Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class Of 2021

Aria Aaron 

University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business

“Concert-loving, art-collecting, emerging business professional who wants to change the world through film.”

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Fun Fact About Yourself: When I was two years old, I starred in a Monday Night Football opening alongside singer Amy Grant (and yes, it is on YouTube).

Undergraduate School and Major: Florida A&M University, Journalism (BS); Graduate School and Major: Wake Forest University, Management (MS)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Georgia-Pacific LLC, Associate Brand Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest and most visible accomplishment in my career so far is when I led the commercialization of the new (at the time) Angel Soft® Mega roll items, which have now become a staple of the brand’s portfolio. Not only was it a new product offering, but the design introduced a new color scheme to the brand block on store shelves. It is my personal favorite because it taught me a lot about the power of persistence in the midst of challenges. The day I first saw the package on a Walmart shelf is one of my proudest moments.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Supportive – the way we cheer each other on has been amazing. When someone gives an insightful opinion in class, we clap and cheer. Classmates have offered to help me network with some of their contacts before I think to ask. The way my classmates have championed one another so soon in the process speaks volumes about the Marshall community.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The factor that led me to choose USC Marshall was the strong network in entertainment, specifically in the film industry. As the saying goes, it is not about what you know but who you know – and that fact rings especially true in entertainment. With no previous experience on the business side, it was extremely important to me that I would have the chance to establish that network. Proximity to Hollywood certainly helps and Marshall has a strong alumni network I can leverage as well as a certificate through the film school.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The club I am most looking forward to joining is actually a mentorship organization called Marshall Youth Outreach. Mentorship is a priority for me and it gives me personal fulfillment to be involved in that way. I am excited to have more of a well-rounded experience by giving back a portion of what Marshall is giving to me.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question I was asked during the admission process was, “What do you uniquely contribute to the school community?” It was not challenging because of an element surprise as it is a very common question. But it was challenging to me because it was the one question that took me the longest amount of time to prepare an adequate and genuine response. It requires a lot of self-awareness and introspection to really answer it authentically.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I became motivated to pursue an MBA at this point in my career when I realized I was missing personal fulfillment in my role. While I loved the company culture and the people I worked with, the goals I worked toward every day did not align with the legacy I wanted to leave. I have always been passionate about the entertainment industry and I wanted to make that career transition. I knew that an MBA degree from Marshall would assist me in making a successful transition.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UCLA Anderson School of Management, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and NYU Stern School of Business

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Fit was extremely important to me, so I approached evaluating schools strategically. Since my goal is to transition into entertainment, I prioritized whether or not the program offered access to entertainment business classes as part of its curriculum. Second, I considered the school’s network of professionals in the industry and third I looked at the school’s location. I used websites to do preliminary research on the academics and school offerings for entertainment recruiting (giving me a sense of its alignment with my career goals). I also reached out to student ambassadors to reach out to learn more and spoke to students through informational interviews, which provided substantial context and detail on the schools. I also visited each of the schools on my list to get a sense of the community and culture. When it came to community, I was looking for an “It takes a village” type of culture, so I used more of my gut in that evaluation.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was more of a progression. It came in 2017 when I decided to free myself from my own pursuit of perfection. I was always ambitious, focused, and academically excellent. However, I was limiting my happiness and success by not giving myself space to make mistakes. Fear of failing prevented me from taking risks. As long as I was playing it safe, I never exercised my full potential. After watching an Instagram post from Will Smith about skydiving, when he said, “God placed the best things in life on the other side of fear,” I adopted that mantra, and let my inhibitions go. The result has been that I have become emotionally lighter and more able to fly. My happiness and self-love have soared, and I slow down to appreciate life in all its colors.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I see myself on the Oscar stage accepting the Best Picture award for a film I produced through my production company, Village Theory Productions – one step closer to receiving an EGOT.

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