2016 Best EMBAs: Dan Tarbutton, University of Southern California (Marshall)

 Dan Tarbutton USCDan Tarbutton

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

“Dan has set a high standard for all with his relentless dedication to learning, his disciplined approach to problem solving, his empathy and care for those around him. Dan is a great example of conduct and values cultivated through the Marshall EMBA program.”

Age: 42

Location: San Diego, California

Family Members: Tanya (wife), Jacob (son), William (son)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Pennsylvania State University, B.S. Labor and Industrial Relations

Where are you currently working? The Irvine Company, Apartment Communities; Vice President, Strategic Initiatives

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Unfortunately, my extracurricular activities have scaled back while in school these last two years, but I am looking forward to reviving them soon. While completing the program at USC, I also retired from the Marine Corps and transitioned to my current role in a completely new industry. I do maintain a role as adviser to Hire our Heroes, a not-for-profit that supports transitioning service members, and intend to return to the Board of Directors of that organization once school is complete.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my successful transition to the private sector while simultaneously going back to school. Learning a new industry while completing the EMBA program was challenging at times, but it gave me a great opportunity to immediately apply what I was learning at USC to my new profession.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of having simply been a Marine Corps officer for 20 years. During that time I flew attack helicopters, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, traveled the world, and even flew the President of the United States for a few years. The Marine Corps gave me an incredible set of skills and experiences that I now carry into the private sector, most notably an understanding of true leadership and its basis in strong character and values.

Favorite MBA Courses? Strategy, Finance, and Leadership.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? When I began planning my transition from the Marines, I knew that I needed to go back to school to help translate my military experience into something of immediate value in the private sector. I also knew that it would be important to use that opportunity to develop a network to be successful in this journey. Since we were going to settle down in Southern California, USC was the obvious choice. Its San Diego EMBA location was convenient and I had learned through many friends that the academic rigor of the program was exactly what I needed to close the skills gap I faced leaving the military. Finally, I was well aware that the USC network was second to none and I had seen its impact many times. Without a doubt, I made the right choice, as being enrolled in this program was a great boost to my transition plan which turned out to be quite successful.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The best part about the program was the interaction with my classmates and professors. During our first week together, I was amazed at the level of experience and talent among my peers, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to their many different perspectives through all of our classes. Whether it was during class, breaks, or study group sessions, I was constantly learning from this great group of people I now consider friends. The professors were all incredibly professional, approachable, and excited to assist in any way. This journey has left me with some life-long friends, the most valuable return on this investment.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The biggest lesson I learned was that success in the business world would require support from a network of great friends with a diverse set of experience and perspectives. During discussions with my peers, I was always able to gain new insights into the topic at hand and challenge my own way of thinking. My peers were also an amazing support network, as I came up with myriad questions while navigating my journey into a new career, always willing to share insights into their industries or personal career experiences.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? The aspect of business school that I found most surprising was the amount of work that was completed as a group and the valuable lessons that came from working in that setting. Although challenging at times, the group dynamics led to higher-quality work and insights into problems that I would never have reached on my own. Once we all figured out how to work effectively in this setting, it became a very rewarding experience.

What was the hardest part of business school? The hardest part of business school was effectively dealing with limited time to focus on the personal, professional, and academic aspects of my life. I was used to a fast pace as a husband and father in the military, but the addition of school took time management to a new level. After the first few months, I felt I settled into a decent rhythm, but keeping on top of things required constant attention.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? The best advice I could give to an applicant is to focus on the whole experience of the program, not just going to a specific school or getting the best grades. The most valuable part of the USC EMBA program is the people you will experience it with, so take the time to go to networking events and learn about the types of people with whom you will spend the next few years of your life.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” A friend and fellow former Marine told me about his experience in the EMBA program and how well it prepared him for his new profession.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Much less successful in my transition from the military to the private sector.

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I am fortunate to have two great mentors who have supported me throughout my academic and professional journey over the last few years. James Nevels and Norman Chambers have been great sources of counsel for me as I contemplated, applied to, and started school at USC. They are always willing to share their experience and insight, and they helped me see the value of my military experience in the private sector. Both incredibly successful and busy business leaders, they have always made themselves available when I needed advice.

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to lead a successful company where I can apply the incredible leadership and academic experiences I have gained through my career. My passion lies in helping others be successful in their personal and professional lives, and I would love to drive a culture of achievement and success in the business world.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I know without a doubt that my wife, Tanya, has been my greatest supporter in both my professional and academic careers. A lifelong learner herself, she inspired me by achieving her doctor of education degree while supporting our family, even while I was deployed overseas for months at a time. Over the last two years, as I worked through this program and started a new career, she was always my most vocal supporter and made many sacrifices along the way so that I could accomplish my goals.

Fun fact about yourself: I was one of five Marine One pilots during the transition from President Bush to President Obama in 2009.

Favorite book: Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal

Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption

Favorite musical performer: The Rolling Stones

Favorite television show: “House of Cards”

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere on the water!

Hobbies: Fishing or anything my two boys want to do

What made Dan such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Dan Tarbutton is a leader of leaders in so many ways. He had a successful career in the Marine Corps with extensive operations, training, and exercise experience. He flew Presidents Bush and Obama for four years as a Marine One pilot, flew attack helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and helped lead The Basic School, the Marine Corps leadership school for newly commissioned officers. Throughout that time, he held a host of leadership experiences, all of which prepared him not only for this program, but for a bright future outside of the military.

“Marshall exposed Dan to issues specific to the business world and provided the learning and insights that were most helpful to his success. Dan aspired to a leadership role in a corporate environment, where his strengths would be put to good use. Halfway through the program, Dan made a significant step and accepted a position as VP of Strategic Initiatives for the Irvine Company, which is privately owned by the wealthiest real estate developer in the U.S.

“His path, already impressive years ago, is now even more so. And, even though he is too humble to admit it when asked, his study group and whole cohort received at least as much benefit. Dan has set a high standard for all with his relentless dedication to learning, his disciplined approach to problem solving, his empathy and care for those around him. Dan is a great example of conduct and values cultivated through the Marshall EMBA program.”

Razvan Neagu

CEO / Founder

KoMotion Inc.


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