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A Q&A with Marshall Undergraduate Commencement Banner Bearer Amir Bell ’24

A Q&A with Marshall Undergraduate Commencement Banner Bearer Amir Bell ’24

The Marshall graduate was chosen to hold the banner for his academic prowess and impact on the Marshall community.

Amir Bell posing in front of Traveler.

Amir Bell celebrates his graduation by posing in front of Traveler.

[Photo courtesy of Bell]

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Amir Bell ’24 will be the banner bearer for USC Marshall’s 2024 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony, leading his fellow graduates through the procession and toward the next chapter in their lives.

Each year, a banner bearer is nominated and chosen based on academic excellence, leadership qualities, and contributions to the Marshall community. Bell, a business administration major, participated in numerous organizations and programs such as USC MOVE, NABA, and the Marshall Student Ambassador Program. In this Q&A, Bell spoke with us about his experience at USC, this notable honor, and the advice he would have given his younger self.

Interviewer: Do you remember when you first heard that you were accepted into Marshall? What was that like?

Amir Bell: I’m from the East Coast and my acceptance letter came really late at night. This was during the pandemic — I was up at two or three in the morning playing PlayStation with my friend. [When the email came out], I literally ran into my parents’ room and I said “Mom, Dad, USC is out! I got into USC!”

I was so excited. I was beaming. It was just a funny occurrence because obviously we were all tired, but I think we stayed up that whole night because we were just so excited.

I knew it was going to be a change just because I’m coming from Atlanta, Georgia, 2,000 miles away, but I was really excited to embrace the new challenge.

Since coming to Marshall as a freshman, what has been the biggest change that you’ve seen in yourself?

AB: I think my biggest change since being at Marshall is that I’ve grown into myself a little bit more.

I’ve gained more of a sense of confidence. I don’t want to say I was a lot more shy and anxious before I came here, but I think [Marshall has been] a really good support system. I grew up an only child, so I have a little bit of stubbornness in me. I think Marshall really inspired me to seek support, leverage my support systems, ask for help, and embrace camaraderie.

I don’t want to say I’m a loner, but I like to do a lot of stuff on my own. I’ve realized that in the real world when you’re tackling [problems], especially at the global business school, you can’t really do [it alone].

Do you have a favorite class that you took at Marshall or a favorite professor?

AB: They’re the same. One of my classes last year was BUAD 304 (Organizational Behavior and Leadership) with Professor Marco Aponte-Moreno — I think he won the Golden Apple [in 2023]. I could tell that he really made an effort to engage and get to know his students. He would give us nicknames in a playful way, but honestly, it showed that he cared, and he really made an effort to reach out to us.

He also kept us between the balance of work and play, which is something I really appreciated. We knew when to get serious and engaged, but also we knew where we could joke around and just play along with him.

What was your nickname?

AB: He called me “Mr. Bell” because I was the old kid [in class], and I would always answer all the questions.

You’ll be carrying the banner at commencement. How did you find out about it? And why do you think you were selected?

AB: I’ve been working in the undergraduate admissions office for all my four years here. I’ve always been a staple with a lot of the admissions and advising faculty. I’ve been a stronghold of the office, like the longest serving intern. I’ve known all the faculty, all the deans, that sort of thing.

Whenever I was in the office, I would always make an effort to say “Good morning” to everyone, to say “How are you,” to strike up small talk. Patricia Ramos [the senior office manager of the Marshall undergraduate programs office] said [she nominated me] for being a star at Marshall.

I know a lot of the faculty. I think probably most of the kids in my grade in Marshall know who I am … and so it was an honor.

What are your post-graduation plans?

AB: Post graduation, I’m working at Deloitte. I interned this past summer and I got the offer.

I’ve been studying for my CPA exam as well. In the future, I would definitely want to go to postgraduate school, whether it be in the northeast or maybe back at USC. Ultimately down the line, I think my dream is to own a professional sports team or be a general manager.

If you could go back and give your first-year self one piece of advice what would it be?

AB: I would say, “Don’t sweat the small things.” I think there have been a lot of situations at USC where I’ve overstressed myself and everything worked out.

When I first came here, I would get anxious in certain situations. But everything will always work out and everything happens for a reason. Everything is learning and everything is a lesson. That’s the best way to put it.

Is there anyone who’s really helped you in your Marshall journey?

AB: I was a member of a program called MPP — Marshall Pathways Program. It was run by Kristi Culpepper. She’s been my rock. She’s vouched for me for a lot of things. She’s been like my mom away from home.

If I ever wanted to talk about anything, she’d sit down and talk with me for an hour or two at a time, and I really appreciate that. She’ll give you advice because she was a student here as well, so she knows all the ins and outs of the social life.

She’s always been like a counselor doubling down as a teacher, doubling down as an admissions worker, doubling down as a director. She wears so many hats at the school, but she’ll always make time for you.

When it’s commencement day and you’re carrying the Marshall banner and leading your fellow students, what will that mean to you?

AB: I’m going to feel a big sense of pride. It’s kind of like my grand finale at Marshall. … There’s a quote by [soccer player] Xabi Alonso: “Lived it. Loved it. Farewell, beautiful game.”

That’s how I’m feeling. I’ve loved every second of it.