Class of 2021 Celebrates Virtually; Ceremony Next Year

In a fitting, bittersweet conclusion to a year rocked by COVID-colored uncertainty, the Class of 2021 gathered, online and in-person, to celebrate the occasion of their graduation. Their ceremony will have to wait until 2022, when all HEC Paris classes impacted by Covid will get together for a gargantuan graduation ceremony, but they still relished their chance to fete their achievement.

Last week, the EMBA participants of the Class of 2021 graduated to the virtual pomp of The Grad Show, a live and online celebration of their achievements.

It wasn’t a graduation ceremony—that comes next year—but it was nevertheless an opportunity to recognize and celebrate their remarkable collective and individual achievements. They join the ranks of HEC Paris’ 65,000-plus strong alumni network, from 105 countries, having succeeded in taking advantage of, as Associate Dean Andrea Masini said in his remarks, “an incredible opportunity to innovate.”

“It was a year like no other,” he continued.

“Yes, it was challenging. Yes, you had to cope with many constraints. There were many things you couldn’t do that you had planned to do when you joined HEC. At the same time, it was an incredible opportunity to innovate. You had to cope with new pedagogical formats; you had to perhaps revisit some of the values that you had when you joined the school. All this is not wasted; all this is going to stay. You became more resilient; you became a better leader.”

A handful of participants were even able to safely gather on campus, don their hats, and toss them into the air. They reflected on their achievements, and they shared their thoughts on graduating in such a remarkable state of affairs. Marco Merolla, who represented the EMBA Program on the school-wide Grad Show, got them started.

HEC Paris Executive MBA Participant Marco Merolla

Marco Merolla represented HEC Paris’ EMBA group on the school-wide Grad Show.

“We learned a lot about daring. We all had to be very brave in this peculiar year,” he said as his EMBA classmates looked on both from the Pierre Bellon Auditorium and online.

“I remember that I was stuck at home for the first lockdown. Instead of complaining that my EMBA experience was disrupted, I started to write down business models about the future of the food industry. I think what we can all agree on is that the real daring starts now—our mood is ‘and so it begins’.”

His words represented a similar refrain that was echoed by his classmates and fellow brand-new members of the HEC Paris Alumni community.


Dominique Tchimbakala:

After 18 months at HEC Paris, I realize how crazy it was to undertake such a demanding journey, continuing to work, taking on my family duties and my associative responsibilities. The good news is by working in an effective way, staying focused and relying on your peers, you can reach the finish line. Above all, I understood one thing : in a business world crowded with financial experts, it’s not so much your technical skills that will give you a competitive advantage but rather who you are, what you hold within you and how you implement it. Simply put, what makes you unique. So let us have the courage to be different.”

Sylvain Mestrallet:

HEC Paris Executive MBA alum Sylvain Mestrallet

“This 2-year journey was demanding: balancing long hours of study and group projects with full-time work and family commitments. It meant giving up weekends, nights, and missing family time.

The outcome is extremely rewarding. We have learned a great deal about ourselves: fighting doubts and competency traps, trusting our abilities outside of our comfort zone, looking at situations more strategically, and learning to better leverage our network of allies.

Congratulations to my classmates! Thank you for your friendship and for making this ride so inspiring. Being your class representative was also a great honor!

Many thanks to the HEC Paris faculty and staff who developed and executed a world-class program, even during the pandemic. Thanks also to my family, friends, and mentors who’ve guided me in my life and career to this moment.

I am immensely grateful to my wife (Aurélie) and children (Clarice, Thibaud, and Hugo) for supporting me in this adventure. Overcoming this would have been impossible without your love and patience.

COVID-19 challenged our resilience, but it also created new opportunities. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us!”


Ksenia Vedeneeva:

HEC Paris EMBA alumna Ksenia Vendeneeva

“And it’s done. My 1.5-year Executive MBA journey at HEC Paris is done.

This was an incredible experience happening in the midst of pandemic and so much uncertainty. If I needed to choose one thing I learned that I consider the most important, it would be that after you get somewhere, you need to run faster to stay in the same place, and if you want to get somewhere else, you must run twice as fast (thanks, Professor Jeremy Ghez).

The world is changing fast, and you need to be faster! But what made my experience even more memorable is to be surrounded by such amazing people. People you can learn from and have a great time together with outside of the class. I think HEC made special magic in its selection process.

And now let’s celebrate!”


Bernardo de Castro Fernandes:

HEC Paris EMBA alum Bruno de Castro Fernandes

“Ain’t it funny how time slips away?

Two years ago, I decided to pursue an old dream of mine to do an MBA. What a time! Easy to say it right now, but it was not always like that. A full-time job at Uber while living between Amsterdam and Paris was tough. On top of that, the whole Covid-19 situation. After 21 months, here we are!

Today, I’m thrilled to announce our time as HEC Paris Executive MBA candidates has come to an end. The virtual Grad Show is symbolic but very important for us all!

A big thanks to my family, my work colleagues, and all my friends in Brazil, Netherlands, and France. Your support has always been significant to me. Also, a special one for my HEC Paris classmates of the Class of 2021. I really appreciated our time together and the extraordinary experiences!

Last, I would like to thank some of our Professors for making this Academic journey so valuable and for helping me so much with my personal and professional development: Olivier Sibony Gregory LaBlanc Laurence Lehmann-Ortega Kai Ruggeri, you’ve made all the difference!

I’m very honoured to join the HEC Alumni and I’m looking forward to the next challenges!”

More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe, and nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris Executive MBA is ranked #1 in Europe and #3 in the world; click here to learn more.

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