Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Nijia Zhou, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Nijia Zhou

University of Oxford, Saïd Business School

“Jack of all trades, master of none – finding common ground to ensure the climate-change battle is won.”

Hometown: Lake Jackson, TX, USA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a licensed bartender and have worked bars in the US, Brazil, and Zambia.

Undergraduate School and Major: M.Sc. in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford.

B.S. Chemical Engineering, B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate at Systemiq

Systemiq, the system-change company, seeks to drive the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, by transforming markets and business models in five key systems: nature and food, materials and circularity, energy, urban areas, and sustainable finance.
A certified B Corp, Systemiq combines strategic consulting with high-impact, on-the-ground work, and partners with business, finance, policy-makers and civil society to deliver system change.

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? The focus on impact and the 1+1 partner program, where I was able to get both a focused MSc and a broader MBA education from a world class university, is the major reason why I chose the Oxford MBA. Being able to really put down roots in the city and university, meet two classes of extraordinary people, and two years of excellent Saïd Business School resources has exceeded my expectations.

What course, club, or activity has been your favorite part of the Oxford Saïd MBA experience? Impact Lab is Oxford Saïd’s co-curricular Impact Leadership programme that supports students who are committed to having an impact-driven career. It has been one of my favorite parts of my MBA experience. It gave me the opportunity to really find “my people” and create a safe space for deep, challenging discussions that really pushed me out of my comfort zone and really help me grow my capabilities as a systems change leader.

What is the most “Oxford” thing you have done so far as a full-time MBA student? I started rowing while at Oxford and have been blown away by how much I love it. Who knew 6 am wake ups could be so worthwhile!? A sunrise over the river and workout to start the day just can’t be beaten.

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? I met one of my very best friends on a walk to the Ashmolean Museum in week zero of my first term at Oxford. She ended up being one of my biggest supports, confidantes, and academically one of my best resources in environmental law.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishments of my career were the new sustainable packaging launches I managed while I was at Procter & Gamble. While many of the changes were small design changes (less material, different and more sustainable material), they were on multi-billion-dollar brands, causing millions of tons of materials to be saved and many tons of CO2 emissions to be avoided. I am really proud of the real tangible change I made in the world with these projects.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? My biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far was being named as one of the ‘100 Most Inspiring MBAs” selected from a global talent pool (3000+) by the MBA Global Summit. The three-day invitation-only conference was in Milan, Italy, and allowed me to build new friendships with MBAs from across the globe.

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? For the wicked problems that are defining these extraordinary times, no one has the right answers. Even those leading the field, CEOs and experts alike, are all just learning as they go and doing their best. We, as new grads with our own lived experience and knowledge, are just as capable of contributing to solving these tough issues as anyone else!


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