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How SMU Meadows' M.A./M.B.A Program Prepared Katharine Vandergriff Rice to Think Like an Executive

SMU's Meadows and Cox combined MA/MBA program gave Katharine Vandergriff Rice ('13) a specific set of skills

by Ally Van Deuren (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Journalism, ’15)

Courtesy Katharine Vandergriff Rice

Katharine Vandergriff Rice (M.A./M.B.A. ’13), who worked for the Broadway hits Wicked, Rock of Ages, and Stomp in marketing and finance before coming to SMU’s M.A./M.B.A. program, says the business skills she learned while at SMU have made her more marketable as an arts leader.

“Overall, the M.A./M.B.A. program taught me to think like an executive, to be aware of the internal and external environments that affect your business,” Rice said. “An executive needs to look ahead to the future and make informed decisions about how to strategically position an organization.”

Rice now works as a Revenue Planning Analyst for ABC Family, part of the Disney/ABC Television Group and home to the television shows Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth, and Melissa and Joey. She reviews the performance and pricing of advertising on the cable network. She emphasizes that it was her training in SMU’s M.A./M.B.A. program that has allowed her to serve in the company in this capacity.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for Katharine,” Director of SMU’s arts management and arts entrepreneurship program and director of the first-of-its-kind National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) Zannie Voss said. “The program has been around for 20 years, so there is a rich legacy of alums working in many different arts sectors and they are doing great things.”

Rice explains how her M.A./M.B.A. training at Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business prepared her for what she is currently doing in the field.

“I learned how to identify the many facets that comprise an organization and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of that organization as well as its strategic direction based upon those areas,” Rice said. “Through the M.B.A. classes, my accounting, finance, and strategy classes complemented this skill set. The M.A./M.B.A. program taught me this skill set, and I can use this knowledge to put details together to see the big picture and then make executive decisions about the future.”

While at SMU, Rice was exposed to the arts in Dallas through her internships. She interned for the Lexus Broadway series and the development department at AT&T Performing Arts Center as well as Theatre Arlington. During the summer between her first and second year, she interned in finance for Disney Theatrical Group in New York City and worked on the Broadway musicals The Lion King, Newsies, and Mary Poppins. In her independent study, she created a business plan to produce a new theatrical work that she one day hopes to carry out.

Rice said another big takeaway from the program is understanding how culture plays an important role in an organization’s success.

In the fall of the second year, M.A./M.B.A. students continue to pursue course work toward the M.A. and the M.B.A. in Milan, Italy. Director of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship Zannie Voss emphasizes the program’s global approach.

“I can talk all I want over here about arts and culture internationally, but it’s a whole other thing to travel internationally and experience it,” Voss said. “Our students are getting the opportunity to have another cultural perspective on the arts.”

Assistant Director of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship Abigail Smith reiterates the importance of the third semester in Italy:

“Italy is one of the draws of our program,” Smith said. “It’s important to have exposure to different perspectives and to go global and to really understand how the art market can vary and how other countries and cultures approach the work from a cultural management standpoint.”

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