Meet Rice’s MBA Class of 2017

Will Lyles

Will Lyles     

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

Hometown: Hampton, VA

Undergraduate School and Major: Virginia Military Institute (2002), BA in Psychology

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:


  • Summer Intern

2014 – Pres  IBM FEDERAL & EPIC

  • Department of Defense Healthcare Information Management System Program Advisory Board Member

2003 – 2014    US ARMY

  • Special Forces Detachment Commander
  • Assistant Battalion Operations
  • Infantry Company Executive Officer
  • Infantry Platoon Leader                       

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? I strongly recommend utilizing a prep program or a personal tutor if you need additional work on a specific area, but make sure to do the necessary research to ensure the program meets your needs. I utilized one program and was not satisfied with the methods or attention I was receiving. I ended up with another program after more diligent research.  Be very structured in your study routine, set aside uninterrupted time, and study, study, study.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply?  A lot of people focus a lot on the ranking of the program. While they are important, you have to look at the program and determine whether the strength of that program lies in your desired career field. You have to make sure you are getting the tools you need, as well as the opportunity to develop a sound network in the field into which you are transitioning. Bottom Line: Does the program have those great relationships with my targeted employers and does the coursework prepare me to succeed in my chosen field?  I also think it is important to consider class size, teaching methods (case based vs. lectures), job placement metrics, and salary data for recent graduates.  Finally, if you have a chance to visit the schools on your list – do it.  It helps tremendously to get a feel for the program’s culture.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf?  When writing your essays be genuine in your answers, and if possible have someone else proofread your work.  Be careful not to elicit too many outside opinions though, everyone will have a better way to build a mousetrap.

While preparing for an admissions interview you should rehearse multiple times in front of people or the mirror and try to anticipate some of the questions. I rehearsed the interview several times, including having friends who had completed their MBAs ask questions of me in mock interviews. You are selling yourself to the program, just as you would in a job interview.

Requesting recommendations can be a tricky endeavor. You must ensure that you give your potential recommenders a clear timeline and instructions for the submission of your letters, and be sure to follow up at regular intervals until it is submitted. Also, make sure your choice of recommenders know you and can speak to your potential. Otherwise, the letters may not carry as much weight. Finally, be sure to thank your recommenders with a hand written letter. If they are significant enough in your life to help you get into school they warrant a personal thank you.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA?  I recently retired from the military after being wounded in Afghanistan, and needed to re-evaluate my career goals.  I realized that in my 11-year career in the Army, initially as an infantry officer and later a Green Beret, I gained a wealth of leadership experience but had not been exposed to the fundamentals of how to run a business. It was a natural conclusion that earning my MBA was the best way to prepare myself to take on the corporate challenges ahead. 

During my MBA research efforts, Rice was at the top of my list in all of the categories I used to filter my search: High rankings, challenging curriculum, phenomenal military support, family atmosphere, and a great record of job placement post-graduation. My visit to the program reinforced my initial thoughts as I enjoyed the small class size, the spirited interactions between the students and instructors, and that the program had a strong veteran presence and a family atmosphere.  My student ambassador, Erin Felton (who is also now the Jones Student Association President), also took me to the student common area where just about every member of the Veterans In Business Association (VIBA), as well as many other students, came up to introduce themselves and discuss their experiences. I decided before I left campus that day that Rice was where I wanted to be.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? Like every other student beginning an MBA program I would like to achieve excellence in the classroom, improve my leadership traits through involvement in the school’s different organizations, and enhance my business acumen with the goal of someday running a company. I hope to be a positive ambassador to the Rice community, while adding value to the program and upholding the traditions that have made Rice a great institution.  As the Rice Military Scholars Program recipient for the Class of 2017, I feel it is also my duty to shine a positive light on the many student veterans at the university, ensuring that the world knows our true value and capabilities to the corporate arena. I will use this opportunity as a platform to continue a life of paying it forward whenever I can, especially to the veteran community. I am extremely fortunate to be where I am today, and I hope to use this education to put myself in position to do for others what was done for me.

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