2020 MBAs To Watch: Ashley John, Rice University (Jones)

Ashley John

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“Lifelong learner who makes an impact by building relationships and asking the right questions.”

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: I am 1st-generation American. My parents were born in Trinidad and moved to Texas (separately) with their mothers when they were teenagers. They met and became friends here in Houston soon after, dated, got married, and the rest is history.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA in Urban Studies from Stanford University

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Alumni Advisor at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Dell Technologies in Austin, Texas

Where will you be working after graduation? MBA Marketing Development Program at Dell Technologies

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Tech Association Vice President, Black Business Student Association Officer, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Liaison, Athena Group (Student-run marketing agency) Fellow, Consortium Fellow, Forte Fellow, Admissions Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am extremely proud to be a member of the inaugural Consortium for Graduate Study in Management cohort at Rice Business. From matching incoming Consortium Fellows with second-year “buddies” to fostering community within the Houston-area Consortium alumni network, it has been a great privilege to lay the foundation for our chapter.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Since beginning the MBA application journey, I’ve learned that I thrive in entrepreneurial roles. The intrapreneurial endeavor to-date of which I’m most proud is launching an alumni support program at Cristo Rey Jesuit high school. Many of our students were first-generation American or first-generation college students. While college acceptance was a huge accomplishment, the greater challenge was navigating and graduating from college. The alumni support program allowed me to be a sounding board, cheerleader, advisor, consultant, and mentor to our former students, helping them solve problems that could potentially derail them from their college careers.

In entrepreneurship terms, the adoption rate of the program was quite low, but through my outreach, relationship-building, and leveraging incentives such as care packages and lunches during college campus visits, I built the program into a highly anticipated, utilized, and appreciated resource for our students. Even today, the pride I feel when I learn that another student has become a college grad can’t be beaten.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Honestly, it’s hard to choose just one! I’ve had several amazing professors who are not only brilliant minds but also highly skilled at teaching. Brian Akins, my core accounting professor, was one of those people. Brian took a mandatory course with the potential to be rather dry and difficult and made it interesting and enjoyable. Additionally, it was obvious that he really cares about his students. By the end of week 2, he could call on most of us by name without any aid. When I missed a class to travel to New Jersey for an interview, the next week he stopped me after class and asked me how it went. Brian is a great example of what makes our program special.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event is International Partio. Partio is short for Party on the Patio, a gathering of students, faculty, staff, family and friends which takes place in our courtyard every Thursday evening. Dinner and drinks are always served, but one Partio each year, we have the most spectacular food, drinks, and performances representing the various cultures that make up our student body. We have classmates from all around the globe, and I love getting to experience a little piece of everyone’s homes.

Why did you choose this business school? Throughout the admissions process, I felt seen, valued, and supported. The admissions staff with whom I interacted were welcoming and responsive, and they made the process as transparent as possible. I attended Diversity Preview Weekend, which coincides with our Diversity and Inclusion Conference, and met some amazing Rice Business alumni who had traveled from out-of-state to connect with us. I knew that if I felt this supported before I was even a member of the Rice Business community, I would have a similar experience as a student, and I’ve definitely found this to be the case.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Really take the time to learn what makes Rice unique, what you want from the community, and what you’re going to contribute in return. We are located in the 4th-largest and one of the most diverse cities in the country, but what will that mean for you as a student and future business leader? Our class sizes are small and our community is tight-knit? Why should this be important to you? Being able to communicate your answers to these questions demonstrates that you understand what makes our program unique and plan to make the most of your time here.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think a myth about Rice Business is that we’re a regional program, and everyone who graduates from our program stays in Texas. While we certainly have a presence in Texas, we have alumni living from coast to coast! There are Rice alumni working in tech in the Bay Area and in Seattle, and we have alumni working at investment banks in New York. Due to the large size of Texas, unfortunately, you can’t hop on a train for a coffee chat in another state. If you’re willing to put in a bit of leg work, anything is possible as far as post-MBA career goals are concerned.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? One thing I’d do differently during my MBA experience would be to build deeper relationships with professors. They’re doing interesting research and have had pretty cool career paths leading up to academia. Sadly, there’s not enough time in class to learn about such things. Thankfully, alumni mention all the time how they still reach out to their former professors to discuss business issues and ideas, so it’s never too late.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I truly admire my classmate and friend Norma Torres-Mendoza. She is full of energy and zest for learning about experiences outside of her own. I don’t know anyone who works harder or dreams bigger than her, and she won’t let anything or anyone hold her back. It’s been a privilege to get to know Norma, and I look forward to seeing the continued impact she makes on the world.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? When I was a sophomore in college, my dad unknowingly sparked my desire to one day obtain an MBA. I entered Stanford as a mechanical engineering major. I knew from my high school studies that engineering wasn’t for me, but my mentor and my dad nudged me in that direction. After my first organic chemistry course, I decided to put myself out of my misery and find a major that I liked.

I registered for a social entrepreneurship speaker series and decided to change my major to urban studies. Eventually, I worked up the courage to tell my dad, and luckily the conversation didn’t go as poorly as I imagined it might. He simply told me that I’d need some sort of graduate degree. Then and there I decided that since I have such strong opinions about how organizations should operate, I should go to business school. 10 years later, here I am!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would love to spend time working abroad, and I one day want to be interviewed by a major publication about having started my own business in the food industry.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want my peers to remember me as someone who left the spaces I was a part of better than they were when I entered them and always sought to lift as I climbed.

Hobbies? My absolute favorite thing to do is dance. On the weekends, you can find me at a local dance fitness studio attending a heels class or choreographing for fun in my apartment.

What made Ashley such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“The first reaction our community has when Ashley John’s name is mentioned is a smile. By all accounts, she is always positive and thoughtful in her dealings with people. In fact, I’ve heard staff wonder aloud if we could clone her! She is the kind of student that we place a major amount of confidence in – with Ashley, we can be assured that she will take her responsibilities seriously. From representing Rice Business in our promotions to hosting prospective students when they visit campus, Ashley really is our “go-to” student leader.

From the very beginning of her MBA journey, Ashley distinguished herself as a leader who wanted to make an impact on campus. Intent on leaving a legacy as a proud member of our Inaugural Consortium class and organization liaison, she championed initiatives for future cohorts to build upon, such as starting a blog on the first-year experience to serving as a guide for future students navigating the process. From planning networking events as a Tech Association Vice President to sharing school and career resources with classmates, Ashley uses her skills as a connector for the benefit of our community. However, if there’s one thing she’s known for among her peers, it is supporting and uplifting others. Whether she is helping a teammate draft an email to a recruiter, giving a pep talk to a classmate before an interview, or offering words of encouragement to someone during a time of need, they know that Ashley won’t let them down.

Ashley personifies the Rice Business credo of being “attentive, responsive and kind,” supporting her fellow students, making herself available to interact with prospects, and bringing issues to administration in the most considerate and well-intentioned manner. We look forward to seeing her shine post-MBA as a successful business leader who will engender respect, as she is a role model for accountability and integrity.”

Lina Bell
Director, Diversity and Inclusion
Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business


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