Halfway Towards an MBA: Thoughts at the Midpoint

Me and Prepify's CTO, Keith Pattison

Me and Prepify’s CTO, Keith Pattison

I’m back in Austin, Texas for the summer and my winter clothes have all been put away – out of sight and out of mind until I return to Cambridge this fall for the second, and final, year of my MIT Sloan MBA journey.

Decompression describes my transition from the academic, bustling whirlwind of MIT and Sloan to a more measured pace of 9-5, M-F work schedules, rush hour commuting, and nary a piece of homework or exam in sight. I commute by bike in Cambridge and have gotten an unreasonable thrill from purchasing heavy groceries now that I can drive to the store (I became rather accustomed to ferrying them home in my backpack).

I’m appreciating the gift of reflection and thinking about my experiences inside and out of the classroom, and the incredible classmates who made my first year at Sloan so memorable. It is inspiring to be part of a cohort that is this talented, motivated, and diverse. Beyond the obvious content skills, I liken the Sloan MBA to a leadership academy where you are pushed and challenged in ways that make you define who you are, improve, and keep thinking bigger.

MIT’s motto is “Mens et Manus,” which is Latin for “Mind and Hand.” These words reflect the emphasis across MIT on education for practical application. It is not sufficient to simply be a scholar; knowledge is useful in service. This has been one of the more remarkable parts of MIT’s culture for me, and one that drives my own path of education and application.

So where I am putting my “Mens et Manus” to work this summer?

I’m working on my startup, Prepify, to create a pipeline of talented, but underserved students going to top colleges through free SAT prep and direct links with schools. My team and I are building free, gamified SAT prep and working to partner with colleges and community based organizations. The goal of Prepify is to create a sustainable social enterprise to address the stark economic inequalities that are manifested on the SAT (there is a near 400 point score gap between low and high-income students) and subsequently on our college campuses (74% of students at the most competitive schools come from the upper quartile of the income bracket – only 3% come from the bottom quartile). Education has been critical in opening opportunity within my own life, and I am determined to build something to help the many talented and motivated students who lack resources.

Prepify is working out of Owen's Garage, an Austin co-working spot

Prepify is working out of Owen’s Garage, an Austin co-working spot

This summer I am also interning with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s College Preparation & Completion Portfolio initiative within the Urban Education program, which empowers more high-need students to graduate from high school college-ready, enroll in college, and obtain a bachelor’s degree. The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is an established leader in education innovation, and I am looking forward to learning from their expertise, supporting current and future grantees, and making connections and an impact. I’m grateful to have my internship supported by the Sloan Social Impact Fellowship.

I am living in the moment, working hard to make Prepify a reality and the most of my summer with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. Still, I am already looking forward to seeing my classmates again when we reconvene for our final year, and I meet a new cohort of inspiring first-year students. We are lucky to be a part of something this special, and I am determined to make the most of it.

Rena Pacheco-Theard

Rena Pacheco-Theard is a digital business and public policy professional with experience working across the non-profit, public and business sectors. A former consultant, she has also worked with tech startups and a youth outreach non-profit. Rena is an MBA 2016 candidate at MIT Sloan.

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