Spotlight Stories: Jason Mollring, UC Alumni UK President


Jason Mollring grew up in Monterey, California and is a UC Santa Barbara alumnus. He has lived in the UK for 20 years working in social enterprise and currently serves as The UC Alumni UK Board President.


Where you are from? How did you end up at UC?

I was born in Nebraska and when I was seven my family moved out to California. So, I grew up between Monterey and Salinas. When I was in high school, I started looking around where I might go to college. I wanted to stay in California and for some reason, I had my heart set on Santa Barbara. I just thought it seemed like the coolest place I could possibly go. So, I applied, and thankfully I got accepted.

How was your time at UCSB? What did you study?

My time there was fantastic. I had a lot of fun, but it felt like going from the minor leagues to the major leagues in terms of academia and studying. I did relatively well in high school and all through my academic career. Then at Santa Barbara, when my first set of exams came up it was a whole other level of studying. I felt pretty poorly trained, and it took me a bit of time to adjust to the academic level at university.

I went in as a Psychology major, and began taking all the prerequisite courses. It ended up not being what I hoped, so I talked to one of the counsellors in the department who told me that I might be interested in something more behavioural, like sociology. There was a class called Social Psychology which I decided to take, and it ended up being fantastic and interesting. So, I switched my major to Sociology and became totally engrossed in the subject. There was a professor named John Baldwin who taught courses on Ethical Capitalism, and I completely fell in love with the topic. I joined research class that was offered on the subject, and I became top of the class. It planted the seed which then shaped the rest of my life. It led me to thinking about social entrepreneurship and social enterprise, which are big topics now, but at that time were not being discussed much. It really shaped my career path.

Just to segue – how long have you been in the UK and what brought you here?

I have been here for twenty years, which I literally cannot believe sometimes. I thought I would be here for maybe two years and two turned into five then ten then twenty. I was working in Silicon Valley for a dot com start up back in 2001. In the late 90s tons of money was being poured into Silicon Valley. It felt like the Gold Rush and unfortunately there were a lot of bad business. I am not sure what sparked the fall, but the bubble burst and the whole economy collapsed very quickly including our start up business. So, at this point I decided to travel. I had always wanted to go to Spain, so I bought a ticket and stopped in London. I had a friend from Berkeley who was doing a masters at Cambridge and I contacted them. I went up to Cambridge to hang out with my friend and I ended up meeting her dorm mate who I hit it off with. We started a long-distance relationship from San Francisco to London then fast forward a bit and I moved over to London and eventually we got married. As time went on, we realised that we weren’t each other’s ‘forever people’, so we split up. At this point I was doing an MBA at Liverpool Business School with a focus on Social Enterprise. I decided to stay and finish the course. My friends back home thought I was crazy for not coming back to California, but in terms of the Social Enterprise industry at the time, all the interesting stuff was happening in London and the UK. In terms of my career, this was the place to be which ultimately kept me here.

Can you tell me about the transition period of moving to a new country? Was it smooth sailing? Were there any difficulties or challenges that you faced?

I faced challenges because I only knew one person when I came here, my partner at the time. I did not have a community or a network which was completely different to being in California where I had lots of friends and family. It was also difficult to find work because I did not have any professional connections. I felt a bit isolated and alone at first. When I went to my first UC UK event, a Jaime Oliver Cooking class in Notting Hill, we all went to the pub, and it felt like we were friends instantly.

As our UC Alumni UK Board President, can you tell me why you have decided to stay involved in your UC community?

As someone who has been involved in psychology and sociology, I have a very deep belief that humans are social creatures. When I found the UC Alumni UK group, I found it to be an interesting cross section of people who have experienced that rigor of getting a degree from a UC campus. Then combined with the experience of living abroad creates a unique set of people. It’s a great starting point for connecting. Usually, the people who are part of this community are kind, welcoming and do interesting things with their lives and careers. It’s a real pleasure to be around these people. I see my role as UC Alumni UK Board President as that of a gardener. I want to create a fertile ground to allow professional, social, and academic opportunities to flourish.

What is your favorite thing about living in London?

I think London is one of the great world cities, so I would say it is the international community here. I think the international aspect of London is different to any place that I have ever experiences. You can go to Canary Wharf, one of the financial centres of the world, then walk not too far and be in a an entirely different community in the East End. You have integration here, people from all over the world living side by side. Then there’s also the culture, history, arts, all that stuff is easily accessible.

What do you miss most about California?

I miss the Pacific Ocean. It’s so vast and huge and beautiful. Growing up in Monterey, the Bay plus Big Sur then driving up the coast to Mendocino, that is something I miss a lot. There is something so beautiful and awe inspiring about that coastline. I miss the people – particularly my friends and family. I miss really good Mexican food. It’s getting better here in the UK, but still not comparable. Also, the food culture, the quality of food is some of the best in the world. The fresh produce in California is hard to match.


Interview conducted by Romy Stein on January 13th, 2023.