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Real Humans of Rice Jones’ MBA Class of 2020

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Justin Messenger, Rice Jones MBA Class of 2020

Justin Messenger, Rice Jones MBA Class of 2020

Age: 31
Hometown: The Woodlands, TX
Undergraduate Institution and Major: United States Military Academy; Foreign Language, Chinese
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 9 years, Army as an Armor Officer. Over the 9 years I served as a Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, Staff Officer, Company Commander and Observer, Coach, Trainer.

Why business school? Why now?
After Company Command, I felt like I had achieved everything I wanted to achieve in the military and began looking at careers outside the military. I decided to go to school and get my MBA because I wanted a career that was challenging, purposeful and results driven, much like the military. After all of my research, the best way to get a career like that was to re-train myself with an MBA from a top school. I decided to go to school right after leaving the military because I felt that my experiences would still be fresh and provide a good context for the technical skills and business skills I would learn while in my program.

Why Rice? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Rice Business is rare in that it is a small program located in the center of one of the largest and most diverse cities in the country. The faculty and students are some of the smartest and most helpful people I have met in my life. I was initially drawn to Rice Business because of its reputation for being strong in the fundamentals of business; finance and accounting.

After visiting and talking with students, I was blown away by how tight knit the community is here around Rice MBAs and how committed the faculty and students are to helping each other. As someone coming from an industry with little exposure to business, the ability to re-train myself in the fundamentals of business while learning from some of the brightest faculty and students is an opportunity that I will always be grateful for.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2020?
My biggest contribution thus far is my involvement in Rice Business’ Veterans In Business Association (VIBA). While my contribution has been small (class started last week), I am excited to help other veterans make the transition from the military to the business world the way VIBA and Rice Business have helped me.

Rice Business and VIBA go above and beyond to help veterans make the transition successfully, providing scholarships through the Military Scholars Program and hosting events like VetBiz Battle, a business plan competition for veteran owned companies that is going into its fifth year.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I love running with my wife, Emily and our daughter Adeline, who just turned one in August. We will run with her to the park near our apartment so she can see all the ducks by the pond (her favorite book is “Make Way for Ducklings”).

Post-MBA career interests?
I want to go into energy investment banking here in Houston.

Advice to current prospective applicants?

— One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would make time to visit all the schools you are applying to, if you can. It is one thing to get an impression of a schools culture and environment online; its another to go in person and see for yourself. I was sold on Rice Business after the welcome I received and classes I saw when came to campus in the winter before receiving my acceptance.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would start out studying for the GMAT with a dedicated GMAT study book that teaches the concepts rather than a book that is just problem sets. I think I wasted a month or two studying the wrong way and then scrambled to get a GMAT score I was happy with right before applications were due.

–Part you would have skipped if you could – and what helped you get through it?
I think I would have skipped making a video of myself for my application. It felt weird to see myself on camera and I kept forgetting what I wanted to say. My wife Emily helped me get through it by letting me talk through what I wanted to say, giving me honest feedback as to when I looked awkward, and filming me while pregnant with our daughter!

What is your initial impression of Rice Business’s students/culture/community?
Rice Business’s students are some of the most helpful people I have ever met. Coming from the military, I have little experience with finance or accounting, but I have never been short of people willing and able to help me learn the material when I get stuck. The culture is very tight knit and family like. While we work hard, we also take time to relax. Every Thursday evening, we have Partio, which is just a big party on the patio. Students, their families, and faculty get to relax together after a hard week of classes.

One thing you have learned about Rice Business that has surprised you?
I was surprised by the approachability of the professors. Coming from the military, I expected a lot more formality in daily interactions with professors, but they are all so down to earth. It makes the learning experience that much more fun.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I am most anxious about doing well in finance and accounting. I haven’t had a lot of experience in those subjects. My professors in both subjects are amazing and always find ways to explain things in ways that make sense and my classmates are always there to help.

Thing you are most exited about in your first year?
Meeting all the awesome people in my class. Because Rice Business only has about 120 full time students, I actually get a chance to meet everyone and learn from them!

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.