Deborah Owhin, University of Oxford (Saïd): For many advocates, business – not bullets or ballot boxes – is the means to foster social change. From a young age, Deborah Owhin has been fighting for social justice using the tools of business – strategy, management, training, and media relations. In particular, her efforts have focused on fighting gender inequality and violence against women in Africa. Notably, she helped found Made Equal, a UK nonprofit whose efforts on behalf of women include lobbying, consciousness raising, sponsored events, and fund-raising. Owhin is also a civil society delegate with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
After graduation, Owhin plans to continue her efforts in international development and NGO work. In the meantime, she hopes to deepen her knowledge of strategy, finance and entrepreneurship, as well as being a pioneer in academia. “I want to be part of the reason that MBA programs at top schools are attainable for more candidates from ‘non traditional’ backgrounds,” she tells Poets&Quants. And she urges future MBAs to look at the long-term in choosing a business school. “Do not pursue a school for its name alone as it is a massive investment of time and money. You want to be somewhere that will aide you in your long term plans for your career. Also consider where you expect your networks to be in 20 years, rather than the first 5 years post-graduation.”
Leela Greenberg, CEIBS: Traditionally, top Chinese students have flocked to the United States and Europe to earn their MBAs. As Asian business programs mature, they are beginning to attract Western students like Leela Greenberg, a Fulbright Scholar from Colorado. A truly global citizen, Greenberg has written about Spanish culture as a foreign correspondent; helped implement United Nations curriculum on cultural awareness in the Madrid public schools; and founded a private college prep program for international students at Vail.
Now, she has shipped out to China to study at CEIBS, where she hopes to see the future unfold before her very eyes. “I chose China because it is the market of the future, and of the past,” she emphasizes. “China led over a billion people out of poverty in 50 years. China’s history, business acumen, leadership, government, culture and innovation are rife with potential and paradox: China is messy and orderly, future-oriented and past-bound, fiercely domestic and internationally aspirational. China is a fascinating country and one that will mediate your success and the world political and business stage in the future. Why not jump in?”
That’s a question you can expect more MBA applicants to ask as the axis of business continues to spin east.
Isabel Shelton, University of Texas (McCombs): Many students talk about building bridges and impacting lives. And then there are people like Isabel Shelton who put it into practice.
A Presidential appointee to the U.S. Department of Education, Shelton spent three years helping to develop the RESPECT program, an initiative designed to transform the recruiting, training, credentialing, and support of teachers. Since then, she has taken the ‘think global and act local’ mindset back to her hometown of Austin, Texas, where she s served as the Director of Education and Talent Alignment for the Austin Chamber of Commerce – a position where she forged deeper partnerships between businesses and area school districts to enhance student education and postgraduate opportunities.
When it comes to choosing a business school, Shelton advises students to be authentic. “You are deciding which program will best facilitate your development into the type of thinker and leader that you aspire to be. It’s easy to get distracted by shiny objects during the recruiting process, but this is a highly personal search so remain focused on finding the model, geography, culture, and coursework that are the best fit for you.” At the same time, Shelton encourages them to have fun with the process. “The sooner you get comfortable with pitching yourself, the better prepared you will be to not only gain admission to a great business school, but build a great career as well.”