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Three UCD Smurfit School entries shortlisted for AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards 2024

  • Date: Fri, Sep 8, 2023

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AMBA 2023

6 September 2023 - The prestigious AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards shortlist was announced today, and of the eleven categories, UCD Smurfit School entries have been shortlisted in three including Best Business School Partnership, Start-Up of the Year Award and Postgraduate Leadership Award. 

The AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards bring together leaders of the global business education community to recognise and celebrate excellence among business schools, students and graduates, suppliers and employers that share AMBA & BGA’s values of ambition, impact and integrity. 

In the Best Business School Partnership Category, UCD Smurfit School’s entry is the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School partnership with Howard University School of Business. 

The historic partnership between UCD Smurfit School and Howard University School of Business featured an intensive exchange programme in Ireland and the USA with events designed to create deep cultural and business understanding and engagement for students and faculty. The experience had a life-changing impact on students participating in how they will engage with diversity and inclusion and sustainability issues and implement these learnings in their future careers. 

Three UCD Smurfit School scholarships are now available for Howard University students for 2023/24. The innovative programme was endorsed by the White House, catching the attention of VP of the USA Kamala Harris and Ireland’s Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

The partnership was generously sponsored by KPMG Ireland, Bank of America and the African American Irish Diaspora Network. 

The Best Business School Partnership Award recognises business schools that share AMBA & BGA’s passion for building networks and have adopted a proactive and innovative approach to strategic collaboration. 

The nominees are:

  • Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow (UK) with Common Mission Project
  • Arden University (UK) with Roots IVY International College
    Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham (UK) with Deloitte
  • Monash Business School, Monash University (Australia) with Business Council of Cooperatives and Mutuals
  • School of Business Administration, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics (China) with Jiangxi Lidu Liquor Industry Co.
  • UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin (Ireland)with Howard University School of Business, Washington DC

In the Start-Up of the Year category, UCD Smurfit School’s entry Marita Sanchez de la Cerda’s business SAIZ.

A 2018 alumna of the MSc International Management (CEMS MiM) prorgamme, Marita has an exceptional entrepreneurial spirit and demonstrated leadership throughout her academic journey. As a student board representative, founder of the CEMS Women's Network, and Social-Chair for the CEMS Club, she showcased commitment to fostering innovation, diversity, and community engagement. 

Her impactful contributions extend beyond academia, with a ground-breaking fashion-tech start-up that addresses a critical pain point in the industry. Her originality, strategic planning, and dedication to sustainability make her a standout candidate for this award, embodying the spirit of entrepreneurship and making a lasting impact on both the university and the fashion-tech landscape. 


The Start-Up of the Year Award celebrates the achievements of successful students and alumni that have launched their own businesses. It aims to encourage and promote the value of new business innovation and potential in the current competitive climate. It also highlights business schools that are nurturing a spirit of enterprise and ambition in their cohorts.

The nominees are:

  • Aly Mohamed, The American University in Cairo School of Business (Egypt) for Seavo
  • Christopher Wight, IE Business School (Spain) for Nūxsen
  • Georges Acar, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick (UK) for Inquizyt
  • Marita Sanchez de la Cerda, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin (Ireland) for SAIZ
  • Pierre Bourles, Audencia Business School (France) for La Miellerie D’Alre
  • Puneet Saini, University of Canterbury Business School (New Zealand) for Script Sense

In the Postgraduate Leadership Award UCD Smurfit School’s nominee is Lorna Conn, Chief Executive Officer, Cpl.

Lorna is an alumna of both UCD Smurfit School and UCD Quinn School from the Master of Accounting 2002 programme and BComm 2001 programme. A powerful figure in Irish business, in January 2022, Lorna became CEO of Cpl, Ireland’s largest talent solutions company, with 14,000 employees, operating in 47 offices across 13 countries. In March 2023, she was appointed to the Executive Committee of Cpl’s parent company – Tokyo listed OUTSOURCING Inc (‘OSI’), the only female on their 6-member team. Lorna is Senior Managing Executive Officer of the Overseas Technology Business overseeing OSI operations in UK and Oceania, in addition to her Cpl role. OSI operates in 39 countries worldwide, has 250+ sister companies and employs more than 130,000 people worldwide.

Lorna is passionate about providing a workplace environment that enables everyone to bring their true selves to work and to reach their full potential. Testament to this is Cpl’s ranking in February 2023 of 5th place in the large category for Great Place to Work, underscored by a company-wide employee survey. In September 2022, Cpl achieved 31st in the European listing and this year Cpl was recognised as a great place to work for the 4th year running.

Lorna is passionate about Cpl playing its part to tackle climate change. She issued Cpl’s inaugural Sustainability Strategy & Report in December 2022 which commits (amongst many other things) to Cpl becoming carbon neutral by 2045.

The Postgraduate Leadership Award honours alumni from AMBA & BGA business schools who have been making an impact in the business world following their graduation. The award recognises the inspirational work of these graduates through their achievements, performance and recognition.

The nominees are:

  • Alex Athanassoulas, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow (UK)
  • Ayodeji Balogun, Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University (Nigeria)
  • Daniel D’Araujo Pires Neto Vaz, University of Leicester School of Business (UK)
  • Efstathia Papathanosi, Kent Business School, University of Kent (UK)
  • Huawen He, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law (China)
  • Lorna Conn, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin (Ireland)

The winners of the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards 2024 will be announced at the AMBA & BGA Gala Dinner on January 19, 2024. Please visit the website here to learn more about the awards ceremony.

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