Meet the USC Marshall MBA Class of 2018

USC Marshall School of Business


“The USC Marshall Full-Time MBA Class of 2018 brings together an exceptional cohort from diverse and sometimes non-traditional backgrounds,” says Anne Ziemniak, assistant dean and director of USC Marshal’s Full-Time MBA Program, in a statement to Poets&Quants. “But no matter where they come from, they emerge from our program united as globally-savvy business leaders, and members of the Trojan family.”

Looking at the class profile, 2018 represents a mix bag. Applications dropped from a high of 1,780 during the 2014-2015 cycle to 1,600 in 2015-2016, a number more in line with applications to the 2016 Class. Overall, the acceptance rate climbed four points to 33%, with the school enrolling 228 students, up five from the previous year.

Academically, the class combined for a 692 average GMAT, up two points from last year, as scores ran from 640-740 in the 80% range. With GMATs up, average GPAs followed suit, going from 3.3 to 3.37. The admissions team also made progress in several demographic categories. Most notably, the percentage of international students jumped from 26% to 32%. At the same time, the percentage of women in the class rose from 30% to 32% — the same number as cross-town rival UCLA. As a whole, the average age of Marshall MBA candidates was 29 in the Class of 2018, with 18% of the class arriving already married.

The class was also carefully crafted to accommodate a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds. Overall, social sciences and humanities undergraduate majors comprise the largest bloc of students at 28%. Business majors finished a close second at 27%, followed by engineering and computer science (23%), economics (15%), and science and math (7%). The spread was even more diverse among career choices. 17% of the incoming class hailed from financial services, with technology (13%) and media and entertainment (11%) also breaking double digits. Consumer products (8%), non-profits (8%), pharmaceuticals and healthcare (7%), consulting (7%), government and military (6%), education (6%), and manufacturing (6%) are represented heavily as well.


Marshall School of Business
Los Angeles

What drew such a talented class to Marshall? For one, many students cited the program’s focus on global education, notably a deep immersion into Asian culture and economics as well as business practices and strategies. This approach is personified by the required PRIME (Pacific Rim International Management Education) course, which takes place during second semester. Here, students partner with host companies such as Coca-Cola, General Electric, and MTV to conduct an international consulting project. The course caps off with a 10-day trip abroad to locales like Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, or China. Starting with fact-finding meetings with companies and government bodies (along with visits from Marshall alums), the trip culminates with a group presentation, where students share their project findings with senior executives at their client firms.

It’s no accident that Marshall has pivoted to the Pacific Rim says Ellis. “What happens in Europe is behind us — history is being made in Asia. The growth and GDP in those countries is such that our students want to go where the growth is.” With PRIME, first years get the best of both worlds: on-the-ground exposure to what makes specific nations tick and a hands-on, high stakes experience before they start their all-important internship. “Marshall’s PRIME program shows its commitment to global learning and engagement,” says Rowen. “I am proud to be at a school that prioritizes preparing students for a changing global landscape for business.”

The allure of Los Angeles was also hard for the Class of 2018 to resist. Vying with Seattle for the “Gateway to Asia” title, the city has emerged as a tech entrepreneur’s dream. While Silicon Valley gets the headlines, Ellis observes that Los Angles is the heart of content development, particularly in “Silicon Beach,” a startup and Fortune 500 hub which, in 2015, generated over $3 billion dollars in new venture funding according to CB Insights. Santa Monica alone boasts nearly 10,000 startups. However, a thriving business scene wasn’t the only boon to living in La-La Land. “Los Angeles is one of the best places in the world, not only for the weather (amazing brighten sun every day) and for diversity of companies in the area, but also for the people that live here who are so nice and happy,” adds Bertolla Rocha Aboud.


Indeed, Marshall MBAs, as a whole, come across as one of the most upbeat groups in the Class of 2018. At USC, giving back means more than the Trojan Network aiding their successors in landing jobs. Joining USC also means making a commitment to community. According to the school, MBA candidates have donated over 25,000 hours to service over the past seven years, a number that coincides with a certain streak that brings great pride to the Marshall community. “I was really attracted to Marshall’s commitment to giving back, having won the Challenge for Charity golden briefcase for the past seven years,” says Blotky. “As an aspiring pediatrician, I knew I wanted to get involved in the various student-run charity organizations which work with local kids: Marshall Youth Outreach, Junior Achievement, and Team Prime Time.”

In fact, you could call this “pay it forward” mentality the defining feature of the program. “Community service, school spirit and collaboration were common themes of all my discussion with alums and students,” adds Kasi.

Popovich Hall houses graduate programs of the USC Marshall School of Business.

This commitment also overlaps with their career ambitions. Fritschner plans to move into medical care, a cause that is deeply personal to him. Despite paralysis, he moves around thanks to a custom “stand up” wheelchair that, in his words, “helps me remain healthy and also demonstrates that walking again is not just some far off dream, but something I can attain through hard work and perseverance.” Fritschner is a testament to these qualities, as he is now able “to feel and move all the way down to my knees.” However, his experience has also instilled a vision of raising the quality of medical care.

“During my time at Marshall, I plan to work with both faculty and fellow students from all sectors to learn what makes a business successful and how to productively initiate change within an existing organization,” he shares. “I have the determination and passion necessary to improve a hospital’s performance and thus change its patients’ outcomes and futures for the better. In order to make my goal a reality, my dream job is to be the CEO of a major hospital system. This position will allow me to initiate meaningful change to ensure all patients receive the highest quality of care, regardless of their location or financial status.”


Blotky hopes to follow a similar path as Fritschner. Initially, she’ll work as a pediatrician, though her ultimate goal is to transition into leadership.  “The values of collaboration, leadership, communication, and strategy are directly applicable to both medicine and business, and will certainly make me better equipped to be a well-rounded physician and serve my patients and the community.”

In contrast, Jadulang hasn’t charted a specific destination. However, she knows what she wants during the journey: constant learning and professional development. “Since returning to school, I cannot imagine a life where I’m no longer developing at such an incredible pace,” she admits. “This means I’m excited by the prospect of working on great teams to wrestle tough, ambiguous problems, where innovation and practicality meet to find the best possible solutions. Finding that kind of work on in driven, collegial culture—where I can explore both growth and results — is the absolute dream.”

As the 2018 Class finishes out the first half of their first year, they are already eyeing what they hope to remembered for by their classmates. Kasi and Nash, for example, would love for their classmates to think of them as people who lived up to the values and essence of the program. For Boyer, the goal is for his interactions to bring out the best in others. However, he, like all b-school students, would also like to continue the relationships built long after graduation. “I would like them to say that I would be a fantastic partner in any sort of business venture due to having deep business insight and acumen combined with uncommon compassion,” he says.


To read profiles of incoming Marshall MBA students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.

Richard Baynes / Overland Park, KS

Daniela Bertolla Rocha Aboud / São Paulo, Brazil

Elizabeth Blotky / Los Angeles, CA

Nicholas Alexander Boyer / Lewisburg, TN

Michael Fritschner / Sugar Land, TX

Valerie (Claire) Jadulang / Huntington Beach, CA

Niranjan Kasi / Mumbai, India

Miles Nash / Pasadena, CA

Sam Rowen / New York, NY

Juliana Tashiro / Los Angeles, CA 

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