Meet Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class Of 2022

Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College, Oxford University, Oxford, UK


Alas, you’ll find the Class of 2022 quickly became steeped in Oxford history. Nomhle Gumede Majola, once a presenter on a children’s television program, admits to walking past the Door to Narnia on the way to class, imagining opening the door to the “snowy, magical world” found in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. In contrast, Sandeep T D S’ best moments on campus have little to do with literary escapes.

“From studying in magnificent libraries to dressing to the nines for formal dinners, I’m fortunate to be living my Harry Potter fantasy. But what I consider the most Oxford thing I’ve done is sitting across a pond in the university parks studying and feeding the cute duckies while soaking up the sun (at least when it’s out).”

This type of solitude, coupled with time spent with Oxford’s dynamic personalities, is bound to stir some epiphanies. For Mariano Basombrio Barnechea, the takeaway has been just how big and small the world can be simultaneously. “Before coming to Oxford, I thought that the opportunities I had in life were in a way limited and that there weren’t many possible ways to steer my career. After meeting so many people from different countries and backgrounds I have realized how many opportunities are out in the world to do anything one dreams of. It is incredible to see how things are done all around the world.”

Samuel Bailey notes that he has learned several new ways to both define and find success. Even more, he has a new question to guide him in setting goals and evaluating his progress: What’s next? “In answering that question, I am constantly reminded by the amazing career coaches at Saïd to expand my mindset. I am no longer limited to goals that are “within reach”, but could finally consider truly every opportunity in the world and decide where I would feel most fulfilled and could contribute best given my skills and experience.”

Oxford Saïd entrance


Nomhle Gumede Majola came to a similar realization. She frames the journey this way: “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” And that path isn’t necessarily smooth or consistent. Rather, such journeys are punctuated with delays and setbacks, doubts and regrets. And that’s perfectly normal, believes Adriana Solano Zárate. In fact, she finds inspiration from her classmates because many are still wrestling with what comes after the MBA for them.

“I came to the program with a clear idea formed about next steps in my career,” she writes. ”However, I was exposed to world leaders, first-class lectures, an incredibly accomplished cohort of 350+ people. Walking the halls of the oldest university in the English-speaking world, truly allows you to see beyond barriers and broaden your perspective. I now know that there are countless opportunities that I could pursue, and this has made me doubt about the next steps that I should take — but that is ok, I am not alone in this journey; I am navigating it along with my classmates. The important thing is to know your purpose, in my case to have a meaningful and impactful career; as to the details, the MBA is a formative journey that allows us to question and reassess opportunities to discover the best path for each of us.”

Then again, the best journeys often take the shortest route. That has been the grand Oxford epiphany for Jacob Bignell. “It doesn’t matter if you’re studying at the world’s best University or your local public college, students everywhere are made of the same stuff. Be kind, face challenges with curiosity, and remember that all good conversations start in the classroom and end at the pub.”


By the numbers, this year’s class features 355 students, who bring an average GMAT of 690 to Park End Street (with scores ranging from 470-780). 44% of the class is comprised of women, with students from 71 countries among this year’s class. Another 94% of the class grew up outside the United Kingdom.

According to Asha Scaria Vettoor, that diversity has been “overwhelming, in a good way.” “There are peers around me from all walks of life, speaking in such different accents, with so much empathy towards each other. I’m still in awe of how truly diverse my class is!”

It is a long-time, deliberate dynamic built in to reinforce and enrich student learning, says Dave Muriuki, a 2021 alum. “There’s such a rich mix of perspectives on every issue because we all have different backgrounds, it makes discussions incredibly stimulating.”

You can think of Saïd as a small and intimate school — one with all the resources, expertise, and prestige of its 800-year-old parent university.  For Adriana Solano Zárate, this dichotomy was a huge differentiator for Saïd. “It was how the school is embedded in a world-renowned institution like the University of Oxford, and how the program is not only focused on business from a traditional perspective but also from a sustainability and social impact one,” Solano Zárate explains. “Oxford Saïd promotes students not only to seek a successful career in business, but to commit to becoming impactful leaders who tackle social, health, and environmental problems. This mindset that business leaders can, and should be, a force for good is what drew me to the school.”

Saïd Business School interior


That mindset is epitomized by GOTO, an acronym for Global Opportunities and Threats. A series of projects and tutorials, GOTO is considered to be Saïd’s signature MBA experience. Here, student teams tap into Oxford faculty, business leaders, and global experts to explore global issues such as water shortages and the threats of big data. In the process of tackling these complex threats, students develop innovative and holistic strategies designed to counter their risks.

I was keen on participating in the [GOTO] program because it would allow me to collaboratively contribute to solving wicked problems across different countries and business sectors,” says Chibueze Dunphy Ewuzie. “It has lived up to its reputation under the guidance of Peter Drobac. This year on GOTO, my team and I are exploring the theme: Systems Reset in the context of improving educational outcomes for refugees and asylum-seeking school-age children in the UK in a post-COVID world. I’m fortunate to possess the ability to apply systems thinking to complex problems by approaching them holistically bearing in mind the impact of every stakeholder in the ecosystem. These are the skills that will differentiate me in the workplace, enable me to grow as a business leader, and have an impact in the world.”

“Impact” is also a word associated with outgoing dean Peter Tufano. Last summer, he announced that he was leaving after a decade at the helm. When he started, you could say that Saïd was still in its adolescence, brimming with potential but still trying to find its path. During his tenure, Tufano raised over $144 million dollars, along with instituting the school’s famed 1+1 and GOTO programs.  At the same time, he turned the business school into a Top 25 research institution and Top 20 MBA program, not to mention one of the top executive education programs in the world. And he grew class size by 80 students too. Now, he leaves big shoes to fill, with his replacement being Soumitra Dutta, former dean of Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business and one of the architects of Cornell Tech.

How does Tufano see school’s future playing out? “Three years from now we will open up the new home for executive education on the Thames,” he told P&Q in 2021. “We’d have raised the last bit of money to tie the knot on that project so construction will start soon. The faculty will be a little bit larger. We will be seen as a more integral part of the university. Ten years from now I hope a sense of purpose will continue to guide and illuminate the school. It will seem less avant-garde. I hope we will be at the forefront of the work around sustainability. I am extraordinarily bullish about the future of Said Business School. I don’t think it will be a huge schoo . It has never been about numbers or scale or rankings.”

Saïd MBA students


In the meantime, what can Saïd applicants expects in the coming years from the school? In February, P&Q reached out to Matthew Conisbee, MBA Programme Director at the Saïd Business School. From STEM to social impact, here is the new developments and unique features of the Saïd MBA program.

P&Q: What are the two most exciting developments at your program and how will they enrich the MBA experience for current and future MBAs?

MC: “Whilst we have had some additions in terms of content development and new electives, the most impactful development involves a re-design of how we teach our core courses. Students are now taught in groups of 45, and this, coupled with innovations in online teaching materials which we accelerated during the pandemic, have created more opportunities for in-class debate and peer-to-peer learning. We have such a diverse group of students and finding ways to bring out the knowledge and experience in the classroom is vital to learning outcomes. Our new teaching model supports this really well.

A second exciting development is the new co-curricular course we are piloting this year, Oxford Insights. The goal is to provide our MBA students with even greater access to thought leadership from across Oxford University, by allowing students to learn from prominent university figures who have key leadership lessons, for example the leaders of the COVID-19 vaccine team.”

Matthew Conisbee

P&Q: What are two biggest differentiating features of your MBA program? How do each of these enrich the learning of your MBA students?

MC: “No doubt your readers always hear about this, but the fact that our MBAs are embedded in such a wonderful university has to be top of the list. Formally within the programme, but also in so many informal ways, students are able to socialise, network, and learn from some of the best and brightest in the world, across so many disciplines. You can be rowing on the River Thames in the morning, learning analytics or marketing in the afternoon, and having dinner with astrophysicists in the evening in a traditional college hall.

This sits squarely with one of the other distinct features of our MBA programme and the entire school – our focus on how business can be a force for good in society. This value is woven throughout the programme – in our core courses as well as in the elective and co-curricular options available to students. Across these offerings, our faculty convenes some of the most prominent leaders in their fields. They engage in critical questions about the role and impact of business, and of leaders in addressing the complex global challenges that we collectively face. True to the ethos of the university, which values debate and robust exchange of ideas, students don’t leave these discussions with an easy answer. Instead, they emerge with a much richer understanding of the important questions they should be asking themselves and their organizations, and of the diverse perspectives and voices they should be seeking out as they work to address those questions across their careers.”

Next Page: In-depth profiles of 12 Saïd MBAs

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