Meet the MBA Class of 2021: The Go-Getters

Jess Harcourt

London Business School

“Resilient optimist, passionate about bringing solutions to marginalized populations.”

Hometown: Spring Grove, PA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love adventure! Some of my more recent experiences include motorcycling to Burundi, climbing an active volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and running a half-marathon through the rainforest in Rwanda.

Undergraduate School and Major: The Pennsylvania State University, BSc Finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Clinton Health Access Initiative, Health Financing Program Manager (Kigali, Rwanda)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My greatest accomplishment has been advising the Ministries of Health in Rwanda and Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, to improve national health systems. My roles ranged from mobilizing resources for antiretroviral drugs to developing strategies to improve the quality and sustainability of health services delivered to the countries’ populations.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Diversity. LBS is widely known as a programme that places significant weight on creating a diverse MBA cohort, comprised of some of the brightest students from all over the world. As 91% of our class consists of international students, diversity is immediately felt. This is a critical advantage that sets LBS apart from other programmes and what makes me excited to join the community and build life-long personal and professional relationships.

What is the best part of coming to London to earn your MBA? Over the last six years, I’ve been working outside of the United States, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. Maintaining an international focus was a top criterion when evaluating programmes. London is an international development hub and the London Business School provides access to a diverse, global network, largely unparalleled by other top programmes.

Aside from your classmate and location, 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? Programme flexibility was another key decision point. As LBS is a two-year programme, it provides greater flexibility to pursue particular areas of interest – such as pursuing an additional internship, broadening experiences through the international exchange programme, deeply engaging in clubs, and taking additional electives to expand specific skillsets.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m most excited to join the Africa Club and, in particular, helping to organize the LBS Africa Business Summit. With spending five years in Rwanda and Eswatini, I’m excited to leverage my networks to create exciting opportunities for LBS students to learn about and build connections with the Continent.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? What was your greatest failure and how did you adapt as a result?

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? With 10 years of international experience in both the public and private sectors, this is the perfect time for me to expand my strategic approach, strengthen leadership skills, sharpen my business acumen, and build a strong global network, enabling me to grow both professionally and personally.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Oxford, Saïd Business School

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I was targeted and considered in my MBA programme applications. My top criteria were cohort diversity, international accessibility, global perspective, academic excellence, programme flexibility, and cultural fit. The latter was very important to me. I was able to get a feel of the culture through visiting the campus and through interactions with alumni, current students, and the admissions committee, all of which made me even more excited about joining the LBS community.

The LBS MBA programme is well aligned with my career goals, as it will enable me to hone my technical and leadership skills through combining my practical experiences with theory and the experiences of others. I’ll be immersed in a uniquely global classroom with other passionate individuals, where we can discuss key challenges faced across countries, share experiences, and exchange ideas. LBS will provide the platforms for me to push myself strategically and to accelerate my career to become a transformational leader.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Looking for more than success as it is generally defined, I left my corporate finance position in 2013 and set off for what would become a nine-month trip. I lived in Nicaragua, Uganda, and Cambodia, volunteering in various organizations to build capacity at the community level. These experiences altered the course of my life. I saw stark inequities and challenges, such as lack of access to clean water, food, and healthcare. I saw that women and children are often the most marginalized. This ignited my passion to lead transformational impact in low-income countries. Over the last five years at the Clinton Health Access Initiative, I have realized this passion through advising governments to improve the healthcare systems in Eswatini and Rwanda.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I hope to leverage my MBA and experience to strengthen the intersection of public and private sectors to increase and expand the impact of interventions that save and improve the lives of those in low-income countries. Too often, private sector investment falls flat and the public sector is not able to adequately provide crucial social services needed by the population – both are missed opportunities to save and improve lives. Far too often, these spaces are thought of in siloes and there is a significant unmet opportunity to improve the impact of the private sector through strengthening collaborations with the public sector. I hope to lead a social enterprise that bridges this gap to solve global problems in low-income countries. I am particularly passionate about helping women and children, who often are the most marginalized groups.

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