New Online Master’s Students Join the Trojan Family at USC’s Convocation

From emergency management to human resources, online graduate students share why they chose USC to advance their careers and better serve their communities.

The newest members of the Trojan Family were welcomed to USC on Thursday as leaders and community members alike celebrated the start of the fall 2022 semester at the university’s Alumni Park.

Occurring twice a year, the new student convocation ceremony allows all incoming students to connect with school deans, President Carol L. Folt, the campus and, of course, each other.

Among the thousands of undergraduate and graduate students was Ian Pinkham, a candidate of the online Master of Science in Emergency Management (MSEM) program at USC Bovard College. While Pinkham is new to the university, so is the MSEM — it was launched just this year, and he is part of the program’s very first class.

“I’m looking forward to meeting some new people the most. It’s always great to meet and network. I’m excited to see what the other students are bringing to the table and other professionals whom I’ll get to interact with. Plus, I’m excited to see what the professors have to say,” Pinkham told USC Online.

Sharpening Expertise in Emergency Management

Although fresh to the master’s program, Pinkham has experienced a long and varied path in emergency management, including a background in firefighting and service with the U.S. Navy. Starting off as an emergency services coordinator for the City of La Cañada Flintridge, he then moved on to Disneyland, where he initially oversaw the emergency plans for Disney’s California Adventure.

But after working for the “Happiest Place on Earth,” he eventually turned his attention off-planet: He now works for NASA as the group supervisor for emergency and continuity management at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. It’s a deeply fulfilling and rewarding career, according to Pinkham – even if he immediately vetoed the idea of experiencing space exploration himself.

“No, I’m happy here,” he laughed. “I have a lot to do on Earth.”

One such task is completing his higher education journey. Pinkham’s undergraduate studies were interrupted by his first job offer in emergency management, and he didn’t return to complete his degree until 2017. With a diploma in hand, Pinkham was then encouraged to return to school to pursue a master’s degree.

“I learned that USC was coming out with this brand-new program, [and I wanted] to be a part of that as it started. When I started in this field, there weren’t any undergrad or graduate programs available,” he explained. “There was lots of training we could get through the state Office of Emergency Services and some through FEMA, but there was not ever a formal program.”

For Pinkham, a major draw of the MSEM was the fact that he could refine and expand the knowledge and skill sets he’s developed throughout his 25 years of experience, as well as network and connect with other professionals.

“That’s why I’m here, and that’s what I’m excited for,” he said.

While Pinkham has accomplished many milestones in his career, convocation brought another accolade: representing USC Bovard College as its student flagbearer.

“It’s nice to be honored at convocation as a start,” he said.

Making Lasting Changes in DEI Recruitment Strategies

Joining Pinkham was incoming USC Bovard College student and convocation banner bearer Kellie Malone, who also has a Disney connection: She currently works as the company’s talent acquisitions and candidate developer for executive-level roles.

At the Walt Disney Company, Malone recruits across its family of brands — such as 20th Century Fox, National Geographic and ABC — and covers multiple departments, including business affairs, development, comedy, unscripted, scripted studio operations and more.

Much like Pinkham, however, Malone felt she had a gap in her education, leading her to pursue the online Master of Science in Human Resource Management (MSHRM) to better serve both Disney and her career.

“I noticed there was a big issue in terms of the pipeline for more women and BIPOC [becoming executives]. When they were assistants and coordinators, they weren’t getting massaged and groomed to become executives. I wanted to figure out how to even that balance out … [because] I want to help make some real changes,” she said of her desire to earn her MSHRM.

As a Los Angeleno, Malone was well aware of USC’s presence as leading, innovative and academically rigorous university. So, when it came time to choose where she wanted to apply for her HR master’s, USC Bovard College was an easy decision.

Naturally, convocation is an exciting time for Malone, as it means the next phase of her life is underway, leading her to career advancement and new networking opportunities. As for the specific goals she hopes to achieve within the program, Malone has no shortage of ambition.

“I’m hoping I really gain an understanding of different practices that companies take in terms of putting together learning and development programs. I’m hoping that I grow even more in terms of the talent acquisition work that I’m already doing, learning new techniques and tactics and above all, network and connect with other thought partners whom I can continue to work with down the road,” Malone said.

Bearing the banner for USC Bovard College isn’t only a personal distinction, but also a wider marker of joining the USC community and becoming a Trojan.

“I’ve been looking forward to being indoctrinated into all that is USC — this amazing [spirit] and alumni network. Convocation is the initial indoctrination for me, and I think it’s a great way to learn more about USC, to feel more connected to it, and to really get all that I can out of it,” she said.

Pinkham and Malone are just two of the several online graduate students entering USC Bovard College poised to make lasting, impactful changes within their industries and across the world at large.

“I am proud to present a diverse community of talented professionals determined to be a force for positive change in their field,” remarked Dean Anthony Bailey at convocation. “With purpose and resolve, our students maximize human capital, lead transformative projects, protect our communities and contribute to a more sustainable future.”

Learn more about the online master’s programs at USC Bovard College today.