2021 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Stephanie Neilson, Rice University (Jones)

Stephanie Neilson

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“Ambitious MBA candidate with an entrepreneurial spirit, passion for social good, and drive to uplift communities.”

Age: 36

Hometown: Houston, TX

Fun fact about yourself: I once walked alongside the Aqueduct of Segovia built under the rule of the Roman Empire in Spain.  It was truly an incredible experience.

Undergraduate School and Degree: St. Edward’s University, The Bill Munday School of Business, BBA in Finance

Where are you currently working? StarTex Title Company, a subsidiary of Fidelity National.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Leading a business development team at a thriving startup and growing the company’s footprint.  I’m proud of this achievement because my team was given the autonomy we needed to find creative solutions to increase our presence in the target market and achieve our growth initiatives — all while having fun!

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose the MBA@Rice program because of the flexibility it gave me as a working professional with a family. I wanted the same rigorous experience that full-time Rice MBAs receive, but on a schedule that could accommodate my busy work and personal life. Additionally, the course offerings at Rice Business aligned well with my goals to advance my studies in the areas of strategy, finance, entrepreneurship and operations.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part of being in an online MBA program are the close-knit relationships I have developed despite being mostly online. Rice Business creates an environment that encourages and fosters teamwork and networking, which gives every MBA student the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with their cohorts.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was surprised at how easy it is to collaborate online with my professors and cohorts. Rice Business has put a tremendous amount of resources into creating an online experience that is easy to navigate and connect to asynchronous and synchronous materials and lectures from anywhere in the world. The 2U platform that we utilize is world-class and second-to-none. I can access assignments, login to class sessions, and even chat with technical support (when needed), all with ease in one location.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? My online experience has been very similar to my undergraduate experience in many ways. The only difference is that I’ve traded coffee shop hangouts for Zoom sessions with my cohorts to catch up or work on various assignments. Further, my professors are just an email or Zoom meeting away to answer questions I may have about the lectures or assignments.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program?  My advice to prospective students considering an online MBA program is be prepared to work hard and be diligent in your studies. Stay organized and focused even when it all seems overwhelming.  Seek out cohorts that you can collaborate with to gain a deeper understanding of your assignments. You won’t regret the experience. The rigor of the online Rice MBA program has been both rewarding and challenging, in my experience, while pushing me to be more efficient and thoughtful about the world.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I find every aspect of the online MBA program to be exceptional given the convenience graduate students are afforded. I also chose the Rice Business program because there was an international (in-person) component as well as an on-campus intensive learning experience that I felt complimented the online asynchronous and synchronous work very well. However, due to the current pandemic, the planned in-person experiences were cancelled and replaced with additional online experiences. Although I’m grateful for the creativity that went into developing these experiences and the value that I gained from participating, my desire would be, if circumstances were different, to have a combination of in-person and online experiences.

How has your online education helped you in your current job?  The concepts and frameworks that I’ve learned throughout my time at Rice have served as a good lens through which I can evaluate the various corporate issues my company faces. In a recent work situation, I’ve been able to analyze a pressing issue, articulate my concern and offer a solution. My experiences at Rice Business have prepared me for real-world situations and equipped me with the tools to be successful in a corporate environment.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 15-20 hours

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  My long-term professional goal is to become an entrepreneur and create a scalable startup that will positively impact the communities we will serve.


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