2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Keri Sprung, Rice University (Jones)

Keri Sprung

Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University

“I am a creative and passionate innovator and builder for the greater good.”

Hometown: The Woodlands, Texas

Family Members:

Husband: Michael Sprung
2 adorable animals

Fun fact about yourself: I have always been artistic and enjoy painting. My perfect day would include time to paint, yoga, fly fishing, and gardening. About 8 years ago, I purchased a beautiful curve bow and hope to dust it off this summer. Archery is a graceful sport that I wish I had discovered decades ago.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Texas at Austin, BA Biology

Where are you currently working? Texas Heart Institute, Vice President for Communications & Education

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

  • Jones Graduate School of Business Executive MBA Program Class Representative 2020-2021
  • Jones Student Association for Executives (JSAE), Co-Chair 2021-2022
  • Rice Business Board Fellow 2021-2022
    A year-long experiential learning program that matches talented, energetic, and committed Rice MBA students as fellows to local nonprofit boards to serve as non-voting board members. Non-Profit = Children at Risk
  • Board Member, Emanu El Sisterhood

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? One of my goals was to enhance my critical thinking and decision-making skills. The case-based learning was a challenge for me at first. By the end of the program, I was able to quickly digest the business cases, identify and summarize the central challenges, and make recommendations based on business frameworks we learned in class. I am most proud of my extracurricular achievement as our cohort Class Rep and co-chair of our Jones Student Association for Executives. Effectively working with your peers at this stage in your career is a critical skill and this two-year experience provided the perfect leadership laboratory to explore concepts from our coursework and examine my leadership style. My co-chair, Luis Rodriguez, and I overcame many obstacles and challenges behind the scenes. Even though our approaches differed sometimes, we always arrived at a solution together. Many of the issues we tackled have helped me outside of school at work and in my personal life.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of my work at the Texas Heart Institute in the last ten years. Specifically in my role working with THI’s Women’s Center Director, Dr. Stephanie Coulter. We have cultivated relationships both inside and outside of THI to advance initiatives that will have a long-term impact on the Institute and its constituents and could become breakthrough solutions for unmet needs in healthcare. As a result, we have secured critical funding for priority research and education and programs that give back to the community at a grassroots level. This collaborative work inspires me, and I hope to continue working in collaboration with her for many years to come.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? The professors teaching the Rice Executive MBA program are outstanding, so this is a difficult question. Dr. Shiva Sivaramakrishnan was one of my favorites. He led the Managerial Accounting course, which opened my eyes. Although this course challenged me more than others, I took his Management Control Systems course. I gained an entirely new perspective that applies to my work every day. I equally enjoyed Brand Strategy with Kathleen Harrington Clark. This course was 100% case-based and was one of the few courses I took with full-time and professional MBAs. It was fascinating to hear the perspectives of so many different generations each week.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I considered the 22-month journey with the Rice Executive MBA program the beginning of a much longer relationship with the Rice community rather than a short-term relationship.

I am honored to work in the largest medical complex in the world and knew I needed to position myself for the explosive growth we are experiencing in our backyard and find like-minded individuals to work with now or in the future. The Rice University alumni I met displayed the leadership qualities I aspire to emulate, and the school embraces the entrepreneurial mindset I share.

I embarked on this journey to connect the dots and augment what I have learned through experience as a director, former entrepreneur, and ambassador for growth in the biomedical life sciences and medical innovation sectors.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I gained an intense appreciation for the power of individuals to achieve much more collectively and the importance and relevance of culture to almost every challenge.  No matter how much technology, automation, and AI we implement, humans are humans, and the human connection and human touch will always be a critical component to the successful implementation of any initiative.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? The summer before we started the program, it became evident that I had to make choices every day and commit and carve out time for studying. My job is quite demanding, and I cannot study at lunch or carve out any time during work hours. Before I ever saw a syllabus, I blocked time on my outlook calendar every weekend to study. Any time an invite crossed my desk, I evaluated my bandwidth and made sure that I built in room for mental breaks and sleep. I also tried to tackle a portion of an assignment or course readings every day so that I did not have to pull all-nighters. I have an incredibly supportive husband and family who value education, and they gave me the space to figure out how to juggle work, family, and school and they did not expect me to attend all the usual family events. We all recognized it was a short-term investment. I believe it is critical to temporarily re-establish your family, friends, and work colleagues’ expectations of you during this journey. You simply must ask for a little bit of grace.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is that it is harder to go back after so many years in the workforce.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not being able to spend as much time with professors outside of class during office hours. This was in part a result of the challenges of the pandemic. There are so many classes you want to take; it is a tradeoff that I struggled with. If I had to go back, I might take one less course to allow for more time for these informal meetings with faculty.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Another difficult question as every one of them has a fantastic story. I admire Mia Teed for her courage, tenacity, and unwavering perseverance. In our last semester, she decided to leave her job of over ten years and load up on as many classes as possible to expose her to the most opportunities after graduation. She is raising three kids under the age of 10, including twin toddlers. She pours her heart into everything she does; she is kind but bold and never minces words. I cannot wait to see where this program takes her career because she deserves the job of her dreams.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I chose an executive program because I knew I was at a stage in my career where I needed to be surrounded by like-minded individuals with similar work demands. I also wanted to meet like-minded individuals and network with peers in the business community outside of medicine and biomedical research.

I needed to disconnect from my work and family responsibilities to maximize the learning experience. I knew that I would too easily be distracted or tempted to work while I learned if I was online.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Houston can be the Silicon Valley of the South, and I want to be a part of this era of explosive growth for our city. With a much stronger foundation in business principles and over 25 years of experience at the intersection of biomedical innovation, and leading health care institutions—  along with more than 15 years in the Texas Medical Center— I have unique and relevant experience to leverage.

In addition, my strong skills in building trusting relationships across the biomedical and healthcare ecosystem will be vital as we embark on this growth phase as a community. We have some of the best and brightest minds concentrated in a ten-mile radius, and my time at Rice solidified my deep interest in providing leadership to the burgeoning ecosystem. The healthcare landscape will only change with significant innovation and require leaders who understand the highly complex environment from all sides and can unite the talent and pioneers and attract investments.

What made Keri such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Keri Sprung represents all that is best about Rice Business; her blend of heart, hard work, and academic integrity made her an invaluable part of the Class of 2022. She arrived during her time as Director of Communications for the Texas Heart Institute and immediately accepted multiple student leadership roles. She shared her enthusiasm and positivity, helping ensure that everyone felt welcome and included through her service as a Class Rep, Co-Chair of the Jones Student Association, and Rice Business Board Fellow.  At Rice, we value our small size and close community, and Keri has been essential in nurturing these relationships, even during COVID. Meanwhile, she excelled at school and work, earning a significant promotion to Vice President of Communications and Education for the Texas Heart Institute. We are proud to have Keri represent Rice Business.”

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



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.