October 03, 2019 • By Christine Byrd
Brianna Chew, MSBA ’19, came to UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business to do two things: earn her master’s and launch a career with a local nonprofit. In one short year, she achieved both—and she enjoyed it so much, that she’s not leaving.
“My experience at UCI taught me how to be more professional and how to work effectively with people from all around the world and all levels of business experience,” says Chew.
Even as a girl scout, Chew enjoyed dedicating time to nonprofits and community organizations—especially those centered around education. At the age of 10, she started volunteering at her hometown library, restocking books and reading to younger children. In high school, she launched a tutoring program at the Glendora Public Library, and most recently, she’s volunteered teaching computer coding to girls.
As an undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside, Chew studied applied mathematics with a minor in business, but her passion for helping others remained strong. One summer, Chew interned for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) at Caltech, where she got an up-close look at the inner workings of the fundraising department at a research university.
Chew came to a crossroads as she finished her bachelor’s. Although she was interested in pursuing business, she didn’t feel ready for the job market, and she lacked the work experience required for an MBA program. At a grad fair on the UCR campus, Chew discovered the Merage School’s specialty master’s programs.
“Business analytics really caught my eye because I’d be able to combine both my interests for math and business,” she says. “I saw that it’s a new field that’s up and coming in the business world, and I knew there would be a lot of opportunities there that would align with my interests.”
While pursuing her one-year Master of Science in Business Analytics the Merage School, Chew took electives from the MBA curriculum, as well, including one on nonprofit management taught by the former CEO of SoCal PBS Mel Rogers.
“He had a lot of great advice about managing nonprofits, and a lot of good stories and experiences to share with his students,” says Chew. “It made me even more motivated and excited to work for a nonprofit.”
To further grow and cultivate her professional network, Chew leaned on the Merage School’s Career Center. Chew says the staff not only helped her with with resumés and job applications, but also guided her in crafting professional emails and follow-ups after every interview. Although Chew looked at various jobs with local nonprofits, she had her eye on one very nearby: at University Advancement, UCI’s fundraising department.
"Students, staff, and faculty all depend on the relationships that educational advancement and alumni relations teams create with corporations, donors, alumni, and other key constituents of the university,” says Chew. “Without university advancement and development, there's no way the students could do the research like I did as an undergraduate, or take advantage of so many other university experiences that will ultimately help them move up in the world."
When she graduated in June 2019, Chew was hired by UCI as a prospect development analyst and researcher, which will allow her to combine her analytical skills with her passion for helping others. Like most industries, traditional nonprofit fundraising has been disrupted by technology and big data, and the skills Chew’s honed with her MSBA can help the university identify potential donors.
“In my work, I hope to bring a new perspective,” she says. “As businesses around us are becoming more data-driven, there’s a huge opportunity to use analytics to drive fundraising.”
While she grows into these new opportunities, Chew remains deeply connected with the nonprofits where her passion started as a little girl, including the Glendale Public Library, where she was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees.
“Brianna embodies what it means to be an MSBA —to have a passion for the industry, but in alignment with UCI’s mission of public service, to want to give back at a high level, as well,” says Bryan Muñoz, Associate Director of Recruitment & Admissions for the Master of Science in Business Analytics program. “She is sending a message to every little girl out there who wants to conquer the domain of tech and business that if she can do it—so can they.”