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Grace Stephens

Degree:

MBA

Location:

United States

Industry:

Real Estate

Year:

2018-19

By Grace Stephens

Get to know Grace Stephens

Q1. In one word, how would your best friend describe you, and how would you manager describe you?

Best friend: Renaissance Woman
Manager: Self-motivated

Q2. Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford.

I’m originally from the US state of Georgia, but have spent the last 5 years living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. I first went to Georgia Tech in Atlanta for my undergrad, studying architecture and building construction, and afterwards worked in the economic development and energy sphere with municipally-owned electric utilities in Georgia. After deciding that I wanted to continue learning about energy and sustainability, I went to Stanford University for a Master’s in Civil Engineering with a concentration in Sustainability Design & Construction – Energy. Stanford was such fun that I stayed and worked in real estate development for the University’s non-academic land and buildings.

However, sometimes life puts you in situations where you have to let go of things that are very dear to you to go pursue other awesome opportunities. While it was all fantastic, I had always thought in the back of my mind that going after a more generalist degree like an MBA would be a good compliment to my technical education and experience. I also knew that I wanted an international experience that would expose me to a more global mindset and diverse class than anything I would get at a US business school. Oxford immediately came up in my first search, and I connected to its focus on responsible business and social impact. Visiting sealed the deal.

Q3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

Mostly taking as much time with friends and family as I could to refresh, recharge, and refocus. I also did some of the pre-work sent out for Wall Street Prep, the Digital Marketing Pathway with General Assembly, and the Career Development programme.

Q4. What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?

I hope to gain a greater understanding of business practices outside my main industry and geographic centre, so that I can be a better global thinker. I also hope to gain (and then sustain) an amazing network of classmates/friends who I can learn from and grow with this year and beyond.

Q5. What is the best advice you received before commencing your MBA?

An alumnae told me during Experience Weekend that she took one course on a whim mostly because of scheduling purposes – no prior knowledge, no affinity, no plan to pursue anything like it afterwards. And while she still did not do anything related to the course after, she said that it was honestly the highlight of her experience as it actually made other courses she had previously taken make sense (something from Business Finance was brought up and this time the concept actually made sense vs. how it was taught previously) and the course was so different and so unique to all the experiences in her life. The story really resonated with me that this is the time that I need to explore at least one subject that is off-the-wall for me, as I probably won’t have such a sandbox later on.

Q6. What part of the programme are you most looking forward to?

The GOTO theme for this year is “The Future of Energy” and with my background and previous work, I could not be more excited to explore during the project and see if it is something that might directly contribute to my career afterwards.

Q7. What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?

The good old classic FOMO. Learning to say no and be OK with it as some opportunities arise that I desperately would love to be a part of, but realising that other things need to take priority at certain times.

Q8. How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?

I hope to use this year as a chance for me to sandbox ideas I have for changes with my cohort to address some of the challenges I see with business and my industry, especially as it relates to public perception. I’d also love to learn more from them as to what they see as the biggest barriers currently, so that we can potentially work together in our respective companies, spaces, etc. afterwards to be a supportive network that continues the dialogue we are already starting here about being responsible business leaders who can create amazing opportunities for positive change.

Q9. Are there any sport teams, societies, or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?

I’m hoping to join the Running Club, Oxford Real Estate Society, Women’s Leadership Group, and Infrastructure Club.

Q10. Lastly, what’s your favourite hashtag?

#itsanoxfordthing

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