Pierre S. Aristide
Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University
“Husband, Father, Air Force Officer (Retired), Helicopter and Jet Pilot, Logistician, Entrepreneur, Energetic, Easygoing, Adventurous, Motivated, Cancer survivor.”
Hometown: Houston, TX
Fun fact about yourself: I was born and raised in Haiti and came to the U.S. at the age of 13. I joined the U.S. Armed Forces at 18. After several tours of combat and 27 years of service, I retired from the Air Force. Growing up, a childhood friend and I were always fascinated with flying and often wondered how airplanes remained in sustained flight. I even recalled a conversation, more like a spirited debate, with my friend around whether airplanes were built with standard shift or automatic transmission. Needless to say, we were both wrong. I ran into my childhood friend a few years back and reminded him about that debate. He laughed and jokingly said, “Pierre, I am glad no one heard our conversation.” He was happy to know that I fulfilled that dream for the both of us.
Undergraduate School and Degree:
- Adelphi University – English Literature & Political Science
- Hofstra University – Military Science (ROTC)
Where are you currently working? I am currently the Founder and CEO of Z I A Management Group, LLC, which manages Impireum Psychiatric Group and two other companies that I co-founded.
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: At the beginning of the second semester of our EMBA program, I was diagnosed with Leukemia and, due to COVID, was unable to participate in any social activities. However, and with the help of Zoom, my cohort “^62,” and our six-man team, “Elephant Eaters,” I was able to complete the program and graduate with my class.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The academic achievement that I am most proud of during business school, according to my classmates and some faculty members, was my decision to remain in the program while in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatments. I bring that up because several classmates expressed that my decision inspired them, as some of them were contemplating quitting due to the academic stress with which they were dealing. I did not set out to be an inspiration. I just wanted to complete what I had started and did not want to graduate with another cohort.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One of the achievements that I most proud of in my professional career was my decision to become an entrepreneur focusing on mental health. After several tours of combat, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder. I tried several self-care mechanisms to cope with the disorders, including professional mental healthcare, to no success. I was a co-author of the US Air Force Resiliency Program, now called the Air Force Fitness Program, which includes the creation of the Air Force Deployment Transition Center. The program was designed to redeploy and transition personnel from a combat to a non-combat and/or civilian environment through several targeted mental health, therapeutic, and wellness programs. Upon my retirement, I co-founded a medical/psychiatric practice by which people can obtain mental health care through a set of core values that would eliminate the stigma often associated with seeking mental health care. As a result, I co-founded Impireum Psychiatric Group.
Who was your favorite MBA professor? That is a very tough question. One professor that I will always remember is our Entrepreneurial Studies Professor, Al Danto. I had the opportunity to take two of his classes — New Enterprise and Enterprise Acquisition. Other than the fact that he is a riot, Professor Danto’s tutelage validated our process in setting up Impireum, as well as pointing out areas in the process that required significant improvement. I enjoyed most of my professors because, without them, I wouldn’t have been able to develop a complete understanding of business operations associated with scaling and sustaining the different cycles.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I always wanted to pursue an MBA, but it never seemed to be the right time, especially when one is attempting to raise a family. Upon setting up the business, it became obvious that I needed to have a better understanding of how to develop, scale, and manage it. My military training tought me how to make decisions that require on the spot risk analysis, which, in our business, is the difference between life or death . As an entrepreneur, I was looking to develop similar abilities as in the military to make business decisions to better lead employees and grow my business. As such, I chose Rice University – Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business – because it had the right program and happens to be ranked, three years in a row, as the No. 1 Entrepreneurial studies business school in the nation. However, after attending the program, I quickly realized there was more to the Rice Business program than just the ranking. The culture is different than I’d ever experienced. I met so many personal and professional life-long friends who supported me and my family during some of the health challenges I experienced during my two years in the program.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I gained during the MBA journey was that one cannot fully be a good student until you embrace humility. The more I learned, the more I realized that there was a set of skills that I lacked and needed for me to be a successful entrepreneur and thrive in life. I also learned that I am one of the luckiest people in the world by having the privilege of spending the first two years of this journey amongst some of the most successful and brightest people in my life. That has created a lot of confidence in my approach in dealing with making business decisions. More importantly, I have 62 people that I can always reach out to when making major business decisions.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? One story that stands out during my time as an executive MBA where I had to juggle work, family, and education was during my three-month inpatient chemotherapy treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC). It happened so unexpectedly that time didn’t allow us to properly execute a leadership transition plan. As such, I continue to manage the business from the center. That was a very interesting situation as the experience exposed several business improvement opportunities, which was implemented after my discharge.
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? My advice to students looking to enter an executive MBA program is ensure that you have a support network in place. If you are married, it is imperative that your spouse is on-board. It is important also to highlight that, as a candidate, you will likely be assigned to a team where you’ll be required to contribute. Be prepared for your opinion and/or contribution to be alternately embraced, accepted, rejected, debated, and met with skepticism. Nonetheless, it is yours based on your unique experience, aptitude, and attitude, and best understanding of the topic. It is totally fine to feel a little bit of “imposter syndrome,” since you will likely be amongst some of the brightest and experienced people of your cohort. Please note that, as you’ll later discover, there is a high probability that most of the cohort is sharing similar insecurities. Lastly, make a genuine effort to network with as many of your classmates as possible.
My additional advice would be to learn and recognize when to get out of your head at times and, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. One important piece of advice I gave myself was to not focus on credit, recognition and know what matters to you and ruthlessly say no to everything else. To be effective, you must learn to manage yourself and others. It is good to have a dependable (family and/or friends) support network in place. My acceptance and network into and within the Rice Business class of 2022 literally saved my life. I would not be alive today had I not been a member of this class…period!
What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in business school was that I didn’t get as close to some other classmates, as well as not taking more classes outside of my comfort zone or doing enough of the community and recreational activities.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I like all my classmates, but have a co-admiration for both Keri Sprung and Jason Johnson, MD. Keri took charge of the class from day one through her beautiful quiet strength. Keri is a selfless individual who ensured that everyone was ready for class. I initially thought she was a faculty member because she always knew where and with whom to coordinate while we were still trying to figure out the requirements. It was not even a question in everyone’s mind who would be the class president. I wish to note that she was doing all of this while managing a senior executive position, family, and school. Jason is one of the oncologists in our cohort who truly understood my cancer diagnosis from the onset, while my family and I were trying to make sense of it. He literally saved my life by coordinating my admission into MDACC, which coincidentally is one of the premier cancer treatment hospitals in the world. I can now walk across the stage and continue living a full life because of him.
What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The main reason I chose the executive MBA was because a lot of my friends who had attended similar programs at different institutions suggested it. The recommendations came from the fact I was a business owner and that it would place me in a better position to ask the right questions. I also wish to highlight that I did not apply to any other programs.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to create a non-profit organization focusing on homeless disabled veterans and non-violent convicted felons, helping them re-enter to workforce and society.
What made Pierre such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?
“I had the distinct privilege of meeting Pierre Aristide, Rice Business EMBA 22, prior to his matriculation into the Executive MBA program, as I conducted his application interview. From my initial conversation with him, I knew that Pierre had something very special. I was able to flesh out what that “something” might be as he moved through his MBA journey at Rice.
Let’s start with his Background – born in Haiti, immigrated to the USA at 13, and enlisted in the US Air Force as soon as he could age in, with a dream to fly – a dream he achieved. His career path has been impressive, rotating through the military, corporate and entrepreneurial worlds, distinguishing himself in each arena. When I met him, he was firmly entrenched in the world of entrepreneurship, founding and leading a psychiatric practice and other ventures.
Pierre defines Resilience. To launch his successful career, Pierre had to overcome a rather daunting case of PTSD, ultimately sharing with others what he had learned about coping and overcoming his stress via participation in developing the Air Force Fitness Program. During the first year of his MBA program, Pierre was diagnosed with cancer, raising the specter of dropping out of the program. His firm decision to stay and work remotely through his treatment served as an inspiration and a lesson for his team, his cohort mates and those of us on staff and faculty.
And, finally, Commitment. That one is easy to discern. Pierre is fiercely committed to being present for his lovely family, his friends (now composed heavily of his EMBA colleagues) and his businesses. He exhibits his wonderful smile and easy-going, generous nature among everyone in his extensive network. Very recently, on his global experience in Spain, I witnessed him calming a fellow traveler who had just received a cancer diagnosis. He took time out from a party to let her know that she could beat this.
In short, I can recommend Pierre Aristide, without reservation, for any distinction.”
Marie Bergeron, M.Ed., MBA
Director, Career Development, Experienced Hires
Jones Graduate School of Business – Rice University
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