As a high school senior, Kelsey Brembry knew exactly what she wanted to do—become a restaurant owner—and how she needed to get there—studying entrepreneurship at USC Marshall. The only setback was not getting accepted to Marshall. A program called Pathways gave her a second chance at her dream school.
As Brembry was considering her other options, she got an email from Marshall Undergraduate Admissions telling her that despite the competitive nature of admissions (Marshall has a 11 percent acceptance rate), they recognized her potential — and it wasn’t too late. If she planned right, she could transfer to Marshall later, and they would help her through the entire process starting that day.
Brembry was part of the pilot Pathways program, which officially launched this year. Pathways, an Undergraduate Admissions initiative designed to help high-achieving underrepresented students successfully transfer to Marshall, is an invitation-only program that guides students through the transfer process, offering counseling, invitations to campus events, and faculty and peer mentoring.
“We have thought about the way we design the curriculum and opportunities we provide to students to accommodate all of those different paths into USC and Marshall and to deliver the best experience we can no matter when you join us.”—Tyrone Callahan, vice dean for undergraduate programs and professor of clinical finance and business economics
Pathways officially launched with an event on April 28 that brought 90 potential transfer students and guests from California and across the country to Fertitta Hall. Undergraduate Admissions staff, including Director Tiffiani Frye; faculty, including Professors Naomi Warren and Shaun Harper; current transfer students and alumni informed the students about various facets of the Marshall program and shared their experiences.
Kristi Culpepper, associate director of undergraduate admissions and outreach, gave a warm welcome to the students. “We are so delighted that you’re here,” she said. “We’re so proud of you. You were invited based on what we see as the amazing potential that you have to be a Marshall student here at USC. We want you to be a part of this Marshall family.”
Diverse…and Happy Students
Shaun Harper, Provost Professor of Management and Organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, Clifford and Betty Allen Chair in Urban Leadership in the USC Rossier School of Education, and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, described the diverse and inclusive community at Marshall and USC,
As a professor, he said, his goal is to prepare students to lead on the topics of equity, diversity and inclusion. In his research, Harper has studied underrepresented undergraduate students on campuses across the country and heard stories about being the only student of color and experiencing constant confrontations with racial stereotypes and micro-aggressions.
“That’s not the experience of a USC Marshall student and certainly a USC student broadly,” he said. “USC has very happy students. I think that happiness is not just the oversupply of vitamin D from the nonstop sunshine. That’s certainly part of it, but —
“Ours really is one of the most extraordinarily diverse campuses in the world, and we work hard here to create an environment where students feel included, where they feel respected, where their ideas are nurtured, and where we have expectations for all students regardless of the backgrounds,” he continued.
Helping Transfers Leverage Opportunities
Ty Callahan, vice dean for undergraduate programs and professor of clinical finance and business economics, informed the potential transfers that their position was not unusual. Marshall’s incoming freshman class typically has 550 students, but the school graduates 1,100 students who join as spring-semester freshmen, sophomores or fall-semester juniors.
“We have thought about the way we design the curriculum and opportunities we provide to students to accommodate all of those different paths into USC and Marshall and to deliver the best experience we can no matter when you join us,” Callahan said. “The Pathways program leverages that, and I want to compliment our admissions team for designing this program.”
Pathway students don’t have to wait until they are upperclassman to begin their business classes. They can start on Day One, perhaps with a course with Naomi Warren, associate professor of clinical business communication. She talked to the audience about teaching undergraduates (who have honored her with two Golden Apple Awards over the years) as a highlight of her job. She also works with undergraduates as an adviser for Marshall’s international case competition teams.
Briana Johnson ’20 and Kyle Johnson ’20 shared their transfer experiences and offered advice on everything from the option to start at a community college or a four-year institution to internships and other opportunities they have taken advantage of at USC.
A ‘Different Start’ and a ‘Strong Finish’
Two alumni shared their experiences as students, while also providing a long-term view of the benefits of a USC education. Koryn Frye-Fuentes ’17 talked about the value of the Trojan Network. She had started out in human resources and was pointed in the direction of nonprofit Chrysalis when she reached out to Professor Adlai Wertman. She recently started a new role with Netflix, where she will be a member of the Inclusion Strategy Department, also thanks to her Trojan connections.
Princeton Parker ’15 (communication studies with a minor in business administration) has responsibility for food and beverage at Disney California Adventure but apparently missed his true calling as a stand-up comedian.
He had the crowd in stitches from the time he took the microphone, even though he shared a poignant story about the initial disappointment of getting a spring-semester admit letter. Parker decided that USC was worth the wait and turned a “different start” into an advantage. He advised “asking not what am I missing, but what am I gaining?,” like extra time to acquire experience and knowledge before starting a college career.
He ended by saying that “vision, community and a sense of purpose” are vital to a “strong finish,” and those very things are built into your experience through Pathways.
The final takeaway? Everyone’s Marshall pathway is different, but no matter the start, each student becomes a part of the Trojan Family and ends as a Trojan alum.