By Julie Labich
Matthew Quan is proof you can be deeply rooted and fly – all at the same time. After nearly 10 years of active duty in the United States Air Force and at the Pentagon, it’s not surprising he returned home to Southern California to pursue an advanced degree. Quan’s family has lived in California for six generations, and he hopes to play a large role in shaping the state’s future.
Quan will graduate from the USC Price School in May with a Master of Public Policy. He is one of 55 current students at the Price School who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, or are the immediate family member of someone who has or is currently serving.
As a decorated Captain and E-3 Air Weapons Officer in the U.S. Air Force, Quan accrued 750 hours of flying, including nearly 400 combat hours and four deployments in support of operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Quan transitioned out of flying to become an Afghanistan-Pakistan Hand, a Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff initiative to develop culture and policy experts in the region, where he learned to speak Dari and Pashto. He was later assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. as Country Director, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, for the Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs. In this role, he was responsible for Air Force policy in the region.
A lasting call to serve
Growing up in Orange County, Quan had always felt a desire to serve his country, his state and his community. As an adventurous teenager, he started thinking about aviation and traveling the world, and had a growing curiosity about what was happening in Afghanistan. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California at Irvine, he enlisted in the U. S. Air Force and began his military and foreign policy career.
“After being away for 10 years, I wanted to come home to Southern California and refocus on domestic policy issues,” said Quan. “USC Price has allowed me to take elective courses in tax policy, budgets, education, pharmaceuticals and real estate. I try to challenge myself and vary projects to different policy areas such as the economy and the environment.”
Quan wants to stop the exodus and net out-migration from California, which he said has accelerated to 190,000 a year, with many people moving to states like Texas. He wants to help California address endemic issues with housing, the economy, education, infrastructure and taxes.
Unsure of where his professional journey will lead, he hopes to focus on domestic issues but remains open to any opportunities that could take him back overseas.
USC Price’s legacy of military support
Quan is part of a large community of Trojan Veterans, many of whom studied at the USC Price School. The school administers the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs, which are designed to offer selected college students the necessary courses and training to qualify them for a commission in the United States Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. There are currently 170 students in the ROTC programs.
The successful legacy of Trojan ROTC graduates is unparalleled, with more than 200 notable USC ROTC alumni making the ranks of general officer or senior civilian in the Department of Defense.
“We owe a great deal to the brave men and women who have or are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.” said USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott. “USC Price has a tradition of public service, and it’s an honor to have so many Veterans as part of our community.”
If you would like to support scholarship funds for USC’s Veteran and ROTC students, please visit https://priceschool.usc.edu/giving.