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Graduates from the Global Executive OneMBA Class of 2021 celebrated their academic achievement at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) on 25 June 2021. The ceremony’s theme was ‘onward and upward’, as reflected by keynote speaker Prof. Nicola Kleyn and class representative Freek Hemminga. Their global MBA degree enables the business graduates to tackle difficulties and uncertainties so they can grow in the new business and social environment.

RSM’s OneMBA Class of 2021 started their academic MBA journey in 2019. They dived straight into classes and the Personal Leadership Development course, followed by their first international residency in São Paolo, where they explored business in South America, the Brazilian economy, global megatrends and corporate social responsibility. The participants’ diverse backgrounds provided new perspectives and knowledge about business, leadership and team work throughout the programme’s assignments and projects.

The 34 graduates represent 15 nationalities. They are from Egypt, Hungary, the Netherlands, Brazil, France, Russia, Germany, Singapore, China, Mexico, Bulgaria, Romania, Colombia, India and Belgium. They work in various industries, including offshore, pharmaceutical and health care, consumer goods, agriculture, IT, gaming, real estate, chemical, procurement and energy.

Maps and mirrors

After a word of welcome by RSM’s Dean Ansgar Richter, the graduates heard a moving speech by Dean of Executive Education Nicola Kleyn. Professor Kleyn is a truly inspiring leader as an empowered and empowering South African with a strong academic and management career.

“We need collective energy and direction, whether it’s to become more sustainable, ethical or prosperous,” Prof. Kleyn said. “The world is suffering great trauma. We need to move onwards and upwards. You’re now equipped with the tools, mindset, skills and ambitions to do what the world is asking from you.”

Prof. Kleyn said two things are needed to navigate: a map and a mirror. “Make your own map, don’t take one from a screen. Your trip to South America helped you to change your perspectives dramatically. Keep looking outwards on the world and geological sphere, and relearn and reconceptualize. We learn best when we’re in a collective, and we need to remake maps when the world changes.”

Along with the map comes the mirror. “Ask yourself: ‘Who was I when I started the MBA, and who am I now?’ We must reflect internally at who we are as people and as leaders. We need excellence in leadership through humility, reflection and listening.”

It’s all about having a sense of the change you want to be, according to Prof. Kleyn. “What is your focus and energy of where you want to go? Don’t lose your map and mirror. Keep it updated, keep it clean, redraw your map. Don’t lose that thrust of onward and upward.”

Higher ambitions

Class representative Freek Hemminga took the stage to talk about the OneMBA21 experience, from the more than 700 hours of online content and seminars to re-inventing ways to work and the ‘great discussions’ towards a good outcome.

“We stood out in ESG – environmental, social and corporate governance. We’re trying to bring change in the world. In retrospect, we’ve been operating in a VUCA world, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It’s been crazy, especially the eight-hour corporate finance exam while I was on holidays” said Hemminga, who is director of business strategy, global marketing at SUSE.

He said a key aspect of the MBA is to build relationships. “We’re so diverse in nationalities, roles and the experience that we brought to the table. It helped increase our knowledge to conduct global business. We learned from each other collectively and individually. It’s up to us now to foster and continue that.”  

Hemminga felt the energy and creativity throughout the programme. “Our ambitions are higher than before we started the programme. We want to continue synergizing in the future. We’re OneMBA graduates now, and care about ESG, shareholders and stakeholders.”

Dean’s honours and social capital

The class received their diplomas from Dean of Executive Education Nicola Kleyn. On the Dean’s honours list, graduating cum laude, are Anne-Sophie Goblet, Freek Hemminga, Lars Janssen, Joep Kil, Irina Kobelyatskaya, Lorena Lopez Rubio, Osmar Ornelas Morales, Dimo Pashov, Christopher Pruijsen, Sarah Soenen, Olga Sokolova, Timo Spruijt, Benoît Terlinden, Viktor Valk, Inge Veenstra, Carolina Villa Sanin, Liang Yang and Jeroen Zonneveld. There were also four graduates with Deans honours with distinction (summa cum laude): Rik Joosten, Thijs van Munster, Anne Rijntjes and Ni Yan.

Alumnus Peter Brijs (OneMBA 2013) and Sue Martin, director of Corporate and Alumni Relations at RSM, welcomed the OneMBA graduates to the RSM alumni network and the OneMBA alumni network.

Brijs, who is programme manager at DICTU Rijkszaak, said he remembers the first day he met the Class of 2021. “You’ve changed and grown as professionals. More than 1,650 alumni from five business schools that are part of the OneMBA have made the same journey so far. They work in many industries in more than 70 countries. The world is slowly waking up, there will be events locally and globally. Make friends with people in other classes. You can start beautiful things in the community that you’re now part of.”

The graduation ceremony concluded with a farewell from Prof. Hans van Oosterhout, academic director of RSM’s OneMBA programme. Like the other speakers, he stressed that social capital is a predictor of success. “Bridging social capital is about getting ahead. Continue to accumulate and invest in this. Keep reaching out to others, to get by and to get ahead.”

Only graduates attended the ceremonial event, followed by a cosy reception in the Erasmus Paviljoen on campus. Of the 34 graduates, 27 were on campus for the ceremony and 7 watched online. Families, friends and corporate guests of the OneMBA Class of 2021 also joined in via a livestream from their homes or offices.

The RSM Global Executive MBA

This was the last OneMBA cohort at RSM. The new RSM Global Executive MBA will launch in September 2021. This programme is a transformative and intensive 21-month journey in leadership development, tailored exclusively to your needs and objectives. Participants are empowered with the knowledge, insights into their personal style of leadership, and the skills and strategic vision to lead their organisation with clarity, confidence and integrity. Delivered in Rotterdam, one of the world’s key economic hubs, the RSM Global Executive MBA connects participants to a global network of peers, thought leaders and change agents. They experience all the dynamics of international leadership and business, where it happens, as it happens.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked 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.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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