RSM MBA graduates ‘pioneer next-generation leadership’

More than 200 participants of MBA programmes at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) graduated at World Trade Center Rotterdam on Friday 18 March 2016. Farewell speakers from the highly international MBA classes reflected on their new, eye-opening perspectives, and how the MBA has empowered them and their classmates to know their strengths, be true leaders, and be catalysts for positive change.

Students from RSM’s International Full-time MBA Class of 2016 and Executive MBA (EMBA) Class of 2015 entered the Rotterdam Hall of World Trade Center Rotterdam, cheered on by a proud audience of family members, friends and members of the RSM community. In total, 120 full-time MBA graduates representing 33 nationalities, and 94 Executive MBA graduates representing 27 nationalities completed their RSM MBA studies.

“You’re the global agents for positive change, and can create value, wealth and well-being for yourselves and others in a sustainable way,” said RSM’s Dean Steef van de Velde to the MBA graduates. He said RSM has taken them to places where other MBAs don’t go, from the slums of South Africa to knowledge about their own behaviour. “You’re now fully equipped to make a difference in the world,” he said. “Life is simply too short not to. Use what you’ve learned at your alma mater to make the world a better place. Stay part of the RSM family, now and in the future.”

Can-do spirit and hands-on business

Jannelieke Aalstein, manager networks at Rotterdam Partners, told the audience how the City of Rotterdam works together with companies and institutions all over the city to work on the growth of the city’s economy. “You came here to be challenged, amazed and get to know an international city,” said Aalstein. “I totally understand why you chose Rotterdam and RSM – the port, trading facilities and one of the best business schools in Europe. The city has a distinctive character: it constantly changes.

She said the students’ can-do spirit fits in well with Rotterdam’s hands-on business climate. “We’re more than just a pretty skyline,” said Aalstein. “Rotterdam doesn’t shy away from new opportunities and I hope you don’t either. You now have the tools to make a positive change.”

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable

Karan Bhasin from the EMBA Class of 2015 read Edgar Guest’s poem It couldn’t be done, triggering his classmates to reflect on their sense of determination and achievement. “There are thousands who will tell you it can’t be done – but we did it!” he said, adding that he encourages his classmates to continue learning throughout their careers. “Every journey begins with the first few steps. The MBA isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon of two years of hard work and perseverance,” he said, adding that the class is ready to seize new opportunities. “We learned how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

The Indian graduate talked about the class’ new experiences, for example helping small businesses in townships of South Africa and exploring container logistics in Shanghai.

Leadership versus management

“The degree we hold is an instrument to empower others,” said Bhasin, adding that RSM taught the class not to act like managers, but act like leaders and inspire others. “Be compassionate and know your strength when you speak to your colleagues, employees, friends, community. RSM has inspired me to be who I really want to be.”

Scott Moran spoke to the audience on behalf of the full-time MBA Class of 2016. “Great people create their own luck,” he said. “They dream up opportunities overnight and seize them during the day.” The American graduate said you need three things to achieve what you want: “Understand your past, know how you got in the room, and think about the future,” he said, adding that everyone in the class came to RSM to better their lives, for example by getting a promotion or experiencing another country.

Accelerating the future

“You’re the pioneers in next generation of business leaders. Use this to accelerate the future,” he said. “Don’t waste a conversation. Speak loudly. Commit fully. Stay hungry. Be humble. Understand how and why you’ve been successful. If you do all this, the future is in your hands.”

AbuBakr Hayat (MBA’16), a graduate from Pakistan, wasn’t able to attend the graduation. His classmate Curtis Cordeiro read his speech. He said the class “trudged, crawled and fell over but it’s the people around us who picked us up.” Hayat’s message was also about how RSM taught him time management. “I now know how to hand in five assignments with different teams within a week. Our integrity and staying true to ourselves and others is more important than how to fill out cash flow statements.” Hayat added that it has been a privilege to share his MBA experience with ‘amazing and high-spirited people’ and that he has more than 120 new friends from 33 countries. “This year has been a blast. I hope this was just a spring board to propel ourselves with a new life.”

Alumnus: “Take control.”

This year’s alumni speaker was Rahul Shankar, an Australian/Canadian alumnus from the full-time MBA Class of 2015 who is now a consultant at Hedera Consulting in Amsterdam. “Sorry to burst your bubble,” he said. “People won’t automatically listen to you when you have an MBA. You’re expected to work hard, think critically and deliver as a business leader is expected to.” Shankar added: “You now have the responsibility to take on exciting challenges … you have the tools to make people listen and put things on your plate. Things that are hard aren’t the ones that take time, they’re the ones that take hard mental work and determination.”

Shankar said the nature of RSM is open and unassuming. “Beyond diversity it’s important among alumni to look at what drives people. RSM emphasises on personal responsibility and ownership. You can take control of what’s happening.” Shankar encouraged the new graduates to think about how they can uphold their favourite values and memories from RSM, and welcomed them to the RSM alumni network. “We belong to a wonderful school. You’ll take a piece of the school with you. You’re all wonderful talented individuals – that doesn’t stop today or ever.”

Graduates from RSM’s Executive MBA Class of 2015 and International Full-time MBA Class of 2016 took the stage in the Rotterdam Room of the city’s World Trade Center to receive their degrees and officially become alumni of RSM.

Dean’s Honours

Among the MBA graduates, examiners found that 18 of them showed an exceptionally high level of achievement. On the Dean’s Honours list are, from the International Full-time MBA Class of 2016: Vadim Zhilin from Russia, Subhash Kumar Gupta from India, Whitney Krause from the USA, Christiaan Oosthuizen from South Africa, Timothy Price from the USA, Marco Freiermuth from Switzerland and the Netherlands, Karan Jhaveri from India, Vanessa Pinedo Norabuena from Peru, and Julia Peterle from Germany.

From the Executive MBA Class of 2015, the professionals graduating with Dean’s Honours are Alison McGregor from Australia, Lorenzo Feri from Italy, Eva Smets from Belgium, and Pieter Warnars, Mark Stoutjesdijk, Koen Vonk, Andrea Chavarro Manotas, Sander Barake and Masja Kristelijn from the Netherlands.

Leadership Award

Pieter Warners (EMBA’15) and Scott Moran (MBA’16) are the winners of this year’s € 2,500 Postillion Convention Centre, WTC, Rotterdam Leadership Award (formerly known as Beurs-WTC Leadership Awards). “These students have shown exceptional leadership qualities, promoting the development of others, and showing social responsibility,” said the convention centre’s general manager Jessica Steur, who presented the annual award on behalf of World Trade Center Rotterdam.

Audience members of this year’s RSM MBA graduation included Moroccan ambassador Abdelouahab Bellouki and Egyptian ambassador Taher Ahmed Hanafi Farahat, as well as representatives from the Chinese, South African, Polish, Nigerian and Georgian embassies in the Netherlands.

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

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s leading business schools, 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 Chengdu, China, and 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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