MBA alumni reunion brings back 30 years of memories

Experiences of shared studies and individual careers spanning 30 years – it’s not often that such a wealth of knowhow is gathered in one place. The annual MBA Alumni Reunion at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) was a landmark event this year, with the first-ever 30-year reunion taking place. Graduates from 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013 came from four continents to spend two days with RSM again, first at the RSM Leadership Summit, then exploring changes to the Woudestein campus and engaging in a lively session on the best way to leverage the strength of the alumni community. During the weekend, they re-lived memories in a bespoke storytelling workshop as well as over dinner.

“Over 60 per cent of our class is here. I think that says something” said Winnie Linker (MBA 1988). This was the first time that a class from 30 years ago was represented at the annual reunion; Winnie travelled from Ontario Canada to be there, among the other 250 alumni attending the weekend events.

Today’s leaders meet tomorrow’s

The reunion programme began with the annual RSM Leadership Summit in the historic Van Nelle Fabriek, with keynote speakers exploring the topic of ‘purpose’ through layers of ideas, ideals and actions. A capacity audience of more than 450 alumni, executives, managers and academics hear Michiel Muller, Prof. Daan Stam, Marlies Dekkers, Vincent van den Boogert and Shaun Tomson, and brought their perspectives from the grocery industry, the science of goal-setting, fashion design, banking and the world of surfing together to show how purpose underlines so many successful businesses.

Seeing the new campus ‘for the first time’

After the purposeful energy of the sell-out RSM Leadership Summit on Friday, there was a free evening to explore Rotterdam and enjoy the company of former classmates. Saturday opened with a campus tour and Dean’s welcome address, followed by a leisurely lunch at the waterside Erasmus Paviljoen restaurant on campus – which many alumni had not seen before. Rotterdam put on its best weather, with glorious sunny October day and temperatures of over 25°C during a spell of ‘nazomer’.

RSM is always keen to hear how alumni would like to continue to engage with the School and with each other. This was a particular focus during the reunion’s Saturday afternoon session devoted to RSM & You. The needs of business have meant that RSM’s MBA programmes have changed in response – and the changes were explained by Sue Martin, Director Corporate and Alumni Relations; Joep Elemans, Director Career Centre; Brandon Kirby, Director MBA Marketing and Admissions, and alumnus Markus Lodensträter (MBA2013) who is an active leader of an Alumni Local Chapter and alumni mentor. They emphasised how alumni can contribute to the quality of RSM programmes and how can they stay involved.

Differences and similarities

Storytelling expert Simon Hodges led the final session of the reunion programme How we are different, how we are the same.

Thought-provoking questions on each cohort year’s values and how they compare with other years’ led to some lively discussion and much laughter. Current students who had volunteered to help with the event admired the ambition and dedication of earlier years but insisted that other generations work too hard and work-life balance was among their highest professional priorities.

Conversely, the class of 1993 were proud of the persistence they see as their defining characteristic, and one of the most under-rated leadership qualities. Claudia Toth (MBA and co-chair of her year’s social programme) spoke for her group: “Our generation learned to focus on work to the exclusion of everything else. This has its drawbacks but we don’t stop until the job is done.”

The class of 2013 expressed a desire to absorb a little of that persistence, pointing out that their generation has so many options they have become too flexible, while the class of 1998 admired the flexibility of their younger peers, aiming to become less risk-averse and more free in their decision-making.

The reunion programme closed with dinner at the riverside restaurant Zalmhuis in Rotterdam, where some members of the alumni were already planning ahead. Said Tanja Goudarzi Pour (MBA 1998) “How I look forward to getting another burst of wonderfully positive energy and purpose at the next reunion.”


More about the MBA reunion in the forthcoming issue of RSM Outlook, published in early December.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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