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When Carly Olson first visited the USC campus during her junior year in high school, she recalls: “It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and there was a magical vibe on campus. It seemed like such an exciting, fun place to be.”
While she admits being attracted by the Southern California climate, Carly says it was USC Marshall’s international opportunities—specifically the Global Leadership Program—that really sealed the deal on her decision to enroll here.
Exploring the world
“The Global Leadership Program gives you unparalleled access to these amazing leaders of major corporations,” she says. “And then, in your second semester freshman year, they send you to China.”
She adds, “There were so many cool opportunities that USC was offering, especially within Marshall, that just weren’t being offered by other schools I was looking at. I had no clue at the time that it was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Having grown up in a small town outside of Seattle, Carly had never been out of the country, except to Canada. Through Marshall, she visited Shanghai with the Global Leadership Program, Dubai with the International Experiential Corporate Learning (I-ExCEL) Program and Hong Kong with the Marshall Case Team.
With two CPAs for parents, Carly never considered studying anything other than business. “A business degree offers flexibility; it allows you to work within any industry,” she says.
With a double major in finance and entrepreneurship, Carly says the combination of perspectives she has gained at Marshall will be invaluable in her new position as a strategy consultant for Bain & Company.
“Coming to USC has opened so many doors for me, and so does this position I’m stepping into,” she says.
Inspiring faculty, classmates and courses
The overall environment at Marshall was perhaps the best part of the program, she says. “I had motivated, ambitious and supportive classmates and incredibly supportive faculty who took the time to get to know me as an individual.”
Among her favorite courses were Global Strategy with Carl Voigt—which she says really broadened her view—and Financial Valuation, taught by Julia Plotts, for whom she later served as a teaching assistant.
“I took Professor Plott’s class in Fall 2008, when the financial world fell apart,” recalls Carly. “We learned valuation concepts and tied them to real-world issues such as financial accounting scandals, government reform, and stock market prices. We discussed what was going on in the marketplace and how the financial system was changing on a completely fundamental level.”
She says she is also glad she took advantage of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. “It’s one of the best entrepreneurship programs in the country. The professors are really outstanding; they are great mentors and have given me a new perspective on business strategy.”
Keeping options open
Down the road, Carly is keeping her options open. She wants to be involved with the entrepreneurial world, in either consumer technology or education. “Those are two areas that I am really passionate about,” she says.
Or she might consider an MBA or pursing a strategy a position with a large corporation. “I’d love to work for a big technology company, in their strategy or mergers and acquisitions department, and perhaps look at strategic acquisitions of companies. Maybe that is how I will tie in my entrepreneurial side.
“No matter what I do, Marshall has done an outstanding job of preparing me,” she says.