University of Southern California

Molly Larson
Title
Philanthropic Business
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Graduating Year
2011
Undergrad Institution
University of California, Los Angeles
Hometown
Rockville, Maryland and Southern California

Building expertise

Molly Larson knows that nonprofits depend on solid business expertise at least as much as for-profit companies, and it’s a need she plans to help fill. To accomplish this, she pursued an MBA to expand her skill set. “I wanted to know which questions to ask to get the information I needed,” she says.

The way USC and the Marshall School foster connections with faculty, other students, alumni and businesses factored heavily in Molly’s decision to come here. “It’s a support system that you have to experience to really grasp,” she says. “I’d always wanted to be a part of it.”

She quickly built her network, becoming president of the Marshall chapter of Net Impact, which strives to “use the power of business to change the world,” Molly explains. She expanded the organization’s umbrella from sustainability and social enterprise to also include corporate social responsibility. She also served as a fellow with the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab.

“SBL supports business students who are interested in helping those in the social sector and who want to make a difference with their MBA,” she explains. “It’s very unique to business schools.” SBL connected Molly with an internship at Chysalis that, she says, changed her life.

Changing lives

Chrysalis provides resources and support to help homeless and low-income individuals become self-sufficient. Molly’s duties there included assessing operations, auditing supply purchasing practices and developing curriculum materials. But what she ultimately did there was touch people’s lives directly. As an example, Molly’s assistance and guidance gave one Chrysalis client the skills and confidence to apply for and obtain a job on her own.

“It’s not about writing someone’s resume or filling out their job application,” Molly says. “It’s showing them how to do it and unleashing them. It was hands-on work changing people’s lives.”

Transforming her own life

Molly began her own transformation while at USC Marshall. Her journey became literal when she traveled to Hong Kong as part of her Pacific Rim International Management Education (PRIME) experience. It was her first time leaving the continental U.S., and she was a little nervous on her way to LAX. “But I was with a group of friends, and it ended up being the trip of a lifetime,” she recalls. “I would give anything to do it again.”

Molly gained confidence during her time at Marshall. She was pre-med undergrad and was “anxious about going head to head with students who had done their undergrad in business. But there is such a support system here. Marshall wants you to succeed.”

Helping others

Now that Molly is transitioning from student to alumnus, she looks forward to helping future students the same way alumni helped her. “For a lot of projects, we were able to reach out to industry experts who had gone to Marshall, and they were willing help by spending time on the phone with us, inviting us to their offices and sending us materials.”

Her abilities so impressed Blue Garnet Associates—a business strategy consulting firm that helps organizations create lasting social change—that the firm hired her as a full associate even before she graduated.