2008 President’s Report, Alexandra Chapman

It all started in November 2005 with an email.

Sean Rickard, Director, MBA Recruitment, asked if I could help find a local partner organization to offer a scholarship to attract more Australians to the MBA programme – by that time the numbers of Australians at Cranfield had fallen to zero.

This sparked an idea—why couldn’t the Cranfield alumni here be the partners in such a venture? For many years, the alumni in Australia had struggled—too few in number, spread over a huge continent and with graduation years ranging from 1965 all the way up to today—to function as a vibrant and coherent group.

Perhaps with the scholarship as our focus, we could build a new model to operate under? One based around contribution and community, in which alumni contributed time, money or resources depending on what worked best for them and in turn benefited from the community we created. Together we could raise the profile of Cranfield in Australia, find talented Australians and send them on the MBA programme and create a focus for the alumni activities here, based on an annual gathering for the scholarship award dinner.

And so began the process of building the scholarship. With a dedicated and hardworking core of people, meeting every month for the last 3 years, the achievements have been substantial:

  • We have now awarded two scholarships and are just about to finalise the third for 2009. The 2007 inaugural scholarship winner was Sarah Nicholson, a 27-year-old chemical engineer from BHP Billiton. The second scholarship winner in 2008 was Robert Milagre, a 32-year-old architect working in Sustainability Programs for the NSW State Government. Cranfield has been so impressed with the quality of applicants that they have offered additional part scholarships totalling in value around A$140,000. Two of the awardees of these scholarships have taken up the offer, which means that four talented people have now benefited from our efforts. Rather than finding people already interested in studying for an MBA, we created a fundamentally different model: find talented Australians wherever they may be and then inspire in them a belief that the experience of a year of intensive professional and personal development would be something of great value.
  • We have created a “Viral” email marketing campaign which has helped us find these talented people and in the last three years, has brought over 150,000 visitors to the scholarship website www. cranfieldalumni.org.au. Currently we have on our database over 90 applicants from all states who have registered interest in the scholarship out to 2011 , with a diverse range of professions and ages ranging from 26 to 38.
  • We have built a comprehensive website to promote the scholarship and contact possible applicants and also sophisticated conversion processes supported by Salesforce.com CRM software to track and manage the pipeline of applicants across the years until they are finally ready to apply.
  • We have built a rigorous screening process, run by the alumni and supported by Egon Zehnder, the international executive search firm, to choose the scholarship winner.
  • We have established the Cranfield Australian Alumni Scholarship Foundation (CAASF) as an incorporated body to administer the scholarship.
  • We have held two award events in Sydney and Melbourne in May 2007 and 2008, a masterclass and dinner, which have been greatly enjoyed by the alumni and guests who attended.

Along the way we have also documented all our work in order that other Cranfield international alumni groups could benefit. Leveraging off our website, the New Zealand alumni have established their own scholarship. The model that we have created here is easily replicable around the world.

So, what’s next? The next phase of our development is about consolidation and fundraising.

To ensure our scholarship has a sound financial basis for perpetuity, we need to commence fundraising. However, our discussions with the ATO confirm that as our scholarship is for study at a non-Australian university, it does not qualify under any of the existing categories, which would allow us to issue a tax receipt for donations (DGR status).

Without DGR status, it will be harder to obtain the level of donations required to create a viable funding structure to support the scholarships in perpetuity or to offer the number of scholarships for which there is clearly a demand. We need to obtain “specific listing” to obtain DGR status and so John McFarlane has recently sent a submission to the Treasurer, The Hon Wayne Swan MP, requesting that this be granted to us. We are currently awaiting a response.

We would also like to expand the number of scholarships offered. Cranfield’s specialist expertise in Defence would allow us to offer a scholarship targeted to Defence personnel. The New Zealand Alumni have established a second scholarship with the Hui Taumata Trust targeted at Maori applicants. Similarly we would also like to have an indigenous scholarship. We would like to extend financial support to as many talented Australians as are able to win places at Cranfield. We have built the operational structures which would allow us to send four to five scholars each year. Our only constraint is financial.

The School of Management has recently appointed a new Director, Professor Frank Horwitz. The CMA is also changing, with new chairman David Molian and a reorganised Board, constitution and strategy. We need to become more than a “remote outpost” by strengthening our relationship with these our key partners.

On brand building, there is still much to accomplish so our activities in the next phase will also focus on getting Cranfield’s name known in Australia to the level it deserves, commensurate with its position as the no 13 ranked business school in the world.

We set out to create the pre-eminent scholarship for outstanding Australians with entrepreneurial and business leadership talent, one that you the alumni would be proud to promote and that the winners would see as a highly valuable prize. We are well on the way to achieving these intentions.

Alexandra Chapman MBA 1988