Meet Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class Of 2019

Cassandra Sullivan

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

“I’m a serious person that doesn’t take myself too seriously.”

Hometown: Idaho Falls, Idaho

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am self-identified Taylor Swift activist and attended 3 of her concerts this past summer. I hope to catch her final show of this tour in Tokyo! I also went through the arduous and expensive process of bringing my two cats from the US to the UK with me – which is something I feel Taylor would respect.

Undergraduate School and Major: Boise State University, Distinguished Honors in Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  I joined the Federal practice at Deloitte in August 2014. After nine months in the role, my military orders required me to abruptly relocate to Monterey, California. Supporting a military career was going to require me to move every few months to small towns that lacked job opportunities.

Since Deloitte has a global infrastructure, it made no sense to me why I would be forced to join the 90% of military spouses who are underemployed. I defiantly lobbied to create an internal Military Spouse Initiative (MSI) that applied Deloitte’s flexible work practices to military spouses. After volunteering 20-30 hours per week towards the cause for the past three years, I am so proud to be the program manager for MSI, which recruits, retains, and connects 100+ Deloitte military spouses, offers $100,000+ to military spouse nonprofits, and allows me to have a career and develop as a leader.

I have had one-on-one conversations with Deloitte’s CEO, Cathy Engelbert, about how MSI fits into Deloitte’s strategy and our team has met at the Whitehouse with staff and advisors several times regarding business practices to support military families. This network of like-minded, military-affiliated professionals is my most valuable connections.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? A shared interest in building and enhancing responsible businesses. There is truly no other program with as many social impact-focused students; whether you’re focused in consulting or social enterprise, corporate responsibility is at the core of the program.

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?  The learning structure and culture at the University of Oxford pushes students to be interdisciplinary. You are integrated into a ‘college’ (like a Hogwarts House) with students studying various subjects. You are embedded in a university with a history that goes further back than the United States and connected to a legacy of learning along with former kings and queens. While I am eager to study finance, social impact, marketing, etc., I truly believe being able to connect the dots between all disciplines is crucial to being successful in business and most look forward to year of immersive learning at Oxford.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most excited about attending events at the Oxford Union. I competed in speech and debate throughout high school and college and am honestly brought to life through a public forum. I have coached several debate teams internationally and I believe examining a topic from both sides of an argument is one of the most mentally stimulating exercises. The Oxford Union allows students to discuss pressing topics and brings in world leaders, activists, and celebrities to lead the discussions.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?  I am going to be stepping into roles that have me managing larger client teams and pitching more services to clients. I want to have the credibility of Oxford attached to my name and come to clients with the perspective I’ve gained outside of Deloitte. I work primarily on business organization transformations and feel that’s a crucial time to examine a company’s culture and business model; I want to help guide clients through ethical decision-making and design companies for the ‘future of work.’

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I am the first in all of my family to attend graduate school and it has been a goal of mine ever since I started undergraduate schooling; I was willing to invest whatever it took to fulfill my goal. Thankfully, Deloitte accepted me into their generous Graduate School Assistance Program (GSAP). I’ve accepted an offer to return to Deloitte upon completion of my program and will receive tuition reimbursement. It’s an incredible program that has made this experience possible without having to carry student debt for years.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I only applied to Saïd Business School; after I visited campus to confirm my interest, I felt applying anywhere else would be ingenuine. The school is a perfect fit for my MBA goals.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I did campus immersion days at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale and I paid close attention to the industries and sectors applicants were coming from and going to. I feel a lot of top business schools are marketing social impact components of their programs, but you rarely see that their cohort reflects that. Since business school is my time to step away from consulting and gain new perspectives, I felt surrounding myself with other consultants wouldn’t make the experience as valuable.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? The weekend before I started my undergraduate schooling, I was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety as a first-generation student. I called my parents and asked them to come back and move me home; when they arrived, my father was ready to happily bring me home. My mother, a college dropout herself, told me that if I didn’t give it a try I would regret it for the rest of my life. My studies at Boise State University exposed me to incredible mentors, world travels, and immeasurable learnings. I ended up graduating as a ‘Top Ten’ from my class and am obviously grateful that – for the first time in 18 years of my life – I listened to my mother!

What do you plan to do after you graduate?  Upon graduation, I will return to Deloitte and work out of Seattle, Washington. I will resume my organization transformation client work, as well as the pro bono anti-human trafficking, military family, and social enterprise work I have been able to do with the firm.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to use all of these experiences and connections to eventually build something of my own. I have had the opportunity to build programs from the ground-up with Deloitte’s support and I’d eventually like to have my own company where I can apply the skills I’ve learned. I am counting on my network at Oxford to help me with this down the road and will spend the next year hearing and learning from others’ ideas to eventually fulfill this dream.  

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