Excellence in Action
Cinthia Flores ’10
Interviewed by Vivian San Gabriel • 2020
Could you explain please your career path from UCLA to your current role?
After I graduated from UCLA, I took a gap year before applying for law school. At the time, I didn’t have the financial stability to dive into law school, so I decided to work at an immigration law office to save some money and familiarize myself with the profession. After that, I attended the University of California, Irvine School of Law. While in law school, I served as student regent on the UC Board of Regents – a once in a lifetime experience that complimented my time in law school because it centered my law school experience on service. Upon graduating, I worked at a boutique labor law firm representing unions, then took a job at the UCLA Labor Center focused on issues of transnational labor solidarity and immigrant rights.
After the election of Donald Trump in 2016, I decided to return to the practice of law. I spent a few years at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) practicing immigration law with an emphasis on removal defense. Specifically, I represented individuals at risk of imminent deportation before an immigration judge, some of which were detained at immigration prisons.
In February of 2020, Governor Gavin Newson appointed me to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, where I now serve as a quasi-judicial officer adjudicating claims that arise from the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. This state law aims to ensure peace in the agricultural field by guaranteeing justice for all agricultural workers and stability in labor relations by providing workers with the right to bargain collectively and to elect a union as their representative to better their working conditions.
How did your UCLA experience and the UCLA alumni network help shape your success?
With regards to my UCLA experience shaping my success, I would say my time at UCLA helped me identify and sharpen my skills as an advocate. While I was at UCLA, I was very involved on campus. I held numerous leadership positions in several student organizations and served as student body president. These experiences set me on a service-centered path to advocate for the needs of others.
UCLA is focused on community service and civic engagement. When I took on these leadership positions, it was always with that central theme in mind. Having had these experiences helped provide me with the platforms to sharpen my oral argument and presentation skills, which would later translate very well in my career as an immigration litigator.
In addition, I met some incredible people at UCLA through the alumni network that helped nurture my development. UCLA Alumni has served as a facilitator for developing authentic, long-lasting relationships with mentors who I still seek out for advice in career, professional, and personal development matters.
What inspired you to dive into leadership?
I would say my upbringing inspired me to choose to serve. I grew up in a working-class immigrant household. I experienced real-life challenges at a very young age which highlighted the importance of collective action and community support. So, it instilled in me a desire to be an advocate to communicate the needs of those that were in similar circumstances in an effort to make a difference. For example, I grew up in a single parent household to immigrant monolingual Spanish speaker from El Salvador. From a very young age, I served as a kind of right-hand person for her – as the second person in charge of the home, helping with tasks and work.
What has been your greatest career challenge, and how did you overcome it?
I would say my greatest career challenge has been finding a balance between doing what I love in terms of work and taking enough time to care for myself. Creating that work-life balance has been quite a challenge. The legal profession is all-consuming. There’s always work to do, phone calls to return, emails to send… making easy to get lost in all the work. If you’re not mindful enough to set some work hours, you can spend most of your time just working. The first thing I did to overcome this challenge was to identify it as a challenge and then become more mindful and intentional about accounting for my time. So setting and scheduling specific non-work time, literally blocking out periods in my calendar that were non-work time that I would spend on doing other things that brought me joy. Spending time with family or friends, working out, reading, whatever it may be.
As a member of the UCLA Alumni Association Board of Directors, how do you support the UCLA Alumni community?
I take great pride in serving on the UCLA Alumni Association (Alumni Association) Board of Directors. I previously served on the Alumni Association from 2009 and 2010 when I served as Student Body President. The biggest takeaway from my first experience with the Alumni Association was the number of alumni that were so passionate about giving back to UCLA. Part of that giving back was investing in me as a student. My primary goal as a director with the Alumni Association is to make sure that we are taking an approach where we look to students as future alumni of the university and capture what it is that they prioritize. I’m an active member of the affiliation networks of the Alumni Association. I’ve been a member of the Latino Alumni Network and the First Generation Alumni Network for several years. For me, supporting the networks has looked like donating time and money to their cause and ensuring that we can amplify their message.
Do you have any advice for students or alumni looking to make the most of their UCLA experience?
First: consider getting involved on campus because there are certain things you can only learn through service and engagement. Second: make sure that you have passion for the activities you get involved with on campus. That’s what’s going to make the service fulfilling. I was very involved on campus, and every organization, project, or program of mine was important to me and, in most cases, personal. Third: know when you’ve reached your capacity when it comes to involvement. Speaking for myself and my time at UCLA, I did several things, sometimes at the same time, and you can stretch yourself thin. Making sure that you are mindful and self-aware enough to recognize when you’re at capacity is so important.
What makes you most proud to be a Bruin?
Oh, that’s a great question. What makes me most proud to be a Bruin are the UCLA alumni making an impact in the world. I mentioned just now how worldly and focused a UCLA education is on civic engagement. I’m fortunate enough to have made strong connections with other Bruins that inform policy at the local, state, and federal level, shape agendas in philanthropy and tech, serve marginalized communities, and lead on issues of social justice and equity.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Vivian San Gabriel is an Applied Linguistics major at UCLA graduating in Fall 2020, and a Student Assistant with UCLA Alumni Career Engagement. She is a Los Angeles native, and a proud transfer student, having transferred from Glendale Community College in 2018. In the summer of 2019, she interned at Kaplan International in Westwood. In addition to her work with UCLA ACE, she is a Transfer Mentor with the Transfer Student Center and a board member of the Bruin Linguists Society Board of Directors. After graduating, she intends to pursue a career in digital marketing or higher education.