Growing up in the neighborhood, Ruth Joya always knew USC was a special place. The campus was beautiful, she recalls. Although nobody in her family had gone to college, she hoped to work at USC one day. Her husband encouraged her to apply. USC had great benefits, he’d heard. At the time, she had no idea how USC would one day change her life and that of her entire family.
Joya married and had her daughters young. She and her husband bought a house not far from campus and her daughters attended schools in the neighborhood. She worked at a law firm as a receptionist and later became an assistant to the controller. Her husband, who now works at LAC+USC Medical Center, at the time pulled long hours as a truck driver.
In 2006, after a full year of applying to USC, Joya was offered a temp position at the Marshall School of Business, in the Department of Management and Organization (MOR). She jumped at the chance, even though it meant quitting a full-time, permanent job. Her gamble paid off: She was hired full time soon thereafter.
“Working at USC has been a dream come true." —Ruth Joya, project specialist, MOR
“I came to USC with no college education, just work experience and many dreams,” she says. Many in her family went right to work after high school. “My parents worked really hard cleaning houses and offices at night and I would go help them out. But I knew that I could do so much more.”
Her then-boss, Denise Millard, told her about a weekend program at West Los Angeles College aimed at working adults, and encouraged her to apply. “I wanted to be a good role model for my daughters and further my career,” says Joya. “But it was intimidating.”
With the support and encouragement of her husband, supervisors, faculty and staff, she registered for a first class. She took a few more. Her husband took up the slack at home. She would do homework assignments while sitting at her daughter’s swim meets.
“With the help of my family and work colleagues, I was able to balance family, work, and school,” she says.
Three years later, she transferred to Azusa Pacific University and earned her bachelor’s degree. The first in her family to do so.
“I absolutely would not have accomplished this if not for my family and everyone at Marshall who supported me and encouraged me. The Trojan Family is a real thing,” she says.
With nearly 13 years now at USC Marshall, Joya has many examples of the Trojan Family to share.
When her high school-aged daughter expressed an interest in psychology, Joe Priester, associate professor of marketing, arranged for her to sit in on psychology classes on campus. Many faculty members went out of their way to offer advice and otherwise mentor her daughters, she says.. “It’s really nice when faculty take the time to know you, ask about your family, and support you in every possible way,” she says. “This is what sets Marshall apart from other schools; we are a family.”
Her oldest daughter will be graduating with a degree in psychology in 2020, and is currently studying in Italy on a Maymester trip. Her youngest daughter, now 16, will be applying to USC this fall.
Joya has met other goals in her time at Marshall: She has traveled extensively in Asia, Europe and South America with the GLP and LINC programs. She particularly enjoys traveling with Carl Voigt, professor of clinical management and organization, who she considers a mentor and friend.
And in May, Joya accomplished another milestone: She graduated with a Master of Aging Services Management from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. She currently volunteers as a “friendly visitor” for the elderly in her community, and hopes to one day expand her work in that space.
For now, she is at home with USC Marshall.
“Working at USC has been a dream come true,” she says. “It’s amazing to see all the opportunities and what USC offers to its employees, students and the community.”