It was a day of celebration and reflection for 134 graduands of the full-time MBA 2019 class and 107 from the Executive MBA 2018 class of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). The ceremony took place on 15 March 2019 at the World Trade Center in Rotterdam, which was adorned with flags representing the graduands’ nationalities. The ceremony was opened by Brandon Kirby, Director of MBA Marketing and Admissions praising the students for their “countless hours of hard work, dedication and perseverance.”

Making a positive change in the world

Prof. Steef van de Velde, dean of RSM, urged them to be a positive change in the world. “RSM has a clear, inclusive and distinctive mission,” said Van de Velde. “Your RSM degree says a whole lot about you. This degree opens a world of opportunities for you, a ticket to higher income and a step up the ladder. However, I really hope you will be using your newly acquired knowledge, skill sets, competence, uniquely calibrated values and attitudes for making a positive change in the world.”


Finding passion and purpose

Keynote speaker Martin Croft, head of European Biofuels/ Renewables Compliance and Optimisation for Shell, spoke about finding his passion and his purpose.

“I remember pain, fun, lots of laughs, self-discovery – and a lot more pain,” quipped Croft, reflecting on his RSM EMBA in 2013. “You forget an awful lot in five years, but I remember more than anything all the time spent understanding what leadership was really about.”

Croft recounted how he met three of his EMBA classmates a year or so ago in The Hague, and discovered all three of them had quit their jobs – either to figure out their next career moves, or to work for an NGO.

To laughter from the audience he added he was not trying to discourage them, but to make them understand something which he and his EMBA classmates had learned. “We discovered an understanding of our values and purpose, and what we are truly passionate about. And courage to make a change. It led everyone around the table to be able to be truly happy in what they were doing.”

The important lesson from their time in RSM was understanding their passion and purpose, he told the graduands. “I hope what you have taken from RSM is the courage to know that you are truly capable of making a change to follow your heart.”


Diplomas and awards

As diplomas were presented, graduates’ photos on the main screen were accompanied by their “I WILL” statements – a personal drive or an aspiration.

Special recognition from the Dean’s Honours list went to International Full-time MBA 2019 graduates: Maja Bezgovšek; Nii Dodoo-Amoo; Carolina Galatti Morello; Ricardo Gomes Azevedo; Josh Gonzales; Kartik Krishna Moorthy; Ignacio Lieutier; Yoriko P. Setyawan; and Scott Taylor.

The Dean’s Honour with Distinction for the MBA class was awarded to: Adam Lewis, and Artur Filipe Schouten Patuleia.

The EMBA 2018 Dean’s Honours list included: Oleg Belik, Hólmfríður Einarsdóttir; Reinier Hille Ris Lambers; Gergely Koppany; Mahsa Motegh; Sucheta Mukherjee; Loek Nelissen; and Sankalp Shukla.

Dean’s Honour’s with Distinction for the EMBA class was awarded to: Kerabi Aslan; Marloes van Gasteren-Buijtenhek; and Wouter den Boer.

Faculty and student awards were decided by the classmates. The EMBA class of 2018 gave the EMBA Faculty Award to Prof. Murray Bryant, professor emeritus at Ivey Business School in Canada. The MBA 2019 Faculty Award was given to RSM’s Dr Arjen Mulder, senior lecturer in financial management – for the third year in a row.

The Student Awards 2019 went to Adam Lewis of the Full-time MBA, and Marloes van Gasteren-Buijtenhek of the EMBA; they received €2,500 each. 


A journey of courage and learning

Speeches from students – EMBAs Marloes van Gasteren-Buijtenhek and Dorothy Seguy, and Full-time MBA Adam Lewis – were thought-provoking, inspirational, and amusing.  

Van Gasteren-Buijtenhek spoke of her personal journey. Despite being unsure of completing the programme, she really wanted to learn as much as possible from the experience. She said the international diversity of the class had allowed for insightful talks. “The conversations among us have always been rich with insights that only this unique crowd could bring.”

She said the programme helped her to find her purpose. “It was talking with my EMBA fellows, my RSM coach, and a leadership retreat in Catalonia that was instrumental in finding my purpose. My purpose is to improve the living conditions of as many people as possible through striving for a sustainable world where we can all live in equality.”

She said courage makes the difference between a good leader and a great leader, and thanked a classmate for teaching her about courage in Catalonia; the classmate had decided to go canyoning with her even though she could neither swim, nor see without glasses. She said this friend taught her “the courage to take a leap of faith, to be vulnerable and have the courage to face her fears. This kind of courage showed strength and that is the difference between a good and a great leader.”

She asked her fellow graduates to “find the courage to make your own decisions, to do what’s right, serve your own purpose and create a lasting impact.”


Mantras for a happy post-MBA life

Like Van Gasteren-Buijtenhek, Dorothy Seguy also praised the programme’s diverse group and the learning journey. She warned of the danger of a single story, saying her international experience at RSM prevented this ‘single story’ narrative. “It’s a privilege to be swimming among such diverse stories and talents.”

Seguy elicited gales of laughter with a list of mantras for living a happy life after an MBA:

1. Read books

2. Keep learning and share the knowledge

3. Love and remember what we have is great

4. Be humble

5. Drink a glass of red wine every day

6. Do not use the word ‘interesting’ – “it’s for lazy people”

7. Be crazy and do crazy things. Crazy things open our minds and creativity

8. Don’t make your career your most important goal in life

9. Leave this room knowing that the people you have been journeying with are no longer classmates or teammates but are friends and family.


Shared values and friendships

After asking the audience to high-five one another, Adam Lewis gave a farewell speech on behalf of his full-time MBA 2019 cohort; it was met with rapturous applause.

He recalled that a friend had asked if the MBA had been worth it. Lewis said that after careful reflection and speaking to classmates, he had considered five expectations and whether or not they had been met.

People wanted personal growth; he had attained it. “I was unsure what I was going to do next. But the support of the programme, the coaching, and the space to think really gave me a direction for the first time.”

He and his cohort wanted great academic learning and to work in international teams. “International diversity and teamwork is so hard but beyond the UN there is no better place to learn than here, and the reward is not only that we performed better but we learned so much about each other.”

Lewis also noted that people wanted to have a good time and did “a thousand things together” to achieve this.

Finally, everyone wanted to achieve “deep and long-lasting relationships from this programme”. Lewis said his fellow graduates had gone all-out to support each other in their endeavours. “In an MBA, one of the most competitive environments in the world, all people wanted to do was help each other. Maybe this MBA speaks so strongly of the social and environmental value for positive change that it attracts not only people who are incredibly smart and ambitious, but also kind, caring and supportive. We formed a community based on shared values and systems, and relationships that are meaningful and real.”


The journey ahead with RSM alumni

The final video of the day featured the RSM alumni network. Closing the ceremony, Director of MBA Marketing and Admissions Brandon Kirby asked the graduates to join a Local Chapter to keep the alumni community strong, and reiterated RSM’s mission by asking graduates to be a positive change in the world.

Watch the full graduation ceremony video here:

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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