A glitzy punctuation mark on the end of an academic year marked by a gradual, heartening return to normal conditions, a school-wide three-day graduation ceremony saw the HEC Paris Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 descended upon Paris and Jouy-en-Josas to reconnect and to rejoice in all their accomplishments.
Days for the EMBA’s
Among them, three hundred-plus participants of the Executive MBA kicked off their festivities with a private cruise down the Seine, reveling with the City of Lights’ most iconic monuments as a backdrop. It represented the first chance for many to reunite after prolonged time apart.
“My HEC EMBA journey started with me seeking a top-notch business education,” said Andrew Saidy, EMBA ‘2022, who landed a role with Ubisoft in Paris as VP Global Talent during his time at the Executive MBA.
“It ended with me complimenting that education with lifelong friendships and a rock-solid and diverse worldwide network of leaders.”
A ceremony to remember
The formalities culminated on June 11th with the appropriate pomp and circumstance of the Commencement Ceremony. A massive affair that saw more than a thousand members of HEC Paris MBA Programs graduate, it was the largest of its kind in the school’s storied history.
Emcees Margherita Kochi and Marco Merolla, EMBA graduates of the Classes of 2020 and 2021, respectively, put an immediate EMBA mark on the ceremony.
They were followed in quick succession by keynote speaker and HEC Paris EMBA alum Serge Ekué (EMBA ‘2011), President of the West African Development Bank.
“Challenges are development opportunities, and your challenges are huge. But they are your responsibilities,” Ekué said. “You have learned how to decrypt the ever-changing world. You are a generation of great fighters. Remain as committed as ever but stay humble.”
The significance of the event was felt profoundly by the members of the EMBA Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022, so many of whom had to wait, sometimes years, for their graduation day. Now that it was upon them, they were quick to remark upon their excitement—and their gratitude.
“Back in 2020, nobody really knew what to expect of the near future,” said Renata Leite, a member of the Class of 2022 who has secured a coveted place at the HEC-42 Incubator for the startup that she began as a Capstone Project.
“A thing that I could have never anticipated was that I would not only find my people, but that I would live incredible moments during the most unprecedented times. I learned things that used to hide in my fear zone, reignited old and new passions, and laughed so hard, so many times I couldn’t keep track.”
Classes of 2020 and 2021 finally get their day
The bulk of the Class of 2022 has only very recently completed their 15-18 month EMBA journeys. For the Classes of 2020 and 2021, though, a longer wait to mark their graduation formalities means viewing the feat through the prism of an extended absence from HEC Paris.
“My life has completely changed since finishing this degree,” said Maiada El Khalifa, a graduate of the Class of 2020 who pivoted to a CEO position in Silicon Valley after spending most of her career in the oil and gas industry.
“It was amazing to be around my happy and proud professors, class members, family and friends for our day of celebration, on a sunny Paris day, in a campus that held previous long days of learning, exams, debates and of course laughter,” she continued. “It was a long-awaited celebration due to COVID, but that just made today’s excitement simply more explosive!”
A day for takeaways
On a day that marked the end of a long journey, many amongst the graduating classes pointed to the most pertinent lessons they’ve learned along the way, along with a word of appreciation for their alma mater.
Maryse Lokoussou, Ekoué’s Chief of Staff and a Member of the Class of 2021, exclaimed “I have learned that ‘where there is a will, there is a way!’”, encouraging her fellow graduates “to feel capable of going beyond their limits, to set ambitions and give themselves the means to achieve them. To learn, again and again, in a spirit of constant humility.”
Added Morad Omanaa from the Class of 2020, “Nothing is impossible, the only limit is yourself so trust your dreams and move forward! My experience at HEC has helped me to gain even more perspective on the world and to feel better equipped to meet the challenges of today and those of tomorrow.”
“If I had to make this choice again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Renata added later on.
“Thank you HEC, for everything.”
More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe. Nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. The Executive MBA at HEC Paris perennially ranks among the best in the world; click here to learn more.
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