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Business Class: Big Questions, Unique Answers

What’s the future of leadership? Of capitalism? Two groundbreaking Fall 2020 classes from USC Marshall ask those questions to leading experts—and invite every USC student to participate

August 09, 2020
Big questions, unique answers

Geoff Garrett likes to live by the adage, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. One important example is a pair of new classes on the post-pandemic future of leadership and the future of capitalism.

When the new dean of the Marshall School of Business officially took office on July 1 after six years as the dean of the Wharton School, he faced planning for a fall semester that will be unlike any other in Marshall’s storied one hundred year history.

In addition to responding to the massive and quickly changing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the delivery of classes, Garrett hoped to demonstrate not only the academic rigor but also real world relevance of a Marshall education. He wanted to make lemonade out of the crisis, by helping students both to understand the dizzying complexity of the world around them and to formulate their own strategies for responding to them—using technology to accomplish what would simply not be possible in a regular semester on campus.

“We all have big questions about how the pandemic is going to change the economy and shape the business world—our students even more so,” he said.  “I quickly saw that Marshall faculty have the expertise and commitment to rise to the challenge, and that we could leverage the benefits of the online format to give our students access to the best thinkers and executives. What’s more, being online means that we don’t have to limit the size of courses to classroom availability on campus.”

Six weeks later, the result is two new half-semester courses, led by accomplished Marshall faculty and enriched by dialogues with leaders including USC president Carol Folt and USC Trustee and Executive Chairman of United Airlines Oscar Munoz, a Marshall alumnus, among others.

“Society is changing, which means leaders need to change with it. In designing this class, I wanted to give students ways to make sense of current leadership challenges and gain different perspectives on how to tackle them. Some of these perspectives will come from the top-notch professors and guests, but others will come from the students in class who will be from across the university.”—Sarah Townsend, Associate Professor of Management and Organization

Another unique element: These classes are available to all students across USC, regardless of major or program, and irrespective of whether they are undergraduates and graduate students.

Two Unique Classes

If Not You, Who? The Future of Leadership” is led by Sarah Townsend, an associate professor of management and organization. This course focuses on big leadership questions that COVID-19 has made even more important: how to lead in uncertain times and during crises, how to build and lead diverse and inclusive organizations, and how to manage the apparently unstoppable rise of technology.

“As a Marshall professor, I am always concerned with giving students not only strong, foundational knowledge of a topic, but also an understanding of how this topic relates to their current, day-to-day lives,” said Townsend.

“Society is changing, which means leaders need to change with it. In designing this class, I wanted to give students ways to make sense of current leadership challenges and gain different perspectives on how to tackle them,” she said. “Some of these perspectives will come from the top-notch professors and guests, but others will come from the students in class who will be from across the university.”

If Not Now, When? The Future of Capitalism” is led by Chris Parsons, professor of finance and business economics. This course will examine the likely trajectory of economic recovery from the pandemic, the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street, and the future of remote work.

“One of the reasons I’ve always found finance so interesting is because of its close relation to current events,” said Parsons.  “When big things happen, you usually see the stock and bond markets react.  However, the direction can sometimes be counterintuitive, with the market often moving higher in response to what seems like bad news, and vice versa.  One of the main goals in the class is to understand this linkage, and learn how to use the information in financial markets to design better policy.”

If Not You, Who? The Future of Leadership” and “If Not Now, When? The Future of Capitalism” are open to all students at USC, both undergraduate and graduate.

To learn more about these two classes, or to register, click here.