Attending business school can be an expensive and time-consuming undertaking, so you need to make sure it’s aligned with your purpose and your purse. Two recent UCT GSB graduates tell us how scholarship funding helped them.
Well before the pandemic, Shadi Lekgoathi (MBA 2020), a qualified chartered accountant, had made her mind up to further her studies. She was looking for something that would take her out of her comfort zone, expand her horizons beyond her day-to-day work in finance, and give her a holistic view of business, specifically within an emerging market context. The MBA at the UCT Graduate School of Business ticked all the boxes, but – as a premium degree – it also came with a substantial price tag. Then, a friend told her about the GSB Foundation Scholarship.
A chance for aspiring African leaders to make an impact
Through its Foundation, the UCT GSB has made it a priority to make funding available to enable talented young South Africans and African citizens to join its top-ranked academic programmes. “The simple fact is that we know that there are many gifted South Africans that would really benefit from an MBA who may not be able to afford it yet,” says Rayner Canning, the Business Development Director at the UCT GSB. “It is incredibly important that as a school we make this funding available not only to boost the careers of individual students, but for the benefit of the broader economy and society. We find that a large number of our graduates – as African leaders of substance – go on to add tremendous value to their work and society.”
This has certainly proved to be the case for Lekgoathi who says that her MBA experience has transformed the way she sees herself and the impact she can make in the world. “The biggest takeaway from my MBA is my mindset change about Africa, and my willingness not to leave but to stay here. What follows for me, is a conscious decision to be excellent in what I do and to be interested in how my contribution fits into the larger ecosystem,” she explains. While challenges still exist, she’s changed her perspective to asking what opportunities might become available in the midst of these challenges. “How do we make people’s lives better?” she asks.
A highlight of Lekgoathi’s MBA experience was being part of the committee that organised the annual Women in Business (WIB) conference in 2020 that embodies the desire to make people’s lives better. A long-standing tradition at the school of more than two decades – the WIB conference works not just to inspire and equip women business leaders but also to raise funds for a female student to study at the UCT GSB. For Lekgoathi, this felt like an appropriate way for her to pay it forward and give another woman like her the chance to study at the UCT GSB.
Aligning ambition with passion
For fellow MBA graduate Dr Morné Kahts (MBA modular 2022 - 2023), the desire to make other people’s lives better is also a key driver. A medical doctor, Kahts had decided that an MBA was a critical next step in his career after witnessing first-hand, the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the healthcare system. It really brought the deeply entrenched inequalities in South Africa into sharp focus, he says, and he felt he had to contribute on a wider scale than his current role allowed.
He had decided that he wanted to do an MBA with a specialisation in Innovation & Entrepreneurship and the UCT GSB was top of his list. “I first came across the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship as a medical student through the inclusive health innovation events they hosted. When I heard about the Bertha Scholarship, I had no reason to look any further and it turned out the selection committee clearly understood the fundamental reason for me undertaking an MBA and that this closely aligned with their values and objectives.”
Kahts’ advice to prospective MBA scholarship candidates is simple: “Choose a scholarship that is aligned with your passion and your reason for undertaking further studies. Doing that will make the process of applying easy and authentic and will come out in your motivations and discussions with the selection committee.”
Diverse perspectives make for better learning
The UCT GSB selection committee works hard to make sure that each student is a good fit for the school. As Lekgoathi comments, the application process in itself “is quite reflective in nature and asked a number of thought-provoking questions.” The aim is to make sure that each candidate will get the most out of their time at the school while also bringing diverse perspectives into the classroom to challenge and motivate their fellow students.
Both Lekgoathi and Kahts say that their scholarship made an enormous difference in their studies. It reduced their stress and helped them to engage with the learning and their classmates more fully as well as allowing them to get on with honing their purpose and contribution; a win-win situation for both the students and the school.
The UCT GSB offers various scholarship opportunities for prospective MBA candidates. You can learn more about them here .