Brad Burke, Managing Director
Brad Burke is the Managing Director of the Rice Alliance and has led the Rice Alliance since 2001. During that time, Rice’s graduate entrepreneurship program has achieved the #3 ranking in the U.S. (having been previously unranked). The Rice Alliance’s Rice Business Plan Competition has become the world’s largest and richest student startup competition in the world. Previously, Brad founded and managed the Houston office of Viant Corporation, a premier internet consulting firm, that went public via IPO in 1999, before being acquired in 2002. Prior to Viant, Brad was a Principal with CSC Index, the former management consulting division of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Before CSC, Brad held executive management positions with Exxon. He received his M.B.A. from Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management as an Austin Scholar and his B.S. from Vanderbilt University.
Mary Lynn Fernau, Director of Communications
Mary Lynn Fernau is the Director of Communications for the Rice Alliance. Mary Lynn shares the entrepreneurial spirit fostered by the Rice Alliance, having launched a successful child safety product and served as a child safety advisor to cities of New York and Houston. Pror to joining the Rice Alliance, Mary Lynn led her own independent marketing and strategic planning consultancy with clients including Korn Ferry International, AIG, UT-Health Science Center at Houston and Texas Children’s Hospital. Fernau serves on the Chief Marketing Office Board for the American Marketing Association and Houston Image Coalition. She received her B.A. from the University of Nebrask-Lincoln and M.L.S. from Rice University.
Jessica Fleenor, Assistant Director for Programs
Jessica manages programs that support entrepreneurship education and startup acceleration, including OwlSpark, Rice University’s startup accelerator, and Southwest I-Corps, an NSF-funded grant program that enables academics explore the commercial viability of their research. She is also the co-founder of Startup Career Fair, and Medulla, a branding and design agency for startups, nonprofits and small businesses. With a background in nonprofit management and entrepreneurship, Jessica brings more than seven years of experience in communications, design and program management. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Creative Advertising from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Haley Hart, Program Specialist
Haley supports Rice Alliance programs including student initiatives Ignite, OwlSpark, Owl Open and the Rice Business Plan Competition. She also assists with Rice Alliance community-focused entrepreneurial efforts. She served as an intern for the 2016 RED Labs Accelerator cohort which is a collaborative effort with Rice University’s OwlSpark Accelerator. Prior to joining the Rice Alliance, Haley worked in digital marketing for the Dothan Eagle newspaper and in athletic media relations at Auburn University. She graduated with B.A. in public relations with minor in business from Auburn and is currently earning her masters in public relations from the University of Houston.
Thomas Kraft, Entrepreneur-in-residence
Dr. Kraft is the Entrepreneur-in-residence for Rice Alliance. His academic background covers mechanical and electrical engineering and Math and business from Stanford and UCLA before his doctoral program at Rice. Dr. Kraft holds 19 US Patents and has found several medical device and medical robotics companies after being part of the NASA Mission Control Center design effort. In addition to teaching at UCLA, Dr. Kraft was previously an adjunct Professor of Math for HCC and a visiting lecturer on creativity. At Rice, Dr. Kraft is focusing on increasing collaboration between Rice MBA students and the science and engineering departments at Rice in developing new commercialization ventures.
Quynhmai Nguyen, Senior Director of Operations
Quynhmai Nguyen is the Senior Director of Operations for the Rice Alliance. Prior to joining Rice Alliance, she worked in public affairs at Baylor College of Medicine. Quynhmai graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Rice University in 2000 and earned her J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003. She is licensed to practice law and sell real estate in the state of Texas.
Kerri Smith, Managing Director, OwlSpark & Associate Managing Director, Rice Alliance
Kerri has broad experience in developing strategies and programs that help maximize the success of technology-enabled startups. Her experience includes entrepreneurship education, startup acceleration, educational programming, technology licensing, and commercialization. For over 25 years, Kerri has provided leadership, oversight, and strategic direction for commercialization, entrepreneurship, community engagement, and technology transfer initiatives. Kerri joined Rice University in 2004 where she serves as Associate Managing Director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Managing Director of Rice University's startup accelerator (OwlSpark), and Director of the NSF sponsored Innovation Corps program at Rice (I-Corps). In all positions, she plays a lead role in fostering collaboration, enabling entrepreneurship, and accelerating the formation of startups based on innovative technologies or scalable business ideas.