J.R. Gibbens

Rice MBA Full Time Class of 2017

Hometown: Houston, TX

Undergraduate School and Major (Include Graduate School if Relevant): United States Air Force Academy, Bachelor of Science in Management

Southern Methodist University, Masters of Science in Operations Research

Employer and Job Titles Since Graduation:

  • United States Air Force- Pilot
  • Traditum Group- Fixed Income Trader
  • Trumbull Unmanned, LLC- Co-Founder, COO

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? There is little replacement for just spending a lot of time reviewing the fundamentals, doing problems, taking practice tests, and repeating. While I was preparing for the GMAT, I was very busy with a startup, a day job, and a family so I had to be very intentional with how I prepared. The best advice I have for someone preparing is to practice holding yourself to a specific time limit on each question. There were several problems I came across that I spent too much time working on because I knew I could figure it out. I would have been better off taking a guess and saving my time for questions later in the test. Having the discipline to stick with your strategy and move on is crucial.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply?  Every school has a distinct personality and it is important to learn that personality and find the one that best suits your personality and goals. For me, it was important to enter the selection process with an end goal in mind and choose the schools best suited to support that goal.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? Take it one step at a time and ask for the recommendations early and, if possible, in person. If you are applying to multiple schools, it can be really time-consuming. Like any large project, break it down into steps, give yourself a timeline, and keep track of your progress. Early on I would recommend being very intentional and strategic about your goals, narrow down schools that are most in line with those goals and focus the majority of your effort on one or two.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Simple: the current students and alumni. While spending time in Houston I was able to meet several current students and alumni and hear their experiences and views on the school. I have never been around a group that had so many glowing remarks about their school and experiences. While I was at Rice, it truly felt like a family and a place where I could perform at my best. As a veteran, Rice is also extremely supportive of the veteran community and goes well above and beyond anything I would have ever expected a school to do!

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? Good question, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to do after I graduate, but this question brings focus to other important aspects of an MBA program. After having spent many years in the military where I moved every 2 to 3 years you never really had a chance to settle into an area. A full-time MBA program affords a unique opportunity to build strong relationships as you take a unique journey with your classmates. By the end of this program I hope to have forged those relationships into life-long friendships.