Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class Of 2021

Sandra Luo 

University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business

“A bisexual, genderqueer person, who will bring equity, diversity, and inclusion to the business world.”

Hometown: Pleasanton, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love playing Dungeons and Dragons. For my birthday, I created a 4-6-hour campaign for my friends with varying D&D familiarity. I even commissioned art and painted miniature figurines for them to take home!

Undergraduate School and Major: Brandeis University, Business

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Liberty Mutual Insurance – Senior Analyst, Claims Portfolio Management

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was invited to speak on a 5-person panel about why diversity, equity, and inclusion was important to me to my department of over 300 people. During that talk, I came out to them as bisexual and shared how I had been scared to talk about it at work. Without realizing it, I wasn’t bringing my full self to work and it impacted my performance. One of my mentors, who knew about my advocacy work outside of my job, championed my involvement with the Bisexual Resource Center and asked me to share my experiences during the panel. Afterward, I received a flood of positive messages from my coworkers and a few people I didn’t know reached out specifically to thank me for sharing my experiences and said that they were also afraid to be out at work. Hearing me talk about my sexuality so openly encouraged them to be more out at work.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I know this might be cheesy, but collaborative! I’ve been lucky to have already built strong friendships with many of my classmates. While there’s some healthy competition around which core group is best (Core A!), at the end of the day we’re incredibly collaborative. I’ve already spent a night sitting in a focus room with friends giving each other feedback on assignments and helping each other edit. One of my classmates who came from consulting set up a “Day in the Life of a Consultant” chat for our class in our first week to help demystify consulting for people who haven’t had any exposure to it before. I am so proud to be a part of a group of people who are passionate and excited to help each other out!

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? I knew I wanted to find a school that felt like family to me because I knew that I wanted to feel supported and challenged during my two years at Marshall. I was blown away by the people I met. When I visited campus in the fall for my interview and a class visit, I was shown around by one of the then first-year MBA students. When I returned in the spring for the Welcome Weekend, that same student not only remembered my name, but she also remembered that I was interested in pursuing a career in equity, diversity, and inclusion. She was genuinely excited to see me again and instantly connected me with a few other students who were passionate about it as well. I found the same warmth and energy in all of the other students and alumni I’ve interacted with through USC Marshall.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m really looking forward to getting involved with Marshall PRIDE. I can’t wait to help build a stronger network of LGBTQ+ folks within USC Marshall!

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?
How do you want to make an impact on this campus?

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Over the four years working in data analytics at my prior company, I found myself being more excited by the work with employee resource groups than what was I was technically being paid to do. I realized that I wanted to work in a corporate diversity role and wanted to use an MBA as a way to pivot my career to pursue that path.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Tuck – Dartmouth University, Yale SOM, Haas – UC Berkeley, Anderson – UCLA

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Coming from data analytics, I naturally created an Excel spreadsheet with my criteria: school statistics and class profile information. I then assigned a score to the things I valued the most (the percentage of US minorities, women, and international students along with class size, to name a few) and calculated a total score for each school. To balance out the quantitative evaluation, I also reached out to as many people as I could who had gone to the schools I was interested in. I started with the people who worked at my prior company and the admissions team, who then connected me with current students. I also did my best to visit as many schools as I could.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I went to my first Pride Parade after coming out as bisexual two years ago. I approached the Bisexual Resource Center’s table and talked to the Board President about the organization and their mission. They were the first website I went to for support as I struggled with coming out. The Board President then invited me to a board meeting and asked me to join the board as the treasurer. Since joining the board, I have discovered a passion for advocacy and activism that has translated to my intended career.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I will be a successful corporate equity, inclusion, and diversity professional in the entertainment industry. I will be working with production companies to cultivate a positive and inclusive corporate culture, foster diverse employees and perspectives, and build a robust talent pipeline to make the entertainment industry more representative and equitable.