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2009年7月份,我给一个老朋友(Simon FT-MBA,2010春季班)为申请MBA而写的Essay提了几点比较关键的修改建议。后来,她成功拿到Simon的Offer。再后来,她建议我做留学DIY咨询方面的工作,并向我介绍了我的第一个客户。最终,我的第一个客户也成功拿到几个TOP16商学院的面试并顺利拿到Duke Fuqua商学院MBA的录取。 本人毕业于上海复旦大学管理学院国际企业管理系,属于商科科班出身并且做过管理工作、有领导经验的人士。


商院访谈:Dean Q&A: Rice Jones MBA’s Peter Rodriguez (2/2)  

2017-02-11 04:38:00|  分类: 学校与选校 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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商院访谈:Dean Q&A: Rice Jones MBA’s Peter Rodriguez (2/2)




P&Q: You were named dean at Rice in July. Thus far, what have been the two biggest challenges you’ve tackled?  At the same time, what types of progress and accomplishments have you made in these areas?

DR: Being the newest person in the building and the university (to a degree), everyone, of course, is incredibly friendly and welcoming and you dive in quickly. But you’re not part of the history and you don’t know the backgrounds of anyone there. So I think the two things you really want to do is to listen aggressively and quickly and establish your credible processes for making the key decisions. At the onset, there is no choice but to make them. People may not know how to read into what you’re doing or the process you went through. But you do need to manage the newness in a way that allows you to more deeply understand the culture of the place. At the same time, you’re trying to make critical changes as quickly as you can to advance the strategy of the organization. Just grappling with the newness, not always knowing who to call about something like you would in your prior job or even knowing the history of professor X and Y, etc. There are advantages too, but I would say overcoming the newness quickly enough to be effective [was a big challenge] because if you’re really going to make an impact, you have to hit the ground running. There’s just no two ways about it.

The second challenge is related to the first and that’s putting your brand or style of leadership in place. No matter who preceeded you or how good it was, it will always be different in some way. One of the things that we tried to do early was to create some cross-disciplinary teams and some strategy groups that combined staff and faculty in ways that they had not been combined before. The value of that is making sure you have a broad information flow, so people can see and empathize with other areas of the organization and hopefully pick up the low hanging fruit and understand how they can help each other or understand the tradeoffs that the organization as a whole is facing more clearly as a result.

P&Q: Looking at your MBA program, what two or three things are hallmarks of the Rice MBA experience that makes it so distinctive from other two-year MBA programs? How do these unique wrinkles help students prepare for both the current job market and their long-term careers?

PR: I would say, particularly for full-time program, there is something about the scale that tends to influence the way students treat each other and think of themselves. I think that’s key to transformation.

Let me give you an example. With 110-120 students per year, they all know each other. It’s not that they get to know their professors (and vice versa). They get to know all of their classmates. That creates, to me, a greater ownership of the whole experience. I believe they are more thoughtful about including each other because absences are more significant. I believe they are more thoughtful about their own reputation and social capital because everyone will know them. So you’ll have a team experience, but you will probably be on a team with everyone in your class before it is over. Early on, there is a recognition that you will be known and you will know everyone. I think that makes them want to be more inclusive in all that they do, whether it is a weekend event, travel or the clubs that they promote. It also means that they have a small pool of people rely on, so there is this norm of everyone pulling their weight and everyone being more included.

I don’t know where the balance is. It’s a question we often ask: Could we be larger or is this size optimal? I know that what works here so far is that the scale gives a sense of community to the students that I really had not seen before. It is something that may be more particular to groups in the 100 and not those in the 200s and 300s. It’s interesting because it’s not part of the curricular design.

The other I would mention outside of the purely social experience is that within the curriculum design, they have lots of integration with people in the city of Houston built into the curriculum and courses. For example, we have Board Fellows programs where lots of our students are board members for a year for not-for -profits or socially-minded organizations in town. They get a sense of how the community thinks about the shared ownership of the space they live in. They also get a sense of what it’s like to not only be a business person, but someone who has a social life and a place in the broader community beyond what they contribute to these organizations.

There is also this favorably unusual experience where so many people are engaged in the support of the university even if they don’t have a direct affiliation. So many of the business people who spend time and get involved may not be Rice graduates (or have children who are Rice graduates). They just feel this is one of the key institutions in the city and we’re a place where they want to make a contribution to the livelihood of the city in the same way that the museums or performing arts companies do. That’s great for us. It means that we’re part of the broader community and there’s a sense of having to live up into that expectation in a productive way. It means something to be a Rice graduate, especially in Houston. Our students take up that mantel with some pride. They are beyond what we actually control and yet they are so fundamentally important to us.

P&Q: If you had to describe the Rice culture in one or two words, what would they be? (Why?) What are some of the traits and backgrounds of students who fit and flourish at Jones?

PR: The first word that comes to mind, to be completely honest, was scholarly. I think that’s too generic. But I’ll add some breadth to it. The university is very much molded around a very broad academic experience. If you walk out the front doors of the university, you’ll look across and see the Baker Institute for Public Policy. If you could throw a baseball to the right, you’d land somewhere near the Shepherd School of Music, where you have operatic performances and string quartets who are admitted together and play together for four years. You also have the engineering school and natural sciences. It’s a very interesting context in which to live. You gain a complete appreciation of all of the arts and sciences at the university. There is an encouragement, if not an expectation, that to be a Rice grad you should have some interest or a toe in the water in one of them. It would not be enough to be a single discipline expert. There is a sense that you should be more scholarly or worldly in that way.

I think that’s valuable to us. We talk about ‘One campus, one building.’ When we say that here, we mean unlike a lot of other programs, some things are different for us. Our scale is valuable to us. Because of it, we can offer students an experience fully delivered on one campus and in one building. In that building all the connections between faculty, students and staff happen. Each student is known to all other students and that defines the experience here.

The other thing that defines us is boldness. It’s an interesting term that comes from the history of the city and the industry that we’re most associated with. It takes some boldness to venture around the world and tackle the Texas landscape such as drilling for oil in certain places. It is a place where being ambitious and willing to look at and do the hard things is valued. It is an echo, if not a precursor, of a more entrepreneurial spirit that says it is more important to try than to worry about failing a couple of times. You have to be the one who is taking the lead and smart chances. That comes out in the experience. We have a lot of students who see themselves as soon-to-be and current leaders. They want to have a big impact on the world and the companies that they found and lead.

Along with scholarly and bold students, we want students who want to be part of the whole campus in some ways. We definitely look for that. One of the risks of an urban area is that sometimes you can get people who apply and come in and you worry that they may live far away or may not have an easy time getting to campus. We’ve been able to be particularly choosey on that count. Then on the boldness side, I think about impact in admissions. Is their focus sharp enough and their confidence high enough about getting an MBA that they see it as some path to making an impact with their life and career?

That’s important. The MBA is a great degree. It can service people almost wherever they are and wherever they want to work with greater options. But we hope that it is more than just a utility play — insurance against risk. We want them to seek it as a vehicle to a greater goal.


P&Q: Rice is located in Houston, Texas. You are blessed with a wide range of industries, a growing entrepreneurial scene, and 24 Fortune 500 firms. How do you leverage your setting in Houston to help your students gain invaluable experience and maximize their options after graduation?

PR: This is a fascinating place. I think it is an under-recognized city in many ways. The one that comes out a lot — and it surprises people a lot — is that it is the most diverse city in the United States when you look at an index of different ethnicities and nationalities. It’s extraordinary and it’s much broader than one would think with the presence of people from Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and Central America. You feel it. It isn’t like these are subtle elements of the city. This is the natural way the city looks. I recall a recent article about the food scene in Houston. Someone described it as what they imagine the city in Blade Runner looked like. It has that broad and larger-than-normal mix of ethnic backgrounds. Food is not only a great way to get a handle into the cultural variety of the city, but also the comfort of it. People may think of Texas as Western culture, but it is a really distinctive city culturally. It is really good for how we think about each other and emphasize the ability to live and work around the world. We’re just a great immigrant community in that way and that helps our students think about their place in it and appreciate the opportunities that we have in a city like Houston and in the fields that are predominant here.

One of the fields that comes up a lot and matters to us greatly is healthcare. We’re literally across the street from the largest constellation of hospitals and healthcare centers in the U.S. It’s enormous and brings a lot of people in. That connects us to the natural sciences at the school and the opportunities that business people play in those very, very critical organizations in everything from healthcare delivery to entrepreneurship in healthcare. When you think about the impact that Millennials want to have, you can see great opportunities for presence and impact in healthcare here, which is something the city is deeply proud of. NASA is also associated with the city. We have a lot of entrepreneurial activities and technologies tied to space travel. We’re always looking for applications in Earth-bound technologies and those have a distinctive presence for us in Houston.

The city is really proud of its standing arts companies.  I think we’re one of five cities that have four of them. We have the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet Company, and the Alley Arts Theater, all with great runs and great programs. There’s always something going on. I would tell you that the variety of things to do on your weekend is almost overwhelming. You have professional teams in basketball, baseball, football, and MLS soccer team. It’s incredible all the things you could do here.

If you want to get out, you go to the golf courses. There’s great fishing. In the next month we host the Super Bowl. After that, you have Rodeo Month, which is a series of celebrations and concerts around Houston. It’s  an incredibly large month-long series of parties and activities. It’s just loaded. This is actually one of the better times of the year for us, weather-wise. It’s more comfortable for us from mid-fall to later spring. You’re outside a lot. People eat outside. They run a lot. The city has been Investing heavily in the parks and railway systems. It’s been great for us. Living inside the loop, museums are free and they’re world class. There’s always something to see and be stimulated by. It’s almost tiring, but in a good way.

P&Q: Rice also ranks among the most generous MBA programs, with over 80% of your students receiving financial aid. In the process, you were able to boost your GMAT scores by 14 points in the 2018 class. Talk to us about how you are able to offer all of these packages and what the impact has been on your program?

PR: It’s a strategy born of at least two things. One of the things that matters a lot is the history of the university. The second one is a strategy to really improve our overall candidate pool, which is really getter better-and-better, year-after-year.

The first part of the history is perhaps well-understood. Until the 1960s, Rice was free to all of its students. It was part of the desire of the founder of the university that it did not matter what station or financial resources one had. The school was built on the spirit of bringing in the top minds. That free tuition is hard to maintain, obviously. However, there has always been a high value that Rice could choose and be attractive to anyone. There’s a feeling that there’s probably lots of undiscovered talent among people who are watching their wallet and being very careful about debt. So there was always an ambition about being a heavily scholarship-laden program.

In the full-time program, I think a lot of it too has to do with us being a very young school. We were not really accredited until the late 1990s and early 2000s. So competing for the best students was always tougher. There was always a deliberate strategy, which we have accelerated recently, to use scholarships appropriately to make sure we could get higher-and-higher quality students. It goes with this virtuous cycle of quality that you could be happy to be part of this school among very smart, thoughtful, and capable people. It’s a little easier for us because, again, we’re small. It’s manageable, but we have to have the financial production in other areas of the school along with philanthropy to make it happen. So far, we’ve been able to manage that.

P&Q: Another defining feature of Jones is the Rice Alliance of Technology and Entrepreneurship, which has helped launch over 1700 firms and generated $3.3 billion dollars in funding for these firms. What are some of the programs and resources that you offer to prospective entrepreneurs (such as your highly-regarded incubator and your competition)?

PR: The Rice Alliance of Technology and Entrepreneurship, which is out here in the Jones School, is a collaboration between the Jones School, the School of Engineering and the School of Natural Sciences. Yes, we do have the world’s largest business plan competition. It’s a thrill. It’s so visible and we get recognized for it regularly. So many students from our school and other schools take advantage of it. But it’s only a part of what we offer. We also have things like OwlSpark, an accelerator program during the summer. So you can imagine that we’ll have students here (or from other universities) who have a great business plan idea and they come in and apply through a vetting process that looks for scalable and innovative technologies. We admit 10 (or maybe a few more) startup teams into a 12-week summer cohort. They’ll spend the summer getting mentored and supported by local entrepreneurs and angel investors, and venture capitalists to give them ideas not only on how they might take their next step in growth but also with each other. So it becomes another cohort of students, not just from our program but from other schools anywhere in the country.

We also do a lot of feed in processes during the year to help students develop business plans, decide on startup teams, and prepare them for the competitions, such as the business plan competition and getting into OwlSpark. Our aim is to have continuous activities that a student could, at almost any point in the year, enter themselves into a process so that they would be ready for these things at the end of a year.

Again, I find OwlSpark and the business plan competition bring in hundreds of people from Texas and the region who are not affiliated with the university but really want to be close to the students. These things have actually been a great tool for us to play large even while we’re not a very big school. So we can reach out to groups who are a bit distant from the school on one dimension, but could be close on this one. Even though we only have 6,000 alumni, we have a connectivity base that’s much larger. It’s strategies like the Alliance that helps us do that.


P&Q: Last year, when you were being interviewed to be dean, what were the biggest selling points of the Rice MBA program? As an extension of that, if you had to make an elevator pitch to a prospective student, what would you say?

PR: I lived in Charlottesville for 13 years and was delighted to be at Darden. It’s a great place. The things that I saw clearly (and early) at Rice made it a relatively easy decision to apply and want to become the dean.

Mostly, the school had terrific strategic foundations and they also had an ambition to match. Those two things together are rare. By strategic foundations, what stood out to me was that Rice had a sterling, superb academic reputation, particularly at the undergraduate level. I think the people who know Rice know it for that reason as an undergraduate institution. It’s Ivy League caliber, highly selective and has produced some great grads. So it had a great academic base from which to build.

It’s also a small and selective school in a very big and diverse city with lots of Fortune 100 and 500 companies around it. While we do share the region with the University of Houston and even the University of Texas and Texas A&M, there’s plenty of room for us. We’re not in an area that is sated with opportunities for an academic institution to play a role in the commercial life of the city and leverage the presence of the large organizations that we have here.

Lastly, it was obvious to me that the school had been on the rise and had been making the right investments to prepare it to be part of a very distinctive list of top schools in the country. They had added the Ph.D. program not too long ago. They built a very lovely building. They’ve emulated the very best pedagogical characteristics of top programs. And they made the tradeoffs to scholarships in a way to begin to get some of the very best students too. It was clear to me that the ambition was there and the foundations were strong enough that we could really make this school excel and also continue to thrive in the rankings.

For an elevator pitch, I would say the disclaimer is that I don’t have a pitch. But the things that I would emphasize are simple. You could come to the school and have the colleagues and experience that you would only get at one of the top 10-15 schools in the country. Then, you would get it at a scale in which you would know everyone and be known by everyone. You will create a bond that is richer than any of the ones you would get there. If you could have that same quality of experience at that same level of peers in your group but at a scale that’s more personal and human, then we’re the best match for you in an MBA program. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t necessarily pitch discipline A, B, C, or D. They’re strong across the board.

P&Q: One of your academic fascinations is with nature of corruption. In your personal life, you are passionate about photography. What are some things about you as Peter Rodriguez the person that you would like students, faculty, and staff to know about you?

PR: If I had to define myself in a way that’s accessible, I would definitely say that I am just really a student. I’ve continued to be a student forever. When things are going right and it’s spring, students might say, ‘I really don’t want to graduate.’ I tell them, “You really don’t have to. I didn’t. I just stuck around and found ways to be here.”

To be a student, I think means a couple of things. I’m interested in so many things, whether it is photography, sports, or travel. Almost anything that is new and interesting piques my interest. That’s where I really get juiced. I wouldn’t say I have a great sense of seriousness. I love to listen to standup comedians or get a laugh. That’s the best way for me to de-stress. I love being in the university setting. The things you get here are hard to get in other places. It’s not a default in any way. You can be around people who are always thinking up cool ideas, things you don’t know much about. You get to hang out with engineers and musicians on the same day. They’re always interested in each other one way or another. These are people who can tweak your mind and show you something that you didn’t know before. That’s something that’s exciting for me about being at a university.

You could say that being a dean is a way for me to live where I want to live. It’s definitely the environment that I’m happiest in.

P&Q: Over the next two years, where do you intend to focus? In the same spirit, what would success look like over that period? What would you need to achieve in order to fulfill your mission?

PR: There are a couple of things that we’re going to need to do well. Schools want to have impact on the things they care about. They want an impact on research, which means moving the field or, at the very least, that the key conversations that move your disciplines start at your schools or they travel through them in your faculty. Or, they want their program to be distinctive. They give great education to stronger people and you deliver positions to them; you give them the opportunity to lead or launch top organizations wherever they go.

To achieve that mission, we’re still a little underscale in my view. We need scale for impact is what I am trying to say. For us, scale isn’t all that much. We’re probably 20% smaller than we need to be. It is still a scale that will require some talent, thoughtfulness and some resources to achieve. In a couple of years, we’ll be where we ought to be if we add another section in the full-time section; if we are at a quality level that’s top 15 or higher in our students; and we have all of our programs running in a way where applications and placements are up and our financial model is robust. We’ll have to add everything, including tenure-track faculty, to make the scaling happen.  So growth is a good and motivating reason for a lot of organizations to change things and to try new things. We’ll have to make some changes quickly to coordinate all of that growth while we do it. If we can manage that, we’ll be in a great position for Rice. We will have achieved a lot not only for the university, but even for Houston in particular. We’ll add a lot of value to the commercial value environment here and the talent we draw in and retain in the city.

P&Q: Any final things you’d like to say?

PR: For us, I think scale is important, but we’ll never be a large program like others. There is an interesting theme at the university. I think we are the second smallest school to play Division I sports. We’ve always had the idea that we would be research competitive with the top national universities and something closer to a liberal arts or Ivy League school in scale. Thematically, I think that’s where we want to go, but we have a lot that we can do at the school.

We’re looking at a lot of things.  We re-launched our Masters of Accountancy program last year, which had been dormant for 20 years. We’ll look at all the things that are contemporaries are looking at, such as dual degree and online programs. All of those are in play for us just like everyone else. But we’re going to keep the boundary on scale in a way that allows us to achieve growth and continue to keep the quality up. We definitely don’t want to scale back. These are hard things to execute. Everyone tries them. Unfortunately, not everyone succeeds. We see the challenge and the school is hungry for it. That’s one of the reasons why I came.








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