A full-circle journey sees Shelley Gregory-Jones return to Lucy Cavendish College. She is working in the Development Office and will be focusing on the campaign for widened participation, including an inclusive new state-of-the-art building for the growing student numbers.
Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you came to study at Cambridge Judge?
Back in October 1984, I arrived at Girton College to start an undergraduate course in philosophy. Cambridge was quite a different place back then – today’s students would be surprised at how much smaller and quieter it was.
I enjoyed my three years so much that I remained in Cambridge after graduation – moving into a house off Mill Road where I still live. My dream was to join the charity sector and I started my career in education and then sustainability. I love working with small independent charities, but I had a nagging feeling that I needed to study and reflect a bit more. In 2002, I took a year out and pondered the future under the blue skies of western Sicily while teaching English and learning Italian. In 2003 I returned to the drizzly UK as CEO of CamSight – the local charity for blind and partially sighted people. It was a great job, but those nagging feelings persisted. I was lucky then to have a remarkable Chairman in Dr Paul Auton (ex-CEO of Cambridge Consultants). I asked for his advice on next steps. Cambridge Consultants had been involved in the launch of Judge Institute of Management Studies (as it was originally called) and he suggested an MBA and mentioned that a special bursary was available for people from the charity sector.
As it happened, the Student Disability Office used to be based in Keynes House, next to the School. So one day after a meeting, I dropped in to find out more about the Cambridge MBA. The upshot was that I was fortunate to get a funded place as a Sainsbury Scholar and in September 2006 I took up my place along with 106 amazing classmates from over 40 countries. As anyone who has done the MBA will tell you, the year just flies by! I learnt a lot and pivoted to a new career as a professional fundraiser. But above all it’s been the enduring friendships that I value so much – not just with my classmates, but with faculty, staff and students from many other year groups. They said it would be an experience that lasts a lifetime – and so it’s proved.
Why was Lucy Cavendish an important College choice for you?
The School actually chose Lucy Cavendish College for me – and I’m very pleased that they did! I originally considered returning to Girton (but I’m lazy and the thought of the three-mile cycle didn’t appeal). Lucy was a wonderful choice – not just a great counterpoint to the sometimes-feverish intensity of the MBA, but it’s also a special College with its own distinctive mission. It was founded in 1965 to offer opportunities to gifted women from non-traditional backgrounds when other Colleges would not. Today, it’s blazing an even bigger trail for under-represented students of all types and the College has been selected by the University to spearhead its drive to greater diversity. I’m very proud of my association with Lucy because it’s such a dynamic and supportive College which is creating positive change– and I’m grateful to Cambridge Judge for introducing me!
What impact did your time in Cambridge have on your career and what have you been up to since graduating?
My time at Cambridge Judge was pivotal. It gave me a rare opportunity to reflect on the challenges facing the charity sector – and for small charities in particular. It was especially fascinating to see how the sector is perceived (and very often misperceived) by people from outside it. As well as learning skills that were transferable to a charity context, the MBA year gave me time to consider my career options and to make the step to become a professional fundraiser. That proved to be the right move and, since graduating, I’ve fundraised for some wonderful charities – including a public health think tank, a world-famous choral music choir, a major sustainable energy charity and an international cat charity. I’m also a trustee of a number of others focusing on local poverty, international development and shelter animals. The MBA allowed me to stay in the sector I love while making use of my existing skills and my newly acquired ones.
How have you been able to support students who have followed in your footsteps and what has that meant to you?
I value the School’s commitment to charity sector people – especially given the fact that we don’t exactly make a big contribution to the salary rankings – and so I’ve made a point of giving back to the School how best I can. For a number of years, I was on the Alumni Council – which was a fascinating experience and, over the years, have helped to organise events and dinners for the Sainsbury Scholars and alumni in the local biotech sector. I’m delighted to be the Class Ambassador for MBA 2006 – we’ve had some lovely reunions and still keep in touch regularly via social media. Being based in Cambridge is perfect because I often get to see classmates and other alumni when they visit. Every year I also mentor MBA Cambridge Venture Project (CVP) teams. I remember what a great time I had with my own CVP team and so it’s great to be able to offer support for what can be a challenging exercise in a very intense first term.
This year’s CVP team will be my twentieth. It’s been a strange year for the students, and I’ve missed having the direct contact, but they are an impressive group and have definitely risen to the challenges. The CVP mentoring gave me the opportunity to meet Yuting Shao who is a member of this year’s team and a Lucy Cavendish student. We found time for a socially distanced get together and she told me about her fascinating journey from investment banking to high tech manufacturing. She is a woman with a mission in a non-traditional sector – with a big vision to transform the Chinese manufacturing sector. She has seized the opportunity to do an MBA and I’m sure that the combination of her experiences at Cambridge Judge and at Lucy will help her on her journey.
What are you looking forward to most, now that you are back at Lucy Cavendish?
By happy chance, my time in the School led me full circle back to Cambridge and to Lucy Cavendish College. After several years working outside Cambridge, it’s great to be back and I’m enjoying fundraising with Lucy’s brilliant Development Office. My focus is on the campaign for widened participation including an inclusive new state-of-the-art building for the growing student numbers. It’s very exciting to be part of a game-changing project like this with such ambition and vision. Too many people feel that Cambridge isn’t for the likes of them, gifted people who could make great use of the opportunities this University has to offer, to fulfil their potential and maybe solve some of the world’s big problems. I’m proud to be part of this transformative campaign and very enthused about rekindling my links with people in the city and meeting new, interesting people associated with the College.
I’m particularly looking forward to getting to know Lucy alumnae linked to Cambridge Judge. I want to discover and share their inspiring stories because I’m certain that Lucy/Cambridge Judge alumnae will have some wonderful tales to tell – of successes, failures, risks taken and challenges met.