Before creating the Master of Business for Veterans Foundation, Benjamin Manibog noted the USC MBV program lacked the alumni network and volunteer engagement opportunities that other degree programs’ alumni associations offer. At a football tailgate, he heard MBV alumni reminisce about the cohort community of the program and wanted to re-create the feeling of fellowship.
“We noticed that cohorts were expressing how much they missed being on campus and how there wasn’t any alumni association specifically for MBV students that graduated,” said Manibog, who serves as president of the foundation. “[Much like the] camaraderie in the military, they felt like they really had that while they were in MBV … When they left after they graduated, they felt that huge disconnect.”
Founded in December, the organization offers a youth mentorship program, veteran scholarship grants and encouragement for veterans considering graduate degrees in business.
“We want to make a significant impact in the world,” Manibog said. “What I wanted to do is continue to have a platform for these veteran students to continue to make a difference in people’s lives in their communities.”
Marshall School of Business adjunct professor Kathy Takayama, whose father served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, said she was recruited to the MBV Foundation after the foundation learned of her fundraising experience and volunteer work. Following the unexpected loss of her husband, Takayama started raising money for scholarships for high school graduates.
“One of the things that a military person misses when they leave the military and go to the civilian world is the camaraderie,” Takayama said. “Through this MBV program, you kind of get to hang around veterans, and similarly, everyone else wants to kind of connect and help each [other].”
In October, Manibog, along with other MBV alumni, had a “customer discovery phase” in which they asked alumni and current students about their biggest concerns during the course of the program. They found that many people in the MBV community faced issues paying for the program after exhausting their GI Bill and Veterans Affairs benefits.
In response to the discovery poll, the MBV Foundation plans to fund scholarships to encourage veterans to continue their education.
Amy Curran, an active-duty Marine in the MBV program, learned about the foundation in a class talk by Manibog and immediately knew she wanted to be a part of the program.
“I want to be able to show the next generation, ‘This is what it means to have a family. This is what taking care of each other is about, and you can succeed regardless of where you came from,’” Curran said.
The foundation works with organizations like Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles in addition to developing mentorship partnerships with at-risk youth. For Manibog, the program hits close to home after a troubled childhood, providing character development that he would have benefited from. By mentoring, he wants to expand the opportunities he has received to other young people in difficult situations.
“I went to a continuation school. Never in a million years would think I would end up at USC,” Manibog said. “Everyone that goes through this program, all we can think about is … how can we continue to give because we’re so grateful for all [of the] things that we’ve gotten.”
Manibog said the foundation hopes to tap into the MBV alumni network to encourage more veterans to continue their education at USC.
“We want to use the strength of our alumni and tap into their resources, their connections, the companies that they’re working with,” he said.
Manibog said he wants the foundation to serve as a community that inspires its members to surmount challenges like the ones he faced during his childhood and later, when he had problems with drug use.
“My ‘why’ [in life] is to illuminate the hearts of others, so that they may rise above their barriers and summit the highest peaks,” Manibog said. “I just want to inspire people to see them achieve their goals, to overcome their obstacles, and I feel like the MBV Foundation is the way to do that.”