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Real Humans of Rice Business MBA Class of 2022

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Ali Akbar Hassonjee, Rice MBA Class of 2022

Age: 25
Hometown: Cranbury, NJ
Undergraduate Institution and Major: New York University ’17 (Economics)
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Commercial Real Estate/Construction – 3 years

Why business school? Why now? 
Getting an MBA was always part of my plan, but COVID19 served as the trigger for me to take a step back from the job-ladder and go back to investing in myself. My goal has been to build expertise in real estate finance, so I always knew I would need a master’s degree. An MBA, contrary to other master’s programs, provides you a toolkit to succeed as a manager while also giving you the room to focus on the field you’re most interested in.

Why Rice Business? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Rice Business has the smallest class size of any school I was considering, and it is strategically located in Houston, one of the preeminent real estate centers of the southwest. Even though the Rice MBA community is not as large as that of other schools, it is deeply enriched in the Southwestern community and beyond, so there are plenty of alumni to help with the field in which you wish to work. Rice Business is also #1 in MBA programs for entrepreneurship, which was attractive for me as someone looking to learn from real estate entrepreneurs in the area, and what they got out of the startup curriculum.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022? 
Since real estate is a minority of the class in terms of professional focus, I believe I add a lot of diversity through my modular construction and brokerage strategy background. Real estate investments and construction technology-developments are poised to catalyze new levels of economic growth in the coming decades, and my goal is to lay the groundwork for Rice Business to emerge as a leading real estate school while this happens. Case competitions, extensive company connections from coast to coast, and networking events are all items I am currently working on to achieve this goal, and I am excited to continue this next year as well.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I am training to become a pilot!

Post-MBA career interests?
Private Equity Real Estate Investment and Development

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?

Make use of the creative video option in the application process. This really helped me express myself in a unique way, and an essay would not have achieved that.

–One thing you would change or do differently? 
I would have added more specific details in my leadership essay and make stronger connections with the MBA curriculum to show how I had already developed some of the skills that Rice Business was looking for.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
If I did not need the optional essay, I would have skipped it, but I felt it was necessary to talk about other aspects of my career aspirations and undergraduate experiences. This part of the application can be a hit or miss depending on your profile, so think carefully about what you want your readers to get out of the essay.

What is your initial impression of Rice Jones’s students/culture/community?
Rice Business is tight-knit and action-oriented. The energy every day in class and on campus is highly positive, and it helps enrich my own experience in the program. Rice Business has successfully executed its hybrid course-delivery model because both students and faculty have collaborated to make the academic experience safe and flexible. That has been an impressive sight to behold.

One thing you have learned about Rice Jones that has surprised you?
I was surprised to learn that the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Lilie) resulted from a donation from one of Houston’s most successful real estate developers. Real Estate and entrepreneurship are inherently intertwined!

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
The current job environment is challenging to navigate, given the pandemic situation, but I am confident that Rice Business can offer the pathways we need to find our summer 2021 positions successfully.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? 
I am incredibly excited for the spring semester because this will be our first chance to take electives for our respective concentrations, as well as dig into additional recruiting opportunities and case competitions. The first term of year 1 is packed with core academic requirements that serve as the foundation for the rest of the MBA program, so it will be fun to put those new skills to work in the next few classes.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.