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SCHOLAR BLOG: FINDING A PLACE AS AN MBA

In this series of Scholar Blogs, sildenafil our four Skoll Scholars for 2014-15 tell us what shaped their journey toward doing an MBA, and give their first impressions of how it feels to be starting their MBA course at Saïd Business School. 

Patrick Beattie

Patrick Beattie

Patrick Beattie has focused his career on using novel technology to address unmet needs in Global Health and Global Development. He comes to Oxford after six years at Diagnostics For All (DFA), a nonprofit medical diagnostics development company. Patrick served as a US Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia and Guinea from 2004 to 2007, teaching mathematics and chemistry in rural settings and holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University.

For the past few months, there has been a question that I’ve been asked over and over. “So…why Oxford?” Before arriving at Oxford, this question really translated into, “So…why an MBA?” As someone who has spent all of his working life in the volunteer or non-profit areas, my decision to pursue an MBA might have seemed a bit strange. To be fair, my previous organization, Diagnostics For All, was not an average non-profit. As a medical diagnostics company that felt a non-profit structure was the best approach for the pursuit of our mission, we also prided ourselves on having a significant “for-profit” mentality. (After spending six years growing the organization and dealing with the benefits and difficulties of that decision, I find that key choice as a fascinating puzzle for each new social enterprise, thought that is a topic for another blog post). Before coming to Oxford, that question of “Why an MBA?” often seemed to mean, “Are you really going to fit in with typical MBA students?”

These questions were not surprising, as they were questions I had asked myself repeatedly before applying. They were also reasons I chose to apply specifically to Oxford. My experience in the social impact space made the benefit of a fundamental business education clear to me. I needed a place that could teach fundamentals and challenge previously held beliefs, but also encourage my passion for social entrepreneurship, not diminish it. Saïd Business School and the Skoll Centre have proven to be just the right balance. During the first weeks of the course, I have been surprised to find how many of my classmates share my interest in leveraging business knowledge for social impact. Even more surprising has been how many of my classmates have stated, “I have no interest in working in social enterprise…but I’d love to understand more about it.” If that is the typical attitude of an Oxford MBA student, then there’s no doubt that I’m in the right place.

With all the questions before arriving (not to mentioned the millions I was asking myself), I was ready to arrive, stop the questioning, and jump in. Imagine my surprise when instead of stopping, the exact same question was being asked: “So…why Oxford?” The twist, of course, was that it was being asked by others who had made the same choice, and behind the question was an understanding that we had all chosen Oxford because it brought something that other schools didn’t. For me, it was the chance to work with the Skoll Centre and being able to tailor a fundamental business education to my interests. For others, it was the connections to the broader university or the potential to use the summer consulting projects to springboard into a new career. What was clear is that everyone felt Oxford uniquely offered them the chance to do something over this year that nowhere else did, which I think is going to make for a very interesting year ahead.