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REACH at UCLA creates hub for student content creators to connect, grow together

Members of REACH at UCLA gather for a group photo. The organization was founded as a hub for students interested in pursuing careers in social media, content creation and digital marketing. (Courtesy of Nila Makhfi. Photo illustration by Alicia Caldera)

By Matthew Beymer

Sept. 21, 2023 9:30 p.m.

A new social media club at UCLA is reaching beyond a collegiate rivalry.

Branching out from its founding USC chapter in early 2023, REACH at UCLA launched as a hub for students interested in social media, digital marketing and content creation, said co-president and fourth-year communication student Amelie Phua. The student-led organization offers exclusive access to creator workshops, brand events, content shoot days and USC collaborations toward goals of community building and social media growth. Noticing the lack of UCLA content creator clubs, Phua said she and her teammates strive to promote REACH among a slew of professional societies established on campus.

“As Nila (fourth-year psychology student and co-president Nila Makhfi) likes to put it, like how the psychology students and business students have their own societies, it’s kind of like a society for people within social media,” Phua said. “We both noticed that there was no club for any of the social media platforms or content creators in general.”

REACH at UCLA sprung onto the scene after Phua and her roommates – fellow UCLA transfers who assumed leadership roles in the club – discovered the USC branch’s TikTok account via the social media platform’s popular “For You” page, said Makhfi. After reaching out to the USC chapter, Makhfi said she and her roommates soon received resources for planning guest talks. They then banded together with their next-door neighbors to form a sister chapter of USC with varying degrees of experience, as some founding members of the UCLA branch had not engaged as closely in social media beforehand, Makhfi added.

REACH at UCLA kicked off with an exclusive initiation event at the Westwood location of sandwich chain Egg Tuck this past March, Phua said, and this quickly followed with a sponsored event at the Playboy store at Westfield Century City. Angeline Espina, REACH’s vice president and a fourth-year linguistics and psychology student, said soda company Poppi has also supported the UCLA branch.

With the spate of highly flexible roles on their board, REACH at UCLA also fosters intra-organizational collaboration on a regular basis, Espina said. The entire team meets on a biweekly basis, usually on Mondays, she said, to plan ahead for future events and potential partnerships.

“It’s a constant whirlpool of trying to figure out what events can we do for the influencers, how we can pull from people we’ve already communicated with and how we can pull from our network with USC,” Espina said.

Although Espina said REACH at UCLA does not require extensive social media experience, the organization has a competitive application process to discover students who will utilize the opportunities presented to them. Multiple applicants must be rejected to achieve and nourish exclusive partnerships, given REACH’s preference for quality over quantity of members, Makhfi said. The challenge, however, then becomes maintaining a consistent audience at exclusive events, Makhfi added.

“Sometimes we think maybe if we accepted those other students, they would have showed up,” Makhfi said. “Now for this year, when we do our interviews, we are going to mention that we do have this specific time for biweekly meetings and those are the times that we’re going to usually put the guest speaking events.”

With the help of the USC chapter, Espina said REACH at UCLA is able to accomplish just as much as its founding chapter. This past May, Makhfi said the USC chapter’s president Dylan Huey aided the UCLA chapter in procuring a beverage sponsor in anticipation of a Sip N’ Paint event for Mental Health Awareness Month. Makhfi said the sister branches have continued to discuss upcoming events throughout the summer.

“The USC—UCLA rivalry is not present when it comes to our relationship,” Makhfi said. “They’re always inviting us to their events, and we’re always more than willing to invite them to our events, so it’s always good to see them around.”

[Related: Bruin Creators helps aspiring content creators begin their YouTube careers]

Looking forward to the fall quarter, Espina said REACH at UCLA will coordinate the REACH Olympics with the USC branch on top of guest speaker events that are already in the works. Competing with the USC branch for brand partnerships, the UCLA team plans to reach out to well-known athletic companies and beverage companies, Espina said, feeding further into the schools’ long-standing rivalry. The two chapters will also compete in sports games when the event commences at the end of October, Espina added.

As the national REACH brand expands to dozens of universities including the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola Marymount University, the UCLA chapter hopes to create a growing alumni network and develop merchandise to further promote REACH, Espina said. They also foresee their next initiation, an event just around the corner, at the Snap Inc. headquarters in Santa Monica, Makhfi said. To get there, Espina said potential applicants must express one particular quality: passion.

“We’re just looking for people who are very passionate,” Espina said. “It doesn’t matter how many followers you have. It’s passion that’s just going to lead you to stay consistent, be engaging and continue to want to learn.”

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Matthew Beymer
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