Booth through the decades: Impact of an MBA in Africa, with Richard A. Osei, ‘97

Have you ever wondered what Booth was like 10 or 20 years ago? How the student experience has changed and which elements of the Booth experience still stand true today? No matter where you are in the world?

In this series, we speak to three African alums from the classes of 1997, 2007, and 2017 to trace back their journeys and learn how the student experience here at Booth has evolved through the decades. We’ll also see what the Booth MBA has meant to their careers and to furthering growth in various countries in Africa.

In this first blog post, Richard A. Osei, ‘97, who currently works in Venture Capital and Private Equity in Accra, Ghana, talks about his motivation to attend Booth, how a leadership course with Harry Davis continues to be instrumental today, and growing the Booth brand in Ghana.

On what made Richard apply to Booth
“Before Booth I was a project engineer for BHP Billiton Petroleum in Hawaii,” Richard says. “Coming from an engineering background, I became interested in pursuing project finance.”

It is clear that some things haven’t changed: students continue to choose Booth to pursue finance-related careers, as well as for the academic rigor. Both were important for Richard when he was applying to MBA programs over two decades ago. “I also liked the rigorous nature of the coursework that enabled me to develop my critical thinking and learn the hard, analytic, financial skills.”

On valuable courses and skills he learned at Booth
Although finance was a major contributing factor in his decision to attend Booth, Richard explains that managerial and leadership skills were equally important elements in his academic experience, and names Business Policy with Harry Davis and John Gould, and Political Economy with Marvin Zonis, as some of the more impactful courses.

In particular, he recalls Business Policy as the class that helped him come full circle and influenced his decision to return to Ghana, fifteen years post MBA. “I’m talking about 1997 and I still remember discussing the Trans-Siberian Railway and reading the Alchemist for class. These experiences instilled in me the virtues of finding your business calling and creating your own path.”

Interestingly, when I ask what the academic experience was like, Richard talked about efforts in building more leadership programs and courses into the curriculum through the Harry L. Davis Leadership Center, however describes the environment at the time as “hardcore and quant heavy, and there wasn’t a lot of room for fluff.”

It was an exciting meeting between past and present when he stated, “I don’t know what the experience is like now” as I was happy to share more recent developments about the school. We spoke, for example, about the prominence of behavioral economics in the academic experience, and how the curriculum for Managerial & Organizational Behavior has evolved, backed by amazing faculty. (There is an excellent TBE piece on Thaler’s recent Nobel prize here.) I was also glad to report that Entrepreneurship is now the most popular concentration at Booth.

On his most memorable experience
“Taking Political Economy with Marvin Zonis: I was part of a group of six students who visited South Africa in a post-apartheid era in 1996 (shortly after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison),” Richard recalled. “I took the class across three quarters, which involved in-country visit, consulting projects, and presentation assignments. Most importantly I built friendships for a lifetime.”

This very much still rings true today: from personal experience, I’ve found the strongest bonds and friendships have been built through sharing new experiences with new people, in particular through travelling abroad. What was also great about this story was that, before coming to Booth, I’d heard alums say over and over again that “the friends you make at Booth will be your friends for life”. So it was refreshing to see this at play in Richard’s story.

On how the Booth brand has evolved over the years
The international presence of Boothies has steadily increased, with over 52,000 alumni today in more than 120 countries. Booth grads are using their MBAs to make change in every corner of the world across all types of industries and functions. On the impact of the MBA in Ghana, Richard notes:

“Back in 1997, Booth placed anywhere between 5th and 8th in business school rankings, compared to today where it is consistently ranked among the top 3 globally. I believe that the continued Nobel Laureate awards over the years have helped boost the school’s reputation, and in Ghana, it is comforting to know that Chicago Booth has a small group of alumni, which includes the current Deputy Minister of Trade.”

In the next installment, we speak with a Johannesburg-based alum from the class of 2007 about his experience as one of the founders of Booth’s Chicago African Business Group, and his take on #WhyBooth.

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