2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Eli Mitchell-Larson, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Eli Mitchell-Larson

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

“A former impact investor and social entrepreneur committed to bringing about deep global decarbonisation.”

Hometown: Cumberland, Maine, USA

Fun fact about yourself: Last year, I lived alone on a 45-foot canal narrowboat on the River Thames. Transitioning back to land-based housing this year has been more comfortable (no need to keep a fire going!), but I miss my afternoon cruises on the canal.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Yale University, B.S. Geology & Geophysics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? COO, SunFarmer – a social enterprise that designs, deploys, and finances solar energy projects in Nepal, from pay-as-you-go solar water pumps for smallholder farmers to powering off-grid hospitals. I’m now on the board as we continue to transition the company to local leadership.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? In between my one-year Master of Science in Environmental Change & Management and my one-year MBA, I completed dissertation research in Norway on carbon capture and storage, specifically the impacts of imposing a sequestration obligation on Norway’s sizable oil and gas industry. I interviewed senior members of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Equinor, and environmental NGOs and conducted economic analysis.

Where will you be working after graduation? Unconfirmed – Two leading options include a policy research fellowship at Oxford in parallel with a three-year DPhil, or founding a boutique net-zero carbon consultancy.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I co-chair the Climate & Energy Oxford Business Network, which acts as the nexus for environmental student programming at Saïd Business School. We run educational events, bring in speakers, and act as a social hub for MBAs interested in climate change and the environment. I’ve also been asked to represent my peers on stage as a speaker or panel moderator at climate-related events, and I sing in our MBA band.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I sang as a tenor in the Magdalen College Chapel Choir, which at 560+ years old is one of Oxford’s oldest and most traditional. It was the most challenging musical experience of my life – I had to learn to sight-read new music for six 40-minute services per week – but ultimately very fulfilling. We toured to Paris and Antwerp, sang for Hillary Clinton and George Osborne (political opposites!), and sang from the top of the Magdalen tower on May Morning to thousands below on the crowded streets of Oxford. These are some of my most treasured Oxford memories, and I feel fortunate to have had such an unusual and unique opportunity.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m proud of the culture and team we built at SunFarmer, the Kathmandu-based social enterprise I was a senior leader of before starting my MBA. We made the choice to fully transition the company to local leadership, and it’s been rewarding to see the company continue to grow and thrive since I’ve transitioned to a board seat. More recently, I’ve pivoted into climate policy, research, and advocacy, and have so far had opportunities to speak and influence policymakers in Norway, France, and Saudi Arabia.

Why did you choose this business school? Oxford and Saïd Business School allowed me to do a “1+1 MBA”, which includes a one-year Master of Science combined with a one-year MBA. This let me work on substantive climate research which I could then link with the practical skills of strategy, management, and business. I also was drawn to Saïd Business School’s focus on social and environmental impact, which manifests in a more thoughtful curriculum and a cohort full of engaging and impressive peers.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I highly recommend the 1+1 MBA program, which allows you to more deeply explore an area (in my case climate change) in an intensive one-year MSc degree before diving into your MBA. This also gives you a full two-year experience, since most European MBAs are just one year. Regardless of which degree you pursue, just be genuine in your interview and try to come to a preview weekend to see if Oxford is right for you.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Oxford Saïd has a reputation as a social impact or purpose-oriented MBA, and to a large extent that’s what I was looking for and what I have experienced. But what’s impressed me is the diversity among my classmates, in every sense but extending to personal and career priorities (many of which are less impact-focused, and impressive in numerous other ways).

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I particularly admire my classmates who are balancing a demanding MBA with raising a family! Every time I’m stressed about exams and papers, I remind myself that these brave souls are doing that and raising young children. In particular, Joaquín Víquez is a former social entrepreneur from Costa Rica and an awardee of the prestigious Skoll Scholarship at Oxford. Joaquín is one of those people who can do it all – build a house from scratch, start a biogas company, teach a primer course on climate change to his peers – all while being a friend to all, a positive force within the cohort, and a dedicated father.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father has always been an entrepreneur, from construction and real estate development to wood products manufacturing and CNC machining. He didn’t go to business school or have formal business training, but he’s built small businesses throughout his life and employed people in Maine, a state where high-quality jobs are often in short supply. It wasn’t until I got to Oxford that I realized how much this influenced my priorities and goals. I now have a collection of his old business cards from various ventures, failed and successful, on my desk to remind me of his drive, creativity, and desire to do things differently.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’d like to lead a government department and publish an article in Nature or Science.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope they’ll remember me as someone warm and genuine, but who is also uncompromising in my mission to help the world decarbonise and to encourage others to join the battle.

Hobbies?Music and vocal performance: I sing in our MBA band, and also sing in various chapel choirs.

What made Eli such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Eli’s passion for and focus on the environment and climate change action truly embodies Saïd Business School’s values and purpose. His background, combined with his first year of the Oxford 1+1 MBA on the MSC of Environmental Change and Management, brings a different view to the MBA classroom and an invaluable voice in discussions and group projects. Eli is also an active member of the Pershing Square Scholar community, a network that will benefit from his input for years to come.”

Liz Starbuck Greer
MBA Programme Director


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