Ryan Burnett

Rice MBA for Professionals Class of 2013 – Evening Schedule

"Before starting my MBA at the Jones School, I held various engineering positions with my previous employer, Valspar. I am currently the Global Engineering Manager for Baker Hughes Chemical Manufacturing. As an engineering manager, I am responsible for leading the engineering staff to execute capital project budgets, addressing process and production issues, and improving the efficiency of all the plants.

I moved from Tulsa to Houston to pursue my MBA. I knew Houston offered more MBA programs and my company, Baker Hughes, has a strong presence in the area. I began researching various MBA for Professional programs in Houston. After attending an on-campus information session at the Jones School, I knew Rice was the place for me. The opportunity to speak with staff and students about their experiences at Rice was eye-opening, and I was impressed by their pride in the Jones School.

As I start my second year, I have been so impressed by the caliber of the faculty as well as my classmates. My MBA classes have been interesting, different, and engaging which has given me a broader perspective when compared to the engineering classes I took during my undergraduate days. This is exactly the classroom experience that I was hoping for from my Rice MBA. I am looking forward to my elective classes this second year, and it’s hard to believe that graduation is just one year away."

An update from Ryan after investiture:

When I think back through my class experiences, “Immersion” jumps out in my mind. As I started Immersion, which was the intense week of full-day classes at the beginning of the first semester, I remember the mixed feelings I had. I was excited to start my MBA, unsure of what my classmates would really be like, and anxious to begin my first class. One of the classes during Immersion is Competitive Strategy taught by Professor Prashant Kale. I had heard rumors about the intensity of this course and his unique teaching style so I knew to be prepared, but I did not expect to be pulled into a learning environment like none I had experienced before. What’s more, I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much.

Dr. Kale sets the tone early in his classroom. We were going to discuss competitive strategy, and we were going to move quickly. He didn’t drag on about his accomplishments or credentials, but his reputation spoke for itself. Professor Kale is the Associate Professor of Strategic Management for the Jones Graduate School of Business who received his Ph.D. from Wharton taught at Kellogg, Ross, Wharton, and the Indian School of Business, and was rated among the ‘Top 10 Professors in US Business Schools’ in Business Week’s annual survey of top B-Schools. Needless to say, he had our attention.

Case study analysis and discussion is Dr. Kale’s main teaching method, which in and of itself is not that unique. However, Dr. Kale demands his students understand, study, and thoroughly analyze each case before class. He enforced this policy by commanding the class’ attention by actively engaging all of the students during lectures as we diagrammed the different elements of the business strategy. Professor Kale would ask the class a question regarding a theme of the case. One student would raise their hand and answer the question explaining their reasoning. Per typical, Kale would follow up after the student’s explanation with a series of “whys?”, “what facts from the case are you basing your decision?”, and more “whys?”. Next he would ask if anyone had an opposing view on the same question. As always, a student would speak up and get the same series of questions to explain their point of view. Interesting class debate ensued.

The second or third strategic case we discussed in class was a case describing Southwest Airlines. Using Kale’s case analysis lecture method, the class worked through each detail of the low-cost Southwest Airlines strategy. Professor Kale seemed to only ask questions of the class and write our answers on the board. After he did so, he would circle the main points and draw connections between strategic themes that were related. After a few hours, the student’s collective thoughts were captured on the whiteboard in a messy diagram that didn’t seem to mean much. Then Professor Kale encouraged us to quantify, as best we could, the savings or benefit gained from each strategic element. Again, within an hour or so we had estimated the value of the strategic advantage that Southwest Airlines held within its market.

Then it hit me. We were not all geniuses (although I think most of my classmates are pretty bright) or Southwest Airline executives, but only students who had read a twenty page case and spent a few hours discussing it. How had something so seemingly abstract and complicated as an airline’s successful business strategy become so easy to understand and quantify? And how had all of these ideas come from our minds and not the expert strategy professor teaching us? It was because of Dr. Kale’s uniquely challenging and thought-provoking lecture style. He had delivered an interactive lecture I will never forget.