Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Mónica Hicks, Rice University (Jones)

Mónica Hicks

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“First-generation Latina with a passion for democratizing information, educational equity, and a genuine love for people.”

Hometown:  Houston, TX

Fun Fact About Yourself: My first concert was Selena’s last concert at the Houston Astrodome.

Undergraduate School and Major: Rice University, History and Latin American Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Program Manager at EMERGE Fellowship

What has been your favorite part of Houston so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? For those not native to Houston, I often hear Houston described as one of those places you never intended to stay in or fall in love with. Yet, once people move here, they often don’t look back. I would say it is equal parts the people and rich representation of diverse cultures and foods, the warmer climate, and the affordability factor that make life in Houston such a great place to earn an 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? Rice Business is only one of a handful of top business schools with an intentionally small class and a Consortium cohort. As someone who values genuine connection with others, I was looking for a smaller class size, individualized support, and a diverse class. Rice checked all the boxes.

I really enjoyed my educational experience as an undergrad at Rice. Post-graduation, I have run into several undergrad professors throughout the city. Every time, they have remembered me, approached me with a hug, and asked how I am doing. That matters to me, and I knew that if Rice Business was anything like the supportive culture I had found during undergrad, I could thrive here despite my non-quant background. I could build a powerful network, and I could more meaningfully contribute to conversations and culture-building within and beyond the classroom.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Rice Business? One of the highlights of my week is our Thursday parties on the patio, also known as partio. It is often an opportunity to network with peers outside of my section as well as second years, step away from school for an evening, enjoy a good (and free!) meal, reflect on the week, and just reset. While you are free to come as you are, partios typically have a theme, and on several occasions, partners, families, and pups are also welcomed.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The most reward accomplishment of my career is playing a small part in shaping the course of my students’ and their families’ lives by helping them navigate the selective college application process as an EMERGE program manager.

My grandmother never made it past elementary school and was married by the age of fourteen. Shortly after she married, she had my father, the first of five children. While my dad had the opportunity to graduate at the top of his class in the States, he didn’t have anyone to help him navigate the college application process. For me, the “American Dream” isn’t just about working hard. It’s about having access to resources, people, and knowledge. These are the things that will help fulfill your basic needs and the time and capital to pursue your wants beyond these needs, regardless of your race, your citizenship status, or socioeconomic class.

It is this history that has shaped me into who I am today—a fierce advocate for the democratization of information and a fierce believer in the power of education as a means for agency. I know the power of education because I have witnessed its strength firsthand in the trajectory of my life as a first-generation college graduate, and I am incredibly grateful for the trust that many of my families placed in me to open doors that my students may have otherwise not known existed.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? One of the reasons I ultimately decided to pursue an MBA was because I wanted to expand my impact beyond the immediate students I have served, and I wished to equip myself with the tools and experiences necessary to lead in and effect greater change within Houston’s social impact sector. This fall, I was accepted into the Rice Business Board Fellows program where I am serving as a nonvoting board member on reVision Houston’s board for the November 2021-2022 cycle. reVision plays a pivotal role in dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline by leveraging the power of community to connect kids on the edge with mentors, positive peers, and life-changing resources. I am excited to continue to expand opportunities for educational access, activism, and agency within the communities I serve through this work, while also enhancing my understanding of how nonprofit boards make decisions for their organizations. Moreover, as the incoming chief development officer, I look forward to leveraging my experiences and skillset to continue to manage existing board relationships as well as identify where we as an organization can expand and diversify the needs in our city that have gone unmet and are represented by future partners.

What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned as an MBA student so far? The first semester of the MBA has been packed with so many opportunities to engage with new material, from finance and accounting to data analysis, strategy, marketing, communications and economics, the class I find myself coming back to time and time again is my organizational behavior class with Professor Marlon Mooijman. Though it is one of our shorter courses, and arguably the most qualitative of the core curriculum, studying the psychology behind decision-making has helped me be more aware of my own power, biases, motivations, etc., and the role they play in my decision-making process when working with my team, faced with a conflict, or even acting as a consumer. More generally, it has been exciting to see how well the professors have collaborated to ensure that the classes and material we are learning are not only applicable beyond the classroom, but overlap well with one another at various points in the semester.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Rice University MBA program? While the B-school application process can be stressful and intimidating, especially, as a “non-traditional” applicant, I would encourage anyone interested in Rice Business to connect with current students and recent grads; get to know their admission officers; and do their due diligence to identify what they hope to get out of the program and how they hope to contribute to our community. You will quickly get a taste of the generosity and diversity of thought, experience, and backgrounds that make Rice Business so unique. Yes, academics matter. After all, this is a challenging program. But so does your willingness to serve and uplift others, to adapt to new information, and your commitment to cultivate a culture of care and inclusion. So, be curious, be genuine and put your best foot forward. You belong here.


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