Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Rio M. Dennis, Georgetown (McDonough)

Rio M. Dennis

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business| Georgetown University Law Center

“I am a natural strategist and leader driven to promote the advancement of equity and inclusion.”

Hometown: Jersey City, New Jersey

Fun Fact About Yourself: I LOVE football! When I was younger, I begged my parents to let me play tackle football and ultimately settled for playing flag. During my freshman year at Penn, my intramural flag football team became known as the “Cinderalla Story” after coming into the playoffs as the 7th seed and coming back to beat the 1st seed to win the championship. While I don’t play much anymore, I love to watch the NY Giants as well as my younger brother, who currently a defensive tackle at Rutgers University.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School, Management: Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Goldman Sachs, Global Markets Analyst

What excites you most about studying in Washington, DC? As someone interested in policy advocacy and social impact, Washington DC is the best place to be, as it is the epicenter of where decisions are made that impact the lives of all Americans. There are so many opportunities to get involved in the various agencies and nonprofits to explore various ways that I can help make a difference in the lives of historically excluded people within the US. I’ve always loved this city with its scenery, food, diversity, and the general vibe. I’m so excited to be here for the next few years!

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Georgetown McDonough’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As a dual-degree JD/MBA Candidate, I had to evaluate both the law and business programs simultaneously. As someone considering going into the public sector, the opportunity to attend law school on Capitol Hill was a no-brainer, especially given Georgetown University Law Center’s amazing Supreme Court Institute.

The aspect that drew me the most to McDonough was its collaborative culture of Hoyas helping Hoyas. When I attended the Virtual Welcome Weekend, my previous experience of business being an overly competitive environment was thrown out of the window. Students were pushed to work together to resolve business problems and 2nd year students talked about classmates helping them with interview prep even if they were both applying for the same internship program. I’ve already had a chance to witness this myself with early recruiting this summer; the focus here is to see Hoyas succeed which means we all succeed. I hope to carry that tradition forward in my years at Georgetown.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Georgetown McDonough? One class that I am excited to take would be Leadership & Management of Nonprofit Organizations. Many times, when we think of business, we only think about for-profit organizations. However, I am excited to learn more about how to apply business acumen to create, maintain and grow a nonprofit organization.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: About 3 months into my career at Goldman Sachs, I realized that there were a number processes that could be run more effectively. So, I created a gap analysis to highlight behavioral efficiency opportunities that could save our team up to 15 hours per week and decrease the time to onboard clients by 2.5 business days. I presented the analysis to my regional and global managers. In turn, they approved my proposed solutions and encouraged me to begin presenting the efficiency opportunities to senior leadership of the various internal stakeholder groups we worked with most frequently. Through these conversations, we were able to create a medium for each team to provide feedback on how the teams were doing and report any inefficiencies. We were ultimately able to solidify these conversations into Best Practices Guidelines that are now used as a part of the training materials for new joiners and as refresher training for teams on a yearly basis. This project promoted better communication between the various stakeholder groups, decreased the time to onboard clients, and created better strategic partnerships within the division.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general?

When George Floyd was murdered in May 2020, it unfortunately was not the first time in recent years that Black Americans had to feel this burden of seeing the disregard for Black Lives in America. Some people credit the videotape as the reason for the outpouring of support and protests we saw in June 2020, but the truth is that Rodney King’s beating (1991) and Tamir Rice’s murder (2014) were also both caught on video and there has been no justice for them. I believe the true difference was COVID-19 forcing people to spend more time in the house and on social media that built greater visibility of the injustices many of us had known of and experienced for years. Anyone on social media for more than 5 minutes couldn’t help but see George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery’s faces, and this sparked a fire in a lot of people. With the outpouring of support, I began to think about how I could utilize my skills, knowledge, and passions to help, and this led me to decide to go back to school to be able to focus on litigative, legislative, or policy means of change for all communities.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Because of COVID-19, the improved visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement during the Summer of 2020 and the increase of hate crimes against Asian Americans, America currently stands at a potential turning point in our history. More people have been speaking out and taking action against discrimination and I believe my role in the movement is advocating for better healthcare and educational resources for all Americans. My previous role taught me a lot of great skills like working under the pressure of tight deadlines, being agile, showing attention to detail, and balancing multiple priorities at once. Now, I feel like it’s time for me to learn how to apply those skills towards bettering the lives of those who live and work in America. I’m looking forward to being able to use my understanding of business, law and policies to support people, communities and businesses.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? In addition to McDonough, I also applied to MBA Programs at UVA Darden, Wharton, and Harvard Business School.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Georgetown McDonough’s MBA program? Be yourself – in your essay, your interview and in any discussions. Georgetown brings in a diverse group of authentic students who all have a unique story about what makes them who they are. Don’t try to create a cookie cutter version of yourself because you think that it would help you shape a certain mold.


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