[00:00] Podcast begins - Universities Propelling Entrepreneurs with Peter Rodriguez, Dean of Jones School of Business
[04:32] Breaking down the role of Jones Business School at Rice University
[11:02] How economic uncertainty & pandemic closures impacted business education
[17:35] Tackling the future of AI research from Rice University’s perspective
[22:07] Paving the way for successful tech transfers from Rice to startups
[25:09] Getting the younger generation of Houstonians excited about entrepreneurship
[30:50] How Rice University is forging the future with the Clean Energy Accelerator
What does the Jones Business School at Rice do?
The Jones Business School at Rice offers both degree and certification programs that embrace students that require a variety of schedules, from full-time MBA students to monthly hybrid learners. As one of the top programs in the country, Jones puts Rice on the map in a big way and emphasizes the rising startup status of Houston. Beyond the basics of their curriculum, Rice’s business school works hand in hand with key initiatives like the Rice Alliance and the Rice Business Plan Competition.
“We direct the entrepreneurship centers at Rice, which is really delivering the curricula to our students, convening all the great entrepreneurs, VCs, and other founders in town. The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which does a lot of work internally for students, but a lot of work outside, too, including the Rice Business Plan Competition.”
How has business education changed during this time of economic uncertainty?
Between the COVID lockdown, the rise of inflation, and the emergence of AI, teaching about business has changed dramatically as Rice and the Jones Business School work to keep up with changing trends. Really, Peter emphasizes that what’s coming next, especially in terms of AI related innovation, offering them the opportunity to expand their curriculum to incorporate more courses on the subject. Preparing students for what’s next can be difficult, but the new technology on the horizon is worth embracing.
“What does this do to business models? There are a lot of business models that just can't survive, right? Which ones are they? That's harder, thinking about fundamentals of strategy, thinking about cost issues dealing with change. How do we actually do that?”
What about getting high school kids involved in entrepreneurship? Does that need to happen more in Houston?
Although Houston is thriving with top business schools and entrepreneurship programs, Peter explains that younger students struggle to embrace the opportunities available to them in the future. Peter hopes that, with the help of local organizations and businesses, Rice and their partners can encourage more entrepreneurship learning in local schools. Children need to be shown that they don’t have to be the next Bezos to succeed as entrepreneurs, and that they have the resources available to them at Rice to succeed.
“More than anything else, we just need to be more attractive to the world of entrepreneurs and all the people who want to come and do this. You get some density of people doing interesting good things, you get the right channels, and then, it's a self perpetuating virtuous cycle.”
How do you think Rice is forging the future?
Rice’s work with entrepreneurs doesn’t just end with their educational programs, but instead has continued to expand to include projects like their Clean Energy Accelerator. Peter explains that this accelerator is open to anyone with a clean tech idea, and aims to address the future of energy tech in Houston. Bold, adventurous entrepreneurs of all kinds are encouraged to participate, and Peter is excited to see what innovations come from this program.
“A great example is our Clean Tech Accelerator, which is now in its third year. We're trying our best to make sure that we bring to life new technologies through new firms that advance the energy transition and ensure that we have lots of energy in the future.”