University of Southern California

Tulani Watkins
Title
Achieving a Diverse Education
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Graduating Year
2009
Hometown
Compton, CA

The youngest of five siblings, Tulani Watkins is the first in her family to graduate from college. As a student worker in USC’s Educational Talent Search, she assisted other first-generation college-bound students’ access to and success in higher education. She also volunteered to tutor and mentor inner-city students through the NAACP, the Chaka Khan Foundation and USC’s Joint Education Program.

Her own interest in a business education was fostered during high school through the Academy of Business Leadership, a summer program at Santa Monica College. Growing up in Compton and attending Los Angeles public schools, she knew she wanted a private university experience. “Hearing about the opportunities of the Trojan family and this great business school all these years, USC was my number-one choice,” says Ms. Watkins, who was also attracted by USC’s diversity and the opportunity to live in international housing.

Diversity also was her watchword in the courses she chose. To complement her entrepreneurship concentration, she elected to take classes in several other USC schools, such as cinematic arts, communication and engineering, rather than minoring in one discipline. “That is one thing I really wanted to take advantage of coming to USC,” says Ms. Watkins, who plans a career in the entertainment industry.

Her entrepreneurship classes led her to other resources across campus. “My grandmother was in a convalescent home,” she explains. “I just thought there has to be an alternative to get her back at home while offering her a social component throughout the week.” After developing a feasibility plan and a business plan for a new elder-care model through the entrepreneurship program, she sought out faculty experts in the schools of gerontology and social work for additional advice. This led to her volunteering at the St. Barnabas Adult Day Health Care Center.

Her Management Consulting class with Professor Thomas Olson further fueled her philanthropic bent. “In that class we became pro bono consultants for nonprofits,” she says. In addition to hands-on fieldwork for real clients, the class utilized Marshall’s Experiential Learning Center to practice their consulting skills.

Her extensive volunteer efforts included rebuilding homes in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity and serving on the board of USC’s Norman Topping Student Aid Fund. “Throughout my four years, I’ve been really big on volunteering,” she says. “There are foundations and organizations that helped me get here, and being able to give back has helped me become who I am and enriched my experience at USC.”

Ms. Watkins is the recipient of the USC Black Alumni Association’s Outstanding Scholar Award and scholarships from the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation – through which she has spent the past four summers interning in a variety of capacities for the Hallmark Channel as part of the foundation’s Minority Interest in Media program.

In the long term, she aspires to become a network executive. “I’m really interested in the programming aspects as well as the creative side,” she says. “Sometimes I see shows and I think, ‘That’s not how most African-American families are. So I’d like to create some more diverse shows. I also want to bring community relations into any job I have. To quote the great Jackie Robinson, ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.’”