Real Humans: Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, Executive MBA
Keri Sprung, Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, Executive MBA Class of 2022
School and Program:
The Woodlands, Texas
Undergraduate Institution & Major:
The University of Texas at Austin, BA Biology
Pre-MBA Work Experience:
I have 25 years of work experience primarily in medical research and innovation for-profit and non-profit sectors. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Natural Sciences, I worked for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Inc. across several Texas Medical Center healthcare institutions. I served as vice president of marketing for an Austin-based biotech firm. I later co-founded two medical device companies that provided surgical services to hospital systems across the southwest region. Since 2012, I have worked at the Texas Heart Institute in the Texas Medical Center and volunteered with several non-profit advocacy organizations, including the American Heart Association, Texans for Stem Cell Research, Breakthrough Houston, Genetics Policy Institute, and Elnita McClain Women’s Center. I currently serve as a Rice Business Board Fellow for Children at Risk.
Why Business School? Why Now?
In the last ten years, I found myself increasingly curious about what makes public-private partnerships successful. Despite diverse work experience in a large for-profit corporation, startups, distributorships, and non-profits, I found myself taking courses online to fill in knowledge gaps and fully understand the complex business ecosystem. The intellectual space where these entities intersect interests me the most, and I longed for deeper involvement. I recognized that my lack of formal business training would prevent me from meaningfully advancing in my career – especially in the complicated business environments I love. I had decades of experience working with management teams and leaders, but I needed to learn “why” and “how” decisions are made in the board room and C-Suite.
Why did you pick your school/program? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Adding value to my institution, family, and community – both personally and professionally – was my primary goal when choosing an MBA program. I chose Rice Business because I wanted not only to complete a rigorous curriculum but engage with a diverse and progressive alumni community after graduation to expand my network for professional, philanthropic, and personal goals.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to your graduating class?
We started our program during a global pandemic on Zoom — not exactly conducive to building relationships with your classmates. I knew that networking was one of the significant reasons many executives seek an MBA, so I decided to be brave and reach out personally to connect with as many of my classmates as possible in the first few weeks. Our cohort of 63 brilliant professionals is exceptionally close today, and I am honored to be in this program with every one of them.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
In 2015, I recognized the need to submerge myself into a rigorous graduate program and decided to take a few courses at the Rice Glasscock Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. I was concerned that my ability to inspire others would soon hit a plateau if I did not seek formal training. I took 4 or 5 courses at night, and they were enlightening. Taking these continued learning courses solidified my decision to apply to the Rice MBA program.
Post-MBA Career Interest:
My goal is to continue to advance my career in the non-profit sector and engage in additional opportunities with entrepreneurial individuals, companies, and institutions in the future that are pursuing impactful business ideas that will benefit from my breadth of experience and new knowledge.
Advice to current prospective applicants:
When evaluating the commitment, don’t be apprehensive about the time commitment. If you sit down and assess a 22-month program and break it down into weeks, it does not look so daunting. It is always possible to find time in your schedule. With solid scheduling discipline and support from your family, friends, and co-workers the program is entirely manageable — and exhilarating.
What is your initial impression of the school’s students/culture/community?
Inspiring and engaging with boundless optimism.