Kelsey Brembry ’22 can list the ways being a USC Marshall student has changed her life. She’s taken leadership courses that have elevated her confidence, completed an internship that may well end in a job offer, discovered entrepreneurship, and expanded her personal and professional network through student organizations like the Black Business Student Association.
She was afforded all of this because her initially-rejected USC application was flagged for invitation into Marshall's then-new Pathways Program.
The Pathways Program (MPP) a one-of-a-kind recruitment model meant to help talented underrepresented students gain access to a Marshall education, was launched in 2019. The program was created to give competitive Black and Black multi-racial students a second chance as a transfer.
The program has been a resounding success, not only in its recruitment class—which in three terms has grown from four students to 45 accepted this year—but in impact on its students. Those first four are seniors this year. Brembry is one of them.
Pathway to USC
Born and raised near Culver City, Brembry always knew she was college bound; she just wasn’t sure which one. She applied to USC because she was familiar with it and because some of her friends were applying. She was a good student with seven AP classes under her belt, including AP calculus, so she didn’t worry too much.
She was on a college tour when she got her rejection letter. “I didn’t realize how bad I wanted to be at USC until I got the rejection,” she said. She instead committed to San Francisco State.
But admissions counselors immediately flagged her application and reached out to inform her of a new program—Pathways—that would offer her a second chance to enter Marshall.
“It’s a good thing they called my mom,” she recalls, “because I saw the first email and I didn’t know what it was, so I just ignored it.”
It was just the start of the high-touch recruiting and retention Pathways offers. Brembry and her parents took the train from West LA to USC to attend the first introductory session, and left convinced.
She withdrew from SF State and got a refund. Back home with her parents, she enrolled in West LA College, where she took 17 units every semester and got personal guidance from Marshall counselors about what classes she needed to transfer.
“A lot of great things happened that year,” she said. “The counselors at Marshall were very proactive, and it was great to have that kind of support when I applied again.” While initial interactions were formal emails, by the time she successfully transferred—with a 3.8 GPA—she and her counselors, program administrators Kristi Culpepper and Christen Johnson, were texting each other.
A Different Path
The Pathways program is different from the Trojan Transfer Program. Its goal is to increase the number of Black student populations at Marshall. To be invited as a potential Pathways students, applicants must have listed business as their first-choice major. Those who didn’t make the final cut are immediately flagged, and Marshall reaches out.
“Marshall is so competitive that we can never admit all the qualified students,” said Marshall Director of Admissions Tiffiani Frye, whose office created the program. “We wanted to create another opportunity for Black and Black multi-racial students to join Marshall—another pathway.”
Pathways students receive extra support throughout their transfer year, including sessions on college success strategies, math tutoring, financial aid sessions and even a pre-orientation session. Lines of communication are kept wide open.
“Literally any question I had, no matter how small, they made themselves available,” said Brembry.
While many Pathways students spend a year at a junior college, this year, the number of students who transferred from four-year colleges grew as well. Pathways students spent their freshman years at Syracuse, University of Houston, Santa Clara University, even UCLA, all with the goal of transferring to USC Marshall.
Brembry successfully transferred as a sophomore and admits the transition was a bit intimidating. “There’s so much going on, so many clubs, so many opportunities, and it all happens so fast. I struggled a bit.”
She joined the Coury Applied Leadership Program, an extracurricular learning nodule that uses coaching-based techniques to teach freshmen and sophomores how to develop themselves as leaders. For Brembry, it was a game changer.
“I learned about my strengths, I learned how to talk about myself. Two years ago, if you’d asked whether I could present in front of people, I would have said no. But in my internship exit interview, my public speaking was something they praised in particular.”
Now she’s an ambassador, introducing new students to the program. “The beauty of this program is that by transferring in as a sophomore, you can experience growth and trial and error that are important for college students,” she said. She’s even chosen an emphasis in entrepreneurship and innovation.
As she begins her senior year, Brembry, a talented artist who is minoring in painting, is thinking about a possible career in digital marketing. She enjoyed learning about the field as an intern at Electrify America, part of Volkswagen USA. She is also thinking about returning to Marshall after a few years to earn her master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation.
“As a young person during the pandemic, I would ask myself, ‘What’s my purpose? Is college worth it?’ Now that I’m in my senior year, I can give you so many reasons why the answer is ‘Yes!’”
Read more about the Marshall Pathways Program here.