4) Another defining feature of the MBA program is your partnership with the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Rice Business Plan Competition. What makes these entities so different from other programs and how do they enhance the student experience?
Another defining feature of the MBA program is your partnership with the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Rice Business Plan Competition. What most distinguishes the Rice Business Plan Competition is the incredible reach of the program to entrepreneurs around the world. Also, because it is technology-focused, we see the most exciting new innovations as they’re being developed. The Rice Business Plan Competition is the largest and richest at any university and is unparalleled as a guide for students on how to succeed as a startup and survive in a highly competitive world. Most of our students aim to have their own startup experience at some point in their career, and this prepares them at an early stage for that to happen.”
5) Last year, you expanded the Global Field Experience to all students, along with maintaining the ever-popular Action Learning Project? How have these programs better prepared Jones MBAs for the post-graduate world ahead?
“The primary value of experiential learning is through the intensity of the experience. Our goal is to get students out of their comfort zone where they break the boundaries of their business acumen. They’re required to work on teams, and, in that way, they learn some of the most challenging aspects of problem-solving in today’s world. All students, including online MBA@Rice students, participate in the Global Field Experience. The Action Learning Project is an elective offered to our second-year students for 13 weeks. It’s a team-based consultative project with local companies.”
AN ARRAY OF HANDS-ON PROJECTS
The Class of 2021 is especially looking forward to the Global Field Experience, where first-years will travel this spring to Rio de Janeiro and Bogotá to complete two consulting projects. Here, students gain first-hand exposure to business practices in another country while stepping out of their comfort zone and bonding with classmates in a different culture.
For Matthew Manriquez, the Global Field Experience is the perfect preparation for the problem-solving and teamwork needed to excel in their upcoming summer internship. “I can’t wait for the Global Field Experience,” he admits. “After 2nd-semester finals, the first-years split into two groups, each going to a different country. While we are in our respective countries, the two groups are further divided into teams which then work with a local business to tackle a complex problem. An Immersion in another country, with my classmates, applying the concepts we have learned for the past two semesters, is the perfect way to put an exclamation point on the end of a wild first year of business school.”
This new programming complements a Rice staple: the Action Learning Projects (ALP). In these 13-week projects, students apply their classroom learning to further hone their analytical and communication skills. Partnering with companies ranging from middle markets to Haliburton, Rice MBAs work on issues like brand analysis, organizational design, and inventory optimization, culminating in a presentation delivered to senior executives.
“I’m most looking forward to the Action Learning Project Rice has,” says Baldwin Luu. “It’s an opportunity for all the MBA students to consult on a local project and provide hands-on experience, learning how to evaluate a client’s challenges and provide actionable recommendations.”
Along with the Action Learning Project, the Class of 2021 is also interested in another Rice staple: entrepreneurship. Nikhil Dudani, an EY senior consultant, plans to develop his “entrepreneurial mindset” through the Lilie Lab, which offers space, workshops, competitions, grants, and mentoring from founders and investors alike. That’s just the start according to Vinay Acharya, a 2019 MBA graduate who recently launched Wellworth, a financial modeling and valuation platform. At Rice, he says, he developed a solid foundation by following the program’s customer-centric, 24-step Disciplined Entrepreneurship Methodology. However, he believes he gained the most from his stint at OwlSpark, the school’s startup accelerator.
“OwlSpark is a great mix of classroom sessions, guest speakers, networking events, and the biggest part – get out of the building and talk to your customers,” he tells P&Q. “Working around fellow student entrepreneurs who are going through similar journeys, have similar questions, and face similar fears is quite an experience. And it all culminates in a 5-minute pitch before 300 people from the Houston startup and industry community.”
That’s just one of many startup competitions sponsored by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which houses OwlSpark. The Alliance is also home to the famed Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC). The largest competition of its kind, the RBPC awarded $2.9 million dollars to 42 ventures in 2019. Over the past 20 years, competitors have raised over $2.36 billion dollars in funding, with 32 competition veterans netting $1.18 billion dollars in their exits. At the same time, the competition has attracted 646 ventures that originated in 162 universities, 36 states, and 18 nations.
Such resources make Rice world-class when it comes to startup programming, support, and resources. In fact, employers rank the Jones MBA program among the very best when it comes to entrepreneurship curriculum and training according to the 2018 Bloomberg Businessweek corporate recruiter survey.
“Being at Rice has helped me build a strong network of advisors, SMEs, fellow entrepreneurs, and also potential customers,” adds Vinay Acharya. “If there’s one thing you learn it is that the answers to most questions facing your startup begin with “talk to your customers”.”
HOUSTON SPRINGS TO LIFE
There are plenty of prospective customers in Houston. The nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston is known for being the “energy capital of the world” – a commercial center with a dizzying range of industries and job growth that eternally defies economic pessimists. The city is also a cultural hub, with a museum row and opera company that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Manhattan and DC. Add to that, the city boasts an affordable cost of living and a pulsing energy that conducts youth and opportunity.
“There is so much happening in this city,” says Julianne Katz. “Houston was never really on my radar before I applied to Rice, but this city is so diverse and full of energy. There is a healthy mix of established businesses and innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Diverse is an understatement. Forget the notion of H-Town being Bubbaville, a sprawling grassland that’s home to cowboys and oilers who love their guns, clutch their bibles and remain ever-suspicious of strangers. Instead, Houston is home to 145 different languages. This diversity has nurtured a foodie scene like no other, with residents able to choose restaurant fare from 70 different countries. That cosmopolitan sensibility stretches far beyond Houston’s downtown innovation hub or ethnic neighborhoods.
“For me, it’s the diversity of thought and experience that makes Houston such a wonderful place,” says Kathleen Wu. “As a second-generation immigrant (my parents immigrated from China), I find it beautiful and remarkable that so many people of different cultures, backgrounds, and nationalities can call Houston home. That was something that drew me to Rice and that makes me want to stay in Houston post-MBA.”
What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates.
DON’T MISS: MEET THE MBA CLASS OF 2021: THE GO-GETTERS
|MBA Student||Hometown||Alma Mater||Previous Employer|
|Edward A. Banner III||Houston, TX||University of Texas-Austin||Gulfstream Capital Group|
|Marcia Barnett||Houston, TX||Morehouse College||Baylor College of Medicine|
|Nikhil Dudani||Mumbai, India||D.J. Sanghvi College of Engineering||Ernst & Young|
|Gloria Escobar||San Antonio, TX||Duke University|
|Julianne Katz||Tucson, AZ||Elon University||Broadway Kids Auditions (BKA)|
|Baldwin Luu||Houston, TX||University of Houston||Deloitte Advisory|
|Matthew Manriquez||Houston, TX||U.S. Military Academy||U.S. Army|
|Marcio Perino||São Paulo, Brazil||University of São Paulo||Drogaderma|
|Joann Stephen||Cochin, India||Government Engineering College||Reliance Industries Limited|
|Jenna Wenyon||Denton, TX||Texas A&M University||NA|
|Joe Louis Williams III||Houston, TX||University of Texas||U.S. Army|
|Kathleen Wu||Madison, CT||Yale University||Dow Chemical|