Classes, climate and college

4 minute read

It’s that time of the year when one blogs about reflections.

It has now been well over 11 months since I moved to Oxford, and in one more month, I will be leaving my university flat in Castle Mill. There will be a state of semi-nomadic existence for a few weeks as I travel a bit, but afterwards, I’ll move into a new flat in Oxford and commence non-university life in this wonderful town.

So then, what do I reflect upon? A whirlwind year of spectacular events, wonderful camaraderie, and insightful discussions? Probably. But at the same time, the year doesn’t quite seem like a stand-alone, unique artefact to me. It was more a preparatory period, or a transitional phase – but perhaps I feel that because I’m going to continue living in Oxford beyond the MBA as well.
I’m still rather infatuated with Oxford, and I knew that would happen within days of moving to this city. Well, to be fair, I probably knew that would happen when I came here the first time, back in 2012 on a tiny vacation within a vacation. I distinctly remember walking by the little glass sign that said Saïd Business School and thinking it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to study there some day..

But just what IS it about this city that holds one back?

Perhaps the canals, the buildings, the Meadow, Thames. The cows, the horses, the geese, the cats of the canals? Or the kebabs, the port, the cheese, the wares of Cowley Road? Surely not the buses, the bikes, the Voi scooters, the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods?

Whatever it might be, it’s infectious.

But well, without being side-tracked too much into Oxford and its charms, when I reflect back on the MBA year, I can only think of joyful moments. Every bit of activity inside and outside the business school provided memories to cherish, and for me personally, this programme and the wider university experiences exceeded all expectations.

My two favourite classes were Reputation & Leadership, and Leadership Perspectives from the Humanities. Both encompassed a lot of what Oxford is all about, and both lived up to their promises 100%. Reputation had a class size that provoked excellent discussion (30 super interested students), and a format that fostered engagement (meaningful class participation and a guest in each class). Humanities utilised the best of Oxford – we had classes in the Ashmolean (during which I held an object dating back to 30,000 BC in my gloved hands), at St. Luke’s Chapel, at Holywell Music Room, and in several other inspiring venues across the city.

And a shout out to Accounting. I had previously done a Masters in which I barely managed to pass Accounting and ended up hating the subject. But lo and behold, it was one of the best taught subjects with content covering the very latest in industry developments. Not surprisingly, Professor Richard Barker has since been appointed to the International Sustainability Standards Board, which is tasked with creating sustainability-related disclosure standards. From loathing the subject, I am now about to embark on a career closely related to sustainability accounting.

Outside the classroom, my reflections tend to be coloured a lot by the work that we did through the Climate Oxford Business Network (OBN) and related initiatives (such as the Oxford Sustainable Finance Student Society). With the Climate OBN, we did treks, talks, workshops, but perhaps most importantly, Climate Coffees! These were 2-hour long chat sessions every week, in which an MBA colleague would share their experience of climate and sustainability, while the rest of us would ask questions and engage. These were probably the most rewarding hours of the whole year in many ways.

And lastly, there is my college. In late 2020, when I spent hours and hours tabulating a spreadsheet, trying to arrive at the best suited college for me, I did not think that the exercise would work so spectacularly well. I chose Merton due to a number of factors, and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to be associated with the college. We (my wife, who became an associate member, probably had an even better college experience than I did) were welcomed warmly by this old college, and I was lucky enough to meet some truly incredible people at the Merton Middle Common Room. As I continue living in Oxford, I hope to strengthen my ties with the college as well as with the business school.

And thus, as I sit at my desk in Castle Mill, and watch the setting sun over the magnificent Port Meadow, everything that I see seem to reflect my view of how my year has been.