2017 MBAs To Watch: John Rhoden, Brigham Young University (Marriott)

John Rhoden

Brigham Young University, Marriott School of Management

“A former political operative who chose the perfect time to get out of politics.”

Age: 29

Hometown: University Place, Washington

Fun fact about yourself: My wife and I began the MBA program with no children and will graduate with 2 kids (a 15-month-old and a 3-month-old)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brigham Young University, Bachelor in General Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • Army National Guard – Combat Engineer Team Leader
  • 2016 US Presidential Campaign (Primary) – Lead Advance
  • National Political Committee – Aide to the Finance Chairman
  • 2012 US Presidential Campaign (Primary and General) – Lead Advance, National Petition Coordinator, Aide to candidate and candidate’s spouse

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Blue Raven Solar – American Fork, UT

Where will you be working after graduation? T-Mobile – Senior Emerging Leader Program Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, BYU Veterans Club – Grew club membership 10x, secured free tickets for student veterans to BYU athletic games, and lobbied student leadership to preserve and renovate Memorial Hall.
  • President, Marriott School Veterans Club – Recruited and led all-veteran team to 2nd place finish at national case competition; enlisted companies to host veteran recruiting events on campus; and proposed creation of and secured pledges for MBA Veteran Scholarship Fund
  • Lead Advance, 2016 US Presidential Campaign (Primary) – Managed major campaign events across the country
  • Founder, 5 under 35 – Organized coalition of young activists running for National and Alternate Delegate to the National Party Convention that successfully elected 60% of the slate.
  • Professional Volunteer, 2016 National Party Convention – Oversaw night shift at media row, which hosted 160 media outlets and operated 24/7 during the convention.
  • Deployment Captain – Organized deployment of volunteers from Utah to campaign in a contested U.S. Senate election in Florida.
  • Assistant Scoutmaster, Boy Scouts of America – Mentored at-risk youth in leadership and outdoor skills.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Building the BYU Veteran organizations on campus. When I was elected president, the Marriott School Veterans Club and BYU Veterans Club were new organizations, had few members, hosted no recruiting events, and sponsored one activity a semester. This year, we engaged companies such as Google, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, and Union Pacific to host veteran recruiting events on campus. We lobbied student government to renovate Memorial Hall. In addition, we sponsored monthly events and secured free tickets for club members to BYU athletic games. Buoyed by meaningful and fun activities, club membership today has grown to over 100 veterans.

My proudest accomplishment was organizing and leading an all-veteran team to compete at a national case competition, Innovation in Action. Our motive to form an all-veteran team and participate in the competition on diabetes was to dispel the false narrative that veterans are less innovative than others.  Our team, “Fighting DiaVETes,” finished in 2nd place!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I started as an unpaid intern on a presidential campaign with no political experience or connections and finished the campaign as an aide to the candidate and candidate’s spouse.

My big break came when I volunteered for a demanding job that no one wanted: managing and recruiting hundreds of volunteers to gather signatures for ballot access. After successful completion of that arduous assignment, the deputy campaign manager rewarded me by placing me in the department of my choice. I chose candidate operations. The subsequent 12 months were a whirlwind of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, including meeting my future wife!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dan Snow. Before teaching at BYU, Professor Snow taught supply chain at Harvard. Hence, his 1st year core class at BYU is infamous for its cold calls, zero-absence policy, and story time with Uncle Dan. He expected a lot from us and pushed us to prepare diligently. He argued with you whether you were right or wrong. Studying HBS cases he had written made his class both unique and unforgettable.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Kristen DeTienne’s Power, Influence Negotiation – Contrary to conventional wisdom, I learned that the best negotiators are polite, attentive listeners who are concerned with maximizing value for both parties and fostering long-term relationships.

Why did you choose this business school? The BYU MBA program dominates the rankings that matter most to me: #2 in the nation for best value and #4 in the nation for highest salary percentage increase, per Financial Times.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The people. My MBA class is the most impressive and fascinating cohort of people I have ever associated with.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The flexibility. I scheduled my classes each semester so I had a 3.5-day weekend!

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Invest in the best GMAT prep course, even if it costs you $1,500. This is an investment in your future. You will most likely spend tens of thousands of dollars earning an MBA. The higher your GMAT score, the higher probability you have of being accepted to your school of choice AND receiving merit-based scholarships. The value of academic scholarships will almost certainly exceed the cost of a premium GMAT prep course.

What is the biggest myth about your school? BYU has no diversity. In fact, the BYU student body has a diversity of international experience that is rare among universities in the U.S.  77% of BYU MBA students are bilingual. The majority have lived abroad for over a year. Collectively, we lived in over 40 nations. These international experiences have shaped us, expanded our world views, and infused us with an intimate understanding of foreign peoples, languages, and cultures.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not going on the Asia Study Abroad.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Richard Bobo. Bobo, as he is affectionately called by everyone in the program, is a highly-decorated U.S. Army veteran.  He has graduated from Ranger, Airborne, and Air Assault school and earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge on his deployment to Iraq. Bobo is on loan from the Army. While my classmates and I will be joining corporate America and earning lucrative salaries following graduation, Bobo will put his uniform back on to complete his military service on active duty.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I realized I lacked the business and analytical skills to be successful in today’s economy.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… in flight school earning my commercial pilot’s license.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would add an analytics class to the 1st year core.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to be successful in business so I have the experience and resources for public service.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents and my wife. My mom gave up a lucrative career in law to raise my siblings and me full-time. My dad is the best scoutmaster I have ever known. He served in the Army and inspired my brother and me to do likewise.  He taught us the value and respect of an honest day’s work.

My wife is incredible. She has put me through three years of school, given birth to twp kids in 12 months, worked full-time, and commuted monthly to DC—all without a nanny. My wife is without doubt the “best and brightest” in our family!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? That crazy guy who had two kids in business school.

Favorite book: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Favorite movie or television show: The Office  

Favorite musical performers: Leslie Odom, Jr. and Duke Silver

Favorite vacation spot: Norway

Hobbies? Traveling, flying, playing with my kids, and changing diapers

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

“John has done more for BYU veterans than any student I have known over my 17-year tenure at the Marriott School. As the advisor of the BYU Veterans Club and BYU Marriott School Veterans Club, I have witnessed John’s vision and energy transform the veteran organizations on campus from inert clubs into robust and active organizations that improve the lives of its members. Under his leadership, the clubs have had many notable firsts, including forming a veteran case competition team and partnering with companies to host veteran recruiting sessions at BYU. He is a vocal advocate of veteran issues on campus and has worked to establish a scholarship fund for MBA veterans.

John’s own experiences in the Army and Utah Army National Guard, including being deployed on humanitarian missions to Cambodia and the Dominican Republic, have instilled in him a desire to give back and to serve, which he has done nonstop since returning to school. Because of John’s singular efforts, there is an esprit de corps among BYU veterans that has not existed in decades.”

Jim Brau

Joel C. Peterson Professor of Finance



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