Discover the power of community in the Oxford MBA

At a school where people come from all over the world to study, the one thing that unites everyone is being an Oxford student. It creates a sense of community that can’t be replicated elsewhere - and this Oxford MBA community helped this MBA student understand the importance of community in life.

In short

Why Oxford?

Youmna Sirgi has always been drawn to the connections between countries and people. She was born in the United States to Lebanese parents and studied international relations for her undergraduate degree. After graduating, she worked at companies in various industries. It gave her a taste of what she wanted to do in the future. However, she knew that if she wanted to pursue a career in business, she needed to master the business fundamentals.

“I decided that I wanted more of a formal education in business because it was something that I wanted to pursue in the future,” she tells MBAGRADSCHOOLS. “I had also been a volunteer teacher of English as a Second Language and was helping with a startup incubator.” (00:58)

The interests she pursued alongside her work would eventually come together to form her ideal vision of a business school. At Oxford Saïd, Youmna found that school.

“Two things that I’ve always gravitated towards are making sure that business is impact-focused and being curious about that startup environment. So I decided to try and find a school that fitted the niche between all of those things, and Oxford was that place for me. It has 90%+ diversity, a focus on social impact – which is something that draws a lot of people here – and overall it was just a nice fit for what I wanted in my career,” says Youmna. (01:21)

The Oxford MBA experience: Ceremonies in Latin and talks on the metaverse

The University of Oxford is one of the oldest universities in the world, but its business school is relatively young. Although business education at Oxford has been taught since 1965, Oxford Saïd Business School was only founded in 1996. Youmna says that the contrast between new and old was fascinating to experience.

“It’s really interesting to be in an environment where a new school meets a very old school. The dynamic that plays out there is something that I potentially knew coming in, but didn’t necessarily see the nuances of beforehand,” she reveals. (03:11)

This contrast between new and old doesn’t only apply to the ages of the schools. Oxford values its ancient traditions. Youmna says seeing those alongside Saïd’s focus on cutting-edge developments makes for another interesting clash. You can feel the history, but sense that the future is also being forged here.

“I think the dichotomy between talking about the metaverse and cryptocurrency then doing a 10-minute ceremony in Latin is just amusing sometimes, but I think it’s part of the fun of being in an environment that has both of those worlds,” Youmna explains. (04:02)

The Oxford startup ecosystem

Oxford Saïd’s future focus manifests itself in the school’s links with the local startup community. Oxford Saïd students have the opportunity to get practical experience in the world of venture capitalists and startups. This, in turn, allows them to explore the wider – and thriving – Oxford startup ecosystem.

“Through the business school, I’m an investment director for something called the Oxford Seed Fund, which is a student-run VC on campus. So, we have capital that we have to give out by the end of the year to startups. That’s really allowed me to explore the ecosystem of entrepreneurship and Oxford that exists outside of the business school,” Youmna says. (06:27)

Engaging with companies outside of the university has given Youmna the opportunity to discover businesses she may never have otherwise known about. It has allowed her to explore her own interest in entrepreneurship while adding value to innovative startups.

About this Oxford MBA community she says: “It has been really interesting to make relationships and build partnerships with organizations like the Oxford Science Innovation Lab,” she explains. “They’re very niche scientists who are working on the next big idea – similar to the AstraZeneca vaccine – and might not necessarily have the business knowledge to know how to add intellectual property rights, create a business plan or find funding. So, that’s what they turn to business students for.” (07:03)

The power of the Oxford MBA community

Oxford Saïd is as much about connections as it is about contrasts. Nowhere are those connections stronger than between the students themselves. Youmna believes it is the Oxford community that truly sets it apart from other business schools. People come from all over the world to study under one roof. Being at Oxford is the one thing that unites them all. It creates a strong sense of community that is difficult to replicate anywhere else.

“The power of the Oxford MBA community here is quite remarkable,” Youmna says. “There are endless examples of someone having a violin concert, or a boxing match, and the entire cohort shows up. Not necessarily because they love the activity we’re going to see, but because we’ve created this importance of showing up for one another.” (13:00)

Youmna’s Oxford MBA experience has been all about connections. She now sees the importance of community not just in a school like this, but in life itself. Her experience has inspired her to become a more proactive community builder. It has also given her a greater understanding of how to form stronger connections in her personal life. Her bachelor’s degree was all about relations and, unexpectedly, it seems her MBA came down to the same thing.

She reflects, “I think something that’s fundamentally changed is how powerful a community can be in the rest of your life, and in showing up for things that you don’t necessarily care about – but you care about the person. That’s probably been the most fundamental change for me.” (14:19)

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