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Real Humans of Rice Business MBA Class of 2022

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Kelly Avant, Rice MBA Class of 2022

Age: 26
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Fort Lewis College, Liberal Arts BA
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): I went straight into the Peace Corps in Cambodia after graduating from college. After returning to the US I clerked at a mid-sized litigation firm before enrolling at Emory University School of Law. From there, my path became less linear when I left law school to work with a small team to launch a start-up liquor incubator specializing in guiding local spirits companies through the early stages of brand development.

Why business school? Why now?
I love to learn, and I wanted to further my education with a graduate degree. Attending Emory Law helped me to realize that I am a much better fit in business. 2020 presented some serious setbacks to the spirits industry, which relies heavily on large events for revenue. What better time to accomplish my goal of earning an MBA? 

Why Rice Jones? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Rice Business is a close-knit program with a STEM certification, the #1 graduate entrepreneurship program, and incredible connections to resources in the most diverse city in the world.

Our professors, deans, and advisors know all of us personally and go above and beyond to hear out and address our concerns.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
What differentiates me most is coming from a non-profit background. I have a personal awareness of some of the pros and cons of social development programs.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I spent three months building trails in the backcountry of the Weminuche Wilderness in Southwestern Colorado as an AmeriCorps volunteer.

Post-MBA career interests?
I want to launch my own small business during my time at Rice. Long term, my goals are to work on a team of innovative thinkers interested in great design.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Don’t stress too much! When I applied to law school I obsessed over every detail of my application, and I think I came across as pretty pretentious. Don’t be pretentious.

I set up phone calls with admissions directors and just had genuine conversations. You are selling yourself but remember that the admissions department wants you, too. Just find common ground and get a feel for what Rice is about. These one-on-one conversations make you stand out.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I’m going to use an example from my law school applications because I still think about this… just because you have the opportunity to submit an addendum does not mean you should.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Standardized tests are hard and studying for them can feel pointless at times, but try to remember that you are rewiring your brain to succeed in grad school. Know that the study skills will pay off.

What is your initial impression of Rice Jones’s students/culture/community?
I struggled with some of my mid-terms and there were teams of people who sprung up to support me. They have done an incredible job of reacting to the constraints of the pandemic to give us the best experience possible. This is not just a program to churn out degrees.

My professors and peers are all incredibly smart and impressive. You might bump into an astronaut.

One thing you have learned about Rice Jones that has surprised you?
Rice MBA alumni can take continuing education classes at a significantly reduced price for the rest of their lives.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Not to scare you but coming from a liberal arts background the quantitative course load is really intense in your first semester. It is a ton of work, but I am learning rapidly.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Every time I go to a Lilie event I feel inspired to use my MBA to be creative and work hard and make a positive difference in the world. It is such a cool program and probably the best thing about Rice (sorry Investment Banking club). I participated in the First Pitch Competition and it has been the best networking choice I have ever made. I can’t speak highly enough about Lilie or about the students and alumni doing big things. Lots of superlatives here but they deserve it.

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.