Meet The Rice Jones MBA Class Of 2023

Diverse groups make the best decisions, according to Dean Peter Rodriguez.


To be sure, these entrepreneurs have come to the right place. In the 2022 P&Q ranking of the Best MBA Programs for Entrepreneurship, the Jones Graduate School ranked 3rd in the world. Using a 24-step startup process, 27% of Jones electives revolve around entrepreneurship and innovation, with 68% Jones MBAs ultimately taking an entrepreneurship elective. The school also ranks among the Top 10 for incubator space — and 2nd for mentorship hours to prospective founds at 17.8 hours annually. Here’s the number that really stands out at Jones: the program ranks 1st in the world in financial support to MBA entrepreneurs, awarding $5,590 on average to every student startup during the 2020-2021 academic year. Not surprisingly, 9% of MBA from 2017-2021 ultimately joined a startup.

One of Rice’s marquee attractions for entrepreneurial-minded MBA is Lillie (aka Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Since 2015, Lillie has launched over 300 MBA and undergraduate startups, with 90% of faculty member having either started or run a business. The lab offers over 20 entrepreneurial courses and labs for MBAs, including startup funding, design thinking, enterprise acquisition, intellectual property, and tech strategy. Lillie also organizes competitions, hackathons, clubs, fellowships, and even a speaker series (whose alumni have worked at firms as diverse as Zoom, Uber, Airbnb, and the Creative Destruction Lab.

However, Jones is best known for the Rice Business Plan Competition, which is hosted by the Rice Alliance. Now entering its third decade, the competition featured 42 student-led startups competing for over $2 million dollars in funding in 2021. This year’s winner, LIDROTEC, collected $350,000 in funding, while Hoth Intelligence and LymphaSense came away with $280,000 and $250,000 respectively. Think those numbers are impressive? Competition alumni have raised $4.6 billion dollars in capital and exited with $7.5 billion dollars on their startups…so far. These types of options, coupled with Jones’ “out-of-the-box thinking” made the program a perfect match for Taylor Anne Adams.

“This school has poured so many resources into building up its entrepreneurial programming, and I have noticed that even once you graduate, they are still there to support you. I know some Rice MBA grads who are still involved with the university in major ways. There’s a big culture of paying it forward which is the kind of community I want to be a part of.”

A touch of humor breaks up a day in the classroom.


And it’s a larger community than you might expect. After all, the business school also includes the 7th-ranked online MBA program in the country according to P&Q. Better yet, the Class of 2021 saw its three-month placement increase from 90% to 97%, while starting salary increased from $123,786 to $131,384.  What else is happening with the Rice MBA? Earlier this year, P&Q reached out to the school to discuss program news. From popular courses to its entrepreneurship strengths, here are the thoughts of the following administrators:

Peter Rodriguez, Dean

Phillip Heavilin, Executive Director, Career Development Office

Adam Herman, Executive Director, Student Program Office

P&Q: What are the two most exciting developments at your program and how will they enrich the MBA experience for current and future MBAs?

PR: “Number one is the addition of tenure track faculty in tech/operations and entrepreneurship. Bringing in new faculty allows for great courses to enhance an already terrific curriculum.

Number two is the ongoing expansion of McNair Hall, which will allow for richer classroom settings, deeper engagement with the university and room for growth.”

P&Q: What are two biggest differentiating features of your MBA program? How do each of these enrich the learning of your MBA students?

PR: “The level of personalization from our curriculum, faculty and staff is a top differentiator for us. No one better combines the delivery of a broad rigorous education with the ability to support our students every step of the way.

Also, our presence in Houston and in the heart of Texas during this period of tremendous growth of tech- based industries, especially those leaning toward a greener energy future, puts us in a unique position to connect students with local companies, events and alumni doing innovative things.”

P&Q: In recent years, there have been several areas that have gained increased prominence in business school programming, including STEM, analytics, artificial intelligence and digital disruption. How does your full-time MBA program integrate these concepts across its curriculum?

PR: “Well, two main ways. We integrate all these into our elective offerings as well as through core offerings that have been retooled to meet at the intersection of engineering and business.

We’re also highly integrated with local industries and businesses and that shapes our curriculum. By matching actual need with classroom learning, we’re able to provide entrepreneurial endeavors in the energy, medical and chemical spaces.”

Finding time to collaborate.

P&Q: The Rice MBA program is regarded as one of the top MBA programs for entrepreneurship. Tell us how your approach to entrepreneurship may different than peer schools. What makes the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Rice Business Plan Competition such big attractions to entrepreneurial-minded MBA students?

PR: “I don’t know how different our approach is. Our longevity and depth with the Rice Alliance, the Rice Business Plan Competition and the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Lilie) have perfected the ability to shepherd students in ideation and fundraising stages. They embrace early on the natural competencies that are necessary in the beginning. Students have unmatched exposure to the challenges of acquiring funding. And Lilie offers better course work than any other university in the country.

Because of Houston’s history, we warmly receive risk-takers in business. There’s a deep admiration for the striving that goes along with creating a new business. Because of that we embed our entrepreneurship program in a community. The students are in good hands.”

P&Q: What have your employers told you are the two biggest strengths of your graduates and how does your programming bolster these differentiators?

PH: “If I had to pick two strengths commonly shared by our hiring partners, it would be that they appreciate the “entrepreneurial thinking” our graduates apply in their professional careers and the creative problem-solving they apply to the challenges that companies are facing today.

Our programming is designed to develop students’ skills, to enhance their employability, and to serve as value-add members to companies that hire them.”

P&Q: What are your two most popular courses among MBAs? What makes them so unique and so attractive to MBAs?

AH: “Students have an intensive learning experience (ILE) with two courses in an immersive format between Fall Term I and Fall Term II. Negotiations, with Prof. Jing Zhou, and Organizational Change, with Prof. Scott Sonenshein. [For full-time students.]

They’re popular because they provide students with frameworks they can begin using while they’re in school and in their careers after the MBA. Also, the professors bring high energy and unique approaches to the courses so that students immediately reap the benefits of confidence in negotiation and prowess in how to lead by leading others during periods of change – something beneficial before COVID-19 and even more applicable during such a dynamic period in business.”

Students connect during Partio, a party on the patio Thursday nights.


1) Intimate Program: “The Rice MBA has one of the top finance programs in the country, and its reputation in Texas is extremely important to me now and going forward. I also like the intimate feel of our small class size – professors knowing your name is a welcome change, especially after attending a large public university for undergrad.”
Arwa Hasanali (’23)

2) Houston: “Houston is an incredibly diverse city and is one of the cities that accepts the most immigrants in the United States. Being in an area with many different opinions and experiences is important because it opens you up to sharing cultures. This means that many of the businesses you interact with also have a diverse staff and you may hear various languages throughout the day.”
Diana Bueso-Mendoza (’23)

“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.”
Maria Kalina (’23)

3) Entrepreneurship: “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.”
Catalina Vasquez (’23)

4) Finance: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.”
Brad Simmons (’23)

5) Partios: “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.”
Mónica Hicks (’23)

At Rice, one of my favorite events is Partio. Partio is a weekly tradition that happens on Thursday nights. Some nights are themed to celebrate all the cultures and backgrounds of Rice Students. I love Partio because it is the weekly wind down for my classmates and me. We go to Partio to let loose, enjoy food and drinks, and get some type of entertainment after a long class week.”
Takeya Green (’22)

MBA Student Hometown Undergrad Alma Mater Last Employer
Taylor Anne Adams Houston, TX Wake Forest University The Cannon
Diana Bueso-Mendoza Friendswood, TX Texas A&M University Medical Student
Zachary Green San Francisco, CA Northwestern University Spiraledge
Arwa Hasanali Chicago, IL University of Illinois Alliant Retirement Consulting
Mónica Hicks Houston, TX Rice University EMERGE Fellowship
Maria Kalina Edina, MN Harvard University ADDO
Brad Simmons Clarendon, PA Penn State University Tulsa Public Schools
Catalina Vasquez Bogotá, Colombia Institución Universitaria Politécnico Grancolombiano SURA
Mark Watson Orlando, FL Jackson State University Tampa Bay Devil Rays

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