One is an IT professional who joined the military on a whim as an 18-year-old. One is a writer and editor who keeps politically active in her community. Another is special operations senior enlisted recently retired after a 25-year career in the Navy.
Apart from all being veterans, the only other thing they have in common is a relentless drive to achieve—while serving others.
These three, Ahmed Adeyemi, Angela Scott, and Seth Cummings are members of the most recent cohort of USC Marshall’s Master of Business for Veterans program (MVB). The degree program, launched in 2014, helps veterans leverage their leadership skills into success in Corporate America.
All three have found success already, but they agree they are learning applied business skills that will help them move forward.
“In each of these students, one sees the values shared by most veterans: Their ambition and drive is strongly linked to their sense of service,” said James Bogle, director of the MBV program. “It is not enough to attain success unless they are pulling others up with them. I think the entire Marshall family can take pride in the purpose-driven leadership of MBV graduates.”
Dr. Ahmed Adeyemi was born in Brooklyn but raised by his aunt in Nigeria. At 18 he returned to the states to attend college. And it was there, in a bar with friends, that he decided to join the military, almost on a dare. “It wasn’t a well-thought through plan,” he laughs now.
But it was a fortuitous decision that would shape his further education as well as his career.
In an 8-year career with the Marines, including four deployments (two to Iraq, one to Korea and one to Afghanistan), Adeyemi became a communications specialist and a color guard Sergeant for his unit, which is the most decorated unit in the Marine Corps (5th Marines Regiment), he says. He remained active in the reserves through 2017.
With degrees in engineering and information technology, Adeyemi went on to earn a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) from Argosy University. But he wanted more hands-on business training.
“I was aware of the MBV—a friend in the previous cohort couldn’t stop talking about it. But I didn’t think USC would accept me.”
A meeting with program administrators set him straight.
“I feel like I’m just trying to find my footing—looking for ways to make myself better,” he says. “The data analytics and accounting come a little easier for me, but as veterans it’s natural for us all to help each other no matter what our strengths are.”
There are 92 students in the current cohort. When the classes get tough, “It’s 92-in, 92-out,” he says, using a military saying.
He’s come a long way from that Brooklyn-born kid re-emigrating into the US. Now a senior collaboration engineer, married with two children, Adeyemi is focusing on his next goal—sitting on a company board of directors. He’s finding the mentorship he needs through the MBV as well.
The Public Servant
Angela Scott joined the Navy two days after she graduated high school in San Jose, Calif. One of six kids, joining the military was her way of helping her parents spread out college expenses. She was initially assigned a Cryptologic Technician role, but due to its impacted “A” School, she pivoted to role of Religious Program Specialist (Navy Chaplain’s assistant).
“I thought, I like God. And my grandfather was a pastor.” She spent the next eight years handling everything from religious services and education programs to crisis management and helping service members adapt to military life.
When Scott returned to civilian life, she earned a BA in honors English from Cal State University Northridge, and an AA in public policy from Santa Monica College.
Today, as a Personalization and Content Manager for games maker Activision Blizzard, Scott applies the skills she learned in the Navy: taking ownership, following through, attention to detail, and a view toward the bigger picture.
“Veterans understand the bigger picture. With anything I do, I always try to look beyond this moment and look at what the potential advantages and consequences are,” she said.
For her, the bigger picture involved a business education that would help her help herself—and others. The MBV program was the natural next step, adding value to her AA in public policy and BA in Honors English.
The MBV program directly relates to her current position as a content and personalization manager, she says. “I’m at all these tables—and make no mistake, I earned my place there. But sometimes some of the things they’d reference I didn’t know about, like data analytics. Now I have any underlying background and it is wonderful.
Lest anyone think that earning a Master of Business Administration, while also working full-time is a full plate, Scott doesn’t stop there.
During the pandemic quarantine, Scott realized she’d be able to become more involved in local and State politics. She was recently voted into the California Democratic Party (CDP) as an Assembly District 50 Delegate and Veterans Caucus Corresponding Secretary. She’s also recently been appointed to the CDP’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Standing Committee. Within the City of Santa Monica, she serves as a Public Safety Reform & Oversight Commissioner, Director-at-Large for the League of Women Voters, and is a member of the Santa Monica Black Agenda, as well as a Steering Committee member on the Committee for Racial Justice. The busy mom of three is also an education activist, serving as a Steering Committee member on the Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), along with the Intercultural Equity and Excellence District Advisory Committee and Special Education District Advisory Committee for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. She’s also a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
“My MBV experience has been a tremendous experience,” she says. “My brainstorming has been enhanced.”
Doubling Down on Business
Seth Cummings joined the Navy out of high school. Growing up in Eugene OR, he followed his brother’s footsteps in joining the Navy, hoping to enter the Special Forces. But first he put six years in on a ship as a diesel engineer. “If it moved, I could fix it,” he says. He did ultimately make the special operations selection, where he worked on ordinance and other areas. In all, he put in 25 years and was deployed 10 times.
“It was truly a rewarding job,” he said.
While in active service, Cummings had been able to take classes toward a degree in strategic studies and defense analysis, taking his final class just after he retired from active service. That degree led him to the three-month program at the Honor Foundation, where he honed skills that were important for civilian careers—how to tell his stories, how to sell himself, and how to network to find a job. At the end of that experience, he wanted a more in-depth business education, and so applied to the MBV program…even though his whole family supports the Oregon Ducks, not the Trojans.
It’s been a good experience in every way, he says. “But I’m not sure how my parents will react when I visit them in a USC hoodie!”
While he expects to end up in management consulting, his real dream is to launch a non-profit to help create housing for low-income vets. “I have a mechanical and construction background, and combined with what I’m learning at USC, it would be a good—and important place to start.”