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Alexis McGivern

Degree:

1+1 MBA

Location:

Switzerland

Industry:

Non profit

Year:

2019-21

By Alexis McGivern

Get to know Alexis McGivern, 1+1 MBA 2019-21

Tell us about yourself: I’m a conservationist with a passion for trash! I come to Oxford after working on plastic pollution from all angles, from grassroots consumer movements to large-scale policy interventions. I cherish being outdoors, especially on my bike, and I love performing – whether that’s music, theatre, or stand-up comedy!

Sector/Industry you worked in pre-1+1: Conservation/Not-for-profit

Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-1+1: Fast Moving Consumer Goods

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: Switzerland

College: Wolfson College – a graduate college that prides itself on its diversity and its history of equality

Instagram: @noplasticplease1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexis-mcgivern-2a312475/

Q1. In one word, how would your best friend describe you, and how would you manager describe you?
Best friend: High-energy
Manager: Invested

Q2. Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford, and more specifically, the Oxford 1+1 MBA.
I was born in Canada to a second-generation Irish father and an Indian mother. My family moved to Switzerland when I was young, so I have spent most of my life in this small country! I previously spent three and half years at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest environmental organisation, in a position funded by the Gallifrey Foundation. My passion is plastic pollution: in 2013, I sought to address my waste footprint by doing a one-month challenge to give up single-use plastic. Six years later, I’m still going strong and fighting plastic pollution is not only the basis of my career, but a huge part of my identity!

I wanted to go back to school to build up my capacity to collaborate meaningfully with businesses to demonstrate how solutions to plastic pollution can be both environmentally sound and financially feasible. As a 1+1 MBA, I’ll be at Oxford for two years: first completing an MSc in Environmental Change and Management and then my MBA. I was attracted to Oxford as a world-class institution that could offer me both a strong competency in environmental science and a global, impact-focused MBA. Out of all the MBA programmes that I looked at, Oxford was the only one that seemed to prioritise training future business leaders that understand their obligations to those less privileged and to future generations.

Q3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the 1+1 programme?
I spent six months backpacking by myself through Latin America – it was a wonderful experience that allowed me to explore a breath-taking part of the world, re-focus my value set and learn how to go with the flow. Apart from that, I’ve been neck deep this summer in fascinating reading about climate justice and corporate sustainability strategies!

Q4. What do you hope to gain from completing the 1+1 programme?
As conservationists, we often get steamrolled by corporations that prioritise profit over planet. I am really looking forward to learning the language of business to understand how we can better frame our conservation ideas to align with their values and financial plans. I chose Oxford because it’s an impact-focused MBA programme, all the way from the Impact Lab to the amazing entrepreneurs based in the Skoll Centre.

Q5. What is the best advice you received before commencing your Master’s?
I had a friend tell me that in order to stay sane in grad school you should do something for your heart (i.e., volunteering or giving back to your community), for your mind (i.e. learning something new that is not academic, like a new language) and for your body (i.e. regular exercise or time outdoors). I hope to stick to these principles while I’m at Oxford!

Q6. What part of the programme are you most looking forward to?
I have met a good amount of the cohort already through the interview process, experience weekend and meet ups around the world as we got closer to the start date (some of us even organised a week-long holiday together in Croatia!). Sincerely, every person I have met has been interesting, kind and fun, without exception. I am so excited to spend the next two years meeting even more superstar colleagues and learning from them! I also can’t wait to hear what the Global Opportunities & Threats Oxford (GOTO) theme will be in my MBA year.

Q7. What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?
Scheduling! Every MBA I’ve met has told me that Oxford students are opportunity-rich and time-poor. On any given night you could be watching a debate at the Union, going to a talk at another department, or even just having fun with friends in your cohort. I’m really glad that as a 1+1 I have two years in which to soak up all of Oxford!

Q8. How do you plan to take the learnings from your Master’s and MBA to influence positive change?
Having lived single-use plastic free for more than six years now, I was only able to do that by cutting down my consumption vastly or learning how to make a lot of stuff from scratch. This isn’t an option for many people around the world, either due to time or financial constraints. A lower waste footprint shouldn’t be limited to the privileged few! I plan to take my learnings from both years at Oxford and work with one of the most packaging-intensive sectors, Fast Moving Consumer Goods, to get stuck into the nitty gritty details of operations and see how earth-friendly alternatives can be integrated into supply chains in order to maximise the amount of people who can tackle a low-waste lifestyle.

Q9. Are there any sport teams, societies, or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?
I’m excited to join the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign as well as learning new food-growing techniques from the vibrant permaculture scene on campus (permaculture is, in short, a method of designing sustainable agricultural systems). I love to dance, so I’m also excited about joining the various dance classes on campus, especially salsa! Finally I am really looking forward to getting involved with projects at the Oxford Foundry and to learn from amazing leaders there.

Q10. Lastly, what’s your favourite hashtag?
#plasticfree – I’m predictable like that!

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