Wendover Resident Receives International Accolade from Open University Business School

  |  Published: Jun 19th 2015
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An Open University Business School (OUBS) MBA graduate from Wendover in Buckinghamshire has been awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the international OUBS Alumni of the Year Achievement Awards 2014/15. Laura Alcock-Ferguson, who gained her MBA in 2013, is director of the Campaign to End Loneliness. She was nominated for her work helping to combat loneliness and isolation for people in later life. 

Rebecca Taylor, Dean of the Business School, said: “Our student and alumni winners are all exceptional individuals. Their outstanding abilities are reflected in their academic accomplishments and successes in the workplace. Laura’s work is making a real difference to people’s quality of life. Her passion and dedication to using her MBA to help people in this way is exemplary.”

Commenting on the award, Laura said: “I was surprised when I heard that I’d been nominated. It’s not often you get to stop, enjoy your achievements and thank those who helped you to achieve them. An MBA makes a huge difference to the way you work. I wouldn’t be leading a national charity campaign without it.”

Laura also believes that she would not have been so strategic in her approach to directing the Campaign's current 'theory of change', or tenacious in her drive to work in partnership across sectors.

“I’ve applied my learning in three main areas: decision making; stakeholder management; and self-management. My MBA has transformed the way I approach any situation and relationship. And of course, it has made me both more analytical as well as more critical about whether thorough analysis is always needed.”

Laura was recruited as the first director of the Campaign to End Loneliness in 2010. With the support of five partner organisations she has led it from an idea on paper to one that inspires 1000s of people and organisations to combat loneliness and isolation for people in later life. She has been at the forefront of raising the profile of this issue, from one that inspired sympathy and pity to one which the Secretary of State for Health called a national shame.   

Asked what inspired her to study an MBA, Laura says: “I believe that change, learning and small steps can make a great difference, so I was always open to going back to study again after my first degree.  I was managing a fairly complex national project in a charity and my line manager suggested that a way of breaking down the complexity would be to look at the issues through a different lense and that an MBA might help me to do that. I chose the OU Business School for practical reasons: I commute to work by train and wanted to use my journeys to further my learning. The OU had the right offer for me to make the most of the time I had – I liked the mixture of distance and some face to face learning.”

Laura credits her success to a number of people: her line manager, Barbara Regnier, who in 2005 suggested that she take an MBA while still a junior manager; and to line managers since, who have  contributed by part funding it or allowing her time off to study.  She also credits her tutors, Tony Stapleton, for ‘quietly inspiring’ her to turn her last module on the MBA into the most successful working year she’d ever had and the fantastic and empowering Maggie Gidney; to the team at the Campaign to End Loneliness; and to her partner, for providing support at home.

To anyone considering studying with the OU Business School, Laura says: “Be realistic about the amount of time you have to contribute, focus on what will most help you in your job and career and consider what is required in order to get a good grade. Then, enjoy! Read more widely than the set texts for great grades and maximum impact on your work – it’s worth it.”

Laura’s commitment and hard work extends to her private life, too. After years of work by a team of people, in 2009, a cycle campaign that she co-founded won a Sheila McKechnie Campaigner Award for saving a £300,000 cycle route in Wendover. She represented Scotland at the under 23’s rugby, has been a trustee for national and local campaigning charities and she can speak beginner’s Mandarin – “very badly”, she adds.

To maintain her skills and knowledge and help her create positive change for the 800,000 older people who face chronic loneliness every day, Laura is applying to join the OU alumni mentoring scheme.

For further information about The Open University, go to www.open.ac.uk.

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