest universities is not only a sign of their brilliance, but a window into the future of their families and communities.

When I hear from students, families, and colleagues, the pain and fear they feel is palpable even across our physical distance. Now and always, my intention is to respond with care, compassion and love for the community I serve. As we continue to exist in this space of chaos, I find myself wanting to highlight the good, be reminded of what binds us together, and envision what a new normal will look like for us at UCLA: an emphasis on building community, a reinforced commitment to teaching and learning, and an investment in tools that help us achieve these goals.

And when I look at the advocacy, innovation, and love shared by this community, I am reminded that our challenges may be overwhelming, but they are not insurmountable. As we have for the past 100 years, Bruins will overcome.

We are here for our students, wherever they are.

Fiat Lux,

Maria Q. Blandizzi