New MBA graduates told they are ready to be agents of positive change now

More than 200 participants from two MBA programmes at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) graduated during a dynamic ceremony on Friday 24 March in the World Trade Center Rotterdam. They were welcomed by Dean of Faculty Dirk van Dierendonck, who told the graduands that their degree was much more than a ticket to a higher income. He urged them to be agents of positive change, and to lead by example. The keynote speaker was Frank Sluis, vice-president finance and controller Europe for Unilever, who told the new graduates that they had completed ‘probably the most prestigious business programme in the Netherlands, and one of the most prestigious in the world.

Graduates of the International Full-time MBA and Executive MBA programmes made a procession into the auditorium behind a rousing Caribbean band, and received their degrees in front of a family and friends in Rotterdam, and an audience around the world on the internet via a livestream broadcast.

Keynote speaker Frank Sluis from Unilever described the effect – and effectiveness – of education in his life so far, observing that the best education was always ‘the right content delivered at the right time’.

For him, neither high school nor university, family life nor his experiences as a club football player fired up his enthusiasm for learning, although he did succeed in each one, gaining an appreciation of different values and an increasing confidence. It wasn’t until the first year of his traineeship at Unilever that he realised the importance of professional training.

Leadership purpose

Unilever trains people for ‘purpose-driven leadership’, explained Frank Sluis. “Life is not only about getting into a certain position, but being clear about your leadership purpose.

“Your leadership purpose could be in one of many different roles, and that role might actually be more important than the job title on your business card,” he said.

An MBA programme is exactly the right time for education. The new MBA graduates have done the hard academic work, as well as made friends for life, he said. “The educational component of your MBA is also within your group.”

Frank Sluis concluded: “Business is a way to bring cultures together, and that’s especially important today.”

Farewell speeches

Graduates from each programme gave farewell speeches. From the Executive MBA, Simona Annunziata (Italian), Ioana Floru (Romanian-French) and Paula Martinez Leon (Colombian) expounded on their view of the programme and their futures. From the International Full-time MBA, Hala Abu-Jaber (Jordanian) and Juan Maldonado Alcazar (Mexican) described their experiences. Hala said: “What my RSM family has done for me is priceless. Thank you for bestowing your knowledge on us in a way that makes it stick.” Juan said: “Fight for your will, so that other can have their will in the future.”

Dean’s Honours

From the International Full-time MBA Class of 2017, 106 students graduated. On the Dean’s Honours list are Praafull Bakshi (Indian), Laurens van der Burg (Dutch), AB van der Merwe (South African), Wyatt Peever (Canadian) and Benedikt Wagner (German). Receiving the Dean’s Honours with Distinction were Hala Abu-Jaber (Jordanian), Mimi Chou (Taiwanese) and Guru Vignesh Jeyachandran (Indian).

From the Executive MBA Class of 2016, 107 students graduated. On the Dean’s Honours list from this programme are Karin de Booij (Dutch), Jochaïm Bossenbroek (Dutch), Mark van Denderen (Dutch), Mark Durno (British), Kostyantyn Tomashpolskyy (Ukrainian), David Treijtel (Dutch), Geertje Verbraak (Dutch) and Neil Wheeldon (British).

Graduating from the Executive MBA with Dean’s Honours with Distinction are Douwe Krooshof (Dutch), Bob van Roozendaal (Dutch), and Gustavo Guerriero (Argentinian-Italian).

Class awards

For the first time this year, MBA and EMBA students nominated a classmate and an RSM faculty member that had made the most significant impact on their academic journeys. The winners of the student awards are Mark Durno (EMBA16) and Guru Vignesh Jeyachandra (MBA17). The full-time MBA class chose Dr Arjen Mulder, and the EMBA class chose Professor Murray Bryant for the faculty awards.

The 215 graduates are now part of the 34,000-strong RSM alumni network, which brings opportunities for lifelong learning, professional development and social connections.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 research-based 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 carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. 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, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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