This year’s most promising future business leaders

Our joint scholarships are lowering financial barriers, says Russ Thorne

On 22 July, Durham Business School and the Independent announced the winner of their final Master of business administration (MBA) joint scholarships for this year. The winner, Eunice Benedicto, will join the full-time MBA programme at Durham this September and becomes the seventh recipient of the scholarship.

Benedicto, currently employed in the revenue accounting department of a large airline in Texas, has worked in auditing and accounting for more than a decade with specific experience of the manufacturing industry. She describes winning the scholarship as “a humbling honour,” and believes that an MBA qualification will be “essential” to her career as she looks to attain more senior positions.

Joining her on the winners’ roster are David Makepeace and David Beeton, who were awarded scholarships for Durham’s global and executive MBA programmes respectively in December last year, and have subsequently begun their studies. In total, the scholarship fund handed out to students amounts to some £50,000 and covers the full fees for all three programmes, with the goal of improving access to MBA qualifications.

“We believe the scholarships we offer are an important way of ensuring that the Durham MBA is open to a diverse group of students from different backgrounds and sectors,” explains Dr Sue Miller, MBA programme director. “This helps to provide a richly stimulating learning environment for all participants on the programme. We are delighted to be able to offer this scholarship [to Benedicto] and look forward to welcoming her to Durham Business School.”

According to Benedicto, this varied learning environment is one of the principal reasons she was attracted to the DBS MBA. The course offers the wide selection of electives – including international enterprise and corporate social responsibility projects – she was looking for, which also suit her passion for charity and volunteer work. “With my long-term goal of being involved in humanitarian missions with an international organisation, these projects will help set the foundation for my knowledge within social enterprise,” she says.

In the shorter term, she hopes to gain an international experience from the programme while tailoring her academic focus to suit her goals. “I want to be part of a programme that has a strong emphasis on building the management and leadership skills essential for success in today’s business world,” she says, “and form lifelong connections with excellent people committed to improving their lives and the lives of others. I believe the Durham MBA has all of this and more.”

Applications for all three scholarships are judged by staff from DBS as well as the Independent, and take into account a candidate’s experience and CV, as well as a 500-word essay on a given topic. For Benedicto, this meant discussing the ways in which business schools and MBA programmes can respond to corporate fraud, which suited her well. “It was a perfect topic for me given my experience in auditing and accounting, as well as my first-hand knowledge of revenue recognition, budgeting and forecasting, accounting estimates and financial statement disclosures, which are some of the critical fraud risk areas,” she explains. “Perhaps my career background has helped me secure the scholarship, which I’m very grateful for!”

Having secured her place, Benedicto is far from ready to rest on her laurels and is already focusing on ways to get the most from the MBA programme. “I want to equip myself with the best tools possible to become a more successful leader and a person well-rounded in global business,” she says.

She also has advice for those applying to MBA programmes and seeking funding, stressing the importance of knowing what they have a passion for, and making sure that a programme will fit those aspirations by researching schools carefully and attending MBA fairs, if possible. “Be real and authentic in your applications,” she adds. “Tell your story, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the scholarship on your first try. Look for other alternatives and do your best in every application.”

Benedicto believes the effort was certainly worth it in her case. “The scholarship is definitely one of the best things that ever happened to me,” she says. “It’s a blessing, and emboldened my decision to quit my job and attend a full-time programme without the added challenge of self-funding. At the same time, it’s a reminder that there’s more hard work to do and that the scholarship is just the seed for greater possibilities that lie ahead.”