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USC Marshall Celebrates First Annual MBA Reunion WeekendAlumni Travel from Around the globe to see Old Friends, Make New ConnectionsApril 18, 2009 • by News at Marshall
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This April, USC Marshall graduates returned to campus for the school’s first-ever MBA reunion weekend, proving that members of the Trojan family can go home again. They gathered from across four continents for two days of reconnecting with classmates and friends, networking and getting up to speed on emerging ideas in entrepreneurship, marketing, accounting, management, real estate and technology.
The weekend brought together alumni from all of USC Marshall's degree programs, representing a broad range of graduating classes. It was this opportunity to "connect across the years" that attracted Sirous Thampi '08, who earned a dual MBA/Master's of Urban Planning at USC and today works in business consulting for a global firm based in the U.K. Thampi keeps in touch with "a lot of classmates. Facebook helps." But the reunion allowed him an even greater degree of access to the USC Marshall network. "You never know when the relationships you make will pay off," he said. "And as a consultant, USC Marshall is the first place I look" in doing business.
An evening cocktail reception and gala dinner featuring the USC Trojan marching band kicked off the reunion events. Dean Jim Ellis welcomed the alumni, encouraging them to rely on USC Marshall as they move forward in their careers. "We are here to help you whenever you need us," he said. "You are gone, but not forgotten. And in today's economy, we all have to help our family; that is what it’s all about." The dean also outlined his vision for USC Marshall's future, a "four-pronged strategy" including promoting entrepreneurship, fostering social responsibility, prioritizing thought leadership and globalizing the school.
It was this emphasis on globalization that reunion attendee Jeff Showalter '99 recalled as a highlight of his years in the full-time MBA program, especially "the focus on getting international students, which was so interesting and beneficial. I learned a lot from them in terms of problem solving and being exposed to new ideas." Showalter had a special affinity with his non-American peers: "I came from the Midwest," he said, "and didn't know anybody when I got to USC. I really appreciated the value of tapping into the network, which helped someone coming from a 'foreign land' assimilate and grow their career." Today, Showalter's career is thriving; after a stint in investment banking, he now works as vice president of finance for Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar de la Hoya’s national boxing promotional firm.
Also on hand to offer remarks at the gala dinner was Robert Rollo, a past member of USC's Board of Trustees and a former president of the USC Alumni Association. Rollo, who received both his Bachelor of Science and MBA from USC, noted that effective businesspeople find success "at the crossroads of opportunity and preparation," and that USC Marshall "gets you ready" to get ahead. It was a sentiment echoed by reunion participant Pat Fitzpatrick, a 1998 graduate of the MBA.PM. program, who credited his USC Marshall MBA with "helping me get a promotion." The reunion weekend, observed Fitzpatrick, demonstrated the value of a USC Marshall education: its ongoing relevance. "Having a chance to talk to colleagues and get a window into current topics in business" can make a critical difference in staying competitive, he noted.
Justine Grant, a 1999 graduate of the top-ranked Master's in Accounting (MAcc)program and currently the executive director of corporate audit at MGM, agreed. "As a professional, you get set in your ways," she said. The reunion is great because, in addition to networking, you can learn something."
That learning began with a morning breakfast and panel discussion led by USC Leventhal Dean Randy Beatty and featuring Cherie Scricca, associate dean, MBA programs; Keith Vaughn, assistant dean, admissions; Peter Giulioni, executive director, USC Marshall Keenan Career Resource Center; Karla Wiseman, executive director of executive education; and Cathy Cowan, director, USC Leventhal Master’s programs. In addition to providing updates about the strengths and challenges facing USC Marshall, they presented resources for alumni to access at every stage of their career.
Following the breakfast, alumni chose from among multiple breakout sessions on topics ranging from innovation to entrepreneurship to real estate. At a packed session on leadership, Dr. Warren Bennis, the world's foremost authority on the subject, congratulated alumni on their "motivation" to attend the reunion. "It's a tribute to you that you care about learning as a lifetime endeavor," he said.
Motivation was certainly on display for Pushp Jain '99, who endured a 22-hour flight from his home in India to be part of the weekend events. Jain, who runs a family business in plastics, chemicals and real estate in Delhi, was eager "to be back in touch with people and be part of the school." He was also grateful for a chance to "keep the USC Marshall spirit going, and to have an opportunity to keep on learning." For Tamas Seregi '99, making it to the reunion was also a serious undertaking: He flew from Moscow, where he is a partner at Boston Consulting Group. Seregi knew from experience that the hours he spent on the plane would be worthwhile. "Time is extremely precious to me," he said. "And I found the time I spent at USC Marshall very valuable. It allowed me to meet people, explore things and understand management concepts in much more depth." The reunion weekend continued these themes and, for Seregi, proved a sound investment in another way, as well. "I hoped the sun would be shining when I got here,” he said. “And that expectation has been fulfilled."
About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 90 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.