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Real Humans of MBA Students: USC Marshall MBA Class of 2023

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usc mba class 2023Lucy (Lulu) LaViolette, USC Marshall MBA Class of 2023 

Age: 26
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: UC Berkeley (’17); Majored in Political Economy – Concentration in Climate Change Policy
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 1 year cleantech startup; 3 years environmental policy nonprofit; 1 year energy efficiency financing

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
We were all given the trying task of navigating the challenging circumstances that made up 2020. Unprecedented changes last year brought ongoing issues to the forefront, including the undeniable challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustices, and political fission. I wanted to attend business school so I could attack major issues plaguing our planet by mitigating the effects of the climate crisis to undercut the consequences of these global issues. In attending Marshall, I can develop my business acumen through my MBA and complement and elevate my policy background to embolden me to solve complex business problems around energy efficiency and clean technology. 

Why did you choose USC Marshall? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The USC network is unparalleled in the Los Angeles area, and through the connections I will build through the USC community, including with Marshall classmates as well as throughout the university, I will be well-positioned to pursue a career with top cleantech firms such as EVGo or Tesla. I appreciate the integrity of USC, and Marshall’s commitment to sustainability and equity issues appeals to me greatly, as there is no time to waste in securing a better future for all. I joined the Marshall community so I could support this great work and be a catalyst for change. 

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
I come to USC with a unique background and perspective. My background is clearly classified as “non-traditional,” and my experiences are beneficial to the Class of 2023 in two ways. First, I have experience and knowledge that my classmates do not have. I look through all current problems, business-related or otherwise, through a sustainability lens, and I know my insights are of high value to my classmates. Second, I am yearning to learn from my classmates, who are accomplished, thoughtful, and inquisitive leaders. In addition to pursuing my own goals, I am at Marshall to learn from my peers and expand upon my frame of reference, especially in tackling business problems.    

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I can instantaneously tell you how many letters are in each word of the common English language.

Post-MBA career interests:
Cleantech and climate tech; Energy

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Talk to as many people during your application process as you can. Set at least two meetings a week for several weeks. I learned so much from speaking with current students and alumni, professors, and staff who could give me their true insights into the MBA experience and Marshall specifically. Reach out for a 20-30 minute discussion and have pointed questions for everyone you to talk to! I have found that people want to share their experiences, both positive and negative. You should want to come to school as much as the school wants you, and getting a range of insights and experiences were extremely helpful in making my decisions around where to apply, what to say, and what I really wanted the school to know about me and my goals.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would keep better track of my own work experience, so I could easily pull language for my experience and expertise in my field. Having an organized and clear record of your accomplishments are key in applying to MBA programs, as well as future jobs. Keep close track of everything you’ve accomplished, and include metrics, dates, and details to help you frame yourself as a viable MBA candidate for all the programs you apply for. I think if I had done that, I could have focused on the content of my applications and interviews more than just framing my story. 

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would have skipped standardized testing (surprise). I took the GRE, but also studied for the GMAT. It takes resources, time, and can be a lonely process. What helped me get through it is devising a tight schedule and giving myself plenty of focused time to study, rather than months of haphazardly studying. Overall, it was also helpful to forget about it once it was done.

What is your initial impression of the USC Marshall students/culture/community?
I have a very positive initial impression of the community at Marshall. People are extremely supportive and come from a plethora of backgrounds. It is so important for me personally to be surrounded by classmates who know more about certain topic areas and are genuinely better at things than me, and I have found that at Marshall. I learn so much about different job functions and ways to work on my story at Marshall, and all members of the community are willing and want to help. I have also found my classmates and colleagues to be truly inquisitive and curious people who want to learn from me as well. 

What is one thing you have learned about USC Marshall that has surprised you?
I was surprised at the professors. All the professors I have taken courses with so far at Marshall are of course accomplished in their respective fields and serve as effective teachers, but they are also very inspirational, enjoyable people. Marshall professors deliver the content in a digestible way, and are all very clear about how their classes can help us in the future. I am reminded on a daily basis why my classes are important, and how learning these new topics can help me in the long-run. Professors are also open to giving professional advice and appear to really understand the student body and what our incentives and goals are. Most of them are pretty funny, too, which makes class enjoyable. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic definitely affected my thoughts around my application. First, I think the pandemic helped many of us decide how we want to continue in our careers, and it definitely helped me prioritize my future goals, where I want to live, and how I want to spend my time. I was worried about navigating the remote environment, and considered deferring my application. However, I ultimately to decide to apply for this year as I anticipated increased in-person instruction. I am grateful to be back on campus and with my peers in-person.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I am sure I am not alone in this, but I am definitely anxious about recruiting for an internship. It is taking me time to solidify my interests, skills, and path in my MBA. However, having campus groups, career strategists, and my classmates to discuss my anxieties and bounce ideas off of is crucial for me and helps me build my confidence and sense of direction. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I am very excited to get involved in leadership positions, specifically as part of professional clubs at Marshall. I would love to give my energy to Marshall programs and build community on campus. Given the long periods of isolation due to COVID-19, I am really enjoying working with my classmates, sharing ideas, and collaborating in an in-person environment.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.