Meet Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA Class Of 2021

Carol Maria Reyes Rios

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“I’m a Guatemalan-Cuban polyglot with a love for teaching, international travel and Pablo Neruda poetry.”

Hometown: Retalhuleu, Guatemala

Fun Fact About Yourself: During grade school, I was part of Guatemala’s National Basketball Team and I scored the winning shot in the 1998 Central American Championship.

Undergraduate School and Major:  

  • University of Florida, S. in Journalism & Communications; Minors: French, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies
  • New York University, A. in International Education

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Miami Dade College, Director of Global Programs

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishment in my career so far happened during my time at Miami Dade College. Miami Dade College is the largest higher education institution in the U.S. with 165,000 students, 66% of whom are low-income, 51% are first-generation college students, and over 90% are minorities.

While there I created the country’s first global program for homeless and foster students. I launched the initiative, Educate Tomorrow Abroad by competing against 10 top universities to win a national innovation competition. We successfully partnered with Delta Airlines and a non-profit focused on at-risk youth called Educate Tomorrow. So far, Educate Tomorrow Abroad has enabled over a dozen homeless and foster students to study in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The program was featured in The New York Times earlier this year too!

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The MBA classmates I’ve met are kind, warm, and quietly brilliant. They are the type of people who will help you carry your heaviest boxes up two flights of stairs on move-in day, pick you up when your car breaks down on Interstate 89, and stay after Math Camp ends to help you work through an ungodly statistics problem – all while being award-winning ballroom dancers, decorated military officers, and leading advisors to their home country’s government.

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? The key factor that led me to choose Tuck for my full-time MBA program was my experience during Tuck’s 2018 Diversity Conference (DivCo). I had attended diversity conferences at multiple universities, but none left me with the feeling of longing that I felt after leaving Tuck and Hanover. I was particularly struck by how personal the experience was. In addition to learning about affinity clubs and meeting with current students from diverse backgrounds, the entire Tuck student population of 200+ students took us into their homes for small group dinners, invited us to stay overnight in their dorms and apartments, and prepared a Tuck-wide potluck of homemade food from around the world. It was as if all of Tuck came together to say in unison: “You matter, and you belong here.”

What aspect of the school’s culture or values resonates most with you and why? As a non-traditional student with no business background, I knew that to thrive I needed to have an MBA experience that was “personal, connected and transformative.” Within the first weeks at Tuck, I’ve already had deep and revealing conversations with classmates and have gotten to know the people around me beyond GMAT scores and resume talking points. We’ve shared our pasts, our weaknesses, and our hopes for the next two years. It is these types of relationships, in addition to the rigorous academic and professional skill-building that Tuck provides, that I know will prepare me to be the empathetic and self-aware leader that I want to be.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? As someone who was born and raised in Guatemala until the age of 18, I have felt incredibly saddened by how the current immigration crisis and political climate have created an increasingly negative perception of my country. During my time at Tuck, I would like to create a speaker series through the Center for Business, Government & Society to highlight Central American leaders in the public, social, and private sectors, as well as contribute to building meaningful connections and a body of knowledge at Tuck about business in the region. For example, in Central America, Guatemala has one of the most developed renewable sectors, in addition to housing a growing tech startup scene and being a leader in non- traditional agricultural exports.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question I was asked was: “Tell me about a time your integrity was questioned.”

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have spent the past 10 years building a career in international education. I’ve managed an 18-country portfolio of U.S. Department of State Fulbright grants, led global programs at the largest college in the U.S. and built partnerships with foreign governments, and the private and non-profit sectors. That said, I still feel that I am lacking a specific network and quantitative toolset in order to make the kind of impact that I envision at scale. I am pursuing an MBA to learn the analytical skills I need to manage a global organization and to put myself in an environment where I will be challenged to defend my opinions and to continue to grow into the empathetic leader that I want to be for others.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? In addition to Tuck, I applied to a diversity of MBA programs (including Georgetown, Boston University, Harvard, Stanford and Yale), which offered components of what I was looking for in an MBA: a focus on social impact, an emphasis on community, a safe space to grow as a leader, a commitment to diversity, and a sense of belonging. Tuck was the only program that I felt combined all of those things and that is why I chose to call Tuck “home” for the next two years!

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I determined my fit at various schools by visiting each and every school I applied to before submitting my application, speaking with multiple current students and alumni, scouring the internet for articles on student projects and faculty research, attending diversity events and classroom visits, signing up for coffee chats with admissions officers, and spending time on each campus to interact with students and staff to get a sense of the community.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was moving to Asia in 2009 as a Fulbright Scholar (one of five Fulbrighters in the state of Florida that year) to work with the Kaohsiung Bureau of Education and teach English to 300 elementary school students at Fudong Elementary School.

When I left the U.S., I was a young, wide-eyed, recently-graduated journalism student. When I returned from Asia two years later, I was an educator fiercely committed to helping underrepresented students find their voice. I taught 300 students and slowly watch each of them – especially those with special needs, who came from unstable homes, or were relocated to our city after surviving a deadly typhoon – grow into confident, curious, dynamic students. This made me believe that education was a career where I could make a tangible impact on people’s lives. When I first arrived, my students and I could barely communicate with each other. As a teacher, they saw me as a mentor, a role model, and someone they could respect and trust to take care of them. Being that person in their eyes made me want to become those things for them and for the hundreds of students that came after them as my career took me to Mexico, Ghana, New York, and eventually to the largest college in the U.S.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?  It is difficult to pinpoint where exactly I see myself in ten years because I am confident that the MBA at Tuck will expose me to industries, companies, and career paths that I had never imagined for myself. However, my goal in ten years is to be a senior leader at a global, mission-driven organization, helping to make the world (particularly developing countries) a better place whether through education, international development, or healthcare.

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