University of Southern California

Kristen Clark
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After spending a summer in London in investment banking and learning it was not for her, Kristen Clark tried a commercial banking position the following summer and fell in love with it. She credits USC Marshall with providing a wide range of such hands-on learning opportunities that helped her fine-tune her career options before officially entering the job market.

"I was able to find out that I didn't like investment banking in only seven weeks, versus trying to do it for three or four years after graduation," says Ms. Clark, who prefers the client interaction of commercial banking, as opposed to the transactional orientation of investment banking. The Chicago native landed a position as an analyst in the securitization department of Bank of Montreal in her hometown.

She also appreciated the opportunity to explore a variety of subjects within the Marshall curriculum. "I decided that out of all the business schools, this was the one that was going to offer me the most interesting classes and the most diverse set of skills that I would need to use in the real world."

Ms. Clark added a concentration in business law after taking Professor C. Kerry Field's course on the subject, and later became his faculty assistant. Her other concentration was in international law, and she took most of those courses in Milan through Marshall's study-abroad program. "Because the business world is just so global right now, students need to have that experience," says Ms. Clark. Few schools match Marshall's international programs, she adds.

While she says she took advantage of nearly all the opportunities Marshall provided - including serving as a Marshall ambassador and hosting prospective students - she still found time to pursue other interests. An avid golfer since the age of 6, she took a sailing class at USC and quickly became proficient. In fact, she spent the summer after graduation as a volunteer in the TopSail Youth Program at the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, where she trained to be able to captain the fleet's tall ships.

"I made my best friends in my life here, inside and outside of Marshall," she says. "There's not a single one of my friends who is not going to be successful. To be able to say that about all the great people you spent the last four years of your life with is pretty incredible."