Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class Of 2024

That first impression is the one that sticks. It tells you who really cares. It reflects the consistency of the brand. Most of all, the first impression introduces you to a community’s values. When it comes to business schools, it often isn’t an adcom or professor who makes first contact. Instead, it is students and alumni who leave that initial and lasting mark.

Happy graduates don’t just hang their diploma on the wall. They become evangelists. They publicize your business, stay involved in your efforts, and refer people to you. That’s because your identity is theirs – and they’re always looking to extend a helping hand. You can call that the Marshall difference – a network that provides and a family that nurtures.


For Jessica Presença Soares, this Trojan tradition of engagement and advocacy made all the difference. A native of Brazil, Soares struggled to find housing before arriving in Los Angeles last summer. Learning about her struggles, a second-year Marshall couple offered her their home – “free of charge” – while they were away completing their summer internship. The gesture reinforced what Soares soon learned: Marshall MBAs were always looking out for each other

“Without ever meeting me in person, they trusted me and sent me a key to their apartment,” Soares writes. “They just wanted to make sure I had a safe place to stay as I started classes. When I asked them what made them to trust me that much, they said “We are a Trojan Family now”. I will never be able to forget this act of kindness!”

Tales of the “Trojan Family” are common among the Class of 2024. Karnessia Georgetown, a Mississippi native and Yale alum, describes the community as “generous.” Before applying, she hit up a random Bay Area alum on LinkedIn. The response? They met up when Georgetown visited the area to meet a friend. Her classmate, Jay Min, tells a similar story. In fact, he was able to land two strategy consulting internship offers before he even started the program. For Min, the Marshall difference can be boiled down to one word: team-oriented.

“Business school requires a lot of teamwork, but Marshall provides such a great structure for people to get to know each other well,” Min explains. “The cohort is small, and it fosters strong relationship building opportunities. The Trojan network is developed on campus, but it extends way beyond graduation. My cold email response rate was 100% from trojan alums. This may be my anecdotal experience, but it showcased how strong the Trojan network is.”

USC Marshall photo


What makes the Trojan Family so outgoing and loyal? Anne Ziemniak has some insight into that. In a 2021 interview with P&Q, Ziemniak – the school’s assistant dean and MBA director – talked about how MBA students are heavily involved in both program operation and community service. As a result, they connect closely with classmates, alumni, and administration. This “collaborative mindset,” she says, continues on after graduation.

“Alumni recognize how hard it can be to break into various companies and industries. They remember the help and support they got when they were students and feel empowered to do their part to keep the Trojan Family alive and well. These types of active demonstrations of a strong, connected network engender the desire among students to return the favor and pay it forward in the future.”

Anuj Deepak has witnessed this dynamic first-hand. A senior associate at Goldman Sachs, he was impressed by the “level of energy” he found among the alumni, in particular. “I had complete strangers offer to help me with my prep and conduct mock interviews, simply because I was interested in applying to their alma mater; When you realize that an MBA student is only as strong as their network, the Marshall MBA almost seems like a no brainer!”


Deepak himself is a bit of an adventurer: “I have skydived over the Palm Jumeriah in Dubai, been scuba diving in the Indian Ocean, and gone hiking through the Himalayas.” That’s not his claim to fame. At Goldman Sachs, he spearheaded the development of an automated platform that generated trade documentation, along with storing data and dashboards.

“This reduced annual expenses by $200,000 and the need for manual intervention by up to 90%.

Cody Wei made his impact at Pfizer, where he served as a clinical data manager. A graduate of cross-town rival UCLA, Wei found himself on the frontlines of a COVID-19 vaccine trial. Here, he managed a South American clinical research team, which involved collecting and interpreting data for thousands of study participants.

“It was amazing to be able to help so many people and lift economies around the world,” Wei tells P&Q. “Rarely do you get to see the direct impact of clinical trials in real-time. Clinical trials can be very slow and normally take years to complete. Because we were doing everything at hyper-speed, we were able to see our work translated into results very quickly. I will never forget the weekend where we reported our interim study results – on a Friday we reported our results and on Monday our CEO was on CNBC announcing the efficacy of our vaccine.”

USC Marshall School of Business


As a Bain consultant, Vishi Gupta helped a Fortune 100 retailer create a pricing strategy. At the same time, Craig Pilla co-led the development of a new procedure to issue intraday margin calls, one that could potentially save his firm from exposure to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The class also features career changers like Jared Knight. Once drafted 32nd overall in the 2010 NHL draft, Knight spent nine years in professional hockey before retiring. As a first-year Marshall MBA, he now describes himself as a “finance enthusiast.”

“Hockey was my entire identity. As soon as I hung up my skates, I felt overwhelmingly lost. However, through the support of my incredible wife, I began to discover a new purpose for myself. This led to the formation of a new career goal: business school. My acceptance to Marshall is the biggest accomplishment in my career so far because the opportunity to pursue an MBA is tangible proof that I am capable of achieving goals outside of a hockey rink.”

It hasn’t been a easy road getting to Marshall. Just last year, a hurricane forced Karnessia Georgetown to relocate…after teaching during the pandemic. You can expect the next two years to be equally chaotic for Jena E. Brown, a U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer before joining the Class of 2024.

“My husband, Swasey, is also in the USC Marshall Full-Time MBA program, and we have two kids under four years old, so our MBA is truly an adventure!”


During the 2021-2022 cycle, USC Marshall received 2,652 applications, up from 2,418 the previous year. Despite this increase, the program became more selective, reducing enrollment from 214 to 190 students – all while maintaining a 24.8% (down from 23.0% a year earlier) acceptance rate. According to Evan Bouffides, assistant dean and director of graduate admissions at the Marshall School, this decision was designed to enhance both class quality and intimacy.

“As is the case for many programs, we enrolled a smaller class size than in previous years,” Bouffides told P&Q in a 2022 interview. “For Marshall, this was a deliberate decision to enroll an increasingly stronger class along multiple dimensions. This decision, of course, has direct consequences on selectivity and, ultimately, admissions metrics.”

GMAT scores were another area where Marshall excelled. The Class of 2024 averaged a 732 GMAT. That’s a 16-point bump over the previous year – and a 29-point increase over the past 5 years. As a whole, GMAT scores stretched from 600-780 for the incoming class. By the same token, the class notched a 321 composite GRE score between Verbal and Quant. As a whole, 32.6% of the class took the GRE, with composite scores ranging from 303-340. In addition, the class boasted a 3.58 average GPA.

This year also represents a high mark for women. 46% of the first-year class consists of women, a 10% bump in just one year alone. The percentage of international students also rose, jumping from 34% to 41%, while nearly one-in-four students identify as an underrepresented minority. As a whole, the class hails from 30 countries. On average, they are 29 years old and possess 5.5 years of professional experience. In addition, 10% of the class identifies as LGBTQ, with another 10% possessing military service.

In terms of academics, 26% of the class majored in Business and Commerce as undergrads, down three points from the previous class. In turn, 25% hold Engineering and Computer Sciences degrees, up seven points. The remainder of the class studied Economics (14%), Sciences (12%), Social Sciences (10%), Humanities (8%), and Law (2%). The Humanities, which represented 15% of the previous class, reflected the biggest change in class composition. As professionals, 19% of the class last worked in Financial Services. Technology and Healthcare professionals account for 14% and 13% of the class respectively. Consulting also hit double digits at 10%, followed by Manufacturing (6%) Real Estate (6%), Government and Military (5%), Media and Entertainment (4%), Consumer Packaged Goods (4%), Non-Profit (4%), and Retail (3%).

Downtown Los Angeles


In recent years, USC Marshall has been described as a program on the rise. It started with the defection of Dean Geoffrey Garrett from the Wharton School to USC Marshall in 2020. Since then, Marshall has emerged as one of the world’s best online MBA and undergraduate business programs in the world. At the same time, USC Marshall ranks among the best schools for business research and accounting. The school maintained its momentum in 2022, landing large gifts to fund blockchain and risk management programs.

Still, if you surveyed the Class of 2024, Los Angles is bound to top the list of Marshall’s advantages. An entertainment and tech hub, the city’s “Silicon Beach” region is becoming increasingly competitive with Silicon Valley. It has churned out legendary startups like Snap, Hulu, Dollar Shave Club, ZipRecruiter, and the Honest Company. What’s more, it has attracted sizable offices for firms like Google, Amazon, Facebook Nike, and SalesForce. And that doesn’t count the country’s two largest ports – Los Angeles and Long Beach – being within an hour’s drive of campus (traffic permitting, of course).

For MBAs, Los Angeles is more than endless career possibilities. As Jared Knight jokes, “the weather is incredible and after class you can go to the beach.” More than that, the area features diversity in every imaginable facet, says Miles Jackson, a researcher (and bass player) from DC.

“We moved to LA in 2018 and I don’t think we’ll ever leave, Jackson tells P&Q. “The city is home to so many people and cultures, an eclectic mix of street food and fine dining, bars and speakeasys. I love the access to nature, whether going to the beach, out for a hike, or taking a camping trip to the Sierras – you could skate, surf, and snowboard all in the same day.”

And the business climate is just the icing on top, Jackson adds. “It’s great to be surrounded by sports and entertainment, biotech, film, and a variety of endless opportunities in IB, FinTech, and so much more.  On top of LA being such a special city, Marshall and USC are in the center of the city and we have endless resources at our fingertips on campus.”

Next Page: Interview with Marshall MBA Leadership and Profiles of 12 MBA Students

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