2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Jefferson Rogers, USC (Marshall)

Jefferson Rogers

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

Age: 44

“People Strategist – Coach – Disney Magic Key holder focused on setting organizations up for success.”

Hometown: Greenville, TX

Family Members: Glenda Rogers (Mother), Kim Rogers & Leanne Pugh (siblings)

Fun fact about yourself: I attended acting school full-time at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre while working full-time at night and on the weekends in Human Resources for Evercore after their IPO.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. Speech Communications – Texas A&M University

Where are you currently working? I currently serve as a Manager at PwC in the Delivering Deal Value – Workforce Transformation group.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Leadership Roles: Former Head of Human Resources for Miramax, Paradigm Talent Agency, and the Gersh Agency.

Community Work: I started working with the Posse Foundation back in 2019 both as an interviewer for its Dynamic Assessment Process and as a Resume Coach.  This amazing group identifies young leaders who might be missed by traditional school admissions criteria but who can excel at competitive programs in colleges and universities.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Attending and graduating from business school during a global pandemic.  It’s hard to top that one.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement I am most proud of is watching my former employees that I trained and mentored have their careers flourish.  Shout out to People Partner at Warner Bros Discovery – Andrea Lyons, Manager of Learning & Development at Wasserman Music – Stacey Leventhal, and People Operations Manager at RepairSmith – Aliza Jeong.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Arvind Bhambri was my absolute favorite.  You have not had a true competitive strategy course until you have watched Professor Bhambri whiteboard his train of thought for virtuous loops.  He has one of the most brilliant minds in the field and I plan on keeping him on speed dial.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Coming from the entertainment industry, USC stood out as a front runner with so many studio executives having received their educations from the school.  I was able to speak with both alumni and faculty who I was working with at the time, and that sealed the deal.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? In many companies, the Human Resources function is seen as an administrative function versus a business partner.  I was the Head of HR for Miramax as the Harvey Weinstein scandal unfolded.  There was a major shift in the perspective of the C-Suite towards the role of Human Resources when that story broke.

This same shift increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Human Resources was thrust into the spotlight as the place to go for answers on policy making and remote work.  The lesson gained from the program is how to listen to understand. It’s not always the words being said that need attention, but the unspoken meaning underneath them. Employees were scared for their health and the health of their families. Loved ones were lost. Layoffs were happening left and right. A presidential election was occurring that scarred our nation indefinitely. I was grateful to have the tools both from class instruction and from the experiences of my classmates in other industries. This helped to create a new hybrid work environment that satisfied both my leadership team’s expectations but more importantly created a safe space for my employees to come back to work.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My best friend from college passed away in the first year of the pandemic, and I was asked to fly home to be part of the services.  Year 1 of the EMBA program was already challenging for me both learning to get adjusted to classes on Zoom as well as being the Head of Human Resources for an organization that was going through layoffs and an ever-rotating cast of COVID-19 policies. I was able to survive with the support of both my team members and an amazing boss and mentor, Ben Scott. I would take an accounting quiz from my hotel room in the morning, rush to get to the memorial service, and then my team would shuffle around meeting times and project duties at night so I could still participate in classes. Meanwhile, my COO would block and tackle my day-to-day calls and we would catch up at the end of the day so I could shift workflows to my employees. Letting go and placing trust in my team and my staff is what truly got me through this incredibly difficult time.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? It’s never too late to go back to school.  I always hear colleagues and friends talk negatively about their ages or how they’re too far down one road to pivot and go back to school to try something new.  If we learned anything during the global pandemic, it’s that we only have today and you have to make the most of it.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is that I did not enroll in USC’s MBA program sooner.  Timing is everything and the universe always gets its way, but I really wish I would have signed up ten years earlier.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I absolutely adored Kenia Garcia. I struggled with corporate finance and she made it look effortless. It was only after the first few weeks I realized she was not in finance and had literally been figuring out all the models with nothing but fierce determination, an open mind, and a “take no prisoners” attitude. Kenia’s work ethic along with her balanced executive presence make her the type of leader I hope to work for some day.  Until then, I’m fortunate to get to work with her side by side as she also recently accepted a role with PwC.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? For me, it was an issue of time and how I could gain the most from the program experience.  The ability to have robust discussions with other senior professionals in multiple industries became invaluable when dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. I also had recently taken on a new role for Paradigm Talent Agency, and the part-time program requirements seemed unattainable.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said Chief Human Resources Officer for the Walt Disney Company. After completing USC’s EMBA program, my eyes have been opened to an unlimited space of opportunities.  No matter what road I end up taking, I want to make sure I am mentoring and training the next generation of professionals for success.  And world peace.

What made Jefferson such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Jefferson was the kind of student who enhanced the quality of learning for the entire class. He started his EMBA with a breadth of experience in human resources, consulting, acquisition integration, and media industries, and brought with it an enthusiasm for learning and an innate curiosity. As a result, Jefferson would ask probing questions that caused everyone to pause and reflect. Jefferson’s willingness to share and reflect on his own experiences set a tone that brought out the best in his classmates as well. Often, he would also engage the faculty with questions and suggestions before, during, and after class, creating and modeling the kind of faculty-student partnership that is the hallmark of every successful EMBA class.”

Arvind Bhambri
Associate Professor, Management & Organization
(Longest serving USC Marshall EMBA faculty; has taught every student in the Program’s 37-year history.)


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