Donald A. Gustavson
Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I like to solve problems and try not to create any.
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Fun Fact About Yourself: I believe that Stephen King will be cherished on a level akin to a great writer like Charles Dickens in a century or two.
Undergraduate School and Major: United States Military Academy – Chemical Engineering
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: I was in the Army for five years after graduation as an engineer officer, including two deployments to Iraq. I served in pretty typical roles for a junior officer—platoon leader, executive officer and assistant operations officer. Since leaving the Army in 2013, I have worked for Halliburton in a few different job titles as part of a new hire-to-country manager program. I worked for a couple of years as a field engineer on rigs in South Texas and the Gulf of Mexico and subsequently as an in-house drilling fluids technical professional for a number of companies.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I am proud of much that I’ve been able to achieve both in the military and in the oil field, but I feel one of the biggest challenges was navigating transition to civilian life. The culture and feel of the oil and gas world, especially on the upstream side, definitely shares a lot with the active duty military so that helped ease the transition. But on a basic level it was a shock to go from an environment where your best friends are always with you to being alone in a new city. The experience helped me understand myself as a human being and the importance of community in our lives.
Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? I’m sure this will be a sentiment shared by many of the incoming MBA class, but study early and often for the GMAT—focusing on practice tests questions. Even if you found the SAT easy, you will probably still need to become really familiar with the type of questions in the GMAT.
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? There is a lot that Rice Business can brag about, but when it came down to my personal decision between Rice and UT, the class size and associated tight-knit community and level of personal attention made it an easy decision.
What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? I am hoping for a secure sense of direction—right now, I have a good plan for what I think I want as a career. I hope that at the end of my first year of business school I know what I want. I suspect, as a veteran of networking sessions with a lot of the incoming students, that most feel the same way. Students coming in totally zeroed in on their ideal consulting or investment banking gig absolutely do exist but they are not the majority.