At MBA convocation, reflection on a transformative two years

Published: June 7, 2013

Graduates celebrate at the June 6 convocation ceremonyGraduates celebrate at the June 6 convocation ceremony

Friends and family applauded members of the MBA and Leaders for Global Operations Class of 2013 as they gathered together to celebrate the completion of their MIT degrees at the fifth annual Convocation held Thursday, June 6, 2013, at the Citi Performing Arts Center, Wang Theatre in Boston.

Convocation celebrates the achievements of the class while also welcoming students to the MIT alumni community. This year’s ceremony included speeches by Associate Dean Jacob Cohen, David Schmittlein, John C Head III Dean, student speaker Puneet (Rikhi) Jain, MBA ’13, and distinguished alumna speaker Marjorie Yang, chairman of Esquel Group, a leading Hong Kong-based textile and apparel manufacturer. Esquel produces 100 million cotton shirts each year, for some of the world’s best known brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Brooks Brothers, and Nordstrom. Yang earned an SB in mathematics from MIT in 1974 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1976.

Maura Herson, director of the MBA Program, welcomed faculty, staff, and students’ families—many of whom traveled across the globe to see their children graduate—to the ceremony.

“The purpose of this ceremony is to bring you together for the very last time as student members of the Class of 2013. We invite you to reflect on how these two years has transformed each of you in different ways, preparing you for the inevitable challenges of innovative, principled leadership,” Herson said. “The relationships you’ve formed with each other and with the greater MIT Sloan community will support you in these endeavors for the rest of your life.”

Herson then invited student speaker Rikhi Jain to the podium to address the audience.

“I came to Sloan to meet you—my classmates,” Jain said. “To learn with and from you. As we leave E52, in this ever-growing borderless world, it will be absolutely vital for us to remember that fundamental level of respect—how critical it is to honor everyone’s culture—as our professional lives, and personal, will inevitably be intertwined.”

He added, “We as MBAs, specifically Sloanies, have much to give. We have an amazing ability to analyze, strategize, and have even a more powerful ability to humanize. I’m not being extremely scientific when I say look at the companies that don’t have an MBA CEO. Evidence will show an MBA is still extremely valuable. But the difference now, as opposed to previous MBA classes, is now more than ever we need prove our worth.”

Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Master’s Programs Jacob Cohen briefly addressed the Class of 2013, and offered thoughts from MIT Sloan staff and faculty members.

“The staff and faculty have the privilege of watching your evolution into principled leaders. Interacting with you, to provide you with the knowledge, the infrastructure, and sometimes even the freedom to imagine and reach ambitious goals,” Cohen said. “This is a note from long time staff member, ‘I love the fact that although I live in Massachusetts, my life is truly international because of our students. I learn something new every day without even trying.’”

Dean David Schmittlein also addressed the graduating class. “You’ve seen a lot of change in the world during the last two years and you’ve experienced a great deal of change, personally, here at MIT Sloan,” Schmittlein said. “You are armed with analytical tools, leadership skills, and the support of a global network of over 125,000 MIT and MIT Sloan alums. I’m confident that you will achieve professional success, but the world will need more than that from you. I wish you lives of purpose and meaning.”

“Many of you have heard me talk about MIT Sloan alumni as people who have the courage of well-founded convictions. The world needs those people. Today, you’re ready to join those people,” Schmittlein said. “You’re ready to be those people. You are MIT Sloan. I feel confident about this School’s future and I feel just a bit more optimistic about our world.”

Dean Schmittlein then introduced distinguished alumna speaker, Marjorie Yang.

“Marjorie’s influence has been felt at MIT. She’s an active member of the MIT Corporation, Counsel to the Chair for the Asian Executive Board at MIT Sloan, a member of the Mathematics Visiting Committee, and Chair of the Architecture Visiting Committee. She’s considered to be among our most influential alumni in Asia,” Schmittlein noted. “In September 2011, Marjorie was awarded with the Bronze Beaver, the highest honor the MIT Alumni Association can bestow upon any alumni volunteer.”

“I wish to take this opportunity to share some of my life experiences with you,” Yang began. “The MIT-China connection dates back to more than 100 years ago,” Yang said. “In 1914, the first group of 17 Chinese students was awarded degrees from MIT. Countless Chinese and students from around the world have passed through the halls of MIT and MIT Sloan. Whether choosing to stay in the U.S. or return home, they’re providing leadership and innovative solutions to problems stemmed from society, the country, and even the world. Their dedication to better humankind inspires me.”

“I came to MIT because of its reputation. To say MIT is well regarded in China is a severe understatement,” she said. “MIT and MIT Sloan truly impart in students the spirit of innovation. As an MIT graduate, I felt that I had the confidence and value to apply all I learned to make a difference. I owe a lot to MIT. It’s now my turn to contribute and give back.”

“You are trained to weave technology and science into society to solve problems,” Yang said. “Be passionate about what you do … imagine what could become even better. Apply smart business theories to a make a difference. We can do so much good to benefit society.”

Dean Schmittlein then presented Yang with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Leadership. Next, class gift co-chairs Lindsay Wilber and Hannah Steiman, both members of the MBA Class of 2013, presented an electronic check for $182,931 to Dean Schmittlein.

Lastly, Schmittlein congratulated the graduating class. “We will share your achievements with great joy. We don’t say goodbye then, but, best wishes, Class of 2013,” he said.