2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Christine Dobbyn, Rice University (Jones)

Christine Dobbyn            

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“A purposefully driven, curious, lifelong learner who cares deeply for the world around her.”

Hometown: I grew up in super small, Wheatland, Indiana!

Family Members: I come from a big, close-knit extended family and now consider my Rice Executive MBA cohort family, too.

Fun fact about yourself: I know what a nematode is, do you? I spent undergrad college summers working as a research assistant for Purdue University Ag Research Center. The most unusual of all the data projects was when we had to catch potato beetles from one infested farm, paint their tiny backs various colors and release them into another field while tracking which chemicals did the best job repelling them.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Ball State University – Communications

Where are you currently working? I left my television news reporter job at ABC in Houston in 2019 to focus on finishing my MBA and launched my own LLC (Dobbyn Digital Media) to give myself greater work flexibility while in school. I’m currently seeking a role in Corporate Communications.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Volunteer for Rice Business Gives Back Day, JSAE Community Liaison, guest speaker on media for Non-Market Strategy and Scandals and Reputation Management classes, team leader for Top 8 Team in Rice Business Plan Competition Qualifier, spearheaded fall 2019 special economics “Fireside Chat” with Professor Brandl.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As a member of the JSAE board (Jones Student Association for Executives), in just its second year since formation, I hope we were able to broaden the footprint of involvement from the Executive cohort. The face of the Executive student is evolving. While we are mid-career professionals juggling jobs, home life, and schoolwork, there is a desire to contribute as individuals and with our families to the Rice Business experience beyond attending classes every other weekend. I think our board made some progress in extracurricular involvement, and I know the EMBA Class of 2021 will continue to build on that.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m honored to have a shelf full of journalism awards, but the achievement I’m most proud of is my crazy idea to integrate cutting edge digital technology to ride a bike from Houston to Austin while reporting live on television for the BP MS 150 charity ride. I trained for months, produced an extensive series to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis and raised funds for the largest charity bike ride in North America. It was one of the most challenging yet joyful weekends of my life!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It is Professor Beth O’Sullivan for teaching me the incredible value of my journalism skills. By utilizing the foundation of our coursework, she demonstrated how I can have immediate, meaningful impact in transferring my background to a communications role for a major corporation.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Rice Business has an excellent reputation and an incredibly strong and successful alumni network. Going to class on such a beautiful campus doesn’t hurt either!

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Getting to know my 60 amazing classmates in the EMBA 2020 program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Coming from a background as a writer where conclusions are often derived from more abstract concepts, I had to learn that in business I need to be more definitive by relying on data and measuring everything. I applied this from the way I approached a story at work to my own individual metrics of success.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The very first week of the program, our family experienced unimaginable loss. My older sister lost her husband very unexpectedly from an undetected heart condition. They have four school age children. I had to leave in the middle of our intensive forum, call my bosses at work to inform them, and head back to the Midwest. I questioned if I should continue the program. Rice and the professors worked with me so I could complete makeup sessions and assignments, my employer granted me bereavement, and my family encouraged me to return to the classroom even amidst our grief. He was the smartest, most enthusiastic businessman I’ve known.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? It’s a tremendous financial and time commitment that stretches almost two years so make sure you are completely dedicated to completion and you have solid support from the people in both your home and work life. Prepare to buckle down in every spare moment. But also get excited about a mid-career, life-changing learning experience you will never regret.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Working as a news reporter, I was constantly on-the-go in the news van and never sat at a desk for very long, if at all. I was concerned about sitting in class all day Fridays and Saturdays, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly that undergraduate learning mentality returned, and I settled into the classroom setting again.

What was your biggest regret in business school? The cancellation of our final project. It was to take place in a special forum in Brazil, where we would be assigned projects with specific businesses. It can’t be avoided due to the pandemic, and Rice has done a fine job adjusting the program. Our cohort recognizes the culmination of our experience isn’t diminished by this and our leadership skills will be immediately tested in other ways by this health crisis.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many. Jerry Hardman comes to mind. He has a high-level position within his company, always asks incredibly insightful questions, gives brilliant input and has balanced his schoolwork while being a husband and father to six children!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I watched my sister and brother-in-law both get their MBAs from the full-time programs at Tulane and Northwestern. Also, I covered a news story at McNair Hall while reporting for ABC 13 in Houston. We had to quickly get in, shoot some video and interviews, then leave to make our deadline. I returned to the news van thinking, I really wanted to hear that entire talk. Maybe I need to explore business?”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to be the Chief Communicator, Strategic Storyteller for a major corporation. Additionally, I have several entrepreneurial ventures I want to explore.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As an empathetic, deep thinker who brought a little different perspective to every discussion because of my journalism background.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Publish my first book that’s currently in the works on my reporting career, it’s called “Faith in the Field”
  • Walk into a restaurant and secretly pay the bill for every table, then walk to my car with a huge smile on my face

What made Christine such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“What happens when an Emmy Award-winning journalist and ABC news reporter puts down her microphone and joins an EMBA program? She blends her passion for community building and journalism with her new business knowledge to become an invaluable addition to Rice Business.

Christine Dobbyn brings enthusiasm and excellence to everything she does, from serving as community liaison for the Jones Student Association for Executives, to coordinating tailgate parties after home football games. At Rice, we value our small size and close community, and Christine has been essential in fostering these relationships.

In her former career, she wrote and produced numerous news segments including an award-winning documentary, and she brought that same spirit to the Jones School. Over the past two years, she has been collecting and compiling the experiences of her EMBA class at Rice, complete with student profiles, photos documenting class activities and extracurricular events, and quotes from faculty on what makes the Class of 2020 so special.

She also contributes her expertise to support Rice’s academic endeavors. She served as guest speaker in several classes, including Non-Market Strategy and Scandals and Reputation Management. In my Executive Seminars, she excelled at public speaking and writing. Beyond that, Christine has superior interpersonal communication skills; her classmates know her as an outstanding listener, trusted advisor and friend. Her executive MBA classmates often ask her for advice on media-related challenges they encounter at work.

Christine has extended her skills in public relations to encompass corporate marketing and branding. Last summer, she successfully launched her own company, Dobbyn Digital Media, offering expertise to clients in media coaching, content marketing and brand journalism. She is combining her new business acumen with her talent in journalism and her extraordinary gift for community building, making her indeed one of the Best and Brightest!”

Beth O’Sullivan
Senior Lecturer in Management – Jones Graduate School of Business
Lecturer in Professional and Engineering Communication – Rice Center for Engineering Leadership
Rice University

DON’T MISS: THE FULL LIST OF THE TOP 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBAS OF 2020

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