2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Asia Liza Morales, USC (Marshall)

Asia Liza Morales

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

An empathetic leader building spaces and strategies that invest in the potential of people.”

Hometown: The San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I’m named after the 80s rock band: Asia.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Kalamazoo College, BA in Biology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? The Posse Foundation, Strategic Projects Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Deloitte (NYC/Virtual)

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte, Senior Consultant (Austin, TX)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Marshall Graduate Student Association
  • Academic Core Representative
  • Fellow, Marshall Leadership Fellows Program
  • Business & Society MBA Fellow, Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab
  • AVP of Strategy, Leadership & Organization Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  I am most proud of serving as the MGSA President and supporting my Marshall community in navigating the disruptions that came with COVID-19. I took on the responsibilities of MGSA President just as the world changed in March 2020. Suddenly, everything my Board and I were ready to build for our community had to be put aside. We pivoted immediately to support student needs as they emerged and have continued to do so as those needs have evolved, from wellness during the pandemic to staying connected as a community. Meeting these needs meant working closely with administration to improve online learning, with faculty to create breathing room in the curriculum, and with the incoming class to help them foster community in this virtual world. I am proud that, despite there being no roadmap for how to navigate a pandemic, I could help lead our community through this extremely difficult time.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my professional career, I am most proud of serving on the Board of Trustees of my alma mater, Kalamazoo College, as the second-ever Recent Graduate Trustee. During my term, I often shared my experiences and perspectives as a recent alumna to inform the Board’s decision-making, surfaced critical issues facing students of color on campus, and contributed to the new strategic plan which will guide the institution for the next ten years. As a first-generation college graduate and a woman of color, I feel proud to have been a voice for those who do not often have a seat at the table.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose USC Marshall because of the Trojan network, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only further demonstrated the strength of our alumni network. Coming from a non-traditional background in education and nonprofits, it felt like there was a high barrier to entry into the corporate world of business, and specifically into consulting. I knew that I could not make that jump alone, so becoming a part of the Trojan family meant that I wouldn’t have to. Since then, I have been personally mentored and supported by Trojans, who opened doors for my career and invested greatly in my professional development and success. I’m excited to pay it forward as an alumna in the future.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back now, I would have invested more time in getting to know more of my classmates. In total, our class spent a semester-and-a-half together in person. I think it was easy then to get wrapped up in academics and recruiting and put off getting to know one another. Especially now in the virtual environment, it’s easy to close the laptop and not interact with each other outside of classes or meetings. I feel grateful to have made meaningful connections with so many of my classmates, and yet there’s still so much more to discover.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Growing up in Los Angeles, I often heard that USC stands for the “University of Spoiled Children.” It couldn’t be further from the truth at Marshall. In my experience, the people I’ve met here are down-to-earth and genuine and worked incredibly hard to get where they are today. My classmates constantly inspire me to work harder, to focus on getting better at what I do, and to dream bigger than I ever have before.

What surprised you the most about business school? What has surprised me most about business school is how many people enter the MBA from nontraditional careers. Coming into this experience, I was worried that I would be the only one who didn’t have any formal business training. In fact, it kept me from applying in the past. When I got here, I saw my classmates came from such diverse backgrounds in business, medicine, law, education, politics, and many more. It made me realize that those of us from nontraditional backgrounds have so much to offer and we all benefit from that diversity as we move through the standard business curriculum. I was surprised to see it, but so relieved to know I wasn’t the only one learning how to calculate present values!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The one thing I did that gave me an edge was staying authentic to who I am as a leader. I knew I came from a nontraditional background and I owned it. I viewed the experience I had in education, diversity and inclusion as a strength that I could bring to Marshall. I was honest about my work, what I intended to pursue, and what I hoped to gain from this experience as a future business leader. Marshall students are wholly themselves and that’s what makes our community what it is.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I most admire is Sofia Siegel. Sofia served as my VP of Diversity & Inclusion this past year. In working with her so closely, I’ve come to greatly admire her strength and her authenticity as a leader. After George Floyd’s murder sparked protests across the country, Sofia and I worked to support students then and push our program to consider its role in addressing injustice and perpetuating systemic bias. Sofia uses her voice and platform as a leader to advocate for others. At the same time, she creates spaces for people to use their own voices to share their experiences and show support for one another. I feel extremely grateful to have had her on my team this year. There is more work to be done, but Sofia has laid the groundwork that will make it possible.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Reflecting back now almost a year later, I remember it being a difficult transition for our community, but with bright spots of hope and resilience along the way. No one knew how to navigate a pandemic. As MGSA President, I watched students rise to the occasion of helping one another adjust. We had a slew of virtual events that kept us connected — from House Parties to Netflix Parties to board game nights to the MBA Battle Royale. I also saw the administration move quickly on the other side to get the right tools, to support faculty, to make calls in the moment with little and ever-changing information. It was certainly a disruptive change, but our community took it in strides, and we navigated it together.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My former boss, Rico, inspired my decision to pursue my MBA. I had considered applying to business school prior to working for him, but I didn’t feel confident that my background would translate – what did I have to offer a school like USC Marshall? He really empowered me to take the leap. While much of my role was leading workshops and trainings, I loved working behind the scenes and building the infrastructure for our growing team. I told him I was interested in consulting and he told me I had to go back to get my MBA. He knew that doing so would mean leaving the organization, but he supported me during every step of the application process and continues to be a mentor and dear friend.

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

  1. Come back as a guest lecturer for an MBA course at USC Marshall.
  2. Start an impact incubator that serves aspiring entrepreneurs with ideas and ventures that support their local communities.

What made Asia such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Since last March, Asia and I have worked closely together primarily through her role as president of the Marshall Graduate Student Association (MGSA). Asia transitioned to this leadership role just as the COVID-19 pandemic was shutting everything down and we were all moving to the virtual space.  To say that the last 12 months have been filled with challenges would be a major understatement!  I’ve been extraordinarily grateful and equally impressed by the grace with which Asia has handled each challenge she’s been faced with, whether it be how to help students feel less isolated during virtual learning, how to give feedback to faculty to improve the Zoom classroom, or how to increase the sense of inclusion and belonging among all students within the Marshall community. Asia leads with compassion and empathy, and that has served her well as she’s navigated the most difficult year that I’ve ever experienced in my 20+ year career in higher education.”

Anne Ziemniak
Assistant Dean and Director
USC Marshall Full-Time MBA Program  




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