2023 MBA To Watch: Katherine Kouot, USC (Marshall)

Katherine Kouot

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

“I am a Los Angeles native who is passionate about social impact, advocacy, and collective liberation.”

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a nature and national park fanatic and have visited 17 national parks so far.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Southern California

BA, English Literature

BA, French

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) – College and Career Success Director

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? GoGuardian, Educator Research Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? EdTech company building scalable solutions to improve educational outcomes for all students

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership Positions at Marshall
President, Marshall Leadership Fellows Program (MLFP)
VP of External Relations LA, High Tech Association
VP of Impact Strategy, Marshall Net Impact
Consortium Liaison, 2022-23

Consortium Fellow, Wallace L Jones award
Forté Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During my time at Marshall, I was selected to participate in the Marshall Leadership Fellows Program (MLFP) and later served as the President of our student program. The diversity of thought in the MLFP classroom has been my favorite part of the MLFP experience. In the first semester of MLFP, we learned that psychological safety is essential to unlocking the power of diverse teams. Because we have the opportunity to learn from one another over the course of an entire year, we have been able to build a community that encourages authentic engagement and dialogue, even through differing opinions or life experiences. MLFP’s curriculum allows a student to explore how they are a leader of self, leader of others, and leader of leaders. I have gained so much perspective and insight from my many talented and thoughtful peers in MLFP because as a class we have been able to tackle the challenges of business leadership and societal issues alongside one another. I originally joined the MLFP community because I wanted to give back to the Marshall community; now that I am at the tail end of the year-long program, I can confidently say that MLFP has pushed me to be a better coach, leader, and member of the Marshall community. I believe that MLFP has fundamentally shifted my approach to leadership and my understanding of how to create social change within the world.   

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to attending business school, I worked at Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), a local place-based non-profit in the Rampart neighborhood of central LA. While I am proud to have administered over $4M in scholarships to incredible first-generation students of color, I would say that I am most proud of the time I spent building deep and authentic connections with my students and community members. My time in service to my community has crafted me into the empathetic and impact-driven leader I am today.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Marshall because of its tight-knit student community and expansive student and alumni network. Marshall’s 16 graduate programs invite diverse identities and backgrounds into our community and our classrooms. As a double Trojan, I can confirm that our school never falls short of school spirit. #FightOn

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I’m in my third course with Professor Becky Heino. Professor Heino now runs our Marshall Leadership Fellows Program and she was committed to creating opportunities for our cohort to have meaningful conversations about critical life and business challenges such as building for equity, creating and sustaining inclusion, and leading through difficult times. She is excellent at de-risking difficult conversations and creating psychologically safe environments that inspire us all to dig deep, listen to learn, and challenge our internal blocks and biases to become better leaders in the Marshall community.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? In my second year, I took a class called Cases in New Venture Management. Each week, Professor Steve Mednick brought in a founder to teach a master class on how to build, scale, and manage ventures. I did not come into business school with an interest in entrepreneurship, but feel strongly now that all MBAs should take a class on entrepreneurship.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Last year, Marshall held a Global Student Mixer that brought together students from all Marshall graduate programs. They featured foods from countries that were represented in our student community. It was a refreshing shift away from cocktail and small bites and it invited my peers and I to be curious about each other’s communities and cultures.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? As a first-generation student of color with a non-traditional MBA background, I grappled with imposter syndrome and struggled to fit myself into more traditional MBA roles for my summer internship. At the end, I decided to stay true to myself and my passion for social impact and found an incredible summer internship in the final months of my first year. If I could do it again, I would not stress so much about recruiting and I would spend more time building meaningful experiences and memories with my classmates and peers.

 What did you love most about your business school’s town? Los Angeles is an incredible city where you can build your own adventure. There are so many ways to enjoy Los Angeles with your classmates I love my hometown!

What surprised you the most about business school?

  • Diversity – students from all over the globe, industries, etc.
  • Recruiting – choosing to go off the beaten path
  • Finding commonalities with all my peers –
  • BUSY, overwhelming!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? In my personal statements and application responses, I represented my strengths and growth opportunities with honesty and confidence. I owned that I did not have a technical background and that coming to business school would be an opportunity to rapidly upskill my technical and business skillsets. I also shared that I expected that my presence in the classroom would as much value as I would derive from the experience.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I learn so much from my friend and classmate, Adewale Oduye, and think that Marshall is a better place because of his presence in our classrooms. Adewale’s extensive career has taken him in many directions, and yet he has been able to stay true to his values of justice and equity throughout the journey. Adewale is quietly one of the most inclusive members of our class–regularly inviting many classmates to join him for lunches across the city and exposing our community to the diverse communities and cultures that exist within Los Angeles. One of my favorite memories is heading out to Inglewood on a quiet Friday afternoon to grab Nigerian food in Inglewood, CA.

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

  • Work with impact-driven professionals to build solutions for complex societal problems
  • Create opportunities for professionals from historically disenfranchised communities to break into leadership roles and thrive in their careers

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

“Kat Kouot has excelled academically during her two years at Marshall. She has been on Dean’s List for two of the semesters. In addition, she served as the president of Marshall Leadership Fellows Program (MLFP), VP of External Relations LA, High Tech Association, VP of Impact Strategy, Marshall Net Impact, and as a Consortium Liaison in her first year of business school.

MLFP is a one-year leadership development program. Fellows commit to leadership development through classroom and experiential learning and then apply their learnings by coaching first-year core teams. MLPF builds a strong community of values-driven, people-focused business leaders. Kat is proud of her leadership of MLFP and firmly believes that MLFP has fundamentally shifted her approach to leadership and her understanding of how to create social change within the world.”

Scott Abrams
Associate Professor in Clinical Finance and Business Economics, and FT MBA Academic Director


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