Meet Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class Of 2019

Oxford Foundry

A CLASS THAT GIVES BACK

Such contributions extend to the military as well. Cassandra Sullivan Rydalch – a military wife herself – observed that 90% of military spouses are underemployed. She vowed to do something about it at Deloitte. After meeting with CEO Cathy Engelbert and White House staff, Sullivan Rydalch applied best practices to roll out the Military Spouse Initiative (MSI), a program that offers flexible scheduling, support, and networking to military spouses. By the same token, Christian Nattiel became the first Africa-American at West Point to become a Rhodes Scholar – an honor rooted in his commitment to paying it forward.

“Winning the Rhodes Scholarship was my greatest achievement because of what it means for minority Cadets at West Point,” he explains. “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.”

Nattiel joins a long list of classmates who made their name by giving back. At JP Morgan Thailand, Weerawit Pipatwongkasem was already working with $50 billion dollar clients within three years on the job. In his spare team, he ran a financial literacy program that helped over 250 people get out from nearly $1.9 million dollars in debt. Outside Google, Onome Ofoman also moonlighted as a tutor, spending 10 weeks a year on educational outreach programs like mentoring entrepreneurs in Brazil or holding workshops in sub-Saharan Africa. Julie Greene also made her biggest contribution in Africa, opening a bakery in Rwanda that employed over 50 people within three years of launch.

An Oxford cohort visits Google on their Silicon Valley trek in 2018.  Courtesy photo

“What really motivates me are the personal and professional changes I see in the women we work with,” she shares. “It’s knowing that each woman employed full-time in a TWB bakery earns 2-5 times her previous income. It’s seeing one of the women rent her own home for the first time ever, or celebrating with another when she builds her own home. It’s hearing from a single mom who can now send all her children to school, and knowing that each one has health insurance.”

“AN ENERGY THAT IS BOTH INTENSE AND INVIGORATING”

In fact, this deep concern for others – loved ones and strangers alike – is one of the defining virtues of the Class of 2019, says Khalida Abdulrahim. “My classmates are all highly accomplished and ambitious men and women, but what I find really inspiring and impressive about them is a great deal of character and passion they possess,” she says. “They are people who want to solve problems in the private, public, and non-profit sectors, make a difference in their communities, and leave the world better than they found it.”

Similarly, Julie Greene has been struck by her classmates’ openness and optimism. “They are curious about others, and about all the possibilities that lie ahead. There is a real sense of camaraderie, without competitive one-upping of life stories or accomplishments, and a strong current of actually caring about the impact one has on the world.”

And Diana Kolar would add “driven and adventurous” to the shared traits that make the Class of 2019 so special to her. “With almost all the student body coming from outside of the UK, most of my classmates have uprooted their entire lives and moved across countries or continents to study at Oxford, resulting in an energy that is both intense and invigorating. I have not yet met two people with the same professional history, which has made each conversation compelling and unique.”

PAY AND PLACEMENT ON THE RISE

The Class of 2019 is slightly smaller than previous intakes, with the number of students falling from 334 to 319 over the previous year. Along the same lines, the class’ average GMAT slipped from 685 to 681, though the median GMAT held steady at 690. In addition, the percentage of women declined from 41% to 39%, though international student representation inched up a point to 93%. Overall the class hails from 62 different countries, 11 more than the 2018 Class.

Last year, the graduating class notched a 91% placement rate, an 11 point surge, along with average starting pay rising to £71,550. Such improvements stem, partially, from the school’s increasing investment in career support. One example is the Oxford Saïd Careers Academy, which was introduced in the fall. An online resource, the academy features four exercise-driven modules geared towards building soft skills that are supplemented by one-on-one coaching. Along with that, Saïd has partnered with General Assembly to produce a Digital Marketing Pathway.

“It’s an opportunity for students to develop their strategic thinking about the future of marketing and learn new digital marketing skills by having access to an exclusive suite of online courses,” says MBA programme director Ian Rogan.

OXFORD FOUNDRY AND SEED FUND OPEN UP STARTUP OPPORTUNITIES

That isn’t the only big news. In February, the school installed Sara Beck, the head of BBC Monitoring, as its Chief Operating Officer, to help execute Saïd’s strategic initiatives. One area where she is certain to focus ranks among the school’s success stories: The Oxford Foundry. An entrepreneurial hub in the heart of campus, the Foundry was christened in 2017 by Apple CEO Tim Cook and has emerged as ground zero for Oxford-wide innovation among students and faculty alike.

“It brings together all of Oxford University’s 24,000 students whether they are lawyers, medics, engineers or philosophers to socialize and work together, as members of the University’s entrepreneurial community,” Rogan adds. “It’s designed to be a creative space for entrepreneurially-minded students studying at Oxford to meet, collaborate, create new ventures, or develop entrepreneurial skills that will help them in their future career.”

The Foundry is just the start for aspiring entrepreneurs at Saïd. The school also maintains the Oxford Seed Fund. Technically, the students run this VC fund, with the ability to invest up to £50,000 in early-stage ventures from Oxford students and alumni. “I am hoping to pivot to a career in investing post-MBA,” says Diana Kolar. “This direct experience, coupled with the opportunity to engage with and support the Oxford ecosystem of entrepreneurs, is incredible.”

Radcliffe Camera building at the University of Oxford

SKOLL CENTRE BRINGS TOGETHER THE GLOBAL SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP COMMUNITY

This ecosystem isn’t founded on the typical online services fare common in MBA programs, however. True to Oxford’s mission to deliver world-class research and education that benefits society on a global scale, Saïd MBAs tend to pursue endeavors that involve social responsibility. This shared interest (if not a commitment) to impact is a unifying thread within the Class of 2019.

“There is truly no other program with as many social impact-focused students,” observes Cassandra Sullivan Rydalch. “Whether you’re focused in consulting or social enterprise, corporate responsibility is at the core of the program.”

This spirit is embodied by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. A research and educational hub, the Skoll Centre carries a broad mandate: “maximizing the impact of social entrepreneurship to transform unjust or unsatisfactory systems or practices around the world and address critical social and environmental challenges.” The center carries out this mission by bringing together thought leaders, researchers, social entrepreneurs, policy makers, and students to share insights and develop strategies to spark fresh ideas and advance sustainable solutions. This approach resonates deeply with a 2019 Class that’s seeking a purpose beyond a paycheck.

“I wasn’t seeking an MBA just to gain technical, hard business skills,” asserts Julie Greene. “I also wanted an MBA that would shape and guide my journey in global social impact. The huge focus on impact at Oxford Saïd, woven throughout the entire year and all of the classes, promotes a culture and program full of opportunities to explore disruptive ideas, sustainability, innovation, and positive social change. The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship…is an incredible asset and resource, and was a huge draw for me.”

Go to Page 3 for 13 in-depth profiles of Oxford Saïd MBA candidates