The Consortium’s legacy is one of family — and like most families, The Consortium’s continues to grow, cultivated largely by word of mouth.
BJ Howell has both experienced this legacy and helped carry it on.
Recognizing the advantages the organization afforded him throughout his successful corporate and entrepreneurial career, The Consortium alum from the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall Business School’s class of 1973 played a significant role in his daughter’s decision to also earn an MBA through The Consortium. “She just saw a very independent person, and I think that was the direction she wanted to go in,” Howell says of his daughter Tiscia Rasco, who also graduated from USC Marshall, in 2002.
The circumstances that influenced her decision to pursue an MBA, however, were very different than those of her fathers. “It was just … a given that I was going to go to graduate school,” says Tiscia. “It was a given that I was going to apply through The Consortium and go for my MBA.”
Howell, who came to the U.S. from Jamaica as a child, did not have the same parental insight or background as neither of his parents worked in business. His mother was a seamstress, and his father worked on a tobacco farm in Connecticut. “The tobacco farmers brought a lot of Jamaicans, Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean island folks to the U.S. to pick tobacco,” Howell says, “and my father was in that program.”
Just as he referred his daughter, a friend and classmate introduced Howell to The Consortium in college. “He mentioned to a group of us that some people from The Consortium were coming to campus to talk about the program,” says Howell. “He was a year ahead of me, so he had already been accepted.”
For Howell, attending business school through The Consortium was a logical, economical way to gain direction generally and business acumen specifically. “I knew I didn’t want to enter the social sciences and work for government or become a teacher. I figured there was more out there to look at,” he says. “I was an econ major [in undergrad], and without much direction, I figured this would be a way to get acclimated to the business environment and understand more about the economy and how it operated.”
Once accepted and enrolled at USC Marshall, Howell gained direction — he says he was “fascinated” by entrepreneurship — and something he didn’t expect: a second family.
“There were a lot of students who had gotten in through The Consortium, so we all kind of formed a little group,” he says.
Tiscia’s experience was much the same, as she formed not just a figurative family with many of her classmates but also a literal one. She met her husband Victor Rasco, a 2001 Consortium alum of USC Marshall, at the Orientation Program in 2000, where, as a second-year student, he was in charge of handing out name tags to the incoming class.
Beyond the support they provided one another, Victor says they found “a home away from home” among their Consortium peers. “You just have the feeling,” he says, “you sort of innately know that you have a level of support and a group that’s there that probably wouldn’t ordinarily be there in the same numbers [without The Consortium].”
Tiscia says for her and her friends, Victor and his classmates largely served as their mentors and tutors. “They helped us … [by] taking us under their wing,” she says.
In addition to what Victor says is an expansive USC Marshall network, The Consortium added another layer that helped facilitate not just professional contacts but also genuine, lasting friendships.
“It kind of … extended that ability to have not just contacts but real relationships that you can lean on and that you can lend a hand to over time. You really see the impact of the network,” he says, adding that his decision to go through The Consortium and USC Marshall put him on a path that he wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
Victor and Tiscia now live in Atlanta, Ga., with their two children, where he is a product manager for interactive games at Cartoon Network Digital, and she leads the Customer Engagement Center strategy team for Delta Air Lines’ Reservations division.
Howell’s professional path was also bolstered by his connection with The Consortium. Following his graduation from USC Marshall, he secured his first job — working for the third largest bank in California at that time — with help from the same friend who referred him to The Consortium. Through his position at the bank, Howell connected with individuals in the broadcasting industry and ended up acquiring two radio stations with several business partners. Although they sold both businesses in 1993, these ventures launched Howell on a life-long journey through entrepreneurship — and ultimately inspired Tiscia to blaze her own path.
Recognizing the advantage afforded him, Howell has given back to The Consortium over the years, individually and through his businesses, and also encouraged his first and only employer — the bank — to do the same.
“I always appreciated what [The Consortium] did for me, so it was important for me to give them something through the years,” he says. “It’s something that … I’ll never forget. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”
Retired now for 11 years, Howell continues to give of his money but also of his own experience by referring other prospects to the organization. Victor and Tiscia have also paid it forward, but in different ways, by mentoring as well as referring people to The Consortium.
This positive word of mouth is what has sustained the organization and helped solidify its legacy.
“When you look at the fact that I got accepted in The Consortium when I was 21 or 22 and I’m now 71 and the program is still going — and it’s added schools — it’s just amazing,” he says. “I feel very proud to be a part of it.”