Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class Of 2021

Class of 2021


Speaking of achievements, check out Lawrence Rolle, a dual MBA-MD student. “My biggest accomplishment thus far is being given the honor of representing The Keck School as an AAMC Herbert W. Nickens Scholar. “The prestigious award is given to five medical students, amongst one nominee from each medical school throughout the country, working towards dismantling healthcare discrepancies and promoting justice in medical education…More meaningful than just being acknowledged for my hard work, it further solidified that I’m striving towards my calling. Even more importantly, this renowned distinction further motivates me to honor Dr. Nickens’ legacy and be more intentional in my efforts to improve healthcare for my community.”

Overall, the Class of 2021 features 214 full-time MBAs, down from the 221 candidates who joined last year. USC also received 118 fewer applications, a number that likely drove up the school’s acceptance rate two points to 29.9%. Despite these numbers, average GMAT scores rose three points to 708, along with average GPAs inching up to 3.54 as well.

The biggest difference from the Class of 2020? In 2018, USC Marshall made headlines when women outnumbered men in that class by a 52%-to-48% margin. This year, that percentage slumped to 42%. In other words, there are 25 fewer women in the Class of 2021. That said, the school attracted more international students, who comprise 32% of the class (up two points). By the same token, the class features students from 28 countries, up from 20 the year before.


Make no mistake, the Class of 2021 will be coveted by employers once graduation arrives. In 2019, 96% of full-time graduates had landed jobs within three months of graduation. The year before, that number stood at 95.8% — a marked difference from Marshall’s 81% placement rate in 2015.

One reason: USC Marshall boasts a blue ribbon career services team, whose activities put two-thirds of the 2019 Class in touch with their post-grad employer. These employers splurged on Trojan talent. Last year, graduates pulled down $127,495 average base salaries (with one lucky grad taking home $230,000). That is a major improvement over the 2018 and 2017 classes, whose base pay came to $122,634 and $117,000 respectively. For sign-on bonuses, Marshall MBAs have seen their worth rise as well. The Class of 2019, for example, snapped up average bonuses of $37,925. Compare that to 2018 and 2017 grads, where bonuses came to $33,065 and $28,406. Based on Forbes research, Trojan MBAs can expect to see their pay rise by $60,400 over the next five years.

Marshall School orientation

That’s not the only good news for USC Marshall, which ranked #6 for academic research productivity – ahead of Stanford GSB and Chicago Booth – in 2019. Deans and MBA directors consider the program among the 10-best for Accounting, Entrepreneurship, and Nonprofit education. That doesn’t count Marshall’s increasingly-popular one-year MBA offering. At the same time, the school jumped aboard the STEM certification bandwagon last May, creating a Management Science program that’ll further position students to meet the needs of employers.

That makes an impressive foundation for Dean Garrett to build from next year. “Marshall and USC, I think anybody can see from a distance that the university and the business school have just been doing amazing things in the past 20 years,” said Garrett during a June conference call. “And I think there are just lots of opportunities. USC’s a global school, it’s very innovative, and the Marshall School is a global school and very innovative. There is lots of learning by doing and support for entrepreneurship. I think those things are so important…L.A. is obviously not only a very diversified economy, it’s a very dynamic one. It’s globally connected, so I think that the raw material and the momentum of Marshall and USC are just fantastic. And I look forward to being part of that.”

The school is equally looking forward to the arrival of Garrett, who has raised nearly a billion dollars at Wharton. Since his arrival, he has also turned the school into a leader in analytics and FinTech…not to mention building new facilities like Tangen Hall, which will bring Penn’s startup and innovation community together under a seven-story roof. However, USC Marshall has been plenty busy in recent years, adding new programming and resources in their own right. Recently, P&Q reached out to Suh-Pyng Ku, Vice Dean for Graduate Programs and a Professor of Clinical Finance and Business Schools. In her written responses, she shares some of new developments and underrated aspects of the full-time MBA program. In addition, she takes a deep dive into the school’s successful curriculum revamp and the ever-engaged Trojan Network.


P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments in your program?

Suh-Pyng Ku

SPK: “Starting in Fall 2019, the USC Marshall students in the full-time MBA program are able to pursue a STEM certified Management Science specialization. Marshall is one of only a handful of business schools offering a STEM MBA. This new specialization is designed to combine data-driven decision-making and analytics with the overall MBA program learning objectives of developing a global and entrepreneurial mindset, building a deep understanding of business fundamentals, and leading high-performing teams. The STEM MBA is focused on preparing students to fulfill the increasing need to apply quantitative and scientific methods to business challenges. Those who pursue the specialization will be able to demonstrate expertise in subjects such as statistics, data analytics, operations, and supply chain optimization, finance, forecasting, and digital marketing and modeling. Additionally, international graduates will now be able to apply to extend their 12-month OPT by an additional 24 months, potentially expanding their post MBA employment opportunities within the US because the specialization qualifies as a STEM-designated degree program by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In addition, our enhanced Marshall’s Leadership Fellows Program (MLFP) offers a unique leadership development course combining classroom and experiential learning opportunities where second-year MBA students dedicated to personal and professional leadership development provide coaching to first-year Core teams. In this program, second-year student coaches hone their leadership skills, gain practical experience, and learn to provide structured feedback using concepts, mechanisms, and management best practices while guided by the Communications and Organization Behavior Core Faculty. At the same time, through this coaching, first-year core teams become more high-functioning and collaborative while each team member becomes more high-performing, flexible and open to complexity.”
P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about?    

SPK: “Marshall employs a holistic academic-career program model. Marshall has worked to align the academic, programmatic and career development of the MBA Program. Academic courses at the start of the MBA Core such as Communication for Management, Foundations for Your Professional Value and Structured Analysis for Unstructured Problems explore self-awareness, leadership, communication and value-creation help students identify their personal interests and value in the marketplace. In turn, these courses help students fully engage with the Graduate Career Services’ Career Insights Seminars to gain direct access and exposure to career pathways that best align with student goals and to meet and network with professionals in that industry. Finally, our Academic Career Roadmaps, which guide the students as they identify and navigate toward a career objective, take the relevant courses, and get involved in the career clubs and case competitions that help achieve a career objective, link all of these elements to the recruiting timelines to help students maximize opportunities to gain summer internships and meaningful careers.”

P&Q: In this year’s Bloomberg Businessweek student survey, USC Marshall ranked among the top programs across every dimension. What does your program consistently do to consistently earn such high marks from students, particularly with faculty quality and skill development?

SPK: “We have continued to align our academic programs with our professional development opportunities to provide analytical frameworks and tools, access and exposure to a variety of experiential learning opportunities for solving unstructured business problems, and opportunities to develop leadership skills to build and work in collaborative and innovative teams. This tightly-integrated approach creates a cohesive MBA experience for students and illuminates their pathways for career success.

Marshall faculty spend a lot of effort designing core courses that build on and complement each other and the overall program learning goals and along with students, alumni, the corporate advisory board, and staff are passionate about our program and its success. Marshall faculty are encouraged to engage in collaborative teaching, often partnering with each other to use common case studies to explore a common business problem from a variety of academic perspectives, providing students with a richer understanding of the circumstances, factors and issues of the case. Equally important, the program is supported by stable and high performing professional staff.

USC Marshall Classroom

This interdisciplinary teaching is enhanced by the incorporation of current events, career panels and forums, guest speakers and industry practitioners who support the academic content with real-world perspectives.”

P&Q: Last year, you revamped your core curriculum? What were the biggest changes and how did students react?  

SPK: “In Fall 2018, the Marshall Full-Time MBA Program rolled out its new curriculum, providing students enhanced and systematic opportunities to practice teamwork, leadership, critical thinking and creative problem-solving. We introduced two core courses: Structured Analysis for Unstructured Problems, which applies critical thinking to business issues and the Foundations for Your Professional Value, which provides students with opportunities for defining and developing a professional identity. We also added a non-credit program requirement, Career Insights Seminars, that features panelists discussing career paths and industry-specific and functional insights. These seminars offer a review of major career paths and opportunities to enable students to discover a rewarding career path that fits their personal values and skillsets.

While these new courses were received well by students and the Foundations for Your Professional Value course proved valuable to them for building a personal brand, student feedback helped the Curriculum Revision Committee understand how critical it was to offer that course earlier than term 3 (October), where it was first scheduled in the core curriculum. Students wanted to gain personal and professional self-awareness as early as possible as they launched their career searches and engaged with recruiters. Due to this feedback from students, the Foundations for Your Professional Value course, Communication for Management, and the Career Insights Seminars were moved to term 1 (August), allowing students to first define their professional identity, develop personal branding, learn the industry trends and business functional prerequisite skill sets, and identify and navigate their chosen career paths via Marshall’s Academic Career Roadmaps.”