The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

New MBA scholarship funding for veterans at USC

Students walk across the campus of the University of Southern California.
Students walk across the campus of the University of Southern California. David McNew/Getty Images

There's a lot of ways to get an MBA, but most people agree that there are several clearly defined paths. One is to work for a few years after college and then enter a program. Another is to work at a firm that expects you to get an MBA after two years and will either assist with the tuition or cover all of it, then welcome you back when you've got the degree.

At the top programs, these two traditional paths apply mainly to graduates of Ivy League schools, along with the next educational tier or two down (major state schools and smaller privates). Typically, the professionals returning to school for an MBA have spent their time on Wall Street, at one of the three big consulting firms (McKinsey, Bain, BCG), or at a major multinational firm. But there's a another path.

Business schools like to have former members of the military in, so to speak, their educational ranks. This affection applies to active-duty military, as well as former soldiers, sailors, and airmen who've left the service. These folks often require financial support (pretty much everyone requires financial support to obtain an MBA, unless they saved enough while working to cover the cost). 

That's why it's great to see USC announce an increase to a scholarship fund established in 1986, by a USC grad and former Marine. This is from the press release:

USC trustee William J. Schoen BS '60, MBA '63 and his wife, Sharon, have made a $10 million gift to the university in support of military veteran scholarships.

The Schoen Family Scholarship Program for Veterans Endowment was established at USC in 1986. Their recent $10 million gift will increase the endowment significantly and create new funding for veterans who attend USC. The gift provides additional support for veterans studying in the USC Marshall School of Business, as well as the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

With the most recent gift, the Schoen family has contributed a total of $16 million, and to date the endowment has provided $1.2 million in financial support to 173 students at the university.

In the military context, MBA students are usually drawn from the officer corps (but not always). They bring a lot to their programs because they've "worked" for a vast organization and in most cases have been given tremendous responsibility from a pretty young age — including control of multi-million dollar assets and, in some cases, actual lives. 

This is obviously just a little bit different from sitting in an office in lower Manhattan all day long, rocking Excel spreadsheets or learning how to trade commodities futures.

Making scholarships available to veterans only increases the value of what military professionals can bring to biz school culture. Of all the MBA programs in the country, USC's is in many ways the most focused on entrepreneurship. Veterans are very well acquainted with risk, something that's critical for the job creators of the future to understand.
 
Frankly, it's exciting to imagine an influx of MBA students at USC's Marshall School who understand the nature of service to their country, in all its complexity. It will provide our region with a much better cadre of business leaders in the future.

 

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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