Meet The MBA Class of 2021: Haruka Udagawa, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Haruka Udagawa

University of Oxford, Saïd Business School

“Japanese diplomat, trying to positively impact society through collaboration of private and public sectors.”

Hometown: Tokyo, Japan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have been practicing and can conduct the Japanese tea ceremony called ‘Sado’, a ritual of preparing and serving green tea (matcha). It is for the guests to enjoy the hospitality of the host and the atmosphere of tranquility away from the business of everyday life.

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Economics, University of Tokyo, and MA in Geopolitics and Grand Strategy, University of Sussex

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: (Currently) Attaché, Embassy of Japan in the UK

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Oxford Saïd’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? When I started considering applying to a business school, I soon figured that I would be categorised as a non-traditional MBA applicant. However, Oxford Saïd Business Schools’ emphasis on creating a positive and lasting social impact genuinely resonates with my passion as a civil servant and gives me hope that I have something to contribute. Interdisciplinary projects such as GOTO and Impact Lab represent how serious Saïd Business School is about developing leaders who can tackle world-scale issues through collaboration among different stakeholders such as businesses, government sectors, and international organisations.

What is the most “Oxford” thing you have done so far as a full-time MBA student? Matriculation is definitely one of the most Oxford activities I have done. While the ceremony was conducted virtually for the first time in history, listening to the Latin phrases confirming our membership at the University of Oxford in a solemn atmosphere marked such a great beginning as an Oxford student. Having the opportunity to celebrate the start of our MBA journey with new friends while wearing ‘sub fusc’ (academic dress) at signature locations such as Radcliffe Camera and Bridge of Sighs was an incredible experience. It is amazing to imagine all the students who have passed through these same sites.

Oxford is known as a place where world collides, be it in the classroom or the dining hall. What has been the most interesting interaction you’ve had so far as an Oxford MBA student? Unfortunately, in-person interactions have been limited. However, due to the restrictions, I have become more appreciative of every single interaction that I have with my MBA cohort. They never fail to amaze me with their different perspectives, expertise, and passion for their aspirations. In addition to the astonishing cohort, being part of this wonderful community of Oxford has brought me enormous encounters with pioneers and front liners in various disciplines such as computer science, AI lab researchers and medical students. I also have been taking advantage of this virtually connected world to access different professors inside and outside Saïd Business School.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of the biggest accomplishments in my career was my contribution to the negotiation of the outcome document of the G20 Osaka Summit in Japan before I left for the UK. It was the largest international conference that Japan has ever hosted and my first experience participating as part of the negotiation team.

In addition to the hardship of adjusting logistics of each country’s delegation in accordance with lengthy final rounds of negotiations, building consensus for the G20 Osaka Summit Leaders’ Declaration which includes a few contentious issues where each country’s position differs was also quite challenging. Understanding each country’s position over certain issues and finding a point of consensus requires meticulous preparation. After the final day of the G20 Osaka Summit, I was exhausted from sleepless nights. At the same time, I was proud to be part of such a large-scale Summit and issuing the G20 Osaka Summit Leaders’ Declaration to set a course of collective action among the G20 countries.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Building friendships under such restricted conditions and completing MBA course work in this hard time should be considered as an accomplishment. I have also created a public sector/government group with a few other students to advance private and public sector cooperation and hosted some virtual events regarding public sector to share experiences and expertise. We are considering broadening such activities, using more resources not only from Saïd Business School but also from other faculties.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None. Oxford was my only aspiration.

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? This year, our academic learning and Oxford experience as a whole have been severely disrupted by COVID-19 and it is nothing like what I had expected before I started. I used to be disappointed about all the restrictions we are facing and wondered what a normal year as an MBA student could have been. However, I have learnt the importance of seeing the bright sides of situations and working on what you can do, no matter how little that is with a positive spirit. It’s easier said than done, but with the current cohort’s creativity to find a way to enhance our experiences at Oxford with the support of Saïd Business School, I have become appreciative of what I have. Thanks to all the positive spirits and energy of this year’s cohort, I have gained a precious epiphany which will help me for all the future difficulties, and I am grateful.


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