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

usc mba class 2023

usc mba class 2023Daniel Morrison, USC Marshall MBA Class of 2023

Age: 33
Hometown: Arlington Heights, Illinois
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign—Music Education
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): High School Band Director, 11 years 

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
Band has been my life since I was born. My dad was a high school band director, and my mom was his assistant. It was the family business. I then studied music education and became a high school band director at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas. It was a very rewarding and enjoyable career, but I eventually knew I wanted to pursue other interests and work to lead on a larger scale. Some of my favorite aspects of my previous career were related to leadership, large-scale operations, and implementing a culture of positivity, inclusion, and excellence within our program. Because of this, I knew that business school would be the perfect place to gain the formal training and knowledge that I can combine with my past experience to pivot into the entertainment industry.

Why did you choose USC Marshall? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I truly feel that USC Marshall is the perfect school for me. The interactions I had with the admissions team were incredibly positive. Associate Dean and Director of MBA Admissions, Evan Bouffides, always took the time to personally respond to several messages I sent him. That went a long way in showing me how committed the faculty and staff are to their students (which has only been furthered as I have started the program). Beyond that, I plan to transition into the entertainment industry, and in my opinion, there is no better business school in the world to better equip me with the skills and network I need in that industry than USC.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
I have had the pleasure of gaining a lot of leadership experience throughout my career thus far. I led a student organization of 400 members, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization of 800 members with an executive board, a staff of 36 and a creative design team comprised of the music director for the Cirque du Soleil show Mystere and a former Tony-winning Broadway performer. I think my experience leading these diverse and eclectic groups will allow me to bring a helpful and unique perspective to my classmates.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I was in my dad’s high school band. He gave us the transformative memories of marching in both the Rose Parade and the Macy’s Parade. 15 years later, I was able to provide the same experiences for the students in my own band!

Post-MBA career interests:
Short term, I would like to pivot to an operations role in creative production in the entertainment industry. Long term, I hope to move into a general management/executive leadership position with an entertainment/media company.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would tell the honest story about my background. I was hesitant at first on how to talk about my past since it is so unusual for a business school applicant. Ultimately, I know it was the right path to be my most authentic self on the application.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
This is easier said than done, but I would have tried to let go after submitting my applications. Worrying about getting an interview or an acceptance doesn’t do anything to help your cause, and there were definitely times I let myself stress about the process after I had submitted my materials!

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
This is probably a common answer, but I would have skipped the standardized test! Knowing it was necessary to achieve my goals was what got me through. I tried to begin with the end goal in mind on the testing front, and it served me well.

What is your initial impression of the USC Marshall students/culture/community?
I am absolutely blown away by every aspect of the USC Marshall MBA program. My classmates are brilliant, thoughtful people from an extremely diverse set of backgrounds. The culture is one of positivity and encouragement. There is not a sense of competition between students, but instead one of collaboration. We share in each other’s successes. I have also loved my classes so far. As someone from a non-traditional background, I had not taken any business classes before arriving at Marshall. The professors have exceeded all expectations I had, and they make classes something to look forward to. When accounting class is exciting, you know the professor is doing something right (big shout out to Professor Mark Soliman)!

What is one thing you have learned about USC Marshall that has surprised you?
I have been pleasantly surprised by how small and tight knit our class feels, given the massive size of the university itself.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
COVID-19 gave me more time than usual to slow down and think about my future. I knew I wanted to take a next step in my career, but having the time to research, talk to friends and family, and do some serious soul-searching led me to realize that an MBA was the right next step.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Honestly, I don’t think I am anxious about anything. A better word is excited. This is a whole new world to me, and each day is an adventure. I plan to take advantage of every opportunity that USC Marshall affords me.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Clearly, I have a lot of enthusiasm about the next two years. Something I am most excited about, however, is the Business of Entertainment Association. This is a student-run organization focused on developing future leaders in the entertainment industry. The existence of this club is part of the reason I was initially so drawn to Marshall. I look forward to hearing from guest speakers, going on treks to studios, and learning from second year students and alumni about how to thrive in entertainment.

Also, here is a link to our 2019 marching band show entitled, “Secret World”: https://youtu.be/PNAmmvmToqE

Posted in: Real Humans of MBA Class of 2023, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: USC / Marshall

About the Author


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.

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