Lauren Thompson

Rice MBA Full Time Class of 2014

We have options for everything nowadays. There are hundreds of major retailers online, thousands of donut shops in the US, and millions of movies. But when choosing a business school, how do you make sure to choose the Shawshank Redemption of MBA programs? What do you do when the only IMDB of MBA programs are rankings rather than detailed information on quality?

Growing up in Houston, I knew the stellar reputation of Rice University. Rice graduates were visible all over the city and famous political figures would regularly visit Rice’s Baker Institute. When the Dalai Lama visits a university, you pay attention. Also, for anyone interested in the sciences, Rice University and its Nobel laureates stand out as leaders in the field of chemistry with a little thing called nanotechnology (no pun intended).

After several years of living in the Northeast, I began to tire of falling on ice in the winter (I make “clumsy” look like “natural grace”) and encountering fake Tex-Mex (smashing an avocado is not guacamole). I was ready to return to Texas, where the weather understands that it’s alright to be 72 degrees and sunny in mid-February and picking a restaurant is more “Escalante’s has the best enchiladas” than “well, I guess there isn’t anything wrong with their quesadillas.” Although I looked at a few business schools in the Northeast, I concentrated my search on programs in the southern half of the country. I looked for schools with small class sizes and students who are excelling several years after they graduate. For me, if you’re going to focus on numbers, these two statistics are the strongest indicators of the quality of the education because, ultimately, you need to demonstrate the skills necessary to be a leader in your field. As I conducted research, rave reviews of the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, especially its entrepreneurship program, cropped up everywhere.

In my previous job, I really enjoyed overall management and business development efforts. In the long term, I hoped (and still hope!) to translate these skills to running my own business. For aspiring entrepreneurs, the university’s advances in technology and collaboration between MBA students and marketable science products is the cherry on top of a Guinness-Record-sized sundae. Many science and MBA students have teamed up to start very lucrative companies. Combining innovation with the well-rounded education provided by the Jones School (Rice MBA students understand accounting and marketing) has allowed the Jones School’s aspiring entrepreneurs to become extremely successful. When considering business schools, I kept returning to the unique entrepreneurship program at Rice.

After meeting admissions representatives and former students at career fairs and Rice recruiting events, I was confident that I needed to apply to Rice. The friendliness, enthusiasm about the school, and opportunities available in the program struck a chord with me. Over the next few months, I diligently studied for the GMAT and prepared my application. Within a few weeks of submitting my application, I was invited to attend the Women’s Preview Weekend and scheduled an admissions interview during the weekend. Rice’s Women’s Preview Weekend was a huge factor in my decision: I appreciated attending a class, meeting prospective classmates, and interacting with the Career Management Center (CMC). The CMC particularly impressed me with its knowledge of every (and I mean every) Jones MBA student as well as their vast industry contacts. Every Thursday, the business school has a party on the patio, or a “partio,” where a company comes to meet and network with students in the MBA program. Partios are open to current students and alumni so that everyone may benefit from the networking opportunities. As our Assistant Dean is fond of saying, there is a fine line between “networking” and “not working.” As in real estate, when choosing a business school “location, location, location” can make a huge difference. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, in a state with a stable economy, and only second to New York City in terms of Fortune 500 headquarters. If you want plenty of career prospects and a low cost of living, you can’t find a better city. Ultimately, the quality of education, opportunities available at Rice and in Houston, and down-to-earth people drove me to choose the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University for my MBA program.