University of Southern California

First Year



Core curriculum tailored to your needs

The 2010-2011 school year marked the introduction of a new Full-Time MBA core curriculum that acknowledges the extraordinary diversity of our students’ backgrounds, interests and aspirations. Unlike the traditional “one size fits all” MBA model, our core offers myriad opportunities to personalize your FTMBA experience while ensuring the discipline-based depth required in today’s complex business arena.

The core curriculum represents the best thinking of a committee of distinguished faculty led by USC Marshall Vice Dean Shantanu Dutta and Professor (formerly Dean) Randolph Westerfield. In summer 2009, Dean Ellis tasked the committee with devising a new core model that would be educationally sound, relevant to 21st-century business needs and capable of delivering a truly outstanding MBA student experience. 

Semester-based schedule for increased flexibility

Before fall semester classes begin, FTMBA students participate in a mandatory one-week MBA Orientation program. Non-US citizens have a mandatory two-week Orientation program (International MBA Student Orientation, plus the MBA Orientation).

Immediately following MBA Orientation, students begin fall semester which is devoted to foundation courses as well as courses in functional areas. By the end of the semester, students will have taken classes in accounting, corporate finance, management communication, marketing, microeconomics, operations, organizational behavior, statistics and strategy.

During spring semester, students may select as many as four electives in addition to the Global Context of Business/ PRIME class.

Your ‘Core’ community

At the beginning of the year, you will be assigned to one of three “cores” — groups designed to reflect the diversity of your first-year class. You and your core-mates will take all your required classes together. This smaller community provides more opportunities for case discussions, student presentations and team projects. Rather than absorbing information in large lecture halls, you and our core-mates will take an active role in bringing business concepts to life.

Your teams

Within your core, you will be part of at least two smaller teams of five or six people — one team in fall semester, another in spring semester — as part of your PRIME experience — and possibly additional teams for your elective courses.

Electives that focus on your career goals

The selection of first-year electives is based on feedback from students, alumni and recruiters about the most pertinent subjects for a successful summer internship. (You may choose to take additional electives during the summer in lieu of an internship.)

First-year elective options vary from year to year, but they always include courses in accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, information and operations management, management and organization, and marketing.

The Three Cs

"Marshall empowers you with Three Cs: Career, Curriculum, and Community. I think by focusing on that when you first get here allows you have a broader experience, and allows you to really have something that’s tangible once you graduate."

Brandon Smith
(2014)