More than Books and Numbers

As part of the Smurfit MBA application, each hopeful applicant is asked what his or her unique contribution to the MBA class would be. I remember thinking long and hard about this question, vacillating between thinking “of COURSE, I have something special to offer the class!” and feeling intimidated by my own imagination of the impressive feats and accomplishments about which the other applicants were surely writing.

From day one of the MBA, it became clear that I was right about both of the above.

What I did not consider was the purpose and outcome of this unique contribution “competition” for acceptance to the Smurfit MBA programme. Asking that the candidates prove themselves to be exceptional and inimitable ensures that throughout the year, we will learn as much from each other as we do from our first-rate professors and module coordinators. Seven months into my MBA experience, I still never cease to be amazed by my peers. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to collaborate with such incredible people.


Each MBA candidate in the Class of 2019 brings valuable and unique experiences to the class. Oh boy, are my classmates impressive.

I learn things each day from someone who has a black belt in karate, from someone who has climbed Kilimanjaro (twice!), from someone so well connected that he just may be the Godfather of Dublin. I learn from talented musicians, artists and poets, bloggers, travellers – all generous, kind and funny spirits who masquerade as stud managers, medical professionals, business owners, and orthopaedic racehorse surgeons (among other disguises) by day.


How about this – a PhD in Optical Engineering, specialised in the behaviour of photopolymer organic holographic material, with a killer GMAT score, a great sense of humour, compassion without limits, who is on the Board of Directors for a child trafficking charity in Nepal? That’s exactly the type of “unique contribution” that I feared competing against during the Smurfit MBA application process!

The Umbrella Foundation is a non-profit NGO and registered charity in Ireland, working to alleviate the impact of trafficking, poverty and war on children and their families in Nepal. It was established in 2005 in response to the growing number of illegal “orphanages” neglecting children’s most basic rights of food, education, safe shelter, healthcare and love. As a responsible and ethical organisation, The Umbrella Foundation works to prevent further trafficking and operation of corrupt children’s homes in Nepal.


Inspired by my extraordinary classmate who contributes so much to my life, our class and the greater community, I decided to make a unique contribution to my own MBA experience here in Dublin. This past winter, I have trained and raised money for the Brawl for Nepal 2019 – a charity boxing match in aid of The Umbrella Foundation.

For me, the Smurfit MBA is not just learning about corporate finance, organisational behaviour and supply chain management. This incredible experience is also learning how to ask for help, how to support those who need help, figuring out the best place to flag down a taxi home at 3:30am in town, being able to the differentiate an Irish bar from an English bar by name alone, how to throw a mean right hook and how to keep myself entertained in A&E!

We are more than just sales directors, model managers, engineers and communications specialists – we are marathon runners, painters, boxers and friends. This is the Smurfit MBA.


Carmela Reyes, FTMBA 2018/2019