Alan Keeso









By Alan Keeso

Year One of the 1+1 MBA, Credit where it’s Due, Paying Tribute

Over dinner in the 18th century Radcliffe Observatory at my home college, Green Templeton, my MBA classmate, Denise, asked our group of four, “What’s been your favourite experience since arriving in Oxford for the MBA program?”


The Radcliffe Observatory. Photo courtesy of


Jamie said that her first try at rowing had been her favourite experience to date, Ren had the most fun at a college masquerade, and Denise had enjoyed a women’s dinner where the women discussed how they could best support each other (and who knows what else).

My favourite experience, surprisingly, had been a return to my year-one stomping grounds. The first year of my 1+1 MBA was spent in the School of Geography and the Environment (SoGE) reading for an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management. I say that this favourite experience was surprising for the following reasons:

  • Transitioning from management consulting and the military seemed to result in a less than amazing attention span in an academic-based classroom. I couldn’t sit still. I knew that the lecturers were talking, but the calls to other action-based activities were all I could hear., sounding like:

  • Having backgrounds in forestry, business, and the military, I was not particularly well aligned with the dominant thinking amongst my conservationist classmates and professors, who view all three fields as opposing forces to the health of the natural environment. So I was always on edge for someone to say:

Admittedly and seriously, the year was a major struggle. But the fact that it turned out better than I’d envisioned it while writing my Oxford application essays I owe to our MSc program leaders, Paul Jepson and Rich Grenyer. They suggested that our year would be best spent exploring the topics that excited us, identifying where our passions lie and how we could contribute to the betterment of the natural world. We had all earned our way into Oxford in part because of our past academic performance, so Paul and Rich’s advice to focus less on exam success and more on our passions wasn’t as easy for us as it might seem.

Nonetheless, I took their advice. While lectures continued to be a battle for me, I focused on outcomes by:

  • Seeking out the people who could help me to better understand how I might take action in this field of study, scheduling short calls and meetings with organisations like Volans, McKinsey, and the World Economic Forum;
  • Attending talks from leading sustainability figures such as Peter Lacy of Accenture and Simon Upton of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD);
  • Choosing a dissertation topic (big data and environmental sustainability) that would allow me to contribute widely relevant and fresh insights to the environmental field; and
  • Structuring my research dissertation in a way that could further enable me to speak with interesting people, such as the US government’s open data leadership and the World Resources Institute’s Chief Data Scientist.
Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Herein, in my experience, rests the value of the 1+1 MBA program. You have a year before the chaos of a one-year MBA to seek out and explore what really excites you. I have a measure of regret as a result of my inability to focus at times throughout my MSc year, but I understand now that it’s been a process. Now, returning regularly to SoGE I can continue to explore and better appreciate the topics housed there, as well as the students and faculty who share a passion for the natural world. Moreover, I am able to share this energy that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise with my MBA peers. Lastly, I can approach my MBA year with a sharp, outcomes-based focus, clearly picturing how I can build upon my MSc year to transform my career and enhance our connectedness to the environment.

I would like to end with a note of tribute to Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo. They died serving their country this past week, and as I write on my time at Oxford, I realise that far more important events are developing. I offer my sympathies and support to the families and friends of the two men whose passing has heightened my appreciation for those serving, my countrymen, and my country.




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