2019 MBAs To Watch: Vaughan Bagley, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Vaughan Bagley

Oxford Saïd Business School

Insatiably curious. Unwaveringly loyal. On an endless search for meaning and purpose.”

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Fun fact about yourself: I lived in Portugal as a child while my mother served as U.S. Ambassador.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Stanford University
  • BA in Human Biology | Honors in Ethics in Society

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?I served as the Special Projects Manager at the Joyful Heart Foundation where I led the impact campaign for the HBO Documentary I AM EVIDENCE.

Where will you be working after graduation? To be determined.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I have the honor of serving as co-chair of the Oxford Women’s Leadership Alliance, as well as co-ambassador for the Global Network for Advanced Management, of which Oxford is a member school.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At the Joyful Heart Foundation, I directed the social impact campaign for the HBO documentary film I AM EVIDENCE about the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the United States. The challenge of managing such a far-reaching and high profile campaign immediately excited me. This opportunity, if developed effectively, would allow me to not only build something from the ground up that could touch people’s lives, but also help to change laws that would protect future survivors from the same fate as those who were still waiting for justice decades after their assaults.

By working in tandem with my colleagues at the foundation, the film team, and key stakeholders, we were able to successfully employ the film as a bridge to partner organizations across different fields, to empower audiences to use their voices and take action in their communities, and ultimately – partly due to the film’s reach – to pass 50 laws in 32 states, directly affecting over 125,000 survivors.

This campaign taught me a great deal about project management, stakeholder management, and digital advocacy – and solidified my interest in using film and storytelling as a vehicle for impact.

Why did you choose this business school? Oxford Said is a unique community of people committed to using their business acumen to solve complex, pressing, global challenges. From our core finance and accounting courses to our electives and extracurriculars, the school constantly encourages us to think outside the box about what responsibility businesses have to social and environmental sustainability, and what it means to be an entrepreneurial business leader in the 21st century. I came to business school to gain the tools necessary to position my future organizations for success, but I came to Said to rethink business and meet a geographically and professionally diverse community equally committed to making a difference in the world. And that is exactly what I have found here.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be authentic. I think Oxford prides itself on taking students from diverse backgrounds, with varied passions, and a deep intellectual curiosity and commitment to finding their own vehicle for impact. Said’s mantra, “A world-class institution creating leaders to solve global problems,” provides a unique take on the role of a business school in building purposeful leaders. If you come to Said, you should possess a true respect for this responsibility, and be ready to learn how to wield it.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Oxford is only philosophers, poets, and novelists. The MBA program actually does exist, and we have a pretty big presence in the Oxford community as a whole. For example, we tend to take over college dinners on a weekly basis all across the university — so we definitely do not go unnoticed.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I am the type of person who likes to take everything in – to experience everything a place has to offer. From the gorgeous libraries and the fascinating events happening on a nightly basis to the multitude of adventures awaiting us right outside the city itself (I mean, the Cotswolds are less than an hour drive), there is just too much to experience in one year. The opportunities are endless and sometimes very overwhelming. If I could go back, I would do a bit more reflecting over the summer on what my priorities are for the year to ensure I get the absolute most out of it. Because before you know it, it’ll all be history.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past year, how has business school been transformative for you? Coming from a non-traditional background, business school has given me the opportunity to dive into an entirely new world. I have learned so much about how capable business leaders think and see problems — not as something to fear, but rather, as an opportunity to leverage. I have learned that being profit-driven and impact-focused do not need to be mutually exclusive and I have deepened by understanding of the synergies and interdependencies between the public and private sectors. Whether I move into a nonprofit or corporate role following graduation, I know I will be better equipped to lead my organization and for that, I am very grateful.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are a number of students in our program with children – some whose little ones are here with them and others who had to leave them behind for the year. I can’t imagine how hard that must be, so I admire their ability to throw themselves completely into this experience by being present in everything they do. They are here not just for themselves, but for their children as well – and I find their strength to be incredibly inspiring.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would probably be…doing the same thing I am doing now – but in a less fun atmosphere. I would be working at a non-profit or social enterprise, thinking about what more I can be doing to drive change and trying desperately to find the place in the world where I can add the most value.”

What are the top two items on your bucket list? During the summer, I will be taking electives instead of doing an internship, so I will have a bit more time on my hands. One of the things I would love to do is get book recommendations from a number of my classmates in various fields so I can spend the summer continuing to learn about different businesses, models, and leaders. I have also been listening to the HBS Case Study Podcast and would love to continue to broaden my horizons by finding similar podcasts to peruse post-MBA. And then, of course, this spring I plan to go to the Royal Ascot Horse race – because it is just oh so British and when in England, we should do as the English do – at least periodically.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as friendly, warm, hard-working, and always ready for a deep, interesting conversation or a fun adventure.

Hobbies? I love to cook. I don’t get nearly as much time here as I did back home to do it, but there is something so therapeutic and creative about the process of preparing a meal and watching others enjoy your creation.

What made Vaughan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Vaughan is a Forte Foundation scholar with outstanding leadership abilities and a proven track record of delivering successful social impact outcomes. Her natural curiosity and passion for learning made her an excellent fit for Oxford Saïd.

While studying the Oxford MBA, she has also contributed to the wider School community by taking on the roles of ambassador to the Global Network of Advanced Management and co-chair of the Oxford Women’s Leadership Alliance.

Vaughan’s drive and determination to change the world for the better has been self-evident throughout her career, and I have no doubt that she has even greater achievements ahead of her.”

Ian Rogan
MBA Programme Director

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