Meet The Rice Jones MBA Class Of 2019

Rice students during a break from class.

Just 15 months into the job, Dean Rodriguez has already left an indelible mark on the program. In July, Rice Business joined the Consortium, which he expects to further boost the program’s enrollment of underrepresented populations in the programs. “From my first day as dean,” he tells Poets&Quants. “I wanted to deepen our diversity profile. Membership in Consortium is one of the big pieces to that puzzle and a positive first step in our plan to enroll a more diverse group of students. I held a webinar through Consortium in September as our first touch with prospective students and it proved to be a great way to hear first-hand what their needs and expectations are. We’re thrilled as a school to be able to reach out directly to these students and tell them our story.”

COMING SOON: GLOBAL EXPERIENCE, MBA@RICE AND ANOTHER SECTION

The program is also adding a required global experience to the first-year curriculum. As part of this course, students will partner with employers on a project and apply the lessons of the core curriculum – all while gaining exposure to different cultural mores and business practices. “It will be a characteristic of the program, Rodriguez announced in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants. “Part of that is a way to leverage the city (of Houston). It is a real global city — energy, as you know, is very global in a particular way —and we think that we can leverage what we have here and the leaders we have here in a program that is distinctive and making it available to each and every student.”

Outreach has been a major them during Dean Rodriguez’s tenure. Come 2018, the school will be launching its hybrid MBA, MBA@Rice, an online degree targeted to working professionals who can’t make it to Rice on nights or weekends. “It will be as rigorous as our on-campus programs and will require the same admission standards,” Dean Rodriguez maintains. “Plus the MBA@Rice students will have the opportunity to be a part of activities on campus. As with Consortium, this new format makes us feel as though we’re reaching students we haven’t in the past.”

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

And the dean’s ambitious plans for Jones don’t stop there. Aside from weighing new dual degree options, Dean Rodriguez is laying the groundwork to add another section to the full-time MBA program, which would boost enrollment by 20%. However, he plans to closely manage the growth to maintain the program’s trademark tight-knit community culture and high academic standards. “Growth is a good and motivating reason for a lot of organizations to change things and to try new things,” he adds. We’ll have to make some changes quickly to coordinate all of that growth while we do it. If we can manage that, we’ll be in a great position for Rice.”

GOING TO HOUSTON MEANS GOING BIG

Positioning certainly isn’t an issue at Jones. For one, the school is home to the Rice Alliance of Technology and Entrepreneurship. Best known for sponsoring the world’s largest business plan competition, it also houses OwlSpark, a summer accelerator where students are mentored by leading entrepreneurs and investors in the local community. The Alliance has also emerged as a staple of the Southwest’s startup ecosystem, supporting nearly 2,000 companies that have attracted nearly $3.6 billion dollars in funding. For students looking to work in healthcare or start a medical or life sciences business, it would be hard to top Rice’s location. It sits nearly across the street from the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical complex covering 5 square miles, employing over 100,000 professionals, and serving roughly 10 million patient visits annually.

However, the school’s biggest asset may be the Houston community, where nearly two dozen Fortune 500 firms are headquartered. A leader in the energy and technology fields, the city is a home to some biggest names in business: ConocoPhillips, Sysco, Halliburton, and Baker Hughes. That doesn’t include key installations like NASA and the Port of Houston, let alone iconic events like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Such luxuries enable the school to draw local business royalty to sit in on cases and even teach as adjuncts. It also provides plentiful internship and employment opportunities, with 83% of the 2016 graduating class opting to remain in the southwest.

This wealth of options made Rice the right choice for Jakhar. “The opportunities that Rice Business can possibly offer me was the key factor that led me to choose Rice. Nestled in the center of Houston, the oil and gas capital of the world and also the fourth largest city of the US, Rice University has easy access to prospective employers and has abundant lucrative opportunities. With both my previous employers’ CEOs being Rice alumni, Rice Business seemed the obvious choice.”

Indeed, Houston is quickly recovering from Hurricane Harvey, which should place the spotlight back on the city’s many amenities. Dean Rodriguez touts the city’s high end cultural scene, replete with a world class ballet and symphony – not to mention a surplus of parks for outdoor activities. However, it is the city’s rich mix of nationalities and traditions that gives Hustle-City a flavor unlike any American metro. “It is the most diverse city in the United States when you look at an index of different ethnicities and nationalities,” Rodriguez observes. “It’s extraordinary and it’s much broader than one would think with the presence of people from Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and Central America. You feel it. It isn’t like these are subtle elements of the city. This is the natural way the city looks.”

PROGRAM RENOWNED FOR ACADEMIC RIGOR

This diversity also serves as a reminder of the larger business outlook beyond Jones, Dean Rodriguez adds. “It is really good for how we think about each other and emphasize the ability to live and work around the world. We’re just a great immigrant community in that way and that helps our students think about their place in it and appreciate the opportunities that we have in a city like Houston and in the fields that are predominant here.”

Houston, Texas

Make no mistake: If you want to be an Owl, you’d better buckle down and study. The academic standards are high and the faculty pushes students hard…by design. That’s not to say the school doesn’t schedule downtime to tamp down the intensity at key points. For example, the school runs a Thursday “Party on the Patio” for spirits and socializing each week. Still, for students looking for rigorous analytical training, says Blake, Rice is the place to be.

“In undergrad and in my early career,” he reminisces, “I have focused a lot on leadership, communication and soft skills. Going forward into the next phase, it was really important to me to build a solid quantitative foundation. I knew that not only did Rice Business have a great reputation for preparing students for quantitative analysis, but also that it was intimately connected to several additional very technical spaces, including Rice University, the Texas Medical Center and the Houston oil and gas community.”

SUCCESS MEANS BECOMING “A MAN OF VALUE”

Krystine Taylor didn’t need a pitch to know Rice was right for her. Long before starting her academic consulting firm, Taylor majored in sociology at Rice – a time she cherishes for the life-long friendships, along with helping her kindle her passions and find her purpose. After returning to campus, she found the graduate business program retained the best of what made her undergraduate years so special.

“The size of the MBA program definitely reassured me that even at the graduate level, Rice maintains the close-kit environment I am accustomed to it having. Everyone I have spoken to throughout the recruiting process has given me a warm welcome and offered to help in any way they could and it is this personal touch that sets Rice above the rest. Coming back to Rice feels like returning homeI look forward to building a close, supportive network amongst my peers and being a part of the collaborative environment for which Rice is known.”

Hurricane Harvey hit just as the Class of 2019 was getting settled into the program. While the winds have died down and the water has receded, some students are still getting their lives back in place. An ill-timed distraction, no doubt, but this August’s events have also banded students closer together. Looking ahead to the end of his first year, Orimoloye is reminded of an Albert Einstein quote: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” In that spirit, Orimoloye’s goal is to “add value,” whether it is through intellectual engagement with classmates, recruiting future Jones MBA candidates, or helping clients during his internship. In contrast, Sacerdoti views success in more personal terms: a more open mind. For Gustavson, success means having a clear sense of direction.

 “Right now, I have a good plan for what I think I want as a career,” he explains. “I hope that at the end of my first year of business school I know what I want.”

To read profiles of incoming Jones students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.

DON’T MISS: MEET THE RICE JONES MBA CLASS OF 2018 OR THE PIONEERING MBAs IN THE CLASS OF 2019

NameHometownAlma MaterEmployer
 Ashley Arciero Glencoe, IL University of Michigan NASA
 John Blake Houston, TX University of Pennsylvania Language Consultants   International
 Donald A. Gustavson San Diego, CA U.S. Military Academy Halliburton
 Vishruti Jakhar Jaipur, India University of Petroleum and Energy Studies,   India Pacific Drilling
 Barrett Moorhouse Corpus Christi, TX U.S. Naval Academy U.S. Marine Corps
 Nick Naroditski Chicago, IL Northwestern University Shell Russia
 Oladapo (Dapo)   Orimoloye Ondo State,   Nigeria Igbinedion University ipNX
 David Romulo Cisneros Houston, TX Tulane University Lutron Electronics
 Flavia Sacerdoti Buenos Aires,   Argentina Universidad Torcuato Di Tella ExxonMobil
 Krystine Taylor Houston, TX Rice University Aegis Scholastic
 Tomiko Toyota Knopp Houston, TX University of Houston Mayor of Houston’s Office