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Real Humans of the Rice Jones MBA Class of 2023

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Maria Kalina, Rice Jones MBA Class of 2023

Age: 27
Hometown: Edina, MN
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Harvard University, Psychology
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Upon graduating from Harvard University, I worked at the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. for 11 months. I then moved back to Boston, MA to work for TB12, a health and wellness startup co-founded by Tom Brady. I worked there for 3.5 years before moving to Atlanta to pursue a new opportunity as a leadership consultant at a small firm, ADDO.

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
Coming from a non-traditional background, I wanted to learn fundamental business skills that I knew would be important to succeed in any organization. I also wanted to refine my own leadership skills.

 Why did you choose Rice Business? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I chose Rice Business because of the rigor of the academic program and the culture. The students and alumni I interacted with when making my decision were incredibly kind and insightful. I felt that they would be an accurate representation of my future classmates — and they were!

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
My positive and optimistic attitude! I’m always trying to support my classmates and help them reach their potential.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I made it onto ESPN for College Gameday my junior year of college and was voted, by USA Today, as having the 5th best Gameday sign!

Post-MBA career interests:
Ultimately, I would like to pursue a career in Human Resources, specializing in leadership development, change management, and organizational behavior.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would emphasize my strengths, as well as my weaknesses. There’s no need to feel shame in your failures or weaknesses. In fact, I think it shows schools that you have a growth mindset and you’re not afraid to take risks.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I wouldn’t have been as concerned to identify as a nontraditional applicant. There are so many other candidates who are in similar situations, and business school becomes more about helping you build the skills necessary to leave a positive impact on the world upon graduation.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
The GMAT. I’m a firm believer that people are much more than their standardized test scores, and that it’s not necessarily an accurate representation of an individual’s intelligence level or work ethic.

What is your initial impression of the Rice Business students/culture/community?
I was blown away by the positive culture and support the entire Rice Business community provides. It’s a high-energy environment. Everyone is here to become better versions of themselves and to reach their potential, but they also care about helping their classmates succeed in their endeavors.

What is one thing you have learned about Rice Business that has surprised you?
One thing that has surprised me is how accessible and enthusiastic the professors are. It’s obvious that they enjoy their profession and genuinely want their students to succeed.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
Honestly, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t really affect my application or admissions process. I had already been planning to apply to business school when the pandemic hit. If anything, it confirmed my desire to pursue my MBA.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Business school is a hectic and stressful time. I try to prioritize self-care, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m a little worried that is going to fall by the wayside this first year.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m really looking forward to continuing to expand my network and build relationships that will last a lifetime.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.