When Thomas Lodge relocated from Chicago to Sydney to study a Full-Time MBA at the AGSM @ UNSW Business School, he was initially drawn by a word-of-mouth recommendation. “A good friend from Washington DC is an AGSM alumni and had a great experience,” says Lodge. 

Then, with further research into AGSM he discovered its diversity-focused Leadership Excellence Scholarships. “I wanted to find a university that was the right cultural fit for me. And I was excited to see that AGSM is an open and affirming campus for the LGBTI community with values that align with mine.  And even better, that they’re willing to actually put their money where their mouth is in offering LGBTI-specific scholarships,” says Lodge.

In 2018, AGSM redesigned its scholarship program to attract more high calibre candidates from a diverse pool of leadership talent – including scholarships for those who’ve demonstrated leadership excellence in special interest communities such as LGBTI, elite athletes and military. 

And Lodge is one such person. He has an impressive history of leadership in the LGBTI community across the United States, and was awarded the LGBTI Leadership Excellence Scholarship as one of AGSM’s Full-time MBA 2020 cohort. 

Lodge has worked and volunteered with leading American non-profits for 14 years, with a particular focus on social justice and public health. He also worked for the Human Rights Campaign, where he furthered the reach of their grassroots membership at pride festivals, pushing equality, the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell program, and working towards transgender anti-discrimination policies. Most recently, he worked for the American Cancer Society in community development and corporate fundraising.

Building business acumen for a global career


Lodge expects his AGSM MBA experience will help him keep pace with progress, build global networks, and develop his ability to lead inter-generational and international teams.

“One thing that drew me to AGSM is that the professors, teachers, instructors are people who are actually out there consulting in the real world – so I’m really keen to tap into that expertise,” says Lodge. 

He’s also interested in learning more about sustainability in supply chains, developing his strategic influence and building an adaptive mindset.

“My ultimate goal is to run corporate social responsibility for a multinational company in the US,” says Lodge. “My career path has been working towards that. With experience in diversity and inclusion, politics, public health and board management, increased business acumen is the logical next step.” 

Trial by fire learning – in a supportive environment

Lodge has lived in the country for less than two months, but he’s already spent three days in the Australian bush with 52 relative strangers. This was part of the Complex Adaptive Leadership course that he and his peers started their MBA journey with – and just one of the many immersive experiences ahead. The three-day course taught students how to apply theoretical frameworks in real-life scenarios. 

“You don’t have a choice but to step up in the moment. The experience models anxiety and stress in the business world – where you’re tired and cranky and called on to make decisions quickly. It’s about building muscle memory,” says Lodge.

While the course is personally challenging, it’s also the perfect environment for the MBA cohort to bond with one another – and fast. “There were 53 of us from 18 different countries, and I am happy to say I’ve made 52 new friends.”

The power of a fearless leader

Lodge has had some central influences in his life. “My first manager was a particularly powerful leader. She would seek out a complicated project for a new initiative like a moth to a flame. The easy way wasn’t her way. She would always put herself into a position where she was challenging solutions,” says Lodge. “She taught me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Knowing you won’t shine 100 per cent of the time – and that you don’t have to.”

And Lodge has lived this, tackling issues of equality, public health and corporate integrity from grassroots through to the boardroom.

“Executive engagement is where I believe I can make a difference – aligning companies’ missions with the folks in the C-Suite. Asking them what they’re passionate about, and having the dollars to back it up, to get out into the community – whatever their cause,” says Lodge. 

“When executives lead by example, it trickles down and has a huge impact on employee engagement.” And he believes having visibility of leaders with diverse life experiences is key to shifting change and equality on a broader scale.

“It’s so important to have diverse voices in leadership,” says Lodge. “It’s a great privilege to be able to be open and honest in the workplace, and the more LGBTI leaders we have, the further the needle of equality will shift, opening hearts and minds.”  

An investment into a bright future

Studying an MBA is a transformative experience and a significant investment in your personal and professional development. For Lodge, the support of the Leadership Excellence (LGBTI) scholarship proves AGSM’s is investing in him as well. 

“It’s always nice to be recognised. I worked really hard for a really long time,” he says. “I don’t take for granted how lucky I am. It’s a combination of hard work and luck being given this opportunity. I’m honoured and flattered that AGSM recognises my past work as an LGBTI leader.”

The LGBTI Leadership Excellence Award is just one of the many full and part-time tuition scholarships AGSM offers. Our ambition with the Leadership Excellence Scholarships is to accelerate leaders who represent communities that are under-represented, and award them for outstanding contributions to their communities. 

Learn more about all our available scholarships.