Sep 2018 - May 2020
Friends are anxious to know, how was Oxford?? Now that our first week of the Executive MBA program is over, I can attempt a reply. In short, it was fantastic.
One of the major factors that drew me to the Oxford program was the fact that it is integrated with the University itself.
Another was the modular nature of the program which allows for intensive and focused bursts of face to face interaction with fellow students, professors, support staff, faculty and guest speakers, coupled with great flexibility in how one spends one time between the modules which are each one week long in Oxford itself.
I was not disappointed. The Saïd Business School combines the best of the old with the best of the new. Drawing on Oxford traditions, our class of approximately seventy, ranging in age from late twenties to early sixties, shared our meals together several times a day in the dining room on the third floor of the contemporary state of the art Thatcher Business Education Centre, which is dedicated to the Executive MBA program. Conveniently located right next to the train station, its elegant façade, clad in Bath stone, is a fitting backdrop for the study of business. No fusty dusty medieval thinking here. As all meals during the week are provided in the dining room, or in other locations at the University, the ability to bond with and get to know everyone in the class in a very short amount of time was greatly facilitated.
We had our share of traditional Oxford as well. Our first dinner was in the beautiful old dining hall at Keble College, to which many of us were accepted. Although the University rules over all as a cohesive body, it is made up of its many colleges and one must be a member of one of the colleges in order to matriculate. Don’t worry though, all of that is taken care of once you are accepted to the program. And, later during the week, we followed in hallowed Oxford tradition, wearing our caps and gowns to a beautiful induction ceremony and dinner held in the historic Convocation House, dating back to 1634 and considered the “new” addition to Bodleian Library and the Divinity School which predates it by two hundred years. Under Charles II, Royalist Members of Parliament held meetings here 1665 and 1681.
The diversity of the class is truly outstanding. There was no chance of running out of small talk – every time you talked to someone it was like peeling off the layers of an onion. The stories and backgrounds just went deeper and deeper. Of course, there is a wide variety of nationalities, citizenships and industries. But it goes much deeper than that. Everyone’s story is both unusual and inspiring in some way, often in many different ways. The class is full of people who are first, second and third generation immigrants; people who were born in one country, grew up in another, acquired citizenship in a third and worked in several more; people whose families or who themselves persevered in the face of tremendous uncertainty and adversity to take risks to escape persecution and build better lives for themselves in foreign countries, the very faces of entrepreneurialism – risk takers all. There are also those who have stayed put and thrived where they are: locals from Oxford and London, those who have built businesses and careers in their home countries or those who have worked and studied abroad in order to return home and make outstanding contributions.
A cohesive camaraderie was formed within days: WhatsApp groups were formed, colleges visited, lectures listened to, group assignments overcome, and bars visited. While the readings are lengthy, the subject matter is not overwhelmingly difficult, at least not yet. But we are promised (or perhaps warned?) that there is more to come, much more. The general feeling at the moment? Bring it on. It’s a stimulating, exciting and inspiring environment.
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