2021 MBAs To Watch: Kelly DeMoya, Rice University (Jones)

Kelly DeMoya

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“Passionate about education reform, psychology nerd, always planning my next escape to the beach/mountains.”

Hometown: Houston, TX

Fun fact about yourself: I spent my first year out of undergrad teaching English in Buenos Aires and sampling lots of empanadas, malbec, and ice cream (I’m not sure why no one every talks about how good the ice cream is there).

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Texas at Austin, B.A. in Plan II Honors and Psychology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? YES Prep Public Schools, Special Assistant to the CEO

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Accenture Strategy, Houston Office (though the internship was virtual)

Where will you be working after graduation? Accenture, Senior Strategy Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Crownover Scholar
  • Forté Fellow
  • CEO of Rice Business Board Fellows
  • Rice Business Consulting Association Executive Leadership Team
  • S. Chamber of Commerce 2019 Case Competition Winner, Deloitte-Rice 2019 Case Competition Runner Up
  • Action Leadership Project Award Winner

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of winning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2019 case competition in D.C. with my teammates. The competition happened during our first semester of business school while we were in the middle of recruitment season and preparing for another case competition simultaneously. Still, we felt that with the prompt and our various backgrounds we could put together a strong proposal. It was also really fun to be able to go to D.C. to present and meet teams from other schools, as well as individuals from the Chamber of Commerce and FedEx, who were sponsoring the event. On a personal level, public speaking was something that I came to business school very uncomfortable doing so being successful in that capacity really felt like a moment of personal growth as well.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m really proud of the work I did during my summer project with Accenture. The client was a large foundation in a South American urban center that aimed to enhance local workforce development through digital skilling opportunities – similar to the tech bootcamps you’d find in the U.S. I proposed a series of services for them to implement that would improve the ecosystem and also assisted in the writing of a grant to pay for it, from which they ultimately raised $850K.

Why did you choose this business school? Houston is my hometown, so I saw Rice alums all over the place in my professional and personal network. I knew Rice Business was a great school, the best in the area for what I wanted to do, and I ended up deciding it would also be the best fit for me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor I’ve had is Balaji Koka. In many ways he epitomizes the Rice MBA classroom experience to me: he is, of course, exceptionally sharp and funny but also challenging in the classroom – he has high expectations of us but gives a lot in return (example: teaching two 4-hour blocks back to back while staying on his feet and moving around the classroom the whole time). He also taught our first class during launch, plus he teaches strategy. (And isn’t everything in b-school really about strategy in the end?)   

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition at Rice hands down is Partio, or party on the patio – the weekly Thursday night event for all the full-time students where we gather for dinner and drinks and to celebrate the end of the week.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I really wish I had spent more time from the beginning joining social clubs! I told myself I was going to focus my energy first semester on recruiting and readjusting to being in school, and that I would join more clubs just for fun after that. I couldn’t have known that the pandemic was going to come and put a huge wrench in all of that. However, I do feel like I missed the best opportunity to spend time with my classmates in person!

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Rice Business is that it is small. Yes, my “cohort” technically is the 110 or so people in my full-time class, but we’re just one of five cohorts happening simultaneously (full time, professional weekend, professional evening, executive MBA and MBA@Rice – the online program). Students from any program can be part of any of the clubs., In our second year, we are all mixed together in elective courses because we have access to all the times that classes are offered. It’s really a best of both worlds situation in the sense that we both have a small group foundational to our first year that really defines our experience of the program, while we are also part of a wider network and therefore have access to a wide array of opportunities that a truly small program might not be able to offer.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised by how grounded in “the real world” it is – in both subject matter and methodology. I have had very few moments in the last two years where I asked myself, “When am I ever going to use this?” Business school is all cases and teamwork, and the best classes have either been ones where either I learned a hard skill or the professors have facilitated discussions among students and I’ve learned tons from my classmates based on their previous experiences. Now I really understand why business schools value their students having had some work experience before coming. I also appreciate the effort by the admissions folks to have a diverse range of backgrounds in the cohort.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think it always gives you an edge when you can explain how a career step falls in line with your longer term plans, and an interviewer or essay reader can really feel the energy you have around it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Sowmya Yennam – Sowmya is one of our MD-MBAs (all of whom are extremely impressive), meaning that she came to Rice after finishing 3 years of med school and will graduate med school and b-school at the same time. On top of being obviously incredibly driven and smart, she is also friendly and funny and just a great person all around. On top of all that, she landed an internship with McKinsey last summer, and will return there full time. I’m certain she will be an amazing asset to them, and our cohort is definitely better for having had her in it!

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? When COVID hit, we moved fully online for the rest of the first year, and it was definitely a bumpy transition for everyone. That said, both Rice Business and “Big” Rice invested a lot over the summer into making dual delivery and in-person events possible for the 2020-21 academic year through technology upgrades, training, surveys, and student task forces to get quick feedback on how it all was going. All things considered, I think it was done as well as it possibly could’ve been, and I’m deeply appreciative to the administration for that. The one thing that I’m really sad to have missed is this. I recognize that losing out on the Global Field Experience — where my entire cohort would have gone to either Rio or Bogota last May — was entirely out of Rice’s control. Still, the Global Field Experience really drew me to Rice’s program, and it’s a bummer that it wasn’t able to happen for my cohort.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My former manager at YES Prep was my biggest influence to come to Rice for my MBA. He graduated from their EMBA program and spoke very highly of the experience.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Work with (as a consulting client) or for a foundation active in the education reform movement.
  2. Upon finishing my leadership coach training from the Doerr Institute at Rice, pursuing a coaching certification by the International Coaching Federation

What made Kelly such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“For many of her peers and school leaders, Kelly DeMoya embodies the spirit of Rice Business: Utilizing the skills she learns in the classroom and putting them to use to create a better community. Through her thoughts, words, and actions, Kelly developed a reputation as one of her class’ most dependable and effective leaders. Her choice to serve others’ needs before her own not only impacted her classmates but the greater Houston Community. And as her advisor for Board Fellows, I was fortunate enough to watch her grow and blossom into the leader she is for her class.

In Kelly’s role as CEO of the Rice Business Board Fellows program, she has demonstrated her skills in ensuring we achieve our aspirations for being servant leaders in the Houston community. The range of areas she has impacted include overseeing all operations of the organization. This included, but was not limited to, the inclusion of startup non-profits, extending applications to the MBA@Rice community, and training nearly 100 Board Fellows to become proficient, non-voting board members of their non-profits.

By taking on a difficult variety of tasks and believing in the empowerment of her fellow executive officers, Kelly demonstrated strong leadership when she spearheaded the 2020 recruitment campaign in the middle of a pandemic. With her guidance, she was able to maximize her officers’ abilities, and was able to increase the amount of applications from MBA students, and recruit new non-profits. Both of which did not seem plausible heading into the pandemic. Against all odds, her incredible efforts allowed for the Board Fellows program to flourish.

Kelly’s contributions and accomplishments have not been limited only to Board Fellows. She also served as an executive officer for the Rice Business Consulting Association, in which many first-year students gained crucial skills to excel through their mentorships. She is also heavily involved as a Crownover Scholar and Forté Fellow, both prestigious honors. In regards to accomplishments, Kelly was a member of the winning team of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Case Competition, and a runner up for the Rice-Deloitte Case Competition. She has also been a key contributor to both the Rice Business Women’s Organization, and the Rice Business Golf Club. In sum, Kelly has been a significant contributor to Rice Business, and I am happy to recommend her.”

Andrew Shaw
Assistant Director, Student Program Office


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