2023 MBA To Watch: Samantha Viterbi Lurie, University of San Diego (Knauss)

Samantha Viterbi Lurie

University of San Diego, Knauss School of Business

“A quirky, detailed-oriented, passionate practicalist who wants to generate social good for our world.”

Hometown: San Diego, California

Fun fact about yourself: I ride horses every morning, 7 days a week!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Southern California (USC), B.A. in International Relations

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Community Representative and Legislative Correspondent for former Congresswoman Susan Davis

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? N/A; I got married and went on my honeymoon!

Where will you be working after graduation? I am going to pursue my passion for entrepreneurship and work on the startup business that I began during my time at USD.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Community Work

Business consulting volunteer for the microentrepreneur program at Access, a joint partnership with the University of San Diego.

Awards

Fowler Business Concept Challenge Semifinalist

Dean’s Merit Scholar

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my participation in the Fowler Business Concept Challenge during my first semester at the Knauss School of Business. This pitch competition kicked off my entrepreneurial journey and made me realize that there is a path to business where I can work on something I am personally excited about.

In the Fowler competition, I worked on a venture for equestrians. I entered the competition worried that the niche market I was targeting and problems I was solving would not resonate with others. When I presented HorseCam, my venture generated much enthusiasm from both judges and peers. This gave me confidence that I was not only solving the needs of my own community, but building a promising business case that anyone could see a clear opportunity in. I was proud to finally utilize my new-found business skills and apply it to my passion.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my work during the beginning of the pandemic to help people access government benefits that they desperately needed and making people feel cared for. At the time, I was working for Congresswoman Susan Davis and read an opinion piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune by a constituent who owned a bar in our district and was expressing frustration with the city/state/federal government for their lack of action. After reading the op-ed, I called up the constituent and spent a week communicating with him and locating resources for his small business. This kind of tangible benefit that I was able to provide to help people feel a little less forgotten in the pandemic was extremely meaningful.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business because of its emphasis on business for good, sustainable business, and educating compassionate and responsible business leaders. When I interviewed with the school, they emphasized their belief that businesses have a responsibility to care for and protect communities in which they operate. As a designated Changemaker Campus, USD is dedicated to social change and innovation. These values are an integral part of the MBA curriculum, including required courses on sustainability and ethics, in addition to required community service hours. I wanted to ensure the community I was learning amongst had this same passion for social innovation and change and making a positive impact. I transitioned from the public to private sector because I saw a greater opportunity to make tangible positive change through business. I resonated with the Knauss School’s belief that business must be a force for good.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I had a number of truly fantastic educators. But since I need to choose one, I’d like to acknowledge Associate Professor of Accountancy Barbara Lougee. I pursued the finance concentration in the MBA program (something I never thought I would) because of the way she taught accounting and later, Financial Statement Analysis. Coming into graduate school, I never would have thought that I was a “finance” person. In fact, I tried to steer clear of anything that I thought resembled numbers but after taking her introductory accounting course, I tried to take every accounting class that the Knauss School had to offer. With Dr. Lougee as my professor, among others on the way, I discovered I really enjoyed digging into the numbers and learning about a company through their financials. Dr. Lougee is extremely dedicated to her students, going out of her way to support us and answer any and every question. Her classes are notoriously challenging but that is part of the fun!

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Entrepreneurship with Professor of Practice Helder Sebastiao. This class was truly phenomenal. We chose a business idea and then spent the semester interviewing dozens and dozens of potential customers and stakeholders. We tested our assumptions of every component of the business model canvas and learned to pivot and adapt. Through the process, I learned a lot about starting with one idea and how that idea can develop and transform, or when to move on to the next idea. And most exciting of all, I came out with a real potential business that I am continuing to work on and intend to launch after graduation.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? USD is such a fantastic place to be an aspiring entrepreneur. During San Diego Startup Week, one of the days was hosted by the Free Enterprise Institute at the Knauss School and was free for students to attend. But of the many resources offered to student entrepreneurs, my favorite tradition has to be the pitch competitions where students get to compete for money to support their ideas. These competitions give students the ability to dip their toes into entrepreneurship, get mentorship and feedback, and provide a platform for students to experiment and take risks. There is at least one competition you can participate in every semester and participating the Fowler Business Concept Challenge was definitely the highlight of my time here.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? During my first Intersession (winter term at USD), I applied to go abroad, but due to the pandemic the trip was canceled. Instead, we ended up conducting the class over Zoom. Unfortunately, I was not able to go over the summer or following winter, so I never went abroad while at USD. I have heard such incredible things about the abroad courses, specifically the international consulting projects, and wish I had the chance to experience it myself (especially since they just introduced semester-long exchange programs for MBA students).

What is the biggest myth about your school? The University of San Diego is a Catholic University, so a lot of people were surprised to hear that I chose USD over other business schools, considering I am Jewish. Someone even asked me if it is mandatory for me to go to church if I attend as a student. It is definitely a myth that you have to be Catholic or religious to attend. I’ll even add that my professors at the Knauss School were much more accommodating when I missed class due to the many Jewish holidays, compared to the two non-affiliated universities I attended previously!

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Nothing beats San Diego! Our campus is gorgeous, it is beautiful outside most of the year. The city is filled with things to do, great food scenes, the beach, and so much more. San Diego has a history of successful entrepreneurs building scalable and enduring industries. Currently, San Diego is experiencing an entrepreneurship boom. I have been fortunate to hear from a diverse range of San Diego entrepreneurs who are USD graduates.

As someone who was born in San Diego, I have tremendous pride in my city and want to contribute to the business community here.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was told by so many people that business school is only about networking and social events. While there are opportunities for that, the MBA program at the Knauss School comprises a rigorous course load of advanced concepts and practical skills. Moreover, the student population is ambitious, motivated, and hard-working. My cohort is busy balancing our course load, working on their job or venture, and supporting their fellow Toreros.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Going into my application, I was worried that my international relations degree and congressional work experience was not a traditional business school background. However, I decided to be my honest self and tell my story. I had a great interview in which I had the opportunity to express to the Knauss School why I was a good fit, but it also allowed me to learn that this was the right choice of school for me. I didn’t try to be someone I was not, and gave my honest assessment of what I wanted to get out of my MBA.

Everyone has a unique background, set of skills, and reasons for pursuing an MBA. I would tell others to not be deterred by your circumstances. Believe in and communicate your vision for your MBA experience.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I did not get to know Jorge Muniz until my third semester at USD because he was in the part-time MBA cohort. But his optimism and entrepreneurial spirit has definitely left a mark on me in this short time. He’s always working on multiple startup ideas. Jorge has this unbelievable enthusiasm for inventing, creating, and building that is exhilarating to witness. I love watching his presentations because of the way he lights up when he talks about the solution. He also is genuinely interested in what other people are working on and creating. And he will go out of his way to help colleagues out. Once, I asked Jorge a simple question about how he keeps himself accountable with his startup and he offered to set up a call to set up my entire project management system for the startup I wanted to work on. Jorge also has a family and a full-time job, and his ability to juggle it all is super admirable. In between it all, he pitched at and won the Fowler Business Concept Challenge. I think everyone that knows Jorge is lucky to witness his passion for life and business.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My first goal is to successfully launch a startup in a space that I am excited about. Long-term I would like to be a social entrepreneur, and start a social venture that is all about making an impact on society.

What made Samantha such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Samantha Lurie (Viterbi) has impressed faculty and staff with her interests and capabilities in entrepreneurship. She has been actively engaged with the Knauss School of Business’ Entrepreneurship and Innovation Catalyzer since starting her MBA studies. Last year she competed in the Fowler Business Concept Challenge and was a finalist. The motivation behind her concept, a camera system for remotely monitoring horses, was driven by her desire to effectively assess the well-being of her horse while she was away at school and other commitments. Sami was an outstanding student in our graduate entrepreneurship course, where she excelled in applying the concepts of lean startup/lean launch to develop and assess the viability of another horse care related concept: a platform connecting horse owners and service providers that delivers real time information on all aspects of a horse’s care. Sami is continuing to develop this concept and is considering launching the venture after graduation.

Sami has also applied her entrepreneurship know-how in the service of other entrepreneurs. She was a volunteer in the 2022 Access Community Center program, where she provided consulting to a local microentrepreneur. She also had a part-time paid internship with The Impact Investors, which advises investors on making investments that deliver a positive social / environmental impact. Due in large part to these accomplishments, Sami has been nominated by faculty, staff, and peers as a finalist for our Graduate Student Entrepreneur of the Year award.”

Helder Sebastiao
Professor of Practice

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