Alumnus Tackles Restaurant Industry Challenges With Help From USC Iovine and Young

“[T]he program has allowed me to see things in a much different light,” says Warren Boone, who graduated from the online MS in Integrated Design, Business and Technology program in mid-2020.

For some people, choosing to attend graduate school can be as simple as looking for a new challenge.

That is what ultimately inspired Warren Boone, an alumnus of the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy. Boone, who spent 16 years working in everything from operations to human resources at Islands Restaurants, realized it was time to try something different.

“I wanted to learn. I wanted to grow,” he told USC Online.

While Boone initially considered obtaining an MBA, he realized the curriculum would be similar to the work he had already accomplished at Islands Restaurants. Inspiration struck when he saw a post about the online Master of Science in Integrated Business, Design and Technology (MSIDBT) program while scrolling through Twitter.

The Academy’s MSIDBT is a unique, blended program that allows students to forge their own path, bringing together the study of art and design, business, technology and communication to help students develop as leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.

“[The MSIDBT] is very cross-functional and very creative … I think the interesting thing about the program is that it really is how the intersection of design and business technology occurs,” Boone explained.

The fact that the coursework is so varied and customizable is one of its core strengths, according to Boone. After all, it mirrors a typical workforce experience more closely that way, he said.

“When you are in a lot of different companies, when you move into different executive roles, you’re often doing a lot of cross-functional stuff anyway. It’s more realistic, how this program operates. And so, the environment was very similar to some things that I had already experienced. It involved using methods that I’ve already deployed in the actual workplace … The design aspect, too, I thought was fascinating and very applicable to how we do business,” Boone noted.

Another huge benefit of the program? The faculty. Boone highlighted the MSIDBT program professors in particular, noting he felt incredibly supported throughout his studies.

“The faculty was fantastic. They were able to inspire us, and I think the reason is because they constructed the coursework as results-oriented,” said Boone. “They gave us room to be creative, but also to be disciplined in producing quality work. They gave a lot of critical feedback, and you had to have thick skin for some of the classes. But you were better off for it, and so it’s an amazing program,” he summarized.

In general, that is how Boone would encapsulate his entire experience with USC: amazing.

“It was important for me to get my master’s degree from a very high-quality educational institution. And USC has a fantastic reputation,” he said.

As a talent acquisition specialist, Boone was also drawn to USC’s expansive network, underscoring the fact that alumni are known for hiring fellow graduates. Of course, another reason Boone wanted to attend the university was to be part of the Trojan Family.

“I have several family members who are USC grads, so it was good to be a Trojan finally. Let’s just say that after so many people in my family attended USC, they now go crazy around football season. It was good to participate as an actual Trojan,” he laughed.

Creative Problem-Solving for Pandemic Challenges

After graduating in mid-2020, Boone quickly noticed the remarkable impact the MSIDBT program had on his career. He moved on from Islands Restaurants to a flourishing career at Shari’s Management Corporation, where he is now working as the restaurant chain’s Chief People Officer.

“We have about probably a combined 125 restaurants that span across six states, primarily in the West, and we are in the family dining segment. So, we make a lot of pies and we serve a lot of breakfast,” he described. “It’s been a great move for me, a great opportunity, and my degree was so beneficial for that.”

The reality is, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the dining world hard, resulting in a need for creative thinking — a skill set Boone developed during his time in the MSIDBT program.

“There’s kind of a formula and a routine way of thinking that you can get into while working, just based on your understanding and knowledge of a role. But being able to apply the things I learned through the program has allowed me to see things in a much different light. It’s given me a completely different perspective and helped me tackle problems in a new way,” he explained.

When it comes to his advice for prospective students, Boone encourages anyone interested in attending USC to take full advantage of the university’s resources.

“USC really supports their students … In the MSIDBT program, you may discover you actually have an interest in a specific area. For example, maybe need to take a business course outside the program to help you with that newfound interest. The university is great at being able to provide for those things,” he said. “But you have to really own your path with the program. You have to say, ‘I want to learn this, and there’s certain things I want to achieve.’ You really have to go for it, and the faculty will work with you on those things,” he stated.

At the end of the day, Boone also stresses that the work you put into the program will determine the benefits you reap.

“There are new innovations happening every day, and the more you apply yourself in the program, the more likely you can be an innovator as well. But I think it’s a muscle you have to flex. You have to get in there. You have to be creative. You have to be open to feedback. And when someone tells you something is not going to work, you have to know that it will work, and you have to find a way to make it happen,” he concluded.

Explore the online Master of Science in Integrated, Design, Business and Technology at the USC Iovine and Young Academy today.

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