Chelsea Pennucci




United States


Non profit



By Chelsea Pennucci

Get to know Chelsea Pennucci, Class of 2020-21

Tell us about yourself: Early in my career, I became fascinated by social sector growth strategy, specifically how innovative organizations with proven models scale to expand their impact in a big way. Since then, I’ve been at healthcare and financial services organizations doing this work. Lifelong athlete, doughnut enthusiast, aspiring ukuleleist.

Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Non-Profit/Social Impact

Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Technology or Consulting

Country of residence before coming to Oxford: United States

College: Keble College


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

Best Friend: Sincere
Manager: Adaptable

Q2. Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford, and more specifically, the Oxford MBA.
I was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City with my younger sister and incredibly supportive parents who provided a safe, nurturing environment for me to explore, grow, and discover myself and the world around me. Growing up, my grandmother lived with us and we were also very close with my great aunt and great uncle, who lived down the road. The seven of us were a team for many years. Having this larger nuclear family is, in some cases, less common in the United States but is such an important piece of how I became the person I am today.  Over and over, my parents modelled for me and my sister what it meant to care for others in the countless ways they sacrificed to make sure my grandmother, aunt, and uncle were taken care of. For years, they adapted to their needs in ways that immeasurably enriched our lives, but at times also made things more complicated. Through these childhood experiences, I learned lessons I will carry forever.

Prior to Oxford, I worked on the strategy team at Compass Working Capital, a Boston-based non-profit financial services organization that supports families with low incomes to build assets and financial capabilities as a pathway to greater economic opportunity. In the United States and globally, we talk much more about the wage gap – across both gender and race – but less about the wealth gap, even though all the research shows that assets are a stronger predictor than income of financial health and economic mobility. Wealth provides capital to achieve major financial goals such as homeownership, small business development, and continued education and offers a safety net in hard times. This reality has only been made clearer by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this, in the United States, we do very little to support families with low incomes to build assets. In fact, our welfare programs often penalize savings, making it impossible to get ahead.

In my role at Compass, I led the design, implementation, and oversight of new products, pilots, and field-building initiatives to support the organization’s efforts to scale its model nationally. It was through much of this work that I continued to see the value of applying a business skillset to social sector initiatives, which is what ultimately led me to the MBA. I chose Oxford because of the way SBS integrates the social impact lens into every corner of its program.


Q3. What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?
I’m a deferral from last year’s class, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about and anticipate this experience. In yoga, there’s a common directive, “Root to rise,” that I actually find to be very profound when applied off the mat. The idea behind this cue is that every pose is built from the ground up, which then acts as your source of stability. I really took this phrase to heart over the last year and did a lot personal work reflecting on and exploring my own psychology, investing deeply in my most important relationships, and articulating and reconnecting with my values. While seemingly unrelated to an MBA at first blush, I now feel very rooted and ready to dive into what will undoubtedly be an exciting, fast-paced, and transformative year.

Q4. What do you hope to gain from completing your MBA?
I’ve seen the impact social sector organizations can have when they apply strategies, principles, and tactics more conventionally used in the private sector. I have also been fortunate to work at innovative and entrepreneurial non-profits that have inspired me to dream bigger about what’s possible when tackling some of our world’s most complex and seemingly intractable social issues. I recognize, however, that in order to have the kind of impact I desire, I will need a strong foundation in business strategy and management.  An MBA will help me build on my current skills and give me new tools to more meaningfully lead on and tackle these issues.

Q5. What is the best advice you received before commencing your MBA?
“There are a million different ways to ‘do’ an MBA and all of them are right for someone. Be confident in your own path and what you want to get out of the experience.”

Q6. Do you have any advice about the Oxford MBA application process for candidates thinking of applying?
Remember that you are incredible and truly have a one-of-a-kind story to tell. It can be tempting to try to figure out what the admissions committee “wants” to hear, but what they really want to hear is your story, told as authentically as possible, about your own personal and professional journey and why you want to be part of the Oxford community. This takes time to articulate well, but it’s so worth the work – both for yourself and your application!

Q7. What part of the programme are you most looking forward to? 
I’m most excited for the conversations and learning with classmates. Our cohort is so diverse and impressive; there are leaders from every industry and geographic corner of the world that have so much to offer each other. Many of us have already spent time this year getting to know each other over Zoom calls and other virtual networking, which has made me even more excited to meet everyone in person. Because of the pandemic, I actually already feel bonded to my classmates in a unique way because we’ve all made the same decision to press on and pursue our MBAs during an incredibly uncertain time. Many of us have also faced big challenges to be here because of Covid-19 – with finances, visas, or just grappling with what it means to move to a new country during a pandemic – which has also united us. I’m sure every class says this, but this cohort feels special.

Q8. What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?
The program is just one year, has only just begun, and I can already tell it is going to pass too quickly. I know I won’t be able to do everything I’d like to do while here, which feels hard to face. This year will be a great lesson in prioritization!

Q9. How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?
Directly following my MBA, I’m actually hoping to move out of the social impact space in order to better understand the business world from a different angle. I see this time as an investment in skills and experience that I can then take back and leverage in leadership roles in the social sector. It will also always be important to me that I’m living out or building toward a values-aligned career, and that means pursuing work that moves us globally toward a more just and equitable society.

Q10. Are there any sport teams, societies, or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?
I’d love to get involved with the Oxford Mountaineering Club and do some hiking and outdoor climbing this year. The Design Thinking Club at the business school has also piqued my interest, since human-centered design is a skillset I’d like to continue to develop. Finally, I’m hoping to stay connected to the yoga and meditation group that’s already formed informally in our current class.


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