MBA Graduation 2023 - IMD Business School
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‘We built a village’: IMD celebrates the MBA class of 2023

The 2023 cohort celebrated their graduation with a clear message from faculty and speakers to stay curious, remain true to themselves, and lead with courage.
December 2023

At a joyful and emotional graduation ceremony in Lausanne, 87 MBA graduates gathered to celebrate a year of hard work, personal growth, and the close bonds they formed with peers. It was also a moment to reflect on the values and principles that will guide them as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. 

Congratulating the class on their achievement, IMD President and Nestlé Chaired Professor Jean-François Manzoni reminded them that their duty as leaders is to be courageous, bold, and resolute as they strive to make the world an economically and ecologically stronger place. 

The problem in this world is less the people who aim high and fall a little short. It is more the people who aim too low and reach their goal. Aim high, dare to be bold,” he said. “Try to avoid the path of least resistance if there is a better, harder one. Take the high road, take the hard road.” 

Against the backdrop of growing uncertainty and geopolitical complexity where the path forward is not always obvious, Manzoni advised the graduates to continue to develop a set of principles that will help guide their behavior across contexts. 

“In a world where citizens, employees – all of us, young and old – have largely lost faith in our leaders, more than ever the world needs leaders that will inspire us to dare,” he said. “Leaders that will inspire confidence; confidence that we can get it done, that there is a way forward, a way to overcome the hurdles and get to a solution.”  

‘We built a village’

In a powerful speech, graduate Siya Xabanisa referenced the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. He shared how, when he was growing up in South Africa, his single mother worked two jobs – sewing and cleaning – to raise enough money to send him to school. A neighbor took care of him, and a friend’s grandmother taught him to read. 

Over the past year, his fellow graduates have built a new village, he said, reflected in the ways they cared for and supported each other through the highs and lows.  

“We have seen classmates demonstrate the same determination and hard work and generously give their time to others,” he said. “We’ve observed our loved ones who have sacrificed their time to create a safe environment for us.” 

“Now, as we step forward, it’s our responsibility to build a village. And this village will allow us to impart the real impact we came to learn,” he said.

“Never more has the world needed great leaders. Let us move forward and nurture both the villages we belong to today and those we’ll join in the future.” 

Be curious, be real, be bold

Speaking 25 years after his own MBA graduation, Christophe Bourdon, CEO of LEO Pharma, shared how his year at IMD was the first time he felt comfortable revealing his true authentic self. As the graduates embark on the next chapter of their own lives, he encouraged them to stay curious, be real, and be bold. 

“The world is changing so fast,” he said. “If you, as leaders, are not embracing this, are not curious enough, you are going to get lost. It’s super important to train that muscle of curiosity again and again.” 

Equally, the world needs leaders who aren’t afraid to make courageous decisions – who fail, learn from their mistakes, and grow. “Don’t be shy about taking tough decisions. But do it with your heart and be authentic. Dream big and it’s going to fly,” he said.  

Altruism and selflessness

Earlier in the week, IMD honored the individual students who had helped foster a community spirit throughout the year.  

Eduard Pericas Clavé was recognized with the Hepper Award for the student who best personified the spirit of altruism and selflessness throughout the year. The award was created as a tribute to Michael Hepper, an IMD MBA participant who died in a car crash in 1997 just two weeks before graduating from the program. 

The Welshe Women Award was awarded to Stephanie Vetsch for demonstrating the drive, confidence, and abilities to pursue a career with grace and with respect for the lives of others. Kriti Bakshi and Ankit Gupta were presented with the Prix Fondation Vaudoise pour la Formation Bancaire (FVFB), an award that recognizes academic achievement, contribution in the classroom, teamwork, and an ability to overcome obstacles. 

Closing the graduation, Professor Omar Toulan, Dean of the MBA and Hilti Chair, praised the graduates for their intelligence, resilience, and positivity. 

Over the year, the one continuous theme and the reason why most of you chose IMD was the opportunity to further progress along your leadership journey. You have been put to the test and been forced to face potentially uncomfortable truths, but you have come out the other end better leaders for the experience,” he said. 

“You have my admiration and respect and I wish you all the happiness in the world as you move to the next stage of your life.”