Alumni Elizabeth Rogers, Zahir Dehnadi and Sofya Shuster have been recognised with top honours from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). The three alumni were presented with 2017 RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards (DAA) for their achievements in business, social impact and entrepreneurship at the annual RSM Leadership Summit on Friday 6 October 2017.

The awards are divided into three categories: entrepreneurial spirit, social impact and business achievement. Nominations were made by RSM alumni, students, faculty members and staff members. The winners were chosen through online votes and the final three were decided by three jury members, all previous DAA winners: Christine Lim (2016), Niels Eldering (2015), and Feike Sijbesma (2009).

Above and beyond

“RSM’s Distinguished Alumni Awards identify people who have gone above and beyond their chosen career path while staying true to the values that have been imparted to them while at RSM,” says jury member Christine Lim. “Receiving this award is a true testament of an RSM graduate who has positively affected communities and businesses in their society.”

The 2017 RSM Distinguished Alumni are:

  • Social impact: Elizabeth Rogers (International Full-time MBA 2013)
  • Entrepreneurial spirit: Zahir Dehnadi (International Full-time MBA 2010)
  • Business achievement: Sofya Shuster (MSc Finance & Investments 2011)

Innovative technology for entrepreneurs in Africa

Elizabeth Rogers lives in Nairobi, Kenya, and founded Kuunda 3D, which empowers and enables East African entrepreneurs to use innovative technology, like 3D printing and using it in collaboration with other organisations to help print educational tools and improve public health.

“Elizabeth has a clear business idea with a long-term impact in empowering and enabling entrepreneurs in East Africa with local solutions,” said Feike Sijbesma. Fellow jury member Christine Lim agreed. “It’s important to teach people how to fish rather than give them a fish. What Elizabeth does in East Africa is admirable, knowing how hard it is to navigate those markets, and also creative in helping the locals have a better livelihood by understanding what they can do with 3D printing,” said Lim.

Rogers aims to open hubs in more East African cities, so each country’s support network can help enable local manufacturing and product development, leading to better education and home-grown solutions.

Moral happiness in business

Zahir Dehnadi founded navabi during his RSM MBA studies in 2009, helping women in over 30 countries to express themselves. The fashion company is now a € multi-million enterprise with over 250 employees.

Dehnadi, who lives in Aachen, Germany, incorporates mindful elements throughout most facets of the organisation. His goal is to avoid bureaucracy, politics, burnouts and apathy. “Our vision is to reinvent business, to devise a new model that makes work productive, fulfilling, and meaningful,” he says.

“Zahir embodies the positive change that is aligned with RSM's core values,” says juror Christine Lim. “He is in a female-focused industry, and his ability to attract top talent and grow his team says a lot about his leadership and entrepreneurial skills.”

Feike Sijbesma was also impressed, pointing out Dehnadi’s clear impact and potential for scaling up. “He’s on a mission to bring corporate social responsibility to the next level,” said Sijbesma. “His creative and innovative management models make work productive, fulfilling and meaningful.”

International finance career

Sofya Shuster is accelerating international finance while giving back to the community in New York City. Her impressive career includes becoming a vice-president at ING at the age of 26, and she has helped others on their way throughout. Shuster connects and supports people, for example by founding ING’s young professional network in London. She was recently elected one of three Sustainability Champions for ING Americas.

“Sofya embodies a hard-working professional who is self-aware and cares not only about the rewards she obtains from her chosen career in finance, but also the society that she lives in,” says Christine Lim.

Shuster’s I WILL statement is ‘I WILL improve myself to improve the world’. “This remains my life’s motto,” she says, adding that she aims to be the best she can professionally and personally, for family, friends, communities, and for society.

RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards

The RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards (DAA) are presented annually to outstanding alumni of the school, in recognition of an excellent contribution to society or business, for excellent entrepreneurial spirit or for other equally prestigious qualities that make the alumnus’ profile an outstanding one. These alumni exemplify excellent leadership. The award nominees are chosen from the network of 34,000 RSM alumni who hold senior positions in private, public and non-profit organisations worldwide.

Previous DAA recipients include Stef van Dongen, founder of social enterprise crowd-funded equity firm Enviu; Alba Tiley, UN partnerships and sustainability manager at Royal DSM; Roos de Wit-Goedhart, CEO Study Tours; Johan Andressen, CEO at Ferd Norway; Meiny Prins, CEO of Priva BV; and Diederik Laman Trip, former CEO of ING Netherlands.

The other nominees for the 2017 awards were RSM alumni Ashley Swartz, Niek van Hengel, Paul Asbreuk, Kathrin Treutinger, and Mark Durno.

RSM’s three new distinguished alumni will be profiled in more detail in this winter’s issue of RSM Outlook magazine, which will be published in late November.

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

Accounting and control , Alumni , Bachelor / Bedrijfskunde , Bachelor / IBA , Corporate Communication Centre , Companies , Doctoral Programme , Executive education , Finance , Homepage , In the spotlight , International , Newsroom , Master , MBA , Organisation and personnel management , Strategic management and entrepreneurship , Sustainability , Technology and operations management , EC for women and organisations , China , Positive change