2020 First Generation MBAs: Casey Sherrod, Rice University (Jones)

Casey Sherrod

Jones Graduate School of Business (Rice Business)

Class: 2021

Hometown: Crosby, TX

Fun Fact About Yourself: The first time I flew on a plane (or left Texas) was when I was 19 on my way to Airborne School. By the time I graduated a month later, I had jumped out of planes more than I had landed in any. 

Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Houston – Human Development & Family Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Army – Recruiting Company Commander

What did your parents do for a living? My dad was a pharmacy technician and mom worked as grocery store manager

What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your father? High School / Certifications

Which family member or mentor is your biggest inspiration or role model? Why? My grandfather was a WWII and Korean War veteran and served in the United States Army for over 20 years before retiring. He was the bravest and strongest man I ever knew as a child, and I am proud to follow my family’s legacy of military service.

What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? I have always had a passion for learning and the Army gave me an opportunity to take a break from the operational environment to pursue my master’s degree, fully funded.

What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? I think it’s always the fear of the unknown and navigating college life on your own while maintaining a scholarship.

What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? My schedule was insane. I woke up every morning at 5:30 for PT with the Army ROTC program and stayed on campus until around 9:00 each night. Each semester, I took 18 hours in order to graduate in four years, and I worked part time at both the on-campus library and as a customer service representative at a grocery store.

What didn’t your family understand about the higher experience that you wish they would understand better? My parents always pushed going to college from a young age, but they had no idea how to help me navigate financial aid, student loans, or college applications. Teachers and counselors at my high school pushed me to apply for scholarships, which changed my life when I received a national Army ROTC scholarship to the University of Houston.

What led you to pursue an MBA degree? It has always been a dream of mine to own my own business and I think having an entrepreneurial mindset can help leaders of all kinds. Business school is also a great way to gain exposure and technical skills in a variety of different industries.

How did you choose your MBA program? Growing up in Houston, Rice was always my dream college. I applied at a few other universities but was sold when I came to campus for my interview. It was a close-knit, diverse, and unique school in a great city. I felt like I belonged there the moment I walked through the doors.

What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? It has been almost 10 years since I graduated from college. I think navigating a very challenging program while almost making time for my family was my biggest concern.  Being a student is so much different than going into work each day. You’re in class all day, have hours of homework and reading, and still have to make spending time with your family a priority.

How were you able to finance your MBA as a first generation student? The United States Army is sponsoring me so it’s pretty much like any other assignment that I’ve been on except that I am getting paid to be a full-time business student.

What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? You can do it. Education is a key to success, and no one can ever take it away from you. Find mentors and do your research on schools you are interested in and do not sell yourself short. I never thought I’d get into Rice, yet here I am. If there’s a will, there’s always a way.

What do you plan to pursue after graduation? I plan on returning to the United States Army and retiring. Afterwards, I would love to work in the non-profit sector.

Additional Note: Other than being the Jones Student Association President, I am also a member of the Rice Women Business Organization, Rice Business Veteran’s Organization, and Out & Allied. As a first year JSA rep, I helped plan the Global Field Experience, sat on the Owl Voices Committee, and worked directly with the deans to establish a P/F policy for our class at the end of the Spring semester. I also volunteered at the Women in Leadership Conference.


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