Meet The Rice Jones MBA Class Of 2024

There is a time to take a break. Shut off the phone and slow down the pace. Forget about the midterm you bombed or the internship you didn’t get. Just come together, a certain day at a certain time in a certain space. And just talk – like people used to do.

At Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, that time is every Thursday after classes finish for the week. And the place is the spacious outdoor patio. The MBAs have dubbed it “Partio” – as in ‘Party on the Patio’ – and it is one of Jones’ most hallowed traditions. Picture it: full-time MBAs – including spouses and children – gathered with faculty, alumni, staff, employers, and fellow Master’s students. Call it the ultimate cocktail hour networking event. Each week, there is a new theme. Classes hold carnivals, celebrate Diwali, and bright pets (and a bouncy house for the kids).

GREAT FOOD AND COMPANY

What’s the most popular Partio?

“The last Partio of the year is called International Partio, where students set up tables from different countries to serve delicacies from that country, and there are some cultural performances to go with,” explains Siddhant Pawar, a ’23 alum. “This event is followed by Follies, an hour-long skits-and-awards show where the student body looks back on the year, makes (harmless) fun of certain events that happened during the year and where awards are given for several categories such as ‘Best Dressed’ or ‘Dynamic Duo.’”

Beyond the drinks and dinner – think Southern Soul to Tex-Mex – Partio is a venue to decompress, laugh, and bond. It is a shared experience that reminds every MBA that they belong. That makes them an integral part of a larger community, a family even, that celebrates each other with a personal touch instead of a Facebook post.

“It reflects Rice’s commitment to fostering a close business school community and taking time to celebrate the wins of its students,” explains ’23 grad Taylor Anne Adams, “whether it’s passing an exam, winning a case competition, or getting an internship or job offer. It’s a way for students and faculty to connect outside of the classroom in a fun and social setting.”

Students outside Jones

HOME-GROWN RECRUIT

What does the MBA Class of 2024 discuss at Partio? Adrienne Miller, a Houston native and innovation manager at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, can share how she collects children’s books from every country she has visited. Amy Tanguay, a proposal writer in the software space, fosters kittens – helping nearly two dozen find forever homes. Sanober Hussain is a self-described “adrenaline junkie.” When she isn’t running interior design projects, Hussain is busy “snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, [or] parasailing.” The class even boasts a Guinness World Record holder…for creating the longest ice cream sundae.

“We used 500 gallons of ice cream, 2,000 cans of whipped cream, and 25 pounds of sprinkles to make the 4,549 ft sundae,” writes Kalyn Speck.

Let’s just say Speck will be pretty familiar with Partios. Before starting her MBA, she served as the assistant director of recruiting at the Jones Graduate School of Business. Speck even collected the Rice Business Staff Innovation Award in 2021.

“Yes, I recruited myself,” she cracks.

Team Meeting

CREATING A $100 MILLION DOLLAR GOVERNMENT PROGRAM

The Class of 2024’s conversations about their career would make for equally interesting conversations at Partios. Ryan Flick has completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Functional Neurology, most recently working as a physical therapist. While Flick treatedjoints, Isha Vaishampayan tackled communication disorders as a speech language pathologist. Now, she hopes to move into heathtech. By the same token, Adrienne Miller raised roughly $3 million dollars for St. Jude in one campaign, while maintaining 90% of its sponsors during COVID. And how is this for a conversation starter from Aquib S. Yacoob, most recently the director of special projects for The Women’s March?

“In the past few years, I helped to scale a community gun violence prevention project from my childhood neighborhood to the White House, and I helped to build and sustain the largest feminist resistance movement of my generation.”

Looking for someone who can handle big jobs? Meet Zach Creamer. At Deloitte, he conducted the training for a client’s enterprise software system across nine countries and four continents. In contrast, Jahnavi Gudi earned positions at KPMG and Ernst & Young despite a “first-generation background and coming from a non-target undergraduate school.” And her classmate, Jocelyn Gutiérrez, created a state-wide program for the California Department of Social Services that legal services to immigrants.

“My parents benefited from immigration reform in 1986. Because of that, they were able to create opportunities for my siblings and me. When individuals in the United States have an improved immigration status, they can be civically engaged and have better socio-economic outcomes through access to resources like education, health care, and solid employment. Because of my own family’s experience, establishing an immigration program has been very special to me. It has been my biggest accomplishment to work to improve outcomes for California’s immigrants and implement the pilot program that grew from a temporary project with $18 Million in funding into a permanent program of over $100 million in funding.”

Jones classroom

ALREADY BOUGHT GRADUATION GOWNS FOR THE CLASS

That string of accomplishments continued int business school. Jahnavi Gudi can add RBC Capital Markets to her resume. She notched an investment banking internship thanks to the Career Development Office, which helped her find a mentor in the field. Kalyn Speck takes pride in winning the school’s annual charity flag football game – The Owl Bowl. For Ryan Flick, the biggest value of his Rice MBA has been how it has enabled him to “professionalize” the medical services he provides to his clients and community.

“Before my MBA journey began, I lacked strategic focus for my incremental business improvements as the many possible investments and improvement I could make to my business swirled, overwhelmingly, in my head. Unsure of how to prioritize and consider their respective return profile, I settled for predictable inaction, paralyzed by my lack of knowledge…At Rice, I feel that I have the tools I need, or access to resources that can steer me toward a solution, which is time and value I am able to pass on to my clients.”

Flick’s growth wouldn’t come as a surprise to senior associate dean Barbara Ostdiek. After all, she proclaimed at Launch that ““We believe in you so much, we’ve already ordered your graduation gowns.” Those comments have stuck with Flick. Thus far, he says, Jones has delivered on its promises to support his growth.

“From accessibility of professors outside of class times to a culture of support from second-year students, Rice Business gives you access to all the resources you need to learn how to be successful in your goals.”

Student presentation

TAKE ME TO VALHALLA

While Launch may have been unforgettable, the Class of 2024 has accrued equally defining memories during their first year. Zach Creamer can look back on his Week on Wall Street excursion – and hanging out with Jones alumni at a Manhattan rooftop bar — surprised at just “how big of a network Rice has outside of Houston.” For Amy Tanguay, the best moment was joining 15 classmates to attend the national LGBTQ+ MBA Conference in Washington DC – with some classmates even winning job offers there. Adrienne Miller’s best memory came closer to home: the night when Jones revealed her team’s Global Field Experience location

“We had the most amazing event highlighting foods and wine from all over Latin America as we will be going to Argentina, Colombia and Peru. Travel is an extremely important part of my life and working abroad is something I plan to continue to do in my career, so this was a reveal I had been waiting for with bated breath. The food was incredible, but what mattered was we started to imagine traveling and growing together…It just clicked that these are my future colleagues, and we are going to grow together and then change the world side-by-side.”

Jocelyn Gutiérrez notes that a different event, the Raíces a Ramas: Cincuenta Años Gala, made a deep impression on her. The university-wide event, she says, celebrates the Rice Latino community. “Being new to Rice and Houston, I was inspired to learn about the alumni who have paved the way for the Latinx community at Rice. It was a beautiful event filled with music from Rice’s very own Mariachi Luna Llena, a speech from National Medal of Science recipient Dr. Richard Tapia, and a keynote from Germaine Franco, an Oscar-winning musician—both Rice alumni. It was also great to meet Rice alumni and connect with other current students who are passionate about making Rice an inclusive space for all.”

When you hear “Take me to Valhalla” at Rice, it has a whole different meaning than you’d expect. It is also the place where Tareck Haykal, an MD-MBA candidate, enjoyed his best memories. “I absolutely loved going to Valhalla, Rice’s on-campus graduate student bar, to celebrate with some of my classmates after our midterms. It was lovely being with some of the excellent people in our class celebrating all the hard work we have continuously put into our studies.”

“Rice Business offers the best of both worlds: a small student body on tree-lined campus surrounded by bustling Houston, the fourth-largest and most diverse city in America. You’ll benefit from close connections as well as the broad opportunities available in a city with the world’s largest medical complex, more than 5,000 energy firms, and the second-largest concentration of Fortune 1000 companies in the country.” Photo Cred: Jones Graduate School of Business

FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES EVERYWHERE

One major advantage to earning an MBA at Rice? Think Houston. To put the region in context, it would be listed as the world’s 26th-largest economy in terms of GDP. It ranks as America’s largest port for exports, while also featuring the world’s largest medical complex. Think 9,000 tech and 500 aerospace companies. Not to mention, the George Bush Intercontinental Airport is the fourth-largest in the country, Not only does it serve over 180 cities, but it also ranks third-best for customer satisfaction according to Skytrax.

The Houston area also boasts the 2nd-largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters – 25 in all – headlined by Fortune 100 stalwarts ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, Sysco, Enterprise Products Partners, and Plains GP Holdings. Not surprisingly, Houston has been dubbed the “Energy Capital of the World” – home to 4,700 energy firms covering everything from solar, wind, and battery energy to engineering, construction, and transportation.

Not surprisingly, Jones has gained a reputation for its Energy curriculum – and for good reason. “One of the most important differentiators in the Rice curriculum is their extensive energy industry programming,” says Zach Creamer. “The energy concentration, which prepares students for careers in oil and gas and energy transition, is something I certainly plan on taking advantage of.”

Beyond commerce Houston is known for diversity. Aquib S. Yacoob describes the city this way: “Houston looks today what the population of the U.S. will look like in 2050.” Among the 7.2 million people in the area, a fourth are foreign-born. In fact, the city includes 87 foreign consulates, third-most in America.  This range benefits MBAs in many ways, says Ryan Flick.

“You can get over 15 varieties of cuisine within a one-block walk to Rice Village. There’s an entire underground (literally) retail ecosystem downtown that spans 95 blocks and connects businesses, restaurants and hotels if you want to stay out of the heat – and the city offers plenty of green space and fresh air. As great as these attractions are though, it’s the truly diverse population in Houston that makes the city great! Houston is a welcoming city that combines southern hospitality with uncommon cultural diversity for a truly unique experience on-campus and downtown. There is something here for everyone.”

And Sanober Hussain is more than happy to list them off. “Cultural and entertainment options in Houston range from live theatre, opera, symphony and ballet, to movies, football (including NFL Texans and MLS Dynamo), basketball (Rockets), baseball (Astros and Sugar Land Skeeters), museums (19 in the Museum District alone) and Space Center Houston. If you’re someone who loves nature, there are tons of parks and green spaces close to campus.”

Built in 2002, McNair Hall was designed by Robert A. M. Stern, the award-winning architect and dean of the Yale School of Architecture to match the collegiate and homey feel of the Rice University campus. Photo Cred: Jones Graduate School of Business

AT RICE, E STANDS FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP

While Rice Jones is often associated with energy, it has emerged as a force in entrepreneurship. Last year, the school ranked 3rd in Poets&Quants’ annual MBA Entrepreneurship ranking (and a consistent 1st in the Princeton Review ranking). According to exclusive P&Q research, 75% of Jones MBAs take an entrepreneurship class and 68% are involved in a startup. The school also ranks among the best for mentorship hours and availability to student entrepreneurs. During the 2021-2022 school year, Jones made $5,352 in startup money available to each student – higher than any other school (with Carnegie Mellon Tepper coming in second at $4,032 per student).

As a whole, Rice University is best known for its annual Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC), sponsored by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. Over the past two decades, the university reports RBPC alumni include 3,000 companies that have generated $23.6 billion dollars in funding and created over 5,500 jobs. In the 2023 competition alone, the school doled out over $1.5 million dollars in funding.

Next Page: Interview with Rice MBA Leadership and Profiles of MBA Students

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