RSM MBA graduates ready to take on the future

During an energetic ceremony, 182 MBA students graduated from three MBA programmes at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). In addition to speeches from graduates, the Dean and an alumnus, Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb from the City of Rotterdam spoke to the audience of newly graduating professionals and their families and friends about their new roles in managing society. The graduation ceremony took place at the Beurs-World Trade Center in Rotterdam on 27 March 2015.

There was loud clapping and a standing ovation when RSM’s 80 graduands from the Executive MBA Class of 2014, 92 graduands from the International Full-time MBA Class of 2015, and 10 graduands from the MBA/Master in Financial Management Dual Degree Class of 2015 entered the hall. The audience included members of the embassies of the Republics of Cameroon, China, Guatemala, Namibia, Pakistan, Greece, Poland, the Russian Federation, Taipei, and Romania, as well as from company sponsors such as Heineken, Philips, and KLM. Friends and family who were not able to travel to Rotterdam were able to watch the live stream.


RSM Dean Steef van de Velde said graduands are all “very driven individuals with a clear focus to maximise their opportunities and make a difference in the world”. Professor Van der Velde said he is also proud of RSM’s rankings and its new MBA leadership team that is internationalising the school through initiatives including the opening of an RSM office in Chengdu, China, in June 2015. “You have laid the foundation for our next leap forward,” said the Dean to the graduands. “We need an important thing to further advance our school. And that is you: our alumni. You are our resource. I don’t just mean financially, but also your time and brainpower. I look forward to seeing you soon at one of RSM’s alumni events.”


Managing society

The mayor of the City of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, said that without RSM and its highly international students, Rotterdam would be a different city. “Rotterdam’s 140 nationalities represent the world really well. As a mayor, I want to connect all kinds of people, and give them a sense of community,” he said. Aboutaleb, who is also on RSM’s Advisory Board, posed a question: “When the population grows, who will manage that? You. You will do that,” he told the new graduates. Mayor Aboutaleb stressed that RSM MBA graduates are educated by one of the best universities in the world for management skills. “Wherever you go, you will play a wonderful role in helping the world solve very complicated issues. I will see you as alumni when I visit your country when I attend university events.”


New generation leaders

Alumnus John Apesos (MBA2009) took the stage and revisited the past, describing it as a paper-based world that became more easily organised thanks to the internet, which revolutionised information processing and communication. “You are the new leaders of this generation. Young people look for opportunities and mentorship from you,” said Apesos. “You’re in a position to understand how organisations operate. As MBAs we ensure the survival of qualities such as readiness, see how far you can go, and above all, compassion.” After his MBA, the American entrepreneur stayed in the Netherlands and founded a vertical farming company. “You need a go-for-it mentality, and also your RSM network to keep you going. One of my classmates is helping me with the financial aspects of my business. Your network really makes you stronger.”


Dean’s Honours

In total, 182 students graduated. The 10 dual degree graduates received their MBA degree and the Master in Financial Management degree. Among the graduates, 13 reached a high level of achievement according to examiners and were on the Dean’s Honours list. From EMBA2014, they are Shobhit Arora, Jordi Butterhoff, Geert Beckers, Roberta De Lorentiis, and Robert-Paul Berretty. From MBA2015, they are Marya Izquierdo Bloemen, Marieke Heikens, Leilani Meijer-Morison, Gagan Arora, Rahul Shankar, Tamas Baranyai, and Sammi Vanderstok. And from the MBA2015/Master in Financial Management Dual Degree programme, Matthias Fritsche is on the Dean’s Honours list for his achievements. Graduates Shobhit Arora and Jordi Butterhoff from EMBA’14, and Marya Izquierdo Bloemen and Marieke Heikens from MBA’14 from the Dean’s Honours list also received Honours with Academic Distinction.


The winners of this year’s Beurs-WTC Leadership Awards of € 2,500 are Anjelica Cicilia (EMBA’14) and Rahul Shankar (MBA2015). These awards are handed out annually by Rotterdam’s Beurs-World Trade Center to students who have shown exceptional leadership qualities, promoting the development of others, and showing social responsibility.


Kilimanjaro Leadership Project

Women who had participated in the Kilimanjaro Leadership Project took to the stage. Spokeswoman Jordania Valentim (EMBA2014) told the audience that reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro “felt like overcoming my own self”. The project facilitates a transformational experience for women to help each other and change their attitude in the workplace. “We achieved great things made possible with each other’s help,” said the Brazilian graduate. “Let’s pay it forward and multiply our achievements, and reach out to our network. We should continue or overcome our own barriers and reach new summits.”


Bram van Welie and Mario Crea (both EMBA2014) shared their Executive MBA journey. “Two years ago, a very vocal group of eager beavers found themselves at a crossroads, all coming from different walks of life, read to embark on this journey together,” said Van Welie. “We’re now at a crossroads again. We reached a degree of dynamic learning far beyond the curriculum that provided a return on investment that no one can take away from us. We were energetic and sometimes even atomic.” He added that whatever roads his classmates choose to take, every road will have unforeseen obstacles, but also opportunities.


Never walk alone

Crea agreed that in addition to the classes, he learned a lot from his peers. “I first thought I was in the wrong place, with everyone being something else: engineers, paper industry professionals, and so on. It soon became clear we were growing a lot in business thinking and how to approach a case.” The Italian graduate was impressed by the study trips to South Africa and Hong Kong. “The energy and positive excitement about the future among my EMBA classmates were inspiring. All the memories collected in two years will follow us for a long time. Thank you for being the smartest and most inspiring classmates I could ever hope for.”


Finally, International Full-time MBA graduates Daniel Cheddie and Rahul Shankar (MBA2015) joked that they would present their farewell speech in ‘true MBA style’, with financial statements, graphic analytics, and a summary of the lessons learned. They continued by reflecting on the programme, and their classmates’ courage, sacrifices and new perspectives. Cheddie, who came to RSM from Canada, said taking this plunge included accepting the risks of changing geography and lifestyle, including getting around on a bicycle. Cheddie and Australian graduate Shankar compared the MBA to the iconic and infamous multi-layered takeaway dish, the kapsalon, which starts “in an aluminium tin with high expectations but not sure what’s next.” Shankur: “You’re filled with French fries and other things are growing on it. You can choose shawarma add-ons, and give it your own garlic sauce flair. The cheese melts it all together.”


Cheddie added: “We’ve come full circle. We’ve taken the camaraderie out of the classroom and are ready to take it into the business world.” The RSM MBA is more than taking finance and marketing classes. “It’s about instilling a mentality that the learning curve is continuous, and gaining a new mindset about people and problems. We now see problems as opportunities, and developed a sense of feeling comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” said Shankur. Cheddie: “We embrace the future while hanging on to our past. We came here as individuals but we’re leaving as family. Whatever challenges we face, we’ll never walk alone.”


The ceremony, which can be viewed online, concluded with a celebratory reception at the Beurs-World Trade Center.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is a top tier European business school and ranked among the top three for research. 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 carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. RSM also has offices in the Amsterdam Zuidas business district and in Taipei, Taiwan.


For more information on RSM or on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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