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Real Humans of SMU Cox’s MBA Class of 2024

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smu cox class of 2024William Lyman Harris, SMU Cox MBA Class of 2024

Age: 28
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Howard University; Computer Information Systems
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 5.5 years, Big Tech

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I made the decision to attend business school to transition into the commercial real estate industry. I desire to be a change agent and incorporate my passions for community development and real estate to address wealth disparities by making community resources accessible through urban development. My decision was also motivated by my desire to have a safe space to take calculated risks and be surrounded by other highly motivated and intelligent individuals throughout the process.

Why did you choose SMU Cox? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Commercial Real Estate is an extremely niche concentration for an MBA program and two driving factors to succeed in the commercial real estate industry are relationships and location.

During the application process, I was extremely excited about the new Cox Real Estate Practicum that offers students hands-on experience with real estate private equity investing by managing SMU’s Social Impact Real Estate Investment Fund. Additionally, Cox was committed to alleviating financial barriers and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion by offering The Cox Community Scholarship.

I chose Cox because I was confident that the robust MBA program, The Folsom Institute for Real Estate, and the close-knit support system will broker the relationships and resources needed for me to thrive. Attending Cox, allows me to capitalize on the prolific economy that sits in Dallas’s backyard.

 What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2024?
My personal strength of leading through social and emotional awareness, which allows me to be self-aware and empathetic toward others is my most valuable and differentiating contribution to the Class of 2024. This strength will allow me to develop and maintain relationships, inspire others, and collaborate well in teams while excelling at personal self-management.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
I love board games that require strategy and negotiation. Monopoly and Settlers of Catan are by far my favorite games to play.

Post-MBA career interests:
My parents have never been homeowners; financially, it was out of their reach, and I want to change that for millions of disadvantaged families. The skills learned at Cox will enable me to play a pivotal part in closing the racial wealth gap. Using my experiences in tech, my MBA, and my future career in real estate, I will become a real estate developer committed to transforming and revitalizing communities.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
The MBA application process absolutely challenged me to reflect on my values, morals, and motives. That process of personal and professional reflection strengthened me spiritually and created a strong foundation as I pivot careers.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
If I could go back, I would have started the process of studying for the GMAT earlier.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
The anxiety. I would have skipped the anxiety of the entire process, but specifically the anxiety of taking the GMAT. A combination of prayer, family, and running was extremely imperative for me to see it through the application process.

What is your initial impression of the SMU Cox students/culture/community?
My initial impression of SMU Cox is that the community is very intimate, tight-knit, and available. Prior to the beginning of my first year, I had over ten coffee chats with current students, alumni, and faculty. Everyone was extremely helpful and hospitable, but more importantly, they were responsive to my messages and available to connect.

What is one thing you have learned about SMU Cox that has surprised you?
The reach of the Cox network has been most surprising to me so far. My initial perception was that the Cox network was somewhat geographically limited to Texas, and more specifically Dallas. As I became more connected, I was immediately amazed by the breadth and depth of the Cox alumni in other states and cities.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Time management and agreeing to too many commitments. There are countless opportunities, clubs, and activities at Cox, which will require extreme discipline and discernment in knowing what to prioritize.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Building relationships with classmates and faculty, learning from other leaders from diverse backgrounds, and professional experiences.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how? 
COVID-19 has both positively and negatively impacted me during the process. COVID-19 eliminated a lot of barriers and created more access to admissions teams and recruiting events via zoom. On the opposite side, COVID-19 also restricted the opportunities to attend on-campus events and visits.

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.