Carissa Gilbert

Carissa GilbertNationality: American

Institute and subject studied for Undergraduate degree: University of Pennsylvania, B.A. in Health & Societies and minors in Nutrition and Consumer Psychology

Work experience/internship(s):
I worked over the summers and during the academic year throughout my undergraduate career. These professional experiences included the following: Nutrition Intern (Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger), Senior Organizational Developer for Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (District of Columbia Government), and Communications Intern (Economy League of Greater Philadelphia).

Greatest academic, professional or personal awards/achievements:
My greatest professional achievement was working on the D.C. Free Summer Meals Program (DCFSMP). My efforts facilitated the DCFSMP serving 3.2% more meals than the previous summer and ranking first in the nation in 2014 for reaching the highest percentage of low-income children with summer meals. After the program concluded, I was hired as a contractor to write a 140-page strategic communications manual that identified key challenges and critical success factors for mayoral staff in delivering a district-wide, coordinated summer meals program. With this guidance manual, the DCFSMP can be even more effective in serving the allotted 58,000 free meals to disadvantaged youth. In terms of academics, my greatest achievement was making the Dean’s List at the University of Pennsylvania for each academic year and receiving a Summa Cum Laude distinction (the highest graduation honors) from this Ivy League institution. My proudest personal achievement was running my first full-marathon when I was 18 and just being 5 minutes’ shy of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

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Programme

Why did you decide to study your programme and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?
I chose to study MSc International Health Management at Imperial because of the unique opportunity to learn about healthcare solutions and experiences on an international level as well as to gain a thorough understanding of healthcare within the context of business. This dual nature of the course has provided me with a background in subjects such as health informatics, and health policy and financing—all of which will equip me to become a future healthcare leader. Additionally, the Imperial reputation and name is highly regarded and will open up doors for me in my career.

What makes the MSc International Health Management at Imperial College Business School unique?
The diversity within the programme differentiates this MSc from other comparable programmes. Collectively, our cohort represents almost 25 nations and speaks well over 15 languages. We come from diverse professional backgrounds as well—doctors, nurses, dentists, biologists, pharmacists, nutritionists, economists, public health experts, and there is even a theologian. Naturally, this diversity makes for fascinating conversations. We have discussed everything from overcoming ambulance shortages in Nigeria to the critical success factors for implementing eHealthCare Systems in the United Kingdom. We are learning so much about health systems around the world just by listening to each other’s distinct perspectives and experiences.

What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy?
I really enjoy the friendships I have formed with my classmates. Investing fully in relationships and making it to that friendship level where you can travel out of the country together on night buses is without a doubt worthwhile. Surrounding myself with people who make me feel loved, happy, and comfortable in a country other than my own is one of the best things about my overall MSc experience.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?
The most challenging part of the programme has been balancing my time between working on group projects, studying for exams, attending Business School events, applying for jobs, and chipping away at my London bucket list.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?
The most rewarding aspect of the programme has been seeing the results of the long hours working on projects and studying for exams pay off.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?
Although we just began Entrepreneurship, I can already tell that this module will be very enjoyable, given the focus on real-life projects and business plans competitions. I am looking forward to advancing my knowledge in the area of creating sustainable business plans since I hope to eventually possess the tools to create a marketable product or venture. Additionally, the lecturer is not only extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter but is very funny and engaging as well. I bet this is going to be my favourite module!

People


Which seminars, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

Touring multiple hospitals and speaking with the leadership at these institutions was extremely useful in developing more knowledge about healthcare systems outside of the U.S.

How would you sum up the Business School faculty?
They are very intelligent, personable individuals who want to do everything they can to help you be successful in the MSc and post-Imperial.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?
I really enjoyed learning from Colin Love in the Global Business Strategy for Healthcare Professionals module. Having held senior management directorships for multiple global companies, he always had great stories to tell to support the subject matter that he was teaching us and make it really come to life. Plus, our group coursework was really fun for this module, and I am very proud of the video he inspired us to create for our final presentation.

Imperial places a large emphasis on group work, what inspires you the most about working in this type of environment?
It was an incredibly enriching and inspiring experience to be in a syndicate group with individuals who all represented different countries and parts of the world. Although working with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives can be challenging at times, it is a great skill to have because it really forces you to see another individual’s point of view and collaborate with them to create something you never would have thought of on your own. Personally, working with team members from other countries has forced me to speak slower (something I have always struggled with as a natural born fast-talker) and communicate more clearly, both of which are crucial for success in job interviews.

How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?
If I had to pick one word, I would say caring. When I was eagerly researching MSc programmes and filling out applications, one of the factors that clearly differentiated the MSc International Health Management from other programmes was how students and staff used the term “family” to describe the closeness of the cohort. The “IHM family” experience is best evidenced by when I was hospitalised for a week during the spring semester. Not only did classmates help me physically get to the A&E but they kept me company throughout the week and were constantly at my bedside. They read over my vitals and made sure I was being well taken care of by hospital staff. As the week passed, I was cheered up by the countless text messages, phone calls, and visits I received from fellow IHM-ers. Even the Programme Director, Dr Baggy Cox, surprised me with a visit and sent a kind email to my mother to reassure her that everything was okay. From helping me to put on my socks, to braiding my hair, to making me feel less “hospital-like”, the IHM-ers brightened up the ward each day. With my family unable to come from the United States, I legally signed off a few IHM-ers as my next of kin so that they could act as family members on my behalf. There are many unknowns, delays, and frustrations involved in hospitalisation, however the good outweighed the bad over the course of my week in the hospital. I was constantly overwhelmed by the kindness of my classmates, who despite being full-time postgraduate students and having other commitments, made time to visit.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?
Imperial College Business School Student Ambassador (Social Media and Online Communications), Business School Consulting Club, and Imperial Women in Business Society.

Opportunities

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?
I participated in a competition that was sponsored by Global Action on Poverty (GAP), which is a platform to eradicate poverty and is dedicated to transforming ideas into real solutions. Three of my classmates and I came up with a health-focused idea to eradicate poverty and were selected as one of the four teams to be sent as representatives to the flagship event of the GAP summit in Gujrat, India. With the support and mentorship of GAP and the Business School, my team and I have been given the opportunity to turn our startups into actionable solutions for alleviating poverty.

How have you benefited from the services provided by the Career and Professional Development Service?
I cannot speak highly enough of the Careers and Professional Development Service at Imperial College Business School. Before you even step foot on campus, the Foundations for Career Success summer modules can really help you start thinking about your career and how to make the most out of the Imperial experience. Last semester, I attended about one employer event per week and went to as many career workshops as possible on topics such as writing your CV and cover letters, networking, and preparing for individual and group assessments. I have also taken advantage of the practice interviews with career consultants. These practice interviews have helped me make the most of the limited time I have had to prepare for some interviews. The information team and career consultants are all very intelligent, supportive, and engaging individuals who really want to see you succeed. I strongly urge every Business School student to visit Careers Services regularly and utilise this incredible resource for professional development.

How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?
I have benefited by attending events with Imperial alumni, such as the International Women’s Day breakfast, and being able to find out more about their career journeys. Additionally, the Business School’s LinkedIn network has made it very convenient to reach out to alumni and ask questions about their companies and the recruiting process. For IHM specifically the alumni panel at the beginning of the academic year is a great opportunity to not only find out about potential career opportunities after the programme but to also ask for advice on how to be successful at Imperial. The IHM alumni are some of your best resources! In fact, after meeting alumni at the panel and exchanging information, I met up with one of them who provided me with more insight into the programme, which proved to be very helpful in terms of preparing for exams and applying for jobs.

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities? Please share any positive experiences you have had.
Absolutely. London is home to the headquarters of over 100 of Europe’s largest 500 companies. This is great for job hunting purposes since I have easily been able to visit company offices for information sessions and interviews. Additionally, the central London location of Imperial makes it easy for employers to recruit at Business School events.

Career

What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?
My short-term career goal is to become a consultant. Career consultants at Imperial have helped me succeed in securing first round assessment centres and progress throughout various stages of the interviewing process. After the conclusion of the MSc, I will be a Consultant in the Healthcare and Life Sciences teams at the FTI Consulting London office. Careers Services has been invaluable during each step of recruitment!

What are your career aspirations upon completing the programme?
Upon completion of the MSc, my goal is to work for a healthcare consulting branch of a top management consulting or advisory firm. My ultimate goals are to utilise my knowledge of best healthcare practices, achieve a high-level directorship role in the United States government, and contribute to positive changes in healthcare systems.

Location

Whereabouts do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?
I live in private student halls, right off of Kings Road, in South Kensington. I chose to live in this area because it is a short 20-minute walk to school each day, and I did not want to have to rely on public transport to make it to class every day (i.e. in case of a Tube strike). I actually really enjoy the walk, which has become one of my favourite parts of each day. London is absolutely beautiful—rain or shine—and I appreciate having this time to slow down and reflect on everything going on around me.

What can a weekend in London look like for an MSc student?
No matter what your interests are, you can always find some fun weekend adventure to go on in London. Some of my favourite weekend experiences have been exploring markets (i.e. Borough Market, Camden, Columbia Road Flower Market, Spitalfields, etc.), going to seasonal festivals (i.e. London Pizza Festival, Winter Wonderland etc.), seeing shows in the West End, running along the Thames and in beautiful parks, brunching at restaurants such as Duck and Waffle, discovering speakeasies like Cahoots, visiting Harry Pottery World, and just spending time with classmates—whether that means a homemade gnocchi night or going to pub quiz (this one is technically on Tuesday nights). These are just a few examples from my 78-item long London bucket list. As you can tell, the city has a lot to offer and you’ll never be bored!

In your opinion, tell us about the most exciting, undiscovered place in London.
A popular thing to do in London is to visit the top of some of the tallest and/or most iconic buildings (the Gherkin, Walkie Talkie, and Cheesegrater, etc.). Sometimes, visiting these buildings can be expensive though (i.e. it costs over £25 to visit the Shard). However, the Sky Garden of the Walkie Talkie building (a.k.a. 20 Fenchurch Street) offers not only a fantastic view of London but also early morning yoga for about £10. A few IHM-ers and I woke up early (at 5am) and went to yoga in the Sky Garden before class one day!

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?
The biggest challenge for me was entering this programme directly after my undergraduate degree at Penn and starting all over again with everything—making friends, navigating my way around a new city, adjusting to a different educational system, etc. However, once the initial adjustment period is over, just like with any new move, everything gets to be a lot easier and you find your routine. In addition to all that London has to offer itself, the other major benefit of being in London is that it makes it easy (and cheap) to visit other cities in Europe. I have already gone on weekend trips to Denmark, France, Holland, Scotland, Sweden, and Wales, and plan to travel more this summer! My advice to someone moving to London for the first time is to take a deep breath, figure out how to build furniture from Argos, buy a student Oyster card, read books on exploring London, and do not be afraid to go on adventures by yourself!

Tips

What advice would you give someone who was thinking about applying for the course?
In terms of applying, if the course is at all of interest to you and you have the means to attend (i.e. time, financial resources, etc.) then I would definitely encourage you to apply. The application process is very thorough and makes you think about what you really want from a Master’s programme. Out of all the postgraduate applications that I completed last year, I was most impressed with Imperial’s recruitment process because it really forced me to think about where I am, where I want to go, and whether the IHM programme is the means by which to get there. If you take the application process seriously and do your research (i.e. read as much as you can about Imperial—hint: the Business School’s website and these answers from current students provide great material for applications) to answer questions, then I think you will realise during this process whether Imperial, and IHM specifically, would be a good fit for you. If accepted, I would then encourage you to join the Facebook group for your cohort, reach out to current and past IHM alums, and start making your own Imperial/London bucket list.

Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online or on campus information sessions? Did you find these a useful part of the recruitment process? Would you recommend that prospective students attend these events?
No, I did not attend any online or on-campus information sessions before applying. However, in retrospect, I wish I had participated in a webinar because it would have provided me opportunities to speak directly to the programme director and current IHM students. Having more insight into the programme is always good and helps you know what to expect as well as what is expected of you. I would highly recommend attending an information session for prospective students (especially an on-campus one if possible)—after all, you have nothing to lose, only to gain, by doing so.

Share with us a handy hint or trick which makes campus life that much easier!
Here are five tricks/pieces of advice: 1) Learn how to book discussion rooms/vaults at the beginning of the year. 2) Keep an umbrella in your locker. 3) Don’t be afraid to say hello or let the fear of failure stop you. Start conversations with people, whether in formal networking events or informally with other students sitting in the Business School café. Go to events, meet fascinating people, intern with that start up, and learn about opportunities post-Imperial. 4) Embrace cultures other than your own; it is an incredible opportunity to share a classroom with 52 students who represent almost 25 different countries. 5) Say yes to life in general. When I first arrived at my flat from the airport, I asked the driver for advice, given that I had just moved to London and was about to embark on a year-long masters. He told me to “say yes to everything”. When an opportunity presents itself, and you want to turn it down because you’re nervous, just go for it anyway. There are so many amazing things to do at Imperial (and in London), if you only allow yourself the chance to do them!