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Dean's List: The Graduate

By Selena Fragassi


As an alumnus of UCLA, Jason Walley couldn’t wait to get back to campus—and when he did, the perfect job was practically waiting for him. 

“I’m a lifelong learner,” admits Jason Walley. “I know a lot of people may say that about themselves, but in our information age, I try to stay on top of what is going on and educate myself in order to stay up-to-speed on everything.” True to his word, the once history major at UCLA has made it his career to continually research and devour information. This time around, to enhance the university’s collegiate conference department where he has worked for 13 years and was recently promoted to director of sales for conferences and catering.

“Since graduating I had been looking to find a job at UCLA,” Walley says, admitting demand was high. Yet after working for a number of years developing Musiker Discovery Programs for college-bound high schoolers, he finally found an opening as a sales manager. “UCLA is a prestigious school, and I think having that DNA within the team is a positive thing and provides a connection to the campus beyond a paycheck.” That bond has helped Walley to triumph in his role, bringing Olympic committees to campus, gaining attention for the department from the California Council for Excellence, and becoming involved in the Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International (ACCED-I).

“I don’t think there’s any kid running around saying, ‘I want to be a collegiate conference professional one day,’ but it’s a job that, if you’re lucky, you fall into and it fits your personality and makes you feel good.”

Unique Venues: How does being an alum benefit your role and your clients?
Jason Walley: “I have realized I have a unique experience to offer clients that can help them not just with logistics, but to give them an additional level of familiarity with the campus and help them solve headaches to make their programs better.”

UV: In what ways has the department changed in your 13 years, and how were you instrumental in shaping that growth?
JW: “In the beginning, I spent a lot of time developing and managing the relationship between our sales office and operations, and creating work teams to solve issues. Working together made us more forgiving of each other and that helped move us into the next phase. I also went a step further and spearheaded an initiative to apply for an award with the California Council for Excellence so we could use the process, and the scrutiny of examiners, to look at our department and tell us where we were doing things right or could do things better. We ended up winning a silver level award. I’ve done lots of improvement projects like that, including helping to create a professional development program for UCLA students that worked in housing, the front desk, and dining.”

UV: What other accomplishments at UCLA are you particularly proud of?
JW: “Most recently, helping to manage the International Special Olympics in L.A. last summer; that was a great opportunity. I also participated in L.A.’s bid for the 2016 (and now the 2024) Olympic Games. The Olympic Committee came to campus, and I toured them around and gave them a sense of what we could do for them.”

UV: Are there trends or developments you are uncovering this year?
JW: “L.A. is a top market in the hospitality industry. Being here, we are seeing rates go through the roof at hotels for sleeping accommodations, catering, and everything else. This trend is going to continue to be a benefit to us, making us one of the best values in the market.”

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