Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Maria Kalina, Rice University (Jones)

Maria Kalina

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“I’m a kind, driven and resilient woman who values creating relationships and being outdoors!”

Hometown: Edina, Minnesota

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a national figure skating medalist!

Undergraduate School and Major: Harvard University, B.A. in Psychology and Government

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: ADDO, Human Capital Consultant

What has been your favorite part of Houston so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? My favorite part of Houston has definitely been the people! Everyone is so kind and genuine. I also love that everything is in a little bubble. There are so many restaurants, coffee shops, and workout studios all within a few miles, which makes it really convenient as a busy MBA student.

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? There were two factors that contributed most to my decision to attend Rice Business: the rigorous academic program and the intimate class size. I wanted to be challenged academically, but I also wanted the opportunity to cultivate relationships with all of my classmates. I can confirm that Rice has successfully delivered on both of these factors!

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Rice Business? My favorite course so far has been Organizational Behavior. Having studied psychology in undergrad, it was fascinating to learn how the concepts I studied and researched all those years are applied to the business world.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishment in my career was helping one of the businesses I worked at grow from 10 employees to 80+. Each day brought on new challenges and I was constantly forced to think critically about ways to reach our ambitious goals. Watching the company grow was incredibly rewarding and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? My biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far is taking on a leadership role within my team. Although there are only five of us on the team, we come from diverse backgrounds, both culturally and professionally. By establishing expectations early on and cultivating friendships beyond our academic work, we’ve been able to create a positive, supportive team dynamic.

What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned as an MBA student so far? The most surprising thing I’ve learned as an MBA student so far is that I belong. I come from a very non-traditional business background. In fact, prior to business school, I had never taken an accounting, finance, data, or economics class. To say I was intimidated is an understatement. However, the support I’ve received from classmates and faculty, and the diversity of the program, has made me realize that I do, in fact, belong in business school. Each of us is unique in our own way, and we all carry our own strengths—it’s our responsibility to not compare ourselves to each other, but rather to recognize how we can use these unique strengths to positively impact society.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Rice University MBA program? I would advise a potential applicant to emphasize their strengths, as well as their weaknesses in their application. There’s no need to feel shame in your failures or weaknesses. In fact, I think it shows Rice that you have a growth mindset and you’re not afraid to take risks. I would also advise applicants to be genuine and authentic in telling their story. Rice is comprised of an incredibly diverse set of students—showcase what makes you different!


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