BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
Outside class, Martinez-Berrios is busy learning Mandarin. Having already mastered Spanish and English, he jokes, he’ll soon be able to communicate with three billion people. In his spare time, Dallin Bud Scruggs plays chess and powerlifts. Alas, Christina Tamayo won’t enjoy much free time over the next two years. She is raising a year-old baby – and her husband is earning his degree in Rice’s Professional MBA program. Speaking of endurance, Australian Nigel Tarr once walked 100 kilometers in a day for Oxfam Charity. Exhilarating? That’s what Takeya Green calls her stint as a cheerleader for the NFL’s Houston Texans, where she enjoyed the best view in the house. However, it was a spot that she truly had to earn.
“I had auditioned multiple times and the year I made it, was the year I stopped trying to portray myself the way I thought I had to in order to make the team,” she reminisces. “I was 100% original and it was noticed by my coach. She chose me because I was unique to the others I performed against. This prepared me for business school because throughout my application process, I was 100% myself. It is easy to put on a façade when you really want that job or an acceptance letter from a specific school. However, I believe you find your true fit or true happiness when you are 100% yourself in the process.”
APPLICATIONS JUMP BY 63%
Bigger is better. That was the Rice MBA’s philosophy for the Class of 2022. That starts with the number of students, with the school implementing its long-time plan to increase class size by a third. After enrolling 107 students last fall, class size jumped to 174 in 2020. That 63% increase was matched by the number of applications, which rocketed from 625 to 1021 during the 2019-2020 cycle. This influx was accompanied by a change in how the Rice MBA evaluates candidates says Dean Rodriguez in a 2020 interview with P&Q.
“We were more vigilant about really cautiously looking through transcripts to try to discover things that may be a standardized test would’ve been our first best indicator of. But in that sense, we spent a little more time scrutinizing things because we didn’t have all the same measures.” One thing that will stay the same in the coming years: The Rice Jones MBA will be a larger program. No more 100-to-110-person cohorts.”
COVID-19 also played a part in the surge, Rodriguez adds in a separate interview. “I think the quality is really good,” he says about the Class o 2022. “A lot of students who would have come in subsequent years have maybe moved their plans forward, but also others are just thinking about what they can get done, because they suddenly have a little more freedom with respect to when they applied and, in some cases, not having to necessarily complete a standardized test because it just wasn’t possible.”
That said, average GMAT slid from 710 to 689 over the past year, though average GPA held steady at 3.41. The percentage of women dipped from 38% to 34%, with representation from international students chopped in half to 15%. Still, the Class of 2022 may be more globally diverse, with students hailing from 22 countries – up from 14 the year before.
Overall, the class’ largest segment stems from Engineering. 29.4% of the class hold undergraduate degrees in various engineering disciplines. Liberal Arts and Sciences account for 27.8% of the class, followed by Business at 23.9%. The class also includes students with academic backgrounds in Education, Fine Arts, Architecture, and Nursing. Professionally, Energy holds 23.9% of the class seats, followed by Financial Services (11.1%), Non-Profits (10.0%), Technology (7.8%), Retail (7.8%), and Real Estate (5.6%). Entrepreneurship and Consulting make up 3.9% and 3.3% of the class, respectively.
An energy school.
That’s what you’ll hear about the Rice MBA. That myth makes sense on one level. The Houston region is home to 237,000 people who work in the energy industry, including the fourth-largest concentration of engineers. It also boasts the headquarters of a third of the largest publicly-traded oil and gas firms, including Phillips 66, Conoco Phillips, and Halliburton. On top of that, the Port of Houston is one of the nation’s largest, absorbing nearly 250 million tons of cargo annually.
Despite these benefits, energy firms only hired 17.5% of the Class of 2019, a lower percentage than Consulting (28.9%) and Financial Services (20.6%). “Rice University has much to offer given the proximity to the medical center and being the fourth-largest and most diverse city in the United States,” writes Norma Torres Mendoza, a 2020 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “Some of my classmates are starting their own ventures, while many others are doing consulting and investment banking.”
Another myth? The Rice MBA is a regional program catering to the Southwest. True, 76.0% of the Class of 2019 ended up in the region, but that doesn’t pain the full picture, notes Ashley John (’20). “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.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH DEAN PETER RODRIGUEZ
The year’s big news arrived in July, when Rice MBA announced that it had earned its STEM qualification. This enables international students to remain longer in the United States on their VISAs, making them more attractive to employers. By the same token, the school’s heavy investment in online learning enabled the program to quickly respond to the COVID outbreak in March. It also served as insurance that further complications would not disrupt the learning process for MBA students.
“We’re planning hybrid approaches,” Dean Rodriguez told P&Q in a July interview. “We’re trying to be as creative as possible, not having more than 25 students in a room, with ample distancing and face masks. I think we all know that things could change and that could not be enough, either.”
What other preparations has the Rice MBA made for COVID? What are some new developments on the horizon for MBA students? How does the school partner with the Houston community to boost student opportunities for experience and growth? This summer, Dean Rodriguez shared his thoughts with P&Q on these topics – and others – over Zoom. Here is a look at the state of the Rice MBA.
P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments at your program?
PR: “Developments” is actually a good way to frame it. The growth of the full-time MBA program to 180 students from 120 was the most exciting new development. Increased interest in MBA programs from COVID has been a boon to us. We have long aspired to have a 180-student full-time class because it allows us to remain close knit. We’ll grow our program to match the enrollment we had in the early 2000s, and this larger class will match the opportunity in Houston.
Another change we’re proud of (and that P&Q has already acknowledged) is that we’re STEM qualified for VISA purposes. We’re also growing our faculty with six new job searches this year, bringing more depth and breadth to our course offerings. We want to complement Houston’s opportunity sets with our faculty.”
P&Q: What is the two most unique or differentiating features of your full-time program? How do they enrich the MBA experience?
PR: “Our most unique feature is being a close-knit private school in a very large, economically, socially and ethnically diverse city. Our students have incredible access to that. Alongside that is the fact that you have an extremely intimate experience on campus. Faculty and classmates know you. The school itself is your best chance to reach the business community.
Our depth of engagement is another differentiator. We highly emphasize students working with nonprofits so they understand what it means to be a positive citizen that contributes to the community. In Board Fellows, they have a chance to sit on a nonprofit board to see front and center what kinds of problems they deal with. Students really learn from it. Our program wouldn’t be complete without it.”
P&Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your business school?
PR: “It has changed the emphasis of our priorities and made us pivot. Safety is number one now. We took it for granted in the past or felt we had ample safety measures in place with things like events and travel. COVID-19 means that every school and university has to put health and safety first.
We’ve had to dedicate more resources to managing, allocating, and investing in safety protocols and technology. And it has forced us to think about how we work in a remotely connected world and keep our community our hallmark while not being together. How do we work effectively in teams? How do we ensure everyone is cared for in the way we aim to care for them? How do we adapt to not being together but still be distinctive in what we do? We’re working on all of that.”
P&Q: Two years ago, you launched your online MBA program. How has that enhanced the benefits to the full-time MBA cohort?
PR: “First-and-foremost, it made us better teachers. We’ve had to rethink how we deliver our core program. Some of the simple things that have come in time is that online is effective; you can create community. It’s also expanded our professional network beyond our geographic center. Around the country and the state, it has made a smaller school more connected to outside cities and areas.”
P&Q: Last year, you had begun your curriculum review. What have been some of the big takeaways from your efforts? What can future MBAs expect to come from it?
PR: “Because of COVID-19, we hit the pause button. We weren’t able to reach conclusions. The delay will take a little bit longer and force us to revisit some of our assumptions.”
P&Q: Houston is considered one of the best places to earn an MBA? What are three reasons – professionally and socially – why Houston is a great place to spend two years?
- Ever growing job opportunities for highly trained professionals. You can come, live affordably, be welcomed into the community and have access to robust job opportunities.
- Socially, it is an incredibly diverse community that’s truly accessible and highly welcoming. Most are from somewhere else. That cultural aspect is particularly good for newcomers. No waiting in the queue you can network quickly and successfully.
- Houston is a place with strong social ties to Rice University. It has been key to us. To have such great connectivity to the vital industries is a boon to our students. Even non-Rice leaders in the business community are open and available to young professionals.
* To read profiles of 11 first-years, go to Page 3.