Caroline Bybee, Rice Jones MBA Class of 2020
Hometown: Houston, TX
Undergraduate Institution and Major: The College of Wooster, Communication Studies
Pre-MBA Work Experience: I spent three years working for Amigos de las Americas, an international youth leadership development nonprofit with their headquarters Houston.
Why business school? Why now?
I decided to pursue my MBA because I want to do good. I was very happy working in nonprofit, feeling connected to the mission of my organization, and seeing the direct impact that I was making. I realized, however, that much of what I was doing there played to my existing strengths and that I was not really being put in situations that would develop my areas of weaknesses.
Business school was the best path I could find that would push me out of my comfort zone and help me to build a more robust professional toolkit. I knew it would be a hard path to take, because it meant diving headfirst into all of the things that I was no good at, but I wanted to take that risk while I am still young and really starting off my career. My hope is that doing so will allow me to have an even greater impact wherever it is that I end up.
Why Rice? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I knew that I wanted to be somewhere that was academically rigorous, but where I also felt like a part of a community. Rice fit the bill perfectly—it has academic rigor, a small class size, and a strong sense of community. I also appreciated the familiarity and warmth that I sensed at Rice from the get-go. Obviously, that has become even more evident since I got here, but even as I went through the application process, it was clear: each of my interactions with the admissions team felt very personal and genuine.
I did my undergrad at a small school, where I thrived on the personal connections and strong sense of shared community, and the Jones School has a similar close-knit, supportive nature to it that drew me in from the very beginning of my search. I was so convinced that Rice was the right fit, in fact, that it was the only place I applied!
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2020?
I was someone who didn’t feel like I “belonged” in business school. I didn’t see people like me pursuing careers in business: from what I could tell, all the creative, soft-hearted lesbians who want to change the world are in education or nonprofit—or at least politics.
But I’m here, and I think my contribution is just that: being someone who never expected to go to b-school, finding ways to celebrate and learn from my differences and those of my classmates, and forging connections through our (expected and unexpected) commonalities.
I hope that my curiosity and desire to lift my peers up for their own unique backgrounds will contribute positively to a robust and inclusive culture here at Rice and beyond, and that it will help to create avenues for other people who don’t feel like they “belong here” to realize that that’s exactly why they should be.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I love to doodle and draw cartoons, and I’ve actually started a cartoon chronicle of my time here at Rice!
Post-MBA career interests?
I am still investigating the options that are out there, but I am drawn to leadership and organizational development roles. I know that I am passionate about mentorship and getting the best out of people, and I hope to build a career that allows me to make those central aspects of my work.
Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Use the application process as a springboard for reflection – I was pretty sure I wanted to pursue my MBA, and then as I sat down and worked through my application, I was forced to reflect and determine if that was actually what I wanted, and why.
It was a very illuminating experience, and it solidified my reasons and resolve for applying. I would definitely recommend taking advantage of that time to really reflect and consider what your motivations are, and what you’re hoping to get out of your experience.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would apply earlier. I waited until the final deadline to submit my application. In the end, it worked out, but I’m generally the kind of person who likes to have things planned out in advance, so pulling everything together and waiting to see if it would pan out was nerve-wracking. I could have avoided a lot of that stress by just applying earlier in the season and getting my plans squared away before mid-May!
–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Waiting to hear back! The wait was the worst part – not knowing whether I was in or not made it feel like I was stuck in limbo. Luckily, my work kept me busy enough that I couldn’t spend too much time dwelling on it, but if I could have just known right away, that would have been even better!
What is your initial impression of Rice’s students/culture/community?
In a word, I would describe Rice as “warm.” Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and open, which has been a great atmosphere to step into. I am very thankful to be joining a community where the overwhelming feeling is one of working toward a common goal and trying to lift each other up, and it immediately helped me to feel more at home, like I had made the right choice.
One thing you have learned about Rice that has surprised you?
All of the incredible things my peers have done! I knew my class would come from a variety of backgrounds, but I have been really impressed with the wide array of experiences and perspectives that each person brings to the table. I have really enjoyed spending the past few weeks learning about everyone and what brought them here—every person I meet has a different story and a different path that brought them to Rice, yet we already feel very cohesive and united.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Trying to fit everything in! I can already tell that there are more opportunities than I will have time to pursue, and it’s daunting to think about trying to narrow them down.
Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m most excited for the variety of experiences that I will have, and for making connections between them. At the beginning of our time here at Jones, we were each given a Rice Business notebook that I’ve been writing in to step back and reflect as I move through my time here. I’m looking forward to continuing to make time for those reflections and to see how all of the pieces of this first year—from the classes, to the clubs, to the info sessions, to the networking, to the conferences, to everything else—weave together to form a cohesive (if exhausting!) experience.