Meet Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class Of 2018

Exterior of Saïd Business School

Indeed, 2018 is a cosmopolitan class – one whose impact is already being felt across the globe. Garavaglia was part of the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) that’s sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Here, she excelled in improving the opportunities for female leaders worldwide. “I assisted a Ukrainian hockey professional in establishing sports clinics for children impacted by the Crimean conflicts; twins from India in sharing record-breaking ascents of the Seven Summits to counteract traditional gender bias; and, most recently, a Macedonian entrepreneur in drafting a business plan for an eco-tourism agency,” she notes. “Through GSMP, I recognized sport’s role as a powerful mechanism for social change.”

Such change requires courage…and grit. And Mahloele possesses each quality in spades. True to the Saïd spirit, she tackled the Ethiopian market, despite peers shying away because it was an intricate and long-term proposition. Sensing the opportunity behind the obstacles, Mahloele charged into the market, providing “much needed products to the bottom of the pyramid consumers.” In the process, she discovered her calling. “It was the first time I could tangibly link my finance role to on-the-ground impact in Africa, as the impact of the investment has resulted in job creation and economic growth and development for the region,” she explains. “This was one of the main reasons I decided to pursue my MBA. I wanted to continue to make sustainable and scalable investments in Africa.”

PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN TOPS 40%

Looking at the class as a whole, the numbers represent a step back and a step forward. Overall, the school enrolled 334 full-time MBAs, up seven students from the previous year. In terms of the GMAT, the Class of 2018 falls a bit short of its predecessor. The class averaged a 685 GMAT with the median coming in at 690, down from the 692 average and 700 median from the year before.

The headline for the class, however, stems from a jump in female enrollment. This year, the class boasts a 41% share of women, up five points from the previous year. It also tops London Business School and Cambridge Judge, which each posted a 39% mark (not to mention INSEAD and HEC Paris, which both came in at 34%). That said, it is a slightly less diverse class, with the number of nations represented falling from 58 to 51 over the past year (though the current class includes 60 nationalities).

Surprisingly, North Americans compose the largest bloc of the 2018 Class at 28%. In fact, just 12% of the class hails from Western Europe, making it truly a global melting pot. What’s more, the school is careful to mold a student mix that prevents nationalities from drowning each other out. East Asia (13%), Africa (11%), and South Asia (10%) are the only other regions that reach double digit representation in the class. Southeast Asia (9%), Australia and New Zealand (6%), and Latin America and the Caribbean (5%) also constitute substantive shares of students.

In terms of professional experience, “diversified industries” account for the largest number of 2018 students at 21%. Finance (20%), consulting (18%), and technology (6%) also constitute important segments of the class.

OVER 20% OF GRADUATES GO INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND SOCIAL IMPACT

However, a big differentiators at Saïd is where students ultimately work. Traditionally, 11% of graduating classes immediately launch businesses after earning their diploma. The Class of 2016 – the last class with reported placement data – continued this trend. Even more, these graduates landed positions in 37 countries, a testament to the program’s increasing global reach.

Interest in the program’s acclaimed social impact programming is also swelling. Last year, 10% of the class entered the social sector, more than double the rate of past classes. Saïd’s prowess in the social and startup sectors – along with its reputation for excellence and innovation – has made it extremely enticing to employers. In Bloomberg Businessweek’s annual survey released this week, the program notched the third-highest scores among international programs from both employers and alumni. What’s more, employers are paying a premium for Saïd savvy, as 2012 grads saw their pay increase by $121,400 on average over the past five years.

One reason may be that the program is constantly evolving. Like any great business, Saïd is always on the lookout for game-changing benefits that can give it an edge with students. This took the form of an advanced virtual lecture theater, installed in September, which makes Saïd just the second organization in the world to incorporate this technology.

“Students, alumni, faculty and staff will no longer need to be on-site to learn, teach and work together, as the room and software will be accessible from anywhere in the world,” writes Dean Peter Tufano in a statement to Poets&Quants. “With a large wall of high definition screens, the host of the session can see each participant’s face and communicate with them directly. They can host live polls, split the room into breakout groups, and the system even measures participant engagement levels via expression monitoring.”

ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS THE SOUL OF SAÏD

The program is also doubling down on investing in its strengths. Tufano cites the October opening of the Oxford Foundry, a new hub for student entrepreneurs that builds on the success of the Oxford Launchpad.

Oxford Foundry

“The Foundry will house a large co-working space and an incubator for accelerating start-ups,” he explains. “It will host and curate programming for entrepreneurs, and support the school’s curricular and research activities. Whether the companies formed within the Foundry go on to tackle crucial issues facing humanity, or simply provide goods and services more efficiently, we believe that scaling up our support for Oxford’s entrepreneurs will enhance our ability to address world scale challenges.”

In fact, entrepreneurship is among the three themes that shape the Saïd MBA curriculum. While global rules may be its brain and responsible business acts as its heart, entrepreneurship is undoubtedly Saïd’s soul. In fact, students are required to start a business during their year at Oxford, a recognition that identifying gaps, devising solutions, and opening up opportunities is the pathway to social reform. That may be one reason why Saïd startups aren’t your typical trifling dating apps or Groupon rip-offs. Instead, they are more inventive enterprises like Spacebase, which applies the Airbnb model to renting meeting spaces. By the same token, these ventures tend to follow the more socially conscious route of firms like Off Grid Electric, where pre-paid solar energy makes power affordable – and even available – in some remote areas of Tanzania.

SKOLL CENTRE TIES ENTREPRENEURSHIP TO SOCIAL IMPACT

The popularity of entrepreneurship at Saïd can also be traced to its Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. The Centre has increasingly grown into a campus nerve center, bringing together students, faculty, researchers, and alumni from various specialties for interdisciplinary collaboration. Tapping into these world class minds and deep resources, Saïd is able to better spark far-reaching discussions, build student capabilities, broaden networks, and spur more sweeping and inclusive solutions. Even more, the Skoll Centre is designed to centralize these collaborations and channel them into commercial venues.

Peter Drobac, who heads the Skoll Centre, believes it offers a groundbreaking proposition that MBA candidates won’t find anywhere else. “The Centre combines two powerful assets: a world-class business school at Oxford Saïd with a deep commitment to entrepreneurship and solving world-scale problems, and the Skoll Foundation, which provides thought leadership and curates a global ecosystem of social entrepreneurs, Drobac told Poets&Quants in an August interview.

Go to page 3 to see in-depth profiles of incoming Saïd students.