Junior Consultants Program Hires Graduate Business Students to Support Local Businesses

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Brink Junior Consultant and USD business graduate student, Yasmine Kalhor
begin quoteThe Junior Consultants program has been a great way to meet industry leaders, experts, and watch cutting edge thoughts take shape. I see The Brink as a place where I can positively impact the San Diego community.

There’s nothing like a crisis to spark new ideas. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, The Brink Small Business Development Center at the University of San Diego School of Business was challenged with how to help their clients not only survive the economic effects of the pandemic, but to thrive through uncertainty.

The Brink is an on-campus organization that works with small businesses that are growing fast in the local San Diego region. With a team of over ten advisors, it supports hundreds of companies with marketing strategy, securing government grants, innovation coaching and more. 

Amidst the crisis, it spotted a new opportunity. “We’re really excited to launch the Junior Consultants program this summer,” says Rachel Christensen, assistant director of programs at The Brink. “It accomplishes two major objectives for us. The first is to offer even more support to our clients in a time of need and the second is to create real-world learning opportunities for USD students. Specifically, Junior Consultants gives business graduate students a coveted job opportunity and learning experience at a time when job offers are on the decline.” 

Three business graduate students joined the Junior Consultants program this summer, all personally recommended to The Brink by staff and faculty from the USD School of Business. They have been supporting The Brink on a number of tasks and learning from the collective experience of its advisory team. Meet this year’s inaugural Junior Consultants cohort. 


The Brink Junior Consultant, Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke, MBA/MSF Dual Degree

What’s your impression of the Junior Consultants program so far?

It’s been a great way to meet industry leaders, experts, and watch cutting edge thoughts take shape. I see The Brink as a place where I can positively impact the San Diego community as well as gain experience that will develop my knowledge into wisdom.

In your role, have you applied lessons from the MBA/MSF dual degree program?

My coursework has been very useful. Working at The Brink while pursuing my degrees instantly reaffirms my decision to attend grad school at the USD School of Business. Wise words from those like Professor John Prunty have been beyond helpful. In his words (I’m paraphrasing), “You can’t know everything so don’t bother. Being able to research, interpret, and implement information quickly is one of the most important skills to have.” 

It's also one thing to be given a few weeks to write a paper, it’s another when you’re consulting a client in real time and have to give feedback right away. Thankfully, in many classes, we tend to be given a lot of information and then are immediately asked, “Tell me what you think right now.” That’s been essential. Looking at you Dr. Gomez!

What project are you working on now?

Currently, I am working on developing and implementing a tech startup peer group as part of a project for a collaborative tech startup app. Privileged is how I feel working on this project. The lead facilitator has a massive catalogue of experience and the startups themselves are very driven and very interesting.

Which Brink advisors are you working with?

There are opportunities to work with all of the professional advisors at The Brink. Rachel Christensen has also been invaluable for onboarding and helping me feel confident about my work at the Brink. She’s been amazing.


The Brink Junior Consultant, Yasmine Kalhor

Yasmine Kalhor, JD/MBA Dual Degree

Why did you apply to the Junior Consultants program?

The past few years, I’ve had a lot of opportunities working at legal clinics, courts, and law firms. This summer, I was interested in learning more about how to successfully launch and operate a business. The Junior Consultants program has been a great way for me to see both the successes and failures of various businesses at different stages in growth and learn how to overcome the challenges of running a business. The Brink has so many incredible, dedicated, and intelligent consultants to learn from and I am lucky to be able to shadow and help them. 

What lessons from the classroom have popped up in your work at The Brink?

From getting hands-on experience at legal clinics to travelling to Munich, Germany for a business consulting project to reading pages and pages of cases, my time at USD has been filled with many learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. 

My professors at the USD School of Business have all done a great job introducing us to real problems that big companies have faced and have challenged us to predict how these businesses overcame them. I am lucky to have had professors that always encouraged creative problem-solving. At The Brink, a big part of supporting its startup clients is identifying obstacles early on and finding ways to overcome them with limited resources.

What project/s are you working on?

I’m currently working with Rachel Christensen to optimize the client intake process. So far, I have joined her on multiple intake calls with prospective clients and learned what kinds of questions to ask. Next week, I will start shadowing Natalia Pence, an advisor at The Brink, who specializes in patent and trademark law. 


The Brink Junior Consultant, Dishita Shah

Dishita Shah, MBA/MSF Dual Degree

How did you hear about the Junior Consultants program?

I heard about it through my career adviser at the USD School of Business, April Cash. She emailed me about the posting because she thought I would be interested. And turns out she was right!

What tasks/projects are you working on?

I’ve been working with small businesses to understand their business plans, financial models, the problems they’re facing and how The Brink can support their needs. So far, I’ve gotten to participate in client calls with advisors from The Brink. I'll also be taking on a new client soon as a primary lead, so that's exciting!

The really cool thing about this program is that I get to work with a bunch of different clients from various industries. And because The Brink has such a small, close-knit team, I get to learn from everyone. I can approach each and every staff person when I have questions, even the director, Mysty Rusk. 

How has your degree program prepared you for Junior Consultants?

I graduated with a dual MBA/MS Finance degree this past May. Since I started working at The Brink, there have already been several moments when I thought 'oh I remember learning this in class and I get to use it.' And that has been a great feeling to have, realizing that what you’ve dedicated the last two years of your life to was worth it. 

What stands out to you about the Junior Consultants program?

What has truly surprised me are the numerous aspects involved in the functioning of a small business development center. There is so much that goes into providing support and necessary tools to help a business grow and flourish. Clients don’t just need financial support to launch their business. They need a wide range of support services to help their business grow and evolve. 

What are your career plans after graduation?

I'm using this time to figure out which area of finance I want to pursue. Working at The Brink has provided exposure to the impact investing world and through this opportunity, I'm learning how I can better apply my education and skillset to make a difference.  

— Gabrielle Horta


Mysty Rusk