2017 MBAs To Watch: Winston Elliott, Rice (Jones)

Winston Elliott

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

Age: 30

“Intensely passionate leader who hopes to make a meaningful impact for others.”

Hometown: Houston, TX

Fun fact about yourself: I am currently volunteering with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is the largest Rodeo in the world (everything is bigger here I guess) and raises over $10 million a year in scholarships for Texas students….I serve on the “Mutton Bustin’” Committee, which basically helps wrangle sheep for kids to ride in a big arena in front of 50,000+ people. Houston is the most diverse city in the United States and is an economic and cultural powerhouse, but we still like throwing on boots and a hat and solidifying everyone’s stereotype of Texas at least one month out of the year.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Georgia, BA in Political Science

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? United States Army 82nd Airborne Division, Field Artillery Officer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Goldman Sachs Investment Management, Houston, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? KPMG Strategy, Houston, TX

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

School Leadership Roles:

  • Founder and President, Jones Public Policy Roundtable
    • I started this organization in August of 2016 with the idea of building a bridge between the Jones School and the renowned James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy here at Rice. Since inception, we have had over 23 members join (in addition to the over 100 students at Jones who are also members of the Baker Institute) and through the Baker Institute we have attended events featuring former Vice President Joe Biden on his “White House Moonshot to End Cancer,” as well as Chairman and CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt on entrepreneurship and innovation in the Energy Industry. Our mission is to provide a forum for students to explore the relationship between business, government, and policy both domestically and internationally. The club works to cultivate thoughtful civic and business leaders who recognize a mutual responsibility for the societal effects of business and policy decisions on the community.
  • Co- Chair, 2016 Rice Energy Finance Summit
    • The Rice Energy Finance Summit (REFS)is an annual conference organized by a student committee created to promote forward-looking discussions on the most pertinent energy issues and facilitate valuable relationships through the exchange of knowledge and ideas. This year I was responsible for putting together our speaker lineup, which included multiple Fortune 500 CEOs and energy leaders throughout Texas.
  • Chair, 2017 Rice Veterans Leadership Series
    • The Rice Veteran Leadership Series is an annual event designed to engage the greater business community on the enormous value veteran leaders bring to the civilian workplace. This event features leaders who have excelled in business, the arts and public service. This year we had our biggest event to date, with over 350 attendees to hear from ADM (ret.) William McRaven, former SEAL commander and Chancellor of the University of Texas System and Jim Teague, Vietnam veteran and president and CEO of Enterprise Products, a $55B company and one of the largest midstream oil and gas companies in the world.

Community Work:

  • Board of Directors, Lone Star Veterans Association
  • Roundtable Advisory Committee, Baker Institute for Public Policy Young Professionals
  • Member, World Affairs Council Houston Young Professionals

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Serving as the chair of the 2017 Rice Veterans Leadership Series hosted by the Veterans in Business Association. I successfully led a great team of volunteers and staff to host a flagship event for the school, featuring ADM (ret.) William McRaven, Chancellor of the University Texas System and other Houston area veteran business leaders. The event focused on “Leadership and Innovation” and was a great way for the Houston community to hear from some great former military leaders and see how they are utilizing their experience to make a difference after their transition.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Serving as a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and leading an unbelievably talented group of paratroopers as an Artillery platoon leader in Eastern Afghanistan in 2012 was a dream come true for me. As a kid, I was always interested in serving in the military and leading soldiers, so it was truly a wish fulfilled to be a part of that. While I am glad to be moving on to this next chapter of life, I will forever take with me the pride and lessons learned from serving with such an incredible, dedicated group of people.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? While it is very difficult to narrow it down to one, I would have to say Bill Arnold. Bill is a former Shell Oil Executive specializing in international business-government relations and brings a mountain of real world experience and insight into International Energy Development. I took a few classes with Bill: Geopolitics of Energy, Managing Energy Transitions as well as an independent study looking at key success factors held by entrepreneurial international energy development firms.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? “The New Enterprise” with Al Danto. Ultimately, I would love to own and operate my own business, as would many others coming out of business school. Al does a great job in his class of discussing the different paths to entrepreneurship, whether you plan to start a business while in school or a few years down the road. We also heard from many alumni and small business owners to get their perspective as well as lessons learned along the way. The biggest insight I gained was that if I want to start a company, I can. That may seem pretty simple, but often times as MBA students we dream of starting our own company, but get distracted or fall into the golden handcuff situation soon after graduating. Al’s class did a great job in showing a clear and viable path for those who really want to start and run a business in the future, while bringing in some great examples along the way.

Why did you choose this business school? Rice really made sense for me in every way. After attending a larger university for undergrad, I wanted to be a part of a smaller and more tight-knit community for B-School. While it is a smaller program, Rice is also located in one of the largest, most dynamic and entrepreneurial cities in the country and is able to offer some great professional opportunities. Also, throughout the admissions process I felt that Rice was interested in more than just a GMAT and GPA, but they really wanted people who would come in, work hard, and represent the school well into the future. Honestly, I am not your 4.0 GPA, 750 GMAT guy, but I will work hard, build teams, and make things happen. I felt Rice, more so than some other programs, saw the value in that and hopefully I have delivered.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My experience here at Rice has been phenomenal. Being surrounded by and working with some of the smartest and most genuine people I know has made me a better student and leader moving forward. While I have learned an immense amount from my professors and my classes, I really enjoyed the opportunity to bounce ideas and brainstorm with people from all different backgrounds and aspirations….that and our weekly “Partio.” Partio (Party on the Patio = Partio) is the Jones School’s weekly Thursday end of the school week celebration. We have great food, decent enough keg beer, and people bring their significant others and families. It is just a great way to unwind and socialize after an intense week.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Even though I heard about it some, the recruiting process for a few of the industries I was thinking about started within a month of landing on campus. I feel that I, like many grad students, looked to utilize my time in business school to really figure out my passion and calling and then recruit to make it happen. I barely even knew what a DCF was and the next thing I knew I was thrust into the recruiting process. It ended up being a good lesson and knowledge by fire-hose experience. While I went from investment banking recruiting to a wealth management internship to finally consulting for my immediate post-MBA career, I am happy and I feel like I landed in the right place for my skillset.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Give a Damn. If you are applying and being considered at Rice or any other top MBA program, I would assume you are pretty smart and have done some impressive things in your career. At Rice, we want people who are going to come and contribute to the class and work not only to make themselves better, but to make their classmates and the Rice Business program better. I feel that our school does a phenomenal job of looking at the whole candidate, not just numbers on a sheet. We have climbed in the rankings the last five years not because of our students’ ability to take a standardized test, but because the people who graduate and come back and recruit at Rice are able to see the passion and work ethic that our students possess. I would focus on the question, “If accepted into Rice, how will you make an impact on the program and those around you?”.

What is the biggest myth about your school? A common thought about Rice (Business School and University in general) is that it is simply just an intellectual/nerdy school. I grew up in Houston and that is what I thought before I came here. People here are incredibly smart, but they are also here because they can come up with and implement big ideas. From bioscience to engineering and architecture to economics, the atmosphere at Rice brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise that hopefully the business school is able to harness into our program. There is an excellent phrase on the outside of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice that reads “A Bridge Between the World of Ideas and the World of Action.” I feel that best sums up Rice University as well as the business school.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret probably stems some from the last question. I wish that I attended more events or got more involved outside of the business school and the Baker Institute here at Rice. There are so many opportunities that come flying at you in your two years, it is hard to attend everything — and that is just in the business school. I hope that I can manage my time well enough following graduation (I will still be in Houston) to be able to attend some more programs and events at Rice to continue learning outside just the business school.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Michael Brock. Selfless as he is smart, he has an incredible work ethic while also doing whatever it takes to help the team. Michael is also a great example of being able to grow and succeed both professionally and personally at Rice. While he was essentially living in the hospital as his wife was preparing to give birth to their first child, he interviewed with and ultimately accepted an offer from McKinsey as a second-year candidate. He’s kind of a big deal. 

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I met a few Jones School Veteran alumni at an event and I was extremely impressed how they were able to reinforce their prior military experience with a world class business education, and the opportunities that opened up to them after Rice.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…attending a Master of Public Policy program and potentially working in the foreign or domestic policy space.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? It would be tough to be dean for the day as I know Dean Rodriguez (P-Rod) has a crazy schedule. However, as dean, I would create a joint MBA/MGA (Masters in Global Affairs) program in conjunction with the Baker Institute and School of Social Sciences here at Rice. This concept is underway, as I have actually already met with our associate deans, as well as a few Rice Board members to explore this partnership. Hopefully we are starting to lay the groundwork to make this program happen in the near future. This idea stemmed from my personal experience when faced with the tough decision whether to get a Master of Public Policy (Global Affairs) or an MBA. I ultimately decided to get my MBA at Rice. However, with the birth of the MGA program at Rice, there is a solid path forward for future students who are interested in both programs to hopefully be able to get a joint degree. The Jones School and the Baker Institute are both world class academic institutions and this would provide an amazing opportunity for our students.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? This is a tough question that I am still working to figure out. I would love to start a company either on my own or with a group of colleagues in the energy or health care space and make an impact that could bring sustainable energy or health care solutions to those who need it most. Ultimately, it would be great to potentially serve in public office to bring some sanity to the legislative and foreign policy processes. There are a lot of good people I have met who truly want to make a difference in their community, but have been trampled by incendiary rhetoric from both sides. I think it is a shame that good-hearted and successful people are turned away from statesmanship as a result of increasingly polarizing politics. If I can make it long enough, it would be great to retire to a ranch in central Texas, teach government and economics and coach high school football. That’s a lot of goals but I’d be happy if any or all of those things happen.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I want to thank my loving and graceful wife Marti, who has truly been so compassionate and understanding first as a military spouse, and then trusting me with this grand idea to not work for two years and get an MBA. Six years, six moves and two kids later I am still amazed by her grace and ability to be flexible and make the best of any situation. Also, I want to thank my friends and colleagues who were patient with me (not easy) to help me achieve my goals and go along with my crazy ideas.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope to be remembered as a genuine and thoughtful teammate who strived to make a difference for others.

Favorite book: Oh the Places You’ll Go by the one and only Dr. Seuss

Favorite movie or television show: TV Show: West Wing

Favorite musical performers: Zac Brown Band, Chris Stapleton

Favorite vacation spot: Florence, Italy

Hobbies? I have a 2-year-old and another one on the way, so my “hobbies” seem to be fading into lots of tea parties and trips to the zoo (which is fine by me!). I would like to try to get better at golf, and I really enjoy playing sports and going to sporting events. In the meantime, between school and kids, I have been working to perfect the ultimate “Dad-bod,” which is more elusive than one may think.

What made Winston such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“The best approach to the liability of newness is to wear it proudly and learn quickly how not to let being new stand in the way of progress. I knew quite a bit about the Jones School and Rice University before beginning my role as dean last July, but a culture is never truly known until it is experienced. What I learned about veterans in just a few weeks at Jones surprised me. I never expected how much difference a relatively small group of leaders could have on a school. And I never expected how natural a leader we had in Winston. Deans, like other leaders, must cherish superlatives. They’re too valuable and too necessary to misuse on even notable accomplishments. Winston deserves a bucketful of them. He is an extraordinary student and leader, as good or better than any I have ever worked with.

Winston chaired the Rice Veteran’s Leadership Series (RVLS), which is an annual conference put on by VIBA (Veteran’s in Business Administration). Alongside also serving a critical role in our other largest student conference, the Rice Energy Finance Summit (REFS), Winston raises his two children with his wife and takes part in just about everything the school offers or provides. What impresses me the most about Winston is the completeness of care he brings to big events. At RVLS and REFS, Winston helped bring in the school’s biggest supporters, leaders from the community, CEOs of Fortune 500 and 100 companies and the former leader of U.S. Special Operations Command, William McRaven. All were impressed with the organization of the conference. Winston lead a large team that executed wonderfully and had considered just about every need and challenge that comes with convening busy leaders with precious little time to offer. I was blown away. Winston even managed to smooth over a potential disaster when the caterer went off script and torched the crème brulee resulting in a fire alarm trigger just before a keynote speaker. The team was surprised but ready for such and the adjustments were seamless. It struck me then just as it did everyone at my table just how ready the team was to ensure the event succeeded. Winston shined just as he did at REFS and so many other opportunities. You know who’s got it when you see it and Winston most certainly has it.”

Peter Rodriguez
Dean, Jones Graduate School of Business
Rice University

 

DON’T MISS: MBAS TO WATCH: THE STORIES OF 100 EXTRAORDINARY GRADUATES FROM THE CLASS OF 2017