“The University of Spoiled Children.”
That’s the knock on the University of Southern California – USC for short. You can almost picture a 80s comedy, where preppies roll down Jefferson in their IROC-Zs. No demands. No responsibilities. No worries. Just sunny beaches and weekend binges, living the good life off their parents’ money.
Catchy as the “spoiled children” moniker is, it is a myth say MBAs at the Marshall School of Business. Forget wealth and privilege and think passion and commitment – service over self and hustle over haughty. It is this mentality that makes Marshall magical, says Komal Shah, a 2020 graduate and social impact consultant.
“I WIN WHEN WE ALL WIN”
“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.”
It can be a struggle for MBAs – especially those looking to switch careers – to find mentors, opportunities, and jobs. In response, USC has organically grown its vaunted “Trojan Network” over the years. Think of it as alumni acting as guardian angels, ensuring USC MBAs find open doors wherever they pursue their careers. It is a tradition – an expectation, really – that has been carried on from class-to-class…and generation-to-generation.
“As I met students and alumni, I felt as though there was a special responsibility that came with being a Trojan,” writes Lance Skiles, a 2020 grad who joined the Boston Consulting Group – a firm that has employed over a thousand Marshall grads over the years according to Linkedin. “It meant I could count on those who had come before to make sacrifices on my behalf and to help ensure my success, but it also meant that I would be responsible to provide the same support and access to all those who would come after me. This commitment was also seen within each class, where people would make sacrifices to support fellow classmates. Within Marshall, the prevailing spirit was that “I win when we all win.”
A NETWORK? MORE LIKE A FAMILY
In other words, Marshall MBAs quickly adopt an others-first mindset, a 93,000 member community where everyone looks out for each other. This mentality has already been embraced by the Class of 2022. In fact, the Trojan Network is the reason why many came to Los Angeles – or even returned to USC. The latter is true for April Banayan. She has already collected a bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and a Master’s in Global Medicine at USC. Now, she is earning a dual MD/MBA in conjunction with the Keck School of Medicine. After spending seven years at USC, Banyan points out that she has had a front row seat to the Trojan Network’s “immense impact and reach.” That’s also why she prefers to call it the Trojan Family.
“Trojans do more than have a professional obligation to their alumni, they look out for each other. Some of the greatest connections I’ve made started from hearing “Fight on!” while donning a USC sweater.”
Martin Dyer has only been a Trojan for a few months. Unlike Banayan, he studied at Louisiana State before becoming a financial analyst in Texas. While he is operating in a virtual environment, he too has felt the impact of alumni. “My first impression was that the “Trojan Community” was one of the most intense things I had ever seen. Once you are part of USC and Marshall, you become part of a family that will go the extra mile to help one another and you take pride in being a Trojan,” he explains. “In my first few months at Marshall, I have already seen the Trojan pride on full display. It is all around you and is contagious, I love it!”
IMPRESSIVE LIST OF ACHIEVEMENTS
Of course, this giving-over-taking mindset had taken root in the Class of 2020 long before they became Trojans. Take April Banyan. As finance director of Keck’s student-run clinic, she worked to turn this space into a mobile clinic that served the area’s homeless. The result: patient readmission was cut by nearly 10%. Speaking of medicine, Eric Goytia Nummedal manufactured cancer immunotherapies for a Stage II Clinical Trial to treat patients. As an entertainment manager for an immigration law firm, Jake Hartley helped foreign artists procure visas so they could perform in the United States. Doing good, he says, ultimately led to doing well.
“Over time, I developed a unique expertise that helped set our firm apart from the vast majority of practitioners. As a result, I was given the opportunity to help set the strategic direction for the firm, hire support staff, and ultimately lead the firm to record growth.”
Records? How about Megan Beatrice Rucker? She produced a million dollar gift for children who loved the arts while working at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. As a college graduate, Martin Dyer’s first job was to overhaul his employer’s entire financial reporting system. When COVID hit this spring, Niki Miyashiro was responsible for transitioning 3,800 JP Morgan wealth management advisors to a work-from-home environment.
“This was a challenge as many of these advisors had never worked from home before and needed to be able to maintain client relationships virtually during a volatile market period. This disruption to our business model caused us to accelerate projects that were not on the roadmap to be completed until 2021. We were able to finish these projects in a matter of months. In the midst of the chaos, our team was also able to launch a large SEC project. Through this difficult time, I formed some of my closest relationships even over Zoom! We really stepped up to the challenge and I feel I left an even stronger business than what it was pre-pandemic.”
SOME MOMENTS OF TRUTH
It was a defining moment for Miyashiro. She has come a long way since her first day on the job in “corporate America.” Sitting in her cubicle, feeling like an imposter, she came to an epiphany: everything she’d learned as a soccer player at Ohio State was going to come in handy at work.
“Soccer was much like a full-time job with the amount of time and effort it took. It prepared me to be able to work with a team towards a common goal, how to lead when things are not going well, and how to manage my time. It also taught me how to have fun even when you’re under immense pressure. Ever since being “retired” from soccer and working, I have searched for a role that brings me the same kind of excitement.”
Megan Beatrice Rucker’s moment of truth came when she joined a startup – and realized that she had to step up and become indispensable. “Working at a small startup means that you have to play a lot of roles. As our small team expanded, I was given responsibilities I was not expecting and I quickly had to change my mindset from team player to active leader. I had to onboard new team members, train them on compliance, and advocate for my team to executive leadership. I realized that I truly enjoyed this new role that I had stumbled into and that I had the potential to become a strong and adaptive leader. This translated into having the confidence to pursue an MBA and to become a vocal member of my class.”
A TRIP TO REMEMBER
Eric Goytia Nummedal had a wake up call too. After college, he hitch-hiked north through South America, where he experienced a variety of cultures – as well as being mugged, extorted, and even jailed. Rather than return home jaded, the journey steeled his resolve to make a difference.
“Despite suffering, it was the compassion of strangers who inspired me to continue,” he writes. “There were countless nights spent at dinner tables and in beds offered by locals. I walked alongside the stories of the people I met. 10 months later, I reached the northernmost tip of the continent. I had spanned 15,808 miles – approximately 63% of Earth’s circumference. I am guided by this experience to become an example of a forward-thinking global business leader. I am one who can appreciate both our planet’s diversity and its connectivity. I am one who looks upon our greatest challenges with familiarity, and who finds purpose in the opportunity to create progress.”
Nummedal isn’t the only adventurous member of the class. Martin Dyer has already attended 3,000 live concerts. Think that’s the good life? Go ask Niki Miyashiro about winning Chick-fil-A for a year. Then again, April Banayan – a novice Sommelier – has visited over 300 wineries. Of course, the gig wasn’t as good as you might think.
“My parents own a wine shop that opened a few years before I was born. When I was younger, my sister and I spent family vacations being dragged from vineyard to vineyard unable to taste. Instead we spent our days learning about the artistry and science behind winemaking.”
A CLASS PROFILE
In terms of rankings, USC Marshall has enjoyed a banner 12 months. The school climbed from #33 to #21 on Forbes, a ranking based on five year pay increase (with grads enjoying a $60,400 increase over the past five years). The school also climbed eight spots with The Financial Times and six spots with The Economist. Notably, Marshall scored among the ten-best for Alumni Effectiveness, Networking, and Career Opportunities in student and alumni surveys conducted by The Economist. At the same time, USC Marshall climbed three spots to rank 19th in P&Q’s composite ranking.
Those measures were certainly helpful in USC Marshall attracting a record number of applications during the 2019-2020 cycle. This year, the school reported receiving 3,159 applications for a spot in the Class of 2022. To put that number in context, it was 1,260 more than the previous year, or a 66.3% boost over the previous year. It also represented an improvement of 1,142 applications over the school’s all-time high two years ago. Overall, USC Marshall enrolled 217 full-time students for the incoming class, while lowering its acceptance rate by five points to 24.3%.
Beyond applications, USC Marshall remained a model for consistency. Average GMATs came in at 707, a one point drop that was still higher than averages posted at Virginia Darden, Duke Fuqua, and UCLA Anderson. Undergraduate GPA inched up to 3.55, while GRE climbed a point to 321. That said, the school has lost steam when it comes to gender equity. After producing a 52% female class in 2018, the incoming class features just 40% women. On top of that, the percentage of international students plummeted from 32% to 12% (though the percentage of minority students rose four points to 23%). Overall, the Class of 2022 hails from 28 countries, with 11% of the class being LGBT.
Academically, admissions decidedly favored MBAs with business-related undergraduate degrees. In fact, Business and Commerce (33%) and Economics (13%) majors account for nearly half of the class. That said, Social Sciences and Humanities combine for a 29% share. By the same token, Engineering, Computer Sciences, and Hard Sciences made up another 17% of the class.
At many business schools, students who worked in Financial Services take up the largest share of the class. That’s no different at USC Marshall, where the number is 24%. Technology (15%), Consulting (12%), and Media and Entertainment (11%) also hit double digits, followed by Healthcare (7%), Government and Military (5%), and Retail (4%). Manufacturing, Hospitality, and Real Estate each hold 3% of the class seats.
To read 10 in-depth profiles of the Class of 2022, go to Page 3.
To read interviews with members of Marshall administration, go to Page 2.