Most people associate Trojans with warriors. Made famous in The Iliad, Trojans were rugged and righteous, devoted and daring — never afraid to fight, no matter the legions massed outside their walls. The University of Southern California (USC) has adopted same this Trojan Spirit. Here, students are expected to follow the five qualities of a Trojan: Faithful, Scholarly, Skillful, Courageous, and Ambitious. And you’ll find these values in abundance in the Marshall School’s MBA Class of 2023.
Ambitious? Meet Hilary Clark. She describes herself as “Jackie Onassis meets Scrappy Doo.” On Twitter, she is called the “Queen of Chartz.” The Reason: She was the managing editor for Bloomberg TV. Indeed, “wunderkind” is a word that comes to mind with Clark. After all, the Ohio native had already managed a far-flung team in Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and New York City by the time she’d reached 25!
Courageous? Think Adewale Oduye, who holds a law degree from Northwestern University. Before business school, he served as a deputy district attorney for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Despite the potential for backlash, Oduye followed his conscience and exonerated 10 prisoners who’d wrongly been convicted by his office.
“Many of these cases were assigned to me for trial,” he reminisces. “After conducting my own independent investigations, I was able to prove that the people accused were innocent. While there was immense pressure from supervisors to go to trial, I stood my ground and followed my gut instincts. I remember one case in which a young man was looking at 35 years to life. Fortunately, I was able to work with the defense attorney to find the evidence that exonerated him.”
This commitment to justice has been a driving force for Oduye, one that was driven home by the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. “I remember looking outside my office at the Hall of Justice building in downtown Los Angeles and seeing thousands of people protesting George Floyd’s murder. This was during the height of the pandemic—before there was a vaccine. People were risking their lives to protest a grave injustice that occurred. After seeing that, I promised myself to be more vocal when it came to racial injustice.”
SCHOLAR BEHIND THE STAGE
When it comes to being scholarly, Jessica Walling personifies the quality in its entirety. Holding a BFA in Theater Design, she climbed from being a costume designer to a stage manager at Cirque du Soleil, a trajectory that required learning every intricacy of a complex and perilous production.
“As a stage manager, one of my primary jobs was calling shows (the person on headset keeping the entire show in sync and on track, also responsible for navigating the team through problems and show stops). My first show call was in an arena in front of nearly 6,000 people. The amount of work that goes into learning how to meticulously lead a team of technicians and performers through an entire show is enormous. Most people learn how to call shows in an educational setting, but I was learning in an arena in front of thousands of people. I was so nervous but my first show was clean and that gave me the confidence to know I’d make a great stage manager.”
Inevitably, COVID shut down her tour. Now, as an MBA student, Walling is looking to move from executing tactics to devising the strategy as a whole. “I still wanted to work collaboratively and create art, but find a way to be intricately involved in choosing what stories get told at a company that allowed me to have more stability and room for advancement. I am hoping an MBA from USC Marshall will help transition from daily operations to upper management roles within the live entertainment industry.”
SUN RAYS AND LA
And where better than Los Angeles? The nation’s second largest city, LA is a leader in media and entertainment. The region is also home to Silicon Beach, a concentration of technology firms and startups that stretches from Malibu to Playa Vista and north to Culver City. The area includes centers for firms like Google, Amazon, Netflix, and Apple. Over the past 15 years, it has been home to innovative startups like Hulu, Riot Games, Snap, Zip Recruiter, and The Honest Company. Such opportunities appealed to students like Ian Hause, a portfolio banker from Sacramento who calls himself “a nerdy Energizer Bunny.”
“From the beaches to the unlimited social opportunities, Los Angeles provides students with activities around the clock. Additionally, the job market out here is booming. From entertainment to start-ups, companies are always on the lookout for talent. California is the nation’s largest economy and is only growing. By earning an MBA in one of the focal points of industry and social entertainment in the world, MBA students are guaranteed to have an amazing experience.”
And a “new beginning” too, adds Hilary Clark. And that doesn’t count maybe the most underrated aspect of the Marshall experience according to Adewale Oduye. “The weather…by far. My mood is so much better when studying or hanging out in 75-degree weather…in December.”
WE ARE FAMILY
Perhaps the biggest plus of a Marshall MBA harkens back to its Trojan identity. They call it the “Trojan Network”, though the school brands it as the “Marshall Family”. This network personifies the ‘Faithful’ quality of USC grads. At Marshall, membership has its privileges. MBAs watch out for each other, as talent knows talent. That means Marshall alumni open doors and give first shots to alums because they know who they are, what they learned, and how much they endured.
“I have many family members who have attended other prestigious MBA programs across the country, and even they will admit that the Marshall Family is unique in its love for students and alumni,” notes Ian Hause. “In 20 years, people won’t remember your grades, summer internship, or first post-MBA job. They will remember Marshall Family. I spoke to an alumnus recently about the Marshall Family and she described it in 3 simple sentences: “We will always take the call. We will always pay it forward. We will always Fight On!” These people love USC and love the Marshall MBA students. We couldn’t ask for a better alumni environment.”
While the Trojan Family — a third variation of the conception — may sound catchy, it is far more than branding panache.
“I chose USC Marshall because of the Trojan network, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only further demonstrated the strength of our alumni network,” explains Liza Morales, a 2021 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “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.”
To understand the future, it helps to look back at the past. When it comes to professional achievements, the Class of 2023 is an impressive crew. At Deloitte, Deonta’ Plase served as a lead campaign strategist while building on the firm’s DEI recruitment activities. As a program director for a K-12 school, Roxie Zhang produced over $4 million dollars in funding. At the same time, Jason Yang was a founding member at ByteDance, which he describes as “Tiktok’s parent company) enterprise services and cloud computing division [where he was] overseeing the commercialization of ByteDance’s Data and MarTech Platform.”
“I was fortunate to take a sip of the experience in building a multi-millions B2B business and having a fantastic opportunity to work with industry leaders, startup customers, and amazing competitors,” Yang tells P&Q.
Speaking of high tech, Will Thompson once led the redesign of a performance measurement framework for a Federal agency. “Our automated dashboard solution cut the previous reporting cycle in half and doubled the number of key performance indicators measured,” writes Thompson, an EY senior consultant who sang in and produced an album with his college a capella group. “At the conclusion of the project, two IT executive stakeholders who I interviewed during the redesign subsequently hired me to serve as their Chief of Staff due to the success of the interview and project results.”
Ian Hause also produced impressive numbers when he helped lead his bank’s efforts with the Paycheck Protection Program at the height of COVID. “I was responsible for providing clarity to our clients. Quantitatively, my team disbursed over $60 million in funds to over 400 small businesses in the Southern California region with a mean loan amount of $42,000. I will never forget the many tears of joy coming from our clients who were thankful just to have their businesses survive.”
Sometimes, numbers don’t quite measure impact. Just ask Pyrenee Steiner, who has reached the peak of all 58 of Colorado’s tallest mountains. “During my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, one of my best memories was when I finally learned how to make the local Ndole (vegetable dish),” she writes. “I had been eating dinner at my neighbor’s house almost every night, watching her spend hours preparing such a labor-intensive meal. However, it wasn’t until three months later, when I finally figured out the perfect combination of spices and leaves, that I could share some of mine with her for the first time. It truly felt like a monumental accomplishment.”
A CLASS PROFILE
By the numbers, USC Marshall received 2,418 applications for a spot in the Class of 2023, ultimately accepting 23% of applicants and enrolling 218 students. The incoming class averaged a 716 GMAT, up nine points over the previous year, with scores ranging from 680-770 in the mid-80% range. The class also posted a 321 average GRE, a test which was taken by a third of the class.
Another 36% of the class is women, a 5% increase over the Class of 2022. The class hails from 21 countries, with International students accounting for 34% of the class. Underrepresented minorities make up 21% of the class. 7% of the class identifies as LGBTQ.
Academically, the class averaged a 3.57 GPA as undergraduates. The largest segment of the class — 29% — majored in Business and Commerce. Another 18% earned degrees related to Engineering and Commerce. The rest of the class includes MBA candidates who majored in Economics (17%), Humanities (15%), Social Sciences (13%), Sciences (7%), and Law (1%). As professionals, the largest segment is split between Financial Services and Technology at 17% each. Consulting and Entertainment professionals hold 9% and 8% of class seats respectively, followed by Healthcare (7%), Government and Military (6%), and Nonprofits (5%). The remainder of the class includes representatives from Consumer Packaged Goods, Manufacturing, Real Estate, Retail, Hospitality, Logistics, and Energy.
One word that can describe USC Marshall: Versatile. It boasts the world’s top online MBA program and a highly-regarded undergraduate business school. By the same token, 2021 MBA graduates enjoyed strong returns in hiring, including a 94.2% placement rate and pay topping out at $170,000. On top of that, Marshall received a $20 million dollar gift to bolster its global supply chain program.
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