The Pioneering MBAs In The Class Of 2019

Tomiko Toyota Knopp 

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

Describe yourself in 15 words or less:  Curious, globally minded, hard-working person that cares most about making a difference, friends, family and food.

Hometown:  Houston, Texas

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I traveled to all inhabitable continents by the time I graduated college.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Houston Honors College, Political Science and History

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Mayor’s Office of the City of Houston: Protocol Manager and Sister Cities Coordinator, International Business Development Manager

Tiny Boxwoods: Line Cook, Kitchen Manager, Sous Chef

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  My proudest career moment so far was having the opportunity to directly staff two mayors of Houston on international trade delegations. I accompanied former mayor Annise Parker on her final international trip to Indonesia and Taiwan and accompanied current mayor Sylvester Turner on his inaugural trade mission to Cuba.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? It is never too early to start preparing to apply, especially in the sense of engaging in the self-reflection that the process truly requires. Sure, it is important to give yourself plenty of time to research programs, study for the GMAT/GRE, reach out to recommenders, etc. But for me, I think the most time and energy consuming part of the process was the personal side of considering my narrative and personal goals. Applying for an MBA is much more personal and far-reaching than maybe you would think it would be at the outset. Give yourself plenty of time and headspace to lean into the process.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? It is difficult to pinpoint just one key factor that led me to select Rice Business for my MBA program as there were so many qualities the program had that made it the ideal fit for me. I ultimately knew that I wanted to stay in Houston for my MBA program, but I am hesitant to say that location was the key factor because there were also so many others like academic rigor, on-campus culture, alumni network and recruiting opportunities that were just as important. However, I would say location was key for me but not just in the geographical sense. I am a native Houstonian who feels passionate about the city itself. The notion of continuing to promote Houston and Houston institutions is an important passion of mine. I knew that by selecting the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, I would be able to continue that goal personally and professionally.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? Success to me after my first year of business school would involve having fine-tuned my career focus and being on a path to secure a job in that regard. As I’ve come from a somewhat “non-traditional” MBA background (although some may say there is no such thing) with my experience in the restaurant industry and public service, discovering and pursing what function and industry best align with my passions and capabilities in the private sector has been my top motivator in getting an MBA. I see obtaining an MBA as an incredible opportunity to better discover what my focus should be all the while gaining the skills and having access to the tools to pursue that focus. In addition to this, at the end of year one, I also equally hope to have gained a new community of friends and mentors and to have traveled to one new country (at least!).