The Class of 2018 more than agrees with him. In fact, social entrepreneurship – and the Skoll Centre, in particular – was listed by many candidates as the final touch that led them to choose Saïd. Sicora, for one, appreciated programming like the Oxford Global Challenge Challenge (where students map out interrelated variables that perpetuate global issues); the Skoll Academy (a six week series of workshops on social or environmental change); and the Leading for Impact Fellowship (coaching-driven leadership development workshops conducted over the weekends). In contrast, Mahloele is looking forward to the centre’s impact investing boot camp that will immerse her in cutting edge financial models to serve emerging markets.
A VIEW OF BUSINESS AS AN ORGANIZING FORCE TO PROMOTE SOCIAL GOOD
They’re not alone in relying on Skoll to provide tools that benefit their causes. Walker plans to take his lessons to help Australia Aboriginal community gain greater independence, calling the know-how a “vehicle to bring about meaningful and lasting change.” Healy, a proponent of sustainable development, is heartened by how social impact is treated as a “central tenet” of the program – one that “creates a culture that attracts faculty and students who share those values.”
This commitment to action over lip service in social impact also set Saïd for Hoffman. “It’s so exciting to see Oxford constantly prototyping new initiatives, courses, and workshops to refine how it prepares students for meaningful social impact,” she says. “Most MBA programs will talk about how they support social innovation, but when you look at the impact that alumni are actually having on the ground, Oxford Saïd’s track record is outstanding!”
Indeed, Saïd sponsors a unique view of business: one where it creates value through entrepreneurship, community through shared interests, and impact through using business tools to achieve social ends. Here, commerce isn’t the solution, but an organizing force that hatches ideas, collects insights, manages resources, and ultimately galvanizes action.
ATTACKING “WORLD-SCALE PROBLEMS” IN GOTO
“Society’s largest problems are inherently complex, and cannot be solved by a single entrepreneur or organization,” Drobac admits. However, he believes business brings unique tools in addressing these seemingly-overwhelming challenges. “Businesses — and their resources that are often greater than government, nonprofit, and non-government organizations — can step up and fill spaces left by current organizations tackling society’s toughest issues,” he adds. “Businesses have the resources, commitment to innovation, and practice of measurement and continuous improvement that are too often lacking in governments and nonprofits. Business is also uniquely positioned to scale and spread effective solutions across borders.”
Alas, the natural extension of Saïd’s mission is through global business. In fact, the school’s creative regularly touts that its curriculum is geared towards “addressing world-scale problems.” One way the program approaches this is through its Global Opportunities and Threats (GOTO) project. Here, students work in communities that may include peer students from areas like information technology, sciences, liberal arts, and law to tackle big picture issues like the future of healthcare (the topic that’s been assigned to the 2018 Class). Using an online platform, students and faculty conduct research, brainstorm ideas, explore options, and debate solutions.
Think of GOTO as a method for exposing students to a range of perspectives to challenge their thinking and stir their creativity. Even more, it is a window into how interconnected the various fields can be – and how their developments can re-shape established business models. “Business leaders should be at the forefront of thinking and implementing solutions to these issues, whether or not they are self-described social enterprises,” argues Iyoha. “I’m proud to be attending a business school that seeks to cultivate a new generation of responsible business leaders who have the confidence to take on such complex issues as water scarcity and migration.”
AN EXTENSION OF OXFORD TRADITION
Perhaps such ideals could only come from Oxford, a creative cauldron whose students have been credited with everything from discovering cells to building the first web server – not to mention blessing the world with hobbit-ridden shires and rabbit hole exits to Wonderland. It is home to rigorous research and raucous debates – an enlightenment ideal that pairs of splendidly with a digitally-decentralized dreamscape. Such collisions and fusions, between business, technology, arts, mathematics, and social sciences – not to mention class, culture, and convictions – is the real value of Oxford. It is a place where students can discover for themselves what truly matters – and why!
The trick at Saïd, however, is sifting through the many layers and opportunities, says Appalsamy. “The vast array co-curricular activities such as the Oxford Said Finance Lab; Venture Idea Exploration Workshop and Entrepreneurship workshop (to name just a few) are an attraction because it allows for individuals to find a topic that resonates with them – or, alternatively, learn something outside their comfort zone – that’s the beauty of Oxford, there’s something for everyone.”
Make no mistake: While Saïd may not possess the centuries-old cache of other Oxford schools, MBA students are integral part of the ceremonies, formal dinings, and street fairs that personify Oxford traditions. They are placed in one of the 38 “colleges,” where they live and socialize. They can even take advantage of extracurricular activities, whether that be joining rowing crews or playing in the music society’s vaunted orchestra (talent permitting, of course).
“FOR THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE ME. FOR THOSE WHO COME AFTER ME. AND JUST A BIT, FOR ME.”
In fact, some members of the 2018 Class, such as Healy, consider just getting into Saïd to be an accomplishment. That doesn’t mean he plans to rest on his laurels, however. “I get to spend the next year at one of the most intellectually stimulating places on the planet, developing relationships with incredibly diverse and impressive classmates, self-reflecting, and honing my professional skills. I am going to relish this journey and not take it for granted.”
Other class members are coming to Oxford with a plan firmly in place. For Sinani, success means coming away with “a social business plan worked out that can be implemented. A team of founders with defined roles in place that formulated the plan and will be part of implementation.” On the other hand, Garavaglia plans to take a more personal journey, one that builds on her identity while leaving something behind for classmates who are sharing this once-in-a-lifetime experience with her.
“Back when I played soccer (football), I developed a bit of a mantra,” she reminisces. “Before each game began, I would tap my goalposts and say aloud, “For those who came before me. For those who come after me. And just a bit, for me.” My vision of a leader is not someone who is solely concerned with his or her individual legacy, but someone who honours past efforts by learning from them and improves the way forward for future generations. In one year, I want to graduate SBS poised to become that type of leader. I want to have created, not solely consumed. I want to have engaged in self-reflection, not solely in self-promotion.”
To read profiles of incoming Saïd students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.
|Yogan Appalsamy||Johannesburg, South Africa||University of the Witwatersrand||Standard Bank Group|
|Andi Garavaglia||St. Louis, MO||Stetson University||National Hockey League|
|Conor Healy||Newark, NY||University of Chicago||Stiletto Entertainment|
|Eva Hoffmann||New York City, NY||Stanford University||IDEO U|
|Itua Iyoha||Edo, Nigeria||American University of Nigeria||McKinsey|
|Connor King||Ottawa, Canada||Western University||Accenture|
|Barati Mahloele||Polokwane, South Africa||University of Kwa-Zulu Natal||CDC Group PLC|
|Katie-Coral Sicora||Ventura, CA||Emerson College||Bluebeam Software Communication|
|Sidhya Senani||Satna, India||University of Delhi||The VITS School|
|Ash Walker||Sydney, Australia||University of New South Wales||La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council|