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Christine Chang knew she wanted a career that would combine her creative and analytical sides. A career in fashion attracted her but, as a psychology undergraduate, she knew she needed more focus on business.
She first came to Los Angeles for a styling stint at Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine, then moved to New York to work for Ralph Lauren and later ABC Carpet & Home, an eco-friendly home-furnishing store. But business school was always in the back of her mind.
“I’d worked in the business world for several years, but had no real foundation in business,” she says. When it came time to choose an MBA program, Marshall was an easy choice.
“My sister graduated from the program in 2000, so I knew Marshall on a personal level,” she explains. Thanks to her sister, Christine knew about the Trojan network, and she wanted to be a part of it.
“I felt like people were so genuine and passionate, and would truly go out of their way to help their fellow Trojans. That was a really compelling reason to come here.”
Her sister may have attended before her, but Christine quickly cut her own swath at USC Marshall. The path she took included Pacific Rim Education (PRIME) program experiences in Vietnam and Thailand. “It was really meaningful to see a different culture and experience it all with your classmates and professors, who were able to provide their own insights. It’s an incredible trip that pushes us out of our comfort zones and shapes Marshall MBAs into global-minded executives” she says.
PRIME exposes students to business practices and issues in Asia and Latin America, allowing them to compare what they encounter to the U.S. business experience. Christine and her group toured the Ford factories on the outskirts of Hanoi, getting to know some of the workers there.
They got practical experience as well. “We did a consulting project for Lowe Advertising in Bangkok,” she recalls. The company wanted to know how best to advertise in a recession. Lowe must have been happy with the answers, because they’re still presenting the ideas Christine and her cohorts came up with to clients that include Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar.
Beyond the bottom line
Christine came to Marshall to learn successful business practices, with an interest in sustainability and social responsibility, but she wanted, and gained, much more. Fortunately, as Christine says, “Marshall offers a lot of courses that round you out as a businessperson and as an individual.”
Adlai Wertman’s Social Entrepreneurship is one such class—and a favorite of Christine’s. “It was just so eye-opening,” she says. “I actually wrote in the course review that every MBA student should have to take it. We’re here not just to learn about how Fortune 500 companies act, but actually how business can effect change in the world.”
Another of Christine’s favorite classes was Branding Strategy, taught by C.W. Park. “We learned how to build a strategy from top down to bottom up,” she says. “It’s a really comprehensive class in branding in just one semester.”
The course has proved invaluable to Christine’s position as buying manager for Salvation, a new division of Nike. “Buying managers are responsible for all the product you see in a store,” she explains. “It’s everything from editing a collection to working on product development and teaming up with a design team—all to ensure the product you put out is the best of the best.”
While at Marshall, she interned at another division of Nike—Hurley, the company’s surf and skate brand—and also worked there part time through the school year. “Something I really like about Nike is what a pioneer in sustainability it is,” she says. “From the floors of the store to the shopping bags to the product, Nike produces with the environment in mind.”
Her new position allows her to combine that interest with her passion for both branding and fashion. “It’s fashion, but it’s business. At the end of the day, it’s about building a comprehensive strategy to meet the bottom line.”