University of Southern California

Allison Flato
Title
Exploring New Terrain
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Graduating Year
2011
Undergrad Institution
Amherst College
Hometown
Piedmont, California

Combining skills

Having studied psychology and economics as an undergraduate, Allison Flato decided an MBA at USC Marshall would be the ideal next step in her education. “Business is really a mix of the two,” she explains. “You need a lot of people skills to do well in business, and you also need a lot of the quantitative skills.”

Allison considers her own skills in these areas greatly honed by her time at USC Marshall. She had marketing experience prior to beginning her MBA, but the Marshall courses and faculty expanded her business horizons into other vital areas, such as finance. So now she knows not just how to market to a company, but also how to value that company through discounted cash-flow analysis.

Location and community

A native of Piedmont, a small town in California’s Bay Area, Allison chose USC Marshall both for its location and because of the school’s tight-knit feeling of community. “Marshall is a smaller school compared to other business schools,” she says. “There are 220 students in a class, and it really felt more like a family than some of the other schools that I looked at. You really have the opportunity to get to know your professors and spend a lot of time with them.”

The way Marshall professors make themselves accessible aids students with more than their coursework, according to Allison. “To be able to sit down with a professor and expand on what we talked about in class, or to talk about what I was doing in my internships—I think that experience is really unique to USC. I’m not sure you get that commitment from professors at other, bigger schools.” She feels such close contact with faculty also pushed her intellectually.

PRIME cuts

Allison’s father is the managing director of an independent power-producing company operating both in the U.S and Australia, so she spent summers and vacations there with her family while growing up. She also had traveled to Europe, but Marshall’s Pacific Rim Education Program (PRIME) program opened up new terrain for her, not just in geography but also in business.

“I went to Brazil and Argentina with Professors Carl Voigt and Sriram Dasu,” explains Allison, who had not been to South America before. “I worked on a project for a meat producer in Sao Paolo, looking at distribution networks in the United States.” By the time she was finished, she had a thorough knowledge of a business she had never before considered—not to mention a detailed understanding of the process beef goes through to arrive at our dinner tables. “That, in and of itself, was a great experience.”

Even when traveling in other nations for PRIME, Allison still felt that sense of community that defines the Trojan Family. “I went with some of my good friends, but I also made friends with classmates whom I didn't know beforehand, and it really brought us closer together.”

Faculty role models

When asked about her favorite professors and courses, Allison gushes, “I could go on forever about this.” At the top of her list are strategy courses taught by Carl Voigt and Kyle Mayer—both in the core curriculum and program electives.

“They’re both just phenomenal professors. Professor Voigt’s Global Strategy elective is great. It teaches you about doing business across borders—the nitty gritty of behind the scenes. And Professor Mayer teaches an elective on Alliances and Cooperative Strategy that’s really unique. He taught it this past year to a small class of only about 25 students.”

Her Marshall professors have had such a positive impact on Allison that she is considering getting a PhD herself, so she can help and influence others in the same way. To see if it’s a good fit for her, she is spending the summer after graduation collaborating with Professor Mayer on a research paper that explores how firms can create value through the creation and management of a group devoted to alliances and other inter-firm relationships.

“Working with him has challenged me and made me think about what I want to do with the rest of my life,” she says.