Dalumzi Mhlanga






Social Impact



By Dalumzi Mhlanga

The Saïd adventures of a social science 1+1 MBA

I am one of those unconventional MBA students. On the younger side: 25 years old. No full-time work experience – the only experience I have is running a non-profit organization (or social enterprise, however you’d like to define it) in my native Zimbabwe for four years, mostly from several thousands of miles away as an undergraduate student. It doesn’t help my b-school student “profile” either that over the last few years, I have studied a plethora of social science subjects: history, politics, anthropology, social theory. I only graduated from college in May 2013, and managed to study for a Masters in African Studies, at Oxford, between then and now.

So, coming into the 1+1 MBA program I have been incredibly excited to immerse myself in a new-ish way of thinking and speaking. Now and again, you can hear me hesitantly throw in the terms “margin”, “EBIT”, “six sigma”, “equity”, “cap table” in my casual conversations with bewildered social science-y friends. Well, not really. Excel has become my life; I had no idea I could do so many fascinating things with it beyond adding and multiplying data in cells. You know: formulae in their diverse complexity, linking, circular references, and the innumerable shortcuts I learnt about over six solid hours.

But what tops it all is the suit. Oh, the suit!

Last year, while on the African Studies program I almost literally rolled out of bed into class. And so did many (in fact, the more I think about it, most) of my classmates from all over the globe. Decently dressed of course. When an important professor came from as far afield as the US to present the all-important paper, we still rolled out of bed. (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating it.) Just as decently dressed as for our 11am classes. Not so at Saïd. Well, kind of. I still defiantly rock up in the odd tracksuit and hoodie – so glad I can do that here. I’ve adjusted still and it’s quite the experience to have to wear a suit (in my case, the) suit to key events. I signed up for it, so no complaining.

It’s all been great, really. I hold on quite dearly to what someone said in orientation, that this year is an opportunity for us to try out new “yous”. I’m still in the game of trying out a new business-y me, so that’s going well.

In the midst of all these new experiences, new language, new modes of dress it’s been wonderful to stay rooted, to a sufficient degree, to my social science heritage. For one, I get to keep the hoodie. But then also, one day my eyes were wandering in the library. You can imagine how much my heart leapt when I saw an entire section on ethnography in the library here! I’d spent the last two years steeped in the world of anthropology and doing fun ethnographic research. And to see the work of people like Clifford Geertz in the library was really cool, I thought. So long as it was there to offer some intellectual arsenal with which we can question the assumptions on which some of the things we are learning are based.


Said fulfilling the dream of a social science 1+1 MBA, since 2014

All of this is to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Saïd so far. The 1+1 MBA program is an amazing innovation! At the end of this year, I’m excited to look back at this blog entry and reflect on how my educational worlds have met to give me the skills, perspective and experience to make a real difference in the world.

And write more serious blog posts.

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