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A civil engineer from Zimbabwe has become the first winner of London Business School’s Sloan scholarship for women.

Eustina Musvoto, 41, will begin the 10-month programme this month (september) and will benefit from career mentoring from Spencer Stuart, the executive search company, as well as having the £43,000 ($71,000) cost of the programme funded.

LBS launched its Sloan Fellowship Women’s Scholarship last year in partnership with Spencer Stuart and Saatchi & Saatchi, the advertising agency. Approximately 30 per cent of Sloan participants are female and LBS was anxious to raise the number of women students.

Candidates submitted an essay as well as a video demonstrating their ability to develop strategic vision, which was judged by a panel including Baroness Hogg of Kettlethorpe, chairman of 3i, the private equity group, and Helen Alexander, chief executive of the Economist Group.

All the candidates demonstrated resilience, the ability to motivate and inspire, as well as good communication skills, says Linden Selby, senior admissions manager for the Sloan and EMBA programme. However, she adds, the panel unanimously selected Ms Musvoto out of the 24 completed entries, citing her motivation and passion as characteristics which that made her stand out from the crowd.

Ms Musvoto was born and raised on a farm in Zimbabwe. After training as a civil engineer and working in her home country she relocated to the University of Cape Town where she took a PhD in civil engineering, water and waste water treatment.

She later joined Ninham Shand consulting engineers and established a business unit in the Gauteng region. She has also served as a council and board member of the Water Institute of Southern Africa, a non-profit organisation for professionals in the water industry.

Her personal life has proved equally demanding. She raising raised her son following the loss of her first husband, and educated as well as educating one of her siblings after the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy.

Resilience and courage as well as humour and a capacity to adapt quickly to new circumstances are all aspects of Ms Musvoto’s personality and she remains undaunted by the heavy workload of the Sloan ­programme.

Her present husband graduated from the programme this summer and she witnessed at first hand the intensity of his studies. , sometimes up to 15 hours during the first term.

“I saw my husband grow both on a personal and professional level,” she says.

“The Sloan is emotionally draining and I think you need a partner to be strong.”You need support, you do better if you have someone to support you.

With her engineering background, Ms Musvoto is anxious to enhance her leadership and general management skills and sees the Sloan as the perfect vehicle for this. “The Sloan is the best programme I could have done. I think it is the opportunity to grow personally. It is attended by very mature people of different experiences from myself. It offers a huge global perspective so that I am able to grow personally.”

Ms Musvoto hopes to return to South Africa after the programme. but for the time being is relishing the opportunities that the programme will open to her. She remains open-minded about her future career, though would like to continue within the water field.

The Sloan programme is offered only at three schools: LBS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT and Stanford. It is a very focused programme for highly motivated mature students and emphasises a collaborative approach. LBS intends to offer another Sloan women’s scholarship for the 2006 academic year.

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