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Real Humans of Rice Business MBA Class of 2022

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James Williams, Rice MBA Class of 2022

Age: 34
Hometown: Greensboro, NC
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, African and Afro-American Studies, with a Women Studies minor.
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): I worked in nonprofit management for 7 years and employee benefits consulting for 2 years.

Why business school? Why now? 
For years I’ve had an intuition that it was time to pivot my career to an area of long-standing interest. I’ve also known that business school was the one place where I could gain the full suite of quantitative skills that I’d need to match the qualitative skillset I built during the early part of my career. Despite the overwhelming hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the global response slowed my life to a pace that made acting on this long-held feeling both necessary and possible.

Why Rice Business? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? 
I’ve known I wanted to attend Rice for my MBA since arriving in Houston five years ago (even while ignoring my interest). I was first drawn by its well-known finance and real estate curriculums and alumni network. Yet, the thing that I most appreciated about Rice is the opportunity to receive a renowned and life-changing education in the middle of the city that my family has chosen to make its forever home. Having fallen in love with Houston many years ago, I see Rice as a major part of helping me build a thriving life here.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
I think my compelling communication style is the foundation of what helps me make a meaningful contribution to the class of 2022.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? 
During high school, my step team opened for Mario at a concert with about 5,000 attendees. It was a very fun and memorable experience.

Post-MBA career interests? 
I’m pursuing a career in commercial real estate investing and development.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? 
I appreciated having to write the essays. It was a chance to provide a deeper view into my background and values. Few parts of the process provide this type of uninterrupted space.

–One thing you would change or do differently? 
I would have started earlier and interacted with the school — students, faculty, staff, and alumni — more. Every engagement is an opportunity to learn even more about the program, the culture, and the things that will help you be successful. The earlier you can know this, the stronger your candidacy and, hopefully, your time as a student will be.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Though I grew to appreciate them, the process of writing the essays was intense. I have never written so many drafts of anything in my life. It was reassuring to have a group of people (including a Rice Business alumna) help me clarify my ideas and proofread (and re-read) my essays.

What is your initial impression of Rice Jones’s students/culture/community?
Rice Business is supporting my learning and growth very well. I find the students to be both highly intelligent and compassionate. The faculty sets rigorous standards, yet is approachable. The staff is thoughtful. The learning process requires a lot of vulnerability and courage. So far, Rice Business is a place where I feel well-supported in that process.

One thing you have learned about Rice Jones that has surprised you? 
I can’t say that anything has surprised me, but, I’m sure something will provide a pleasant surprise, soon.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
Like many others, balancing a career shift and a rigorous academic load is a source of frequent anxiety. Yet, in just 90 days, I’ve already become drastically more effective at prioritization.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? 
I look forward to securing an internship that aligns with my passions, strengths, and career goals. During that internship, I look forward to using lots of what I’ve learned in my first year.

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.