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The Boat Race and leadership

Business school and the Boat Race may not immediately seem like two activities which go hand-in-hand. One is a strictly academic pursuit, while the other is all about heritage, competition and tradition. But when we break down the key principles of what it means to succeed at both - dedication, ambition and leadership - it becomes clear that they are, in fact, rather similar.

One of Oxford University’s most famous traditions is the annual Boat Race against Cambridge, which takes around Easter on the River Thames in West London. The first race was held in 1829, making it one of the oldest sporting events in the world, as well as one of the longest standing sporting rivalries.

A key benefit to students studying at Oxford Saïd, is their ability to immerse themselves in all that Oxford University has to offer; reaping the benefits of world-class teaching and extracurricular activities, and then putting what they learn into practice. Two examples of this are Oxford 1+1 MBA students Nik Hazell and Morgan Gerlak, both chosen to row as part of the esteemed Dark Blue Boat in the 2016 race; they were Vice President and President of the Oxford University Boat Club (OUBC) respectively.

’I’ve learned more at the boathouse than I have anywhere else in my life. It helps me in the classroom by being disciplined, figuring out what really matters to get a result. On the water it’s about thinking differently about challenges – you can’t always brute force your way through – in rowing and in the classroom. You need to think about it from different angles,’ said Morgan.

For Nik, who has  trained for four years while  studying for his undergraduate degree and an MSc in Engineering Sciences at Oxford, and Morgan, who has rowed for both Oxford and Brown University, the pressure is on to beat Cambridge for the fourth year in a row. 

Nik is having to draw on experience he has gained from studying at Oxford Saïd to keep himself, and his team mates, motivated. ’Whether it’s being thrown into a class of 90 people where I’m expected to offer something insightful regarding accounting, which I have no experience of, or trying to help motivate and encourage guys who are broken because we’ve trained for 25 hours in the last 10 days, my experience of both has been very useful in taking me out of my comfort zone and showing me how to be motivated and prepared.'

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