Small Means More

A passion for green business leads a Marymount California University alumna to pursue an Oxford University MBA.

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  • Written by
    Laura L. Watts
  • Photographed by
    Siri Berting

Marymount California University professor Duncan Earle

Founded in 1968 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic order, today Marymount California University is a four-year institution that welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds to pursue a bachelor’s degree at its oceanview campus in Rancho Palos Verdes. Students thrive in small, interactive classes, guided by dedicated professors who notice their potential and connect them with career-launching experiences.

Alumna Michaelanne Butler knows firsthand about those life-changing experiences. During her senior year in high school, Michaelanne and her family were nearly homeless—living in an RV after they lost their business during the recession. She finished high school online and didn’t think college would be a reality given her situation … until she found Marymount California University, which gave her a generous scholarship to attend.

MCU’s small-school ambience really appealed to Michaelanne, as did the beautiful location. “On my first tour, I was equally smitten with both the view and the learning environment,” she shares. Little did she know that this intimate atmosphere would lead her to wide-reaching, transformative experiences across the globe—including graduate studies at Oxford University.

“I think my entire experience at MCU really prepared me to work in this innovative conservation context.”

“It’s all because people knew my name— because Marymount is small,” she says, sharing that many of her MCU friends have also made great accomplishments simply because the school—professors as well as other students—knew them, understood their capabilities and presented them with opportunities to explore, create and succeed in school and life.

Michaelanne Butler at Oxford University

“At Marymount California University, small means more,” shares university president, Brian Marcotte. “More exploring, more opportunities and more connections with faculty who know students’ potential and push them to pursue experiences that make them successful.”

Accessible professors, interactive classes and off-campus experiences bring learning to life at MCU. Students gain professional skills through internships in the field, access to industry experts, connections with supportive faculty, behind-the-scenes site visits and other career-driving opportunities.

Marymount offers a student-centered, tight-knit community—a safe place in which to explore different interests, gain job experience and grow as a person. “But you have to engage in it,” Michaelanne advises. And engage in it she did.

While attending Marymount, Michaelanne was interested in both global studies and commerce. “I wanted to fuse the best of business and philanthropy; I basically wanted to learn how to change the world!” she says. Enrolling in professor Duncan Earle’s global development class was a pivotal step in that direction.

MCU’s oceanview campus in Rancho Palos Verdes

“From day one, Michaelanne was an exceptional incoming student with an amazing drive toward making her education maximize her capabilities to do what she wants to do,” says Dr. Earle. “She has a ‘fire in the belly’ for her passions of environment, international/local social development and responsible business. She sculpted her entire undergraduate career with this goal in mind.”

Dr. Earle, who mentored Michaelanne as she continued to take his classes, is the chief anthropologist for Jadora—a company that supports large-scale rainforest preservation and sustainable community development in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As he got to know Michaelanne, he connected her with green business experiences. After Michaelanne graduated from MCU in 2015, Dr. Earle hired her to work for Jadora International in Seattle.

“She is going to be a major global force, moving the worlds of business and social and environmental concerns together,” he says. “Her insight continues to be enriched by her studies.”

Duncan Earle in the field in DR Congo

“I’m really excited by this work because protecting trees gives us an opportunity to improve the livelihoods of those living under the canopy,” Michaelanne says of her job, which she continues to excel at while also pursuing her MBA at Saïd Business School at University of Oxford in England. “I think my entire experience at MCU really prepared me to work in this innovative conservation context. Not only do I frequently find myself applying concepts I learned in class, but I am also constantly drawing on the skills I developed in my study abroad experiences and extracurricular activities.”

Michaelanne is a shining example of how Marymount California University’s small, supportive community and interactive learning approach make it a great career launchpad. Professors at MCU know their students and their potential, and they push their students to pursue the experiences that make them successful.

“We are really proud of Michaelanne’s accomplishments,” says President Marcotte. “She is an example of how MCU alumni succeed in life and in their careers.”

Marymount California University
30800 Palos Verdes Drive East, Rancho Palos Verdes  |  310-377-5501  |