2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Ryan Hall, University of Chicago (Booth)

Ryan Hall

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“Extreme extravert. Resolute, mission-focused, teammate.  Dad and husband who is always ready for fun.”

Hometown: Leesburg, Florida. It’s a small town that’s been subject to a hostile takeover by the adjacent retirement community, The Villages of Florida.

Fun fact about yourself: In 2019 I had the chance to dive on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The connection you feel with history is so powerful, and the ship still leaks heavy fuel oil into the harbor, which we were covered in by the time we surfaced.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Florida for a B.A in Political Science and a M.A. in International Relations

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was the Executive Officer at a US Navy command in San Diego, CA.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I had the opportunity to work with a friend’s startup company that makes skis out of Bozeman, Montana that was in stealth mode at the time.  The company is called “Peak Skis by Bode Miller” and is a boutique ski company with an emphasis on innovative ski design and manufacturing techniques, primarily via the other co-founder, the Olympic skiing legend Bode Miller. My friend kept me copied on every email he sent; it was really like riding shotgun with an entrepreneur founding a company.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am going to resourcing & planning job for the Navy in Washington, DC. They want to recoup their investment in me.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Admissions Fellow, Armed Forces Group, Public Speaking and Communication Group

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I had the opportunity to contribute to the evacuation of vulnerable Afghans starting in August 2021 in what has been dubbed as “The Digital Dunkirk.” I mostly helped interpreters and other Afghans that I had worked with and known well, but there were hundreds of Americans that worked around the clock to try and help evacuate thousands of Afghans they didn’t know. The whole organic effort was both amazing and inspiring. I am thankful I had the flexibility to support the effort, and I was able to work together with partner organizations to successfully evacuate several families. I’m still working to get several more out, but conditions on the ground there are extremely challenging.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have been very fortunate in my Navy career and enjoyed some fantastic teammates and experiences. Still, I think I’m most proud of just getting there.  I was rejected by various Navy commissioning programs four times over seven years. Every time I got rejected, it just hardened my resolve. On my fifth try, I got picked up for Officer Candidate School in 2007. Every day, I remind myself that I’m the kid that grew up to get to do his dream, and it’s a big part of the passion and energy in my leadership style.

Why did you choose this business school? I am a very non-traditional business school student – I will continue my Naval service after I finish at Booth. Because of this, I had very unique requirements when I began exploring my business school options. As I began to get to know Booth, I fell in love with many aspects of the program; however, Booth’s academic autonomy truly sets the program apart from its peers. Booth allows me to craft a precision guided MBA, acutely tailored to my unique requirements and allowing me to explore parts of the business environment that I haven’t been exposed to before, all at my discretion. Booth was the only school I researched that respected each individual’s needs in this manner.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Mark Agnew is an adjunct faculty member who co-teaches the Entrepreneurship through Acquisition Course. He is the former CEO of Lou Malnati’s, the Chicago-based pizza chain. Not only was the course content phenomenal, but Mark’s emphasis on emotional intelligence and his willingness to candidly share his failures and challenges in his career was really inspiring and endearing.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Booth is that it is an overwhelmingly quantitative school. That curriculum is there if you want it, but the school has a huge variety of phenomenal qualitative curriculum as well. It goes back to the academic flexibility: each student can tailor-make their MBA that fits their unique requirements.

What surprised you the most about business school? How complementary a diverse group’s experiences are when working together on a project. It is natural to team up with people you know or with whom you have shared interests. Early on, I had a project group with a diverse group of nationalities and professional backgrounds. We had great chemistry, and I was surprised at what an advantage I felt we had in terms of innovation and experience. After that course, I always deliberately sought out teammates from as diverse of backgrounds as I could find and avoided the trap of teaming with just the people you know.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I did a lot of research before applying. By the end, I had a deep conviction that Booth was the best fit for my personality and experience. I really tailored my application to answer the fundamental questions: Why MBA? Why now? Why Booth? I tried to thoughtfully emphasize what specifically about Booth was right for me and vice versa. The two main items were the school’s culture, captured by the mantra “Ideas compete, people collaborate” and the flexibility of the curriculum, which would accommodate my unique needs.  

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s impossible to choose one! The incredible talent and experience among my peers is so humbling and impressive. If I had to choose one, it would be my wife Christina Starks Hall, who is in the evening/weekend program at Booth. She is a Rheumatology Physician Assistant (PA) by day, helping patients in the midst of the pandemic. She has a passion for improving health care at the policy level, which greatly contributed to her decision to apply to Booth and to enrollment in the University of Chicago’s university-wide Graduate Program in Health Administration and Policy (GPHAP). On top of all that, she’s my life coach, best friend, and a phenomenal mom to our two kids.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would say I have professional goals, rather than bucket list items. First, I’d like to take the tools I’ve learned back to the public sector and lead successfully there. Whenever my time in the public sector is finished, I would like to be an entrepreneur, either by starting my own business or acquiring a small one through a search fund.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? When schools first shut down in March 2020, I didn’t anticipate how much my perspective on work/life balance would change. Although it was stressful managing my job and having kids at home, I really cherished the huge amount of time I got with my kids over the next year. The pandemic has definitely changed my outlook permanently on how important every day is with my family. No matter how hard the grind is at work, don’t lose perspective on the importance in your life of those you love.

What made Ryan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“I would like to take this opportunity to enthusiastically recommend Ryan Hall as one the of the Best and Brightest members of the Class of 2022. Ryan is a tremendously active member of our community, all while remaining on active duty with the United States Navy.

Ryan has the commitment to service you often see in our veteran community. Having his post-MBA career established created a unique circumstance that allowed Ryan to be involved in the community in deliberate ways, even more so than if he had been recruiting for a post-MBA level role. We see Ryan frequently in our office, and via Zoom (sometimes with his kids right there beside him), connecting with future MBA students who want to hear more about Booth.

Ryan was slated to start at Booth in the autumn of 2019 but was called upon to defer his MBA due to an obligation to become an Executive Officer in San Diego for one year. In 2020, he joined Chicago Booth through a Department of Navy scholarship called the Fleet Scholars Education Program, with the aspiration to use the leadership, management, and technical skills gained at Booth while serving in the military. Ryan and his wife Christina, along with their two small children, moved to Chicago to pursue the MBA together. Christina is a current student in our Evening MBA Program at night and a Physician’s Assistant by day.

Ryan has been extremely involved with admissions, serving as the Affinity Fellow Liaison between the Admissions Office and the Armed Forces Group student group, simultaneously serving the Booth and Military communities. He was instrumental in organizing Veterans Day programming, acting as a resource for prospective students, and being a mentor to others within the Booth community. All of this while maintaining active duty status and being promoted to US Navy Commander while enrolled at Booth.

He has inspired many of those who have met him; from classmates, to professors, to alumni, to council members. To paraphrase Ryan’s description of himself, he is an extreme extrovert who has never met a stranger.”

Donna Swinford
Associate Dean for Student Recruitment and Admissions
Admissions, MBA Programs
The University of Chicago
Booth School of Business

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