2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Komal Shah, USC (Marshall)

Komal Shah

USC, Marshall School of Business

“A passionate and visionary leader who strives to build a sustainable impact for humanity through education.”

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I have been a Bollywood dancer since the age of 4 and I have been part of both competitive and professional Bollywood dance teams.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of California, Irvine – Bachelor of Biological Sciences

Loyola Marymount University – Masters in Urban Policy & Administration

University of Southern California – Masters in Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Making Waves Academy, 6th Grade Teacher and Team Lead

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Inspiring Capital, New York City (Social Impact Consultant)

Where will you be working after graduation? Entrepreneur in Education Impact

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Marshall Graduate Student Association
  • Fellow, Marshall Leaders Fellows Program
  • AVP of Marketing, Mindful Marshall
  • AVP of Junior Achievement, Challenge 4 Charity
  • Associate, USC Marshall Venture Fund
  • First-Year Academic Core Representative

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud to be President of the Marshall Graduate Student Association, representing 450 students. During my term, I implemented an innovative wellness focus at Marshall – prioritizing the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of all students. In my own life, when I struggled with work-life balance, I did not prioritize self-care and it eventually led to burnout. In business school, this is ever so prevalent. The wellness programming this year included providing the student body with 540 minutes of wellness programming like mindful coloring, healthy eating, massages, and dog therapy. Our board also provided brand-new signature events including a mindful leadership series and a mindful interviewing session. This has differentiated us from other business schools by focusing not just the student, but the holistic human. We will be concluding the year with a wellness capstone event with mindfulness expert panelists to prevent burnout in business post-MBA.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my career, I am most proud of leading a team of teachers for three years to effectively support their English language learning students in the classroom. Most of the time, these students are not supported and have a lower rate of success in schools. Through new frameworks in weekly data talks, our team was able to identify gaps in our classroom instruction and then implement high-impact strategies. I conducted classroom observations and supported teachers with tools to analyze data metrics for students. Some of these methodologies have been utilized by teachers in the school to this date.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Cristina Lubinsky – Founder’s Dilemma

I identify Professor Lubinsky as my favorite MBA professor because her engagement strategies in the classroom have transformed my learning experience. In Founder’s Dilemma, we tackle real-life problems faced by both entrepreneurs and investors. As someone who would like to be a founder of a school myself, I am inspired by the classroom discussions. Professor Lubinsky engages all students in the class discussion and gives informative insights into the problems at hand. Furthermore, we learn about the ability to persuade someone into an entrepreneurial idea and considerations to be made before pitching to investors.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose USC Marshall for two reasons. First, due to its location in the hub of innovation in education. As an entrepreneur in the education space, I wanted to be in the same area where I could build my network in business school. Second, the alumni network. USC Marshall really prides itself on the Trojan network and I have seen firsthand the impact it has on people not just in school, but beyond. I have seen how Trojans are always forthcoming with help and resources, prioritizing the community and its people first. These are the type of people I want to be around, and I feel that these connections will last a lifetime.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be authentic to yourself. The Marshall community prides itself on building a community with a group of individuals who have an authentic story. Beyond being ambitious, it is important to know your personal story and how you can share that with others. Everyone’s journey is different, but our school really wants to see what differentiates you from others. Vulnerability is the key to success.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about our school is that we are the “University of Spoiled Children.” This has not proved consistent with the stories that I’ve heard of each student. Every one of my peers works extremely hard and is driven towards their goals. Each person garners success but also faces many failures. It is important to see each person holistically and understand that we are all struggling to find our own true paths. I think whenever we put characterizations on people or generalizations on someone, we are doing that person, and ourselves, a disservice.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? When I look back on my MBA experience, one thing I would do differently is seeing my professional experience when I entered business school as an asset. As a middle-school math teacher for five years in an urban community, I felt I was coming in with a disadvantage amongst my other classmates with business backgrounds. I lacked the confidence to speak up in classes and share my voice in an academic setting. I didn’t believe in myself enough to thrive. However, I started to build my capacity, studied hard, and began to share my voice and my unique experience. I shifted my mindset on my teaching experience to one as a strong skill set, and it has helped me in my leadership roles and serving the Marshall community.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The peer that I truly admire is Cara Planitz-Clatanoff, President of Mindful Marshall. Beyond being a close friend of mine, she and I have collaborated extensively this year as partners to bring wellness to the forefront of student’s minds. Her thoughtful leadership has driven the club to provide over 3,000 minutes of mindful and wellness programming to the community and has brought in new experiences such a weekly wellness series, Mindful Mondays, and off-campus Mindful Retreats. The student body has given testimonials on the transformative impact of these events, and I am thankful for her partnership this year.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My brother influenced my decision to pursue business in college because of my dream to become a founder of a school. Due to my passion for innovation and impact in education, I knew that I wanted to be a transformative leader. It was through my brother’s thoughtfulness that I realized the next best step would be to gain a business background so I can leverage both my education and business experience as an entrepreneur. Since education is not seen through a business lens effectively, I now understand the gaps in the industry and the need to provide our consumers with a better product-market fit and sustainable growth for the future.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1) Create my own company to build sustainable impact

2) Write a book on teaching the holistic child

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Someone who can drive impact with enthusiasm and empower others.

Hobbies? Meditation, Puzzles, Kundalini Yoga, Walking in Nature

What made Komal such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Komal has shined this year as President of the Marshall Graduate Student Association. Her greatest strength as a leader comes from her commitment to the idea that we can accomplish the most when we seek to understand each other, truly listen, and take perspective. Komal’s main initiatives have focused on wellness, a topic that has resonated deeply with the student body. She is a calming presence in what can often be a very hectic student environment. For example, she begins her weekly MGSA board meetings with two to three minutes of meditation and breathing exercises, which set the tone of presence, respect, and teamwork. Wellness and self-care are such important, yet often undervalued, characteristics of a leader, but this year Komal has made sure these issues are at the forefront of the MBA leadership development mindset.”

Anne Ziemniak
Assistant Dean and Director
Full-Time MBA Program

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