2023 Best & Brightest Online MBA: Valarie Tran, Rice University (Jones)

Valarie Tran

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“Driven, competitive, energetic leader and entrepreneur eager to provide financially and emotionally for myself and my family all while enjoying life.”

Age: 38

Hometown: Spring, TX

Fun fact about yourself: I do CrossFit!

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Texas at Dallas – Double major in Finance and Business Administration.

Where are you currently working? HP as Mergers & Acquisitions Project Manager for the Global Recruiting and Onboarding department.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of becoming an entrepreneur because before Rice University I didn’t think entrepreneurship was a possibility for me. Rice showed me it was possible which blew my mind. The curriculum in the Entrepreneurship Lab required me to take steps towards entrepreneurship and before the end of the class I invested in my first business.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I needed the flexibility and convenience the program offered.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? Flexibility and convenience. The convenience of attending class virtually is necessary when you are a traveling, working mother of two children under 6. The flexibility to extend my course work to three years was appreciated and necessary for me.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? It is just as, if not more, challenging as an in-person learning environment. Also, there’s an opportunity to meet each other’s families.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? Since my MBA pursuit occurred 13 years after my undergraduate studies, there was a huge difference between my experiences most of which is likely due to maturity, age, and numerous life experiences for myself and my fellow scholars. I found my online MBA experience to be much more insightful, engaging, enlightening and fruitful.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Invest in technology (good, reliable internet, a large computer screen, updated computer, etc.). It’s a must.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would add more built-in opportunities to connect personally but virtually. Short, informal icebreaker chats utilizing the chat or polling features is a quick way to get to know each other on a personal level.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? I work virtually at HP, so the use of Zoom is required. At Rice I got a lot of practice with Zoom and was able to immediately apply my skills at work.

Did you earn a promotion while in the program or immediately after graduation? Yes, I earned a raise and a promotion to an HRBP M&A role with my company at the time and then accepted a similar but more lucrative opportunity at a larger company. Currently, I’m functioning in an M&A HR position and as an entrepreneur. You could say Rice changed my life for the better three times over.

Why did you pursue an online MBA program instead of a full-time residential program? Flexibility and convenience were key to me. I also live out in the suburbs, where it’s unrealistic to commute into town every day. Additionally, I did not want to put my professional career on hold to pursue my MBA. Sometimes undergraduates will pursue their MBA right after they complete their bachelor’s and attend full time. I wanted to interact with tenured professionals who would challenge me, add value and relate to me more. I believe these professionals would be more inclined to enroll in the online MBA program.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent on an Online MBA: 15-20 hours

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Profit enough from my business to replace my HP income, transition to a full-time entrepreneur, expand my business, and retire early to enjoy my money and family and travel the world.


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