Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Brad Simmons, Rice University (Jones)

Brad Simmons

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“Spontaneous, spiritual, and savory with an enthusiasm for purpose-driven and people-centered experiences.”

Hometown: Clarendon, PA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I can quote almost every line from the movie, Zoolander.

Undergraduate School and Major: Penn State University, Mathematics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Tulsa Public Schools – High School Biology & Physics Teacher

What has been your favorite part of Houston so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? I rave to my friends back in Tulsa about Houston’s incredible food scene. Within my Midtown neighborhood alone, I can walk to grab breakfast tacos, poke burritos and banh mis. A few second-year students even started a Global Foods club this fall; I can finally check Ethiopian cuisine off my list.

Also, I would be doing this city an utter disgrace if I didn’t mention the delectable stuffed pastry balls otherwise known as “Kolaches.” If you visit Houston, you have to check out the Kolache Shoppe and try their ham, egg and cheese. Get there early before they run out!

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the Rice University MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? During my undergrad experience, I wasn’t able to take any finance classes due to enrollment restrictions for non-business school students. Career paths like corporate finance, private equity and venture capital were foreign concepts to me, and I wanted to find a program that would teach me everything there is to know about the practical applications of finance.

Rice is consistently ranked as one of the top MBA programs for finance, and it’s proven its reputation in my first semester. Professor Alan Crane does a masterful job in core finance with taking such a quantitative subject and opening it into an engaging discussion for every class. Moving forward, I’m planning to take all the finance electives I can.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Rice Business? My favorite events have to be the “Partios.” Just about every Thursday evening after classes get out, Rice Business hosts a happy hour mixer on the back patio for everyone involved in the business school to just relax, enjoy some food and drink, and network. For me, I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to meet lots of students who aren’t in my core classes and get to know my professors in a more casual setting.

While we feel immense pressure to study, attend info sessions, and set up coffee chats, it’s easy to forget the social value the MBA experience can add to your life. The moments you spend cultivating relationships with your peers outside of the classroom are just as important for your personal success.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Before coming to business school, I coached high school girls’ soccer in Tulsa, OK for five years. When I first started as an assistant, the program was in a very rough place. Most of the time we barely had enough players to fill the starting lineup, and we lost six games by eight goals or more.

The following year, I took over as the Girls Head Coach. We started building again from scratch, focusing on recruiting and putting together a JV program for the less experienced players to develop their skills. My assistant coach Diana and I found different leagues to play in that were cheaper than paying for club soccer, and she was able to translate for the girls who were still learning English. Medicine ball relay races became a cherished pastime, along with our end-of-year banquets and arcade night at Incredible Pizza. We never really had an off-season since we were constantly trying to catch up to the rest of the competition, but it only helped us grow closer as a team.

Over four years, we grew our team’s roster to over 30 players. Several girls have been offered athletic scholarships, including three this past season all playing for a junior college in Kansas together. We almost made the playoffs the past two years, losing in overtime to an eventual state-semifinalist. When I look back on the most important thing I did, it was doing everything I could to create a culture of excellence that could continue even after my time coaching ended.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Over the summer, I was contacted by a fellow Consortium student from a different member school about trying to include Rice in the Small Business School Challenge Case Competition. At first, I was hesitant considering I had no idea how I was going to balance classes and recruiting already. After surveying other first years about their potential interest, I was convinced this would be a great opportunity to support local Houston small businesses.

The planning stages went smoothly up until the week of the actual competition. But, like with any large-scale event, you typically have to do a lot of problem solving in-the-moment. Trying to connect over 30 students to local small business owners in a matter of days is easier said than done. We could not have made this happen without all of our amazing Rice faculty volunteering as mentors and judges, and I’m very thankful for their patience and flexibility.

That Saturday night at the National Finals, a team of my classmates earned 3rd place among top MBA programs from all over the country. The many thanks I received from them and their small business owner reminds me that the difficult times we go through often are the most rewarding.

What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned as an MBA student so far? Some people get really, really excited about making slide decks. I’m still trying to learn what Canva is.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Rice University MBA program? One of the most unique aspects of the Rice MBA experience is the chance to fully immerse yourself in the culture of Houston. When writing your essays and speaking to the Admissions Committee, you need to be intentional about why you want to spend at least your next two years in this city. Lots of students in my class are excited about the clean energy transition and the growing entrepreneurial scene, but that’s only scratching the surface. Talk to students and find out what they love most about Houston. Not only will this help with articulating your “Why Rice?”, but it will provide clarity on how this program could be the best fit for you.


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