Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Catalina Vasquez, Rice University (Jones)

Catalina Vasquez

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“Executive leader in training who believes in the power of communication to improve the world.”

Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

Fun Fact About Yourself: When driving, I prefer to park in reverse.

Undergraduate School and Major:

* Graduate: Universidad de La Sabana (Chía, Colombia). Postgraduate Specialization in Corporate Communications Management. Recipient of Distinguished Student Award.

* Undergraduate: Institución Universitaria Politécnico Grancolombiano (Bogotá, Colombia). BA in Marketing and Advertising.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: SURA, the leading insurance, trends and risk management company in Latin America. Communications Director.

What has been your favorite part of Houston so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? First off, I have to mention the sunsets. I’ve traveled to many countries over the years, but the sunsets here are spectacular. The glow of oranges and pinks in the sky is simply stunning! Besides that, my favorite part of Houston so far is seeing how multifaceted the city is. This ranges from the weather, which can go from a warm afternoon to a chilly evening in the blink of an eye, to the people in all their diversity. Here in Houston, people are open to sharing and learning from others, no matter where they come from. This is also true of the community at Rice, where people are always eager to learn about you and your past experiences. I’ve found this inspiring and it has only confirmed my choice of Rice and Houston as the best place for me to do my MBA.

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? Without a doubt, it is the entrepreneurial mindset. In addition to learning about the traditional business environment, we look at real-world startups and entrepreneurship case studies, and this kind of exposure to the current business climate is just what I was looking for. There’s a reason Rice has been ranked #1 in graduate entrepreneurship for three consecutive years by the Princeton Review.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Rice Business? One exciting, and perhaps the best-known, activity at Rice Business is the weekly “partio,” or party on the patio. Every Thursday, students, faculty and staff gather in the courtyard to unwind and have fun as one big family. There’s always a theme we celebrate, food, and all kinds of activities. It’s also a great opportunity to network with alumni and corporate guests.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I have a somewhat non-traditional background that’s a mix of public relations, corporate communications, and marketing. I never could have imagined how this combination of my interests would one day open a door for me to have an impact on various projects aimed at small businesses. The one that I feel most proud of was during the pandemic, where I worked with public and private sector leaders to help more than 2,000 small businesses stay afloat during that challenging time. We did this by designing strategic support plans aimed at helping them strengthen key capabilities.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Before starting B-school, I knew I wanted to advance in my career in marketing, broadening my impact in a product manager role. To make this a reality, as soon as I joined the Jones Graduate School of Business, I started working with the Center for Career Development to polish my application materials and start applying for a product manager position for my internship. Just a few months later, I received an offer to do my 2022 internship at Amazon as a senior product manager.

What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned as an MBA student so far? I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn how many opportunities there are to prepare students to be better leaders if we put in the necessary commitment and effort. One crucial resource that Rice Business has to help us become better leaders is the Doerr Institute for New Leaders, which has several programs to help students develop strategic leadership skills. In the fall, I was accepted into the institute’s Activation program, allowing me to take part in 1:1 coaching sessions with a former executive director of one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my first semester.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Rice University MBA program? As Dean Peter Rodriguez would say, at Rice Business we thrive by being attentive, responsive, and kind. And this is exactly what you will find when interacting with students, faculty and staff alike. Everyone’s here to help you succeed, so, when applying, be sure to open up about who you are and what you’ve done to make an impact on your corner of the world.


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