EMBA Graduation - IMD Business School
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EMBAs challenged to remember that greatness is about impact

The EMBA Class of April 2024 celebrated its graduation with compelling calls from speakers, faculty, and class representatives to strive for excellence, champion diverse voices, and create a better future for all.
April 2024

Plurality and a commitment to a collective legacy of positive change distinguish the EMBA Class of April 2024, said Professor Vanina Farber, Dean of the EMBA Program and elea Professor of Social Innovation, as the cohort, their families, and IMD staff and faculty gathered in Lausanne to celebrate their graduation.

“You are plural, fun, you build consensus, and you actively engage to shape the future you envision,” she said. “Rather than allowing disagreement to divide, to make people feel like outsiders, you engaged in dialogue, ensuring that every voice was a valid part of your community.”

In the opening address of the ceremony, Jean-François Manzoni, IMD’s President and Nestlé Chaired professor advised the graduates to maintain a positive spirit and hone their resilience so that they can quickly recover from setbacks, both big and small.

“One key skill you should develop to recover quickly from setback and frustrations is to learn to not argue with reality,” he said. “Stay positive, focus on what you can control and identify some lever you can apply on the situation – now or later.”

Leadership, relationships, and friendships

“The EMBA will stay with you forever, it’s a life changing event,” said Peter Haahr CEO of Denmark’s LEO Foundation, speaking 15 years after his own graduation for IMD. Reflecting on his career since he left, he highlighted the “three ships” of leadership, relationships, and friendships that have helped him navigate his career.

“In business, I’ve learned that success requires embracing risk and demonstrating strong leadership. And it’s about making connections and inspiring followers with a compelling vision, but also letting go of people, who you decided should not be part of the journey,” he said.

“And as you do this, the relationships and the friendships you’ve built and cultivated in the company, will serve as your secure bases from which you can navigate and deal with these personal challenges and propel your business forward.”

The power of plurality

In her speech to the graduates, Professor Farber encouraged the class to utilize their skills and influence to break down barriers and lift up those less fortunate, offering them three pieces of advice:

“Firstly, lead with a vision that honors our common humanity and diverse perspectives,” she said. “Secondly, nurture the community you’ve created. The relationships you’ve established are the foundation of your collective strength. In our strong and engaged alumni community lies the true power of IMD.

Lastly, champion plurality that strengthens the very foundations of our institutions supporting a more inclusive, peaceful, and just society. You can count on me as a partner to create lasting impact together.”

‘IMD has pushed us into greatness’

A tradition of the EMBA graduation is closing with speeches from two “EMBAssadors” who have been selected by their peers. Ariella Pfenninger, Head Financial Reporting & Tax Finance at Zurich, and Luis Baptista-Coelho, President and Chief Revenue Officer at Leadzai, praised the “Game Changers” class for pushing each other to strive for excellence and to help others while doing so.

“IMD has pushed us into greatness, faculty and staff have pushed us into greatness, all the companies, charities, or individuals we had the privilege to learn from, visit or worked with pushed us into greatness, and maybe more importantly we have pushed each other into greatness,” said Baptista-Coelho

Inspired by their Discovery Expedition to Kenya where they met Janet Bett, who founded the Jamii Bora Trust in 1999 to help street beggar families in Nairobi escape poverty and improve their lives, the graduating class have already established the Game Changers Legacy Fund to help less fortunate people with funding education.

“Let’s remember that true greatness isn’t about honors or accomplishments, but about the people we help and the impact we have,” said Pfenninger. “As Game Changers, we can leave a legacy of kindness, empowerment, and positive change. Let’s take on this responsibility with determination and a desire to create a better future for all.”