For Olivia Stroud, working in the nonprofit space has long been a way to make a true, lasting difference in the world.
As the associate director of development for the University of California, Irvine School of Biological Sciences, she focuses on fundraising and developing key partnerships to raise support for both the students and the university’s researchers. And before landing at UCI, she was the special events coordinator for another cultural institution: Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Clearly, a key theme throughout Stroud’s career has been giving back and making an impact on her community, but in order to continue her meaningful work, she realized she needed to expand her knowledge base in business leadership and strategy.
“I’ve really enjoyed working in the nonprofit world, but I felt like it was time to push myself academically and professionally. Getting an MBA was definitely the starting point of that journey,” Stroud told USC Online.
Just last week, Stroud graduated from USC Marshall School of Business after spending two years obtaining her MBA online. While the uncertainty and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged her to pursue a master’s degree, it was USC’s reputation that drew her to the online MBA program.
“I had applied to several institutions to get my MBA while knowing that USC was my number one choice, as USC Marshall is just such a recognized global leader in business. I wanted to be a part of that legacy and that community,” she said.
Of course, the Trojan network contributed Stroud’s decision as well, citing the belief that USC Marshall “attracts individuals of a certain caliber.”
“They’re very highly accomplished, but they’re also very grounded in their integrity, their generosity and their loyalty. I think that the people have really made this program the experience that it has been, which has been overall and overwhelmingly such a positive one,” Stroud recalled.
In terms of the program courses and curriculum, Stroud found plenty to rave over. The online MBA took her just 21 months to complete, and she especially appreciated the program’s quick pace and flexibility.
As Stroud explained, there is synchronous and asynchronous content, so students are empowered to learn at their own pace. Classes are twice a week in the evenings, so it didn’t interfere with her work schedule, which was important to her. Plus, the courses themselves covered a gamut of business world pillars: strategy, communications, accounting, economics and more.
A personal favorite was “Organizational Behavior/Negotiations,” taught by Peter Kim, professor of management and organization. Kim, she noted, was “committed to his student’s learning” with “content in his coursework that was very applicable and valuable for many industries.”
Of course, every class was crucial for her career goals: “I did not have a business background going into this, so every single semester has been a learning experience,” Stroud laughed.
In general, the USC experience was just what she hoped for — and more. With online courses, Stroud was able to form genuine connections with her peers and faculty, which she believes will last far beyond her graduation date.
“I think they’re very strategic in who they bring into the Trojan Family. That really reflects in the diverse thought, but also the very humble, giving nature of people here because they want to have a positive impact on others … I’ve met some incredible people through USC,” Stroud said.
As for what’s next now that graduation is in her rear-view mirror, Stroud plans to use her MBA to continue uplifting communities — and the world at large. Through her experience in the program, she also discovered a passion for corporate social responsibility as well as health care marketing, noting she’d love to help support the advancement of medical technologies.
“I think I can really make a difference through supporting innovation in that space, to improve patients’ lives, and in the long term, finding myself in a large enough company that has the resources to support a robust corporate social responsibility team … I think it’s incredible that I was able to discover what I really enjoyed also through this program, but still meet my core value system,” she enthused.
As a new MBA graduate — and as a program ambassador during her time with the university — Stroud is uniquely qualified to give advice for those hoping to pursue their MBA at USC Marshall. Above all else, she hopes prospective and incoming students truly take advantage of the Trojan community.
“I would tell people to make the most of their time by making connections to people at Marshall in general and not just in the online MBA program because it is such a vast network. Everyone is so generous with their time and their insights,” she said, adding that she recently connected with another alumnus via LinkedIn who is now helping in her job search. “They really want you to grow, see your success and represent Marshall to the best of their abilities — and that comes with also giving back. Reach out and maximize the experience.”
Learn more about the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program today.