How a group of Senior Executive MBA alumni saved Zena Mwende's dream
When Zena Mwende left Kenya to pursue her dream of coming to Australia, she didn't expect that a pandemic would almost ruin it.
Zena was one of the hundreds of thousands of people in Australia whose job was affected by COVID-19, after her contract position wasn't renewed at the height of the pandemic.
For Zena, the setback threatened more than just her paycheck – she had been relying on the job to continue studying at Melbourne Business School.
"It was a very difficult time for me as the pandemic threatened my residence in Australia. I relied on my employment to finance my everyday bills as well as payment for my fulltime international tuition costs," she says.
Fortunately, Zena was in luck thanks to the generous actions of the 2003 cohort of Senior Executive MBA alumni, who in years prior established the SEMBA 2003 Committee to offer new Melbourne Business School students support in reaching for their career goals.
The Committee were struck by the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 and its effect on new students and contacted the School about aiding a student who was affected by the pandemic.
The offer of assistance was additional to the Class of SEMBA 2003 Scholarship and Melbourne Business School worked with the Committee so Zena could continue her dream amid the pandemic crisis.
"I vividly recall that time. Constantly worried about the uncertain future. Then finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. MBS reached out regarding a potential scholarship," Zena says.
"The SEMBA 2003 Committee's support was very important because it came at a time when I was almost giving up, all my endeavours and attempts to secure a job were not fruitful. It felt almost serendipitous. How else could you explain it? Their generosity changed my life."
The SEMBA 2003 Committee also proposed the idea of Zena completing an internship at Uniting AgeWell, introducing her to the residential care organisation – where she now works.
"I got the chance to be part of an amazing NGO. Uniting AgeWell provides an avenue to work for an organisation that is not centred on profits but rather on community support. It is so rewarding and fulfilling because it feels like I got a chance to give back," she says.
"It started off with an internship, although it didn’t feel as such as it was the perfect means to apply the knowledge I attained while at MBS, and still feed my passion to give back."
After a successful internship at Uniting AgeWell, Zena was offered the chance to join the organisation in a full-time role.
"Their finance business manager presented an opportunity to apply for a business analyst position that they had been actively recruiting for and asked if I was interested in a full-time role. I took it," she says.
In addition to that role, Zena is now planning for the future and hopes to start her own business in the coming years as she makes a place for herself in Australia.
"MBS is unlike any other institution I have been accustomed to. Looking back, I made the right decision applying and choosing to pursue a higher degree with MBS," she says.
"The attention, care and support that is afforded to each student is invaluable. Their number one focus is for all students to provide higher learning and support to ensure successful completion.
"Throughout my graduate studies, it felt like I met people who went the extra mile for me, gave me unconditional support, challenged me, and saw a bright future for me even in the midst of a pandemic.
"I feel obliged to give back and pass it on forward. This experience has completely restored my faith in humanity."