Meet Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class Of 2019

Christian Nattiel

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

“Impact player in the lives of others with a demonstrated commitment to excellence.”

Hometown: St Petersburg, Florida, USA

Fun Fact About Yourself: Newly married!

Undergraduate School and Major:

United States Military Academy – Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Sciences (Honors) and Philosophy

University of Oxford – Master of Science in Education (Higher Education)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

Infantry Officer, United States Army

Intern, Rhodes Trust

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment was winning the Rhodes Scholarship on November 19th, 2016. Due to my incredible mentors and all of the resources that were invested in me, I was fortunate enough to become the first African-American Rhodes Scholar from West Point. 94 Rhodes Scholars had come from West Point before me. However, the personal recognition that I gained from winning is not why it was my greatest achievement.

Winning the Rhodes Scholarship was my greatest achievement because of what it means for minority Cadets at West Point. I did not win the scholarship because I spent every waking moment studying, I won because I focused on using my talents for the good of others. Whether it be raising the grade point averages of at-risk Cadets, helping get a bill for veterans passed in the United States House of Representatives, or providing advice to my mentees, people knew that my legacy was one of selflessness. Once the news of my accomplishment had reached West Point, minority Cadets could now see that there is no goal that they cannot reach academically. More importantly, however, all Cadets could realize that the highest honors are to be gained not by focusing on yourself, but by improving the lives of others.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The MBA classmates I have met so far would be best described by their passion to support each other. I am an expectant father. Recently, my wife and I ran into two SBS students at a coffee shop, and I remember being taken aback by how genuinely they wanted to make sure I was well-positioned to manage my coursework and my daughter when she is born around exam time in December. They sent me resource links, advice for specific classes, the contact information for other MBA parents they had met, etcetera. Their goodwill all the more excites me to be a member of a community where people want to make each other better.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I am most attracted to SBS’s commitment to ethical business leadership from a global perspective. Their commitment is succinctly captured by their ‘Responsible Business’ integrative module, which explores both the philosophical underpinnings of the corporation in society and the ethical decision-making of business leaders.

Unfortunately, moral lapses by various business leaders in American history have led to the perception by many in my community that business can be an amoral endeavor. Some in the public sector community even call the private sector “the dark side.” That said, if I was going to pursue an MBA, I wanted to be in a place where the ethical dimensions of business could be thoroughly examined. I do not imagine there is a better place to do that than here at Oxford, given its storied history in philosophy and its vibrant international culture.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am really excited for the “Responsible Business” debate at the Oxford Union during our MBA Launch programme. If it is the same as previous years, our cohort will debate a proposition similar to: “This house believes that there is one and only one social responsibility of business…to increase its profits.” This debate gets right to the core of the amorality that I mentioned in my previous response, and for that reason, I am excited to be there and take notes!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After graduating from West Point and integrating into the civilian world here in Oxford, I began to realize that much of what I had practiced and learned about leadership was within the context of the people around me having a near-identical set of values that were inculcated in us by the Army for strategic reasons. When it is time for me to transition into the civilian world after leaving the Army, however, it is necessary that I have sharpened my skills at leading more diverse groups and organizations if I truly want to affect large-scale change. With that goal in mind, it was clear that SBS was the place to be.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I decided that the MBA was worth the investment because of the smoothing effect it will have on my transition out of the Army. Because the MBA will expand my options for higher-paid careers (therefore providing a better life for my family), it will provide me with a foundation of financial skills that will be useful for affecting change in any organization.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I made use of business school rankings, student blogs, admissions material, and YouTube videos. Most importantly, all of the MBA students I had met around Oxford during my MSc in Education provided outstanding testimonials about their experience at SBS. The vast majority of them said that the year would be very intensive, but that is just what I am looking for after a quite sedentary dissertation-writing experience. I revel in working at my hardest, so I can expect a fulfilling year.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Despite having encountered much more difficult challenges in life, I will never forget my first day of high school. My first high school was deep in inner-city Atlanta, a school that was overwhelmingly poor and black. When making our introductions to our classmates in front of the class, some had said they wanted to be football players, some aspired to be entrepreneurs, and others doctors – but I’ll never forget one girl who said, “I want to be a welfare mom, like my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother.”

A few years prior, when my mother was single, I came to understand through experience what poverty was like, yet I just could not fathom someone accepting a life so defined by misfortune. That experience impelled me to ask myself, why is it that I feel the power to self-determine while others do not yet see it in themselves? Are you truly free if you do not feel that you are in control of your life? That moment began my lifelong journey of providing structural improvements to institutions for the greatest benefit of the least advantaged so that those in vulnerable populations have the opportunity and self-belief to succeed.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I am committed to the US Army until late 2025. After graduation, my family will promptly move back to the United States and I will begin my initial entry training as an Infantry Officer. I will train for about a year, and then I hope to be stationed with the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii as a rifle platoon leader (officer responsible for ~30-40 Soldiers).

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself as a company commander (officer responsible for ~100-150 Soldiers) in a unit wherever the Army sends me.

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