The Spirit of Troy

Getting into USC was bittersweet after the death of her father. But Eugenia Huang found help and mentorship…and quickly found her balance

Eugenia Huang, wearing a USIF graduation sash, standing in front of the USC Marshall School of Business banner, smiling into the camera.
Eugenia Huang (Photo courtesy of USC Marshall School)

For all of her accomplishments as she prepares to leave USC Marshall with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a job waiting for her in international real estate, Eugenia Huang, 22, arrived at USC Marshall in survival mode.

Her father had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer during her senior year in high school, just as the college admissions decisions were coming in. She’d been accepted to all the California schools she had applied to—Berkeley, Santa Clara, and USC—and chose USC because she loved the school spirit and the fact that everywhere she looked, kids were smiling. “I realized this was a place where I could thrive,” she said.

Her father died a few weeks before she matriculated.

A photograph of the back of Eugenia Huang, showcasing the stitching on her graduation stole, where it says, "Her Father's Daughter"
Translation: “Her father’s daughter” (Photo courtesy USC Marshall School)

By chance, she found herself invited to a dinner where Varun Soni, dean of religious life at USC was speaking. “At the time, I was not interested in hearing anything about religion,” she said. “I was in survival mode.” But she attended anyway.

Dean Soni spoke instead about spirituality and choosing happiness in challenging times. His words were a balm, and rang so true she reached out the next day. He immediately agreed to meet her

“It was a miracle I was even at that dinner,” she says. Soni became her mentor, a supporter, and a lifelong friend. He even shared his private cell number with her, and together with his wife, opened their home to Huang, offering a home-cooked meal at their table whenever she might need.   

It was the spiritual and emotional support she needed. She quickly availed herself of all USC has to offer, particularly the opportunities for learning abroad.

She traveled to Beijing as a freshman with the invitation-only GLP (Global Leadership Program) and returned as a senior this year to mentor and oversee the freshmen herself as a teaching assistant. Though the GLP, she landed a summer internship in Hong Kong.

She spent her junior year in Spain, where she made lifelong friends and connections. She was involved with the Student Investment Fund and was the president of USC Rotaract – the Rotary Club’s organization for colleges and universities, with which she traveled to Columbia to visit service projects over a spring break

Meanwhile, she made A’s in her business and real estate classes. She found another mentor in Richard Green, director of USC’s Lusk Center for Real estate—who encouraged her to produce a real-estate 101 seminar for interested students.

Among her favorite teachers is Carl Voigt, for his early lessons on how to dress professionally—the Marshall polish–and his many anecdotal stories that end with profound life lessons.

She also admires professors Vice Dean Suh-Pyng Ku and professor Feng Chen. “It’s inspiring to see women professors who look like me.”

She has a job already lined up at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) a French commercial real estate concern. She will spend her first year in its Los Angeles office in Century City and then transfer to Paris for six months.

How’s her French? She’ll have to brush up, she laughs.

Nobody doubts she can do whatever she puts her mind to. Especially anyone who knows her from USC.

As she prepares for the next chapter of her life, she realizes that her gut feeling about the school was correct: it has been exactly the place where she has thrived.

Indeed, she says, the value of the Trojan family has been made all too clear to her.

“The Trojan Family taught me a lot of things,” she says. “But it hasn’t taught me rejection.”

>Read the original story on USC Marshall School’s website.