2015 MBA To Watch: Greg Woodburn

Greg Woodburn

Greg Woodburn


University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

From pain comes purpose. Greg Woodburn knows this far better than most. A competitive distance runner, a hip injury reminded him just how much he treasured running. And he shared this love by founding Give Running, which uses running to promote fitness and teach young people character and skills. After enrolling at Marshall, Woodburn continued his charitable endeavors, serving as the co-chair of the Challenge for Charity (C4C), a non-profit with chapters at eight MBA programs that compete in fundraising, volunteering, and athletic events in pursuit of the coveted “Golden Briefcase” (which USC has won for the past five years). Woodburn was also elected as the community representative by his cohort and earned USC Marshall’s Charles A. Flores Memorial Excellence Award. He will begin work at the Clinton Foundation after graduation.

Age: 25

Hometown: Ventura, California

Undergraduate School: University of Southern California

Undergraduate Degree: Major in History, double-minor in Entrepreneurship and Painting

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Founder and President of Give Running.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2014? I interned in Washington, D.C. as an External Affairs Intern with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of children, particularly those living in poverty in America. I managed strategic planning and implementation of key behavior change and business development objectives. One of my highlights was creating the partnership and funding framework for the organization’s business plan to guide strategy, cause marketing, and resource allocation decisions for the next 3-5 years.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I was growing Give Running from a fun project into an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with earned income strategies and international reach.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… working for a social enterprise and potentially coaching a high school cross-country and track team.”

What are your long-term professional goals? One of my chief professional goals is to become a world-class boss and mentor as I advance in my career and have more people reporting directly to me.I plan to remain in the social enterprise space, and can see myself being involved on both the for-profit and nonprofit side, doing work domestically as well as internationally.When the time comes for me to start a family, my professional goals will also center around work-life balance to be there each step of my family’s journey.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be a Working Group Manager with CGI America of the Clinton Foundation in New York City. CGI America brings together leaders from the philanthropic, NGO, business, and government sectors to develop solutions for economic growth and social mobility in the United States.

Favorite Courses: I had two favorite courses: “Sustainability as a Competitive Advantage” (Paul Adler) and “Designing Spreadsheet-Based Business Models” (Omeed Selbe).

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? With Give Running, I am proud of the network and environment of mentorship that I have developed. I am [also] over the moon about my role and the people I will be working with each day at the Clinton Foundation. I will have the opportunity to impact causes such as early childhood education, financial access, and clean energy by recruiting key stakeholders to our Annual Meeting and helping them develop specific Commitments to Action.

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? Along with thanking my sister and parents for their boundless support I want to thank my Class of 2015 for my success. Whenever I walk through our halls, I always see friends and receive greetings from people who pause to give a genuine update and ask how I am. That is one of the things I will miss most. We come from diverse backgrounds, different generations, every corner of the globe and every possible industry; we came in with different strengths and different vulnerabilities. We lean on each other and have grown together. We are a special family to each other within the greater Trojan Family: lifelong and worldwide.

Why did you choose this business school? The community at USC Marshall is a huge part of why I chose this school. I could enhance my passion for social enterprise and build my acumen in finance, data analytics, marketing and operations. Marshall in particular has a reputation for curriculum with breadth and depth. Also, it was important for me to have a global, entrepreneurial mindset and to be a global citizen.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The entire journey has been filled with so much growth and so many memories, from going through the intense academic workload of Core to dressing up like the Backstreet Boys with my best MBA buddies for our annual Halloween party to enjoying good food and even better conversation with classmates after a busy but fulfilling day.

I would say I most enjoy that each day I am appreciated, respected, and valued for being my authentic self – and this helps me to be the best version of myself and to learn in alignment with my values.

Fun fact about yourself: Because my dad is a sports writer, I had the opportunity to meet boxing great Muhammad Ali when I was five years old. Upon saying hello, I put out my hand for a high five… and they pulled it back yelling “TOO SLOW!” when Ali went to give me five. The greatest boxer ever erupted in laughter and gave me the greatest bear hug ever.

Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird. I reread it several months before starting business school and found it even more enriching and entertaining than the first time.

Favorite movie: This may sound cheesy, but my favorite movie is the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. I watch it with my family every Christmas Eve and know it almost verbatim at this point. A close second is Wedding Crashers.

Favorite musical performer: Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard of The Swell Season, who I first saw in the movie Once. Their authenticity of sound and spirit is second to none. My sister and I got to see them perform at the Hollywood Bowl.

Favorite television show: Modern Family, hands down. The more you watch it and get to know the characters, the funnier each episode becomes. It’s the only show I watch consistently.

Favorite vacation spot: Distance running and relaxing in the south of Thailand, which I had the opportunity to do after our PRIME global business program in Hanoi and Bangkok last May.

What are your hobbies? With time at a premium the last two years, I have become more mindful of and grateful for my hobbies. First and foremost, I love to run. Even a short jog to shake out the legs and clear the mind can reinvigorate my day. On the weekends I usually go for longer runs with one of my best MBA friends. I also find immense joy in reading (and occasionally writing) poetry.

Twitter Handle: @gregwoodburn

What made Greg such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015?

“I am continually impressed by the way Greg balances an unusual breadth and depth of knowledge, exploring disparate fields with consideration of both the big issues and nuanced details. Another contributing factor to Greg’s success is his authentic leadership ability. As a Co-Chair of USC Marshall Challenge For Charity and a member of the select MBA Society and Business Fellows program, I can see how other students respect and admire Greg even though he is one of the youngest in the Class of 2015. Greg’s cohort of 70 students elected him as their community representative during their Core semester. They are always inclined to support him in his endeavors, because he supports his peers with genuine interest and zeal.

I admire how Greg uses his talents, position, and education to assist those who are less fortunate. The examples of this are many: his humanitarian travels to West Africa and Sri Lanka through Give Running; his work developing partnerships and creating societal norm change at KaBOOM! this past summer; the time he devotes to volunteerism and fundraising while a full-time student; his part-time job as a coordinator of student-athlete professional development programs in the USC Athletic Department; and his sincere demeanor in all interactions. Greg shows his passion through his studies, entrepreneurial mindset, and out-of-class activities.

Greg approaches challenges with a clear desire to achieve optimal solutions through collaboration. He possesses an enthusiastic love for learning and a curious mind; moreover, he is a disciplined and dedicated worker. I am confident in Greg’s ability to convene diverse people towards a common purpose and to turn analysis into action. His work is most impressive, as is his commitment to social impact. In short, Greg is a rare individual of high character and talents.” – Paul Adler, Harold Quinton Chair in Business Policy and Professor of Management and Organization


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