Graduation day! Alumni from twelve long-running executive education programmes were awarded their well-earned diplomas with all the sparkle and ceremony you might expect. It was an enjoyable, celebratory occasion to round off their programme. And for many, it was the perfect opportunity to look back over an intensive and sometimes life-changing process.
No fewer than 242 graduates turned up to this festive event at the Vlerick campus in Brussels. Many were accompanied by their husband, wife or partner. The youngest attendee was just six weeks old, and it has to be said that amidst all the buzz and excitement, the brave newborn was surprisingly chilled out.
Vlerick’s Brussels campus is always colourful, but it was even more brightly festooned for the occasion. There were green, blue, yellow and salmon pink balloons everywhere, as well as a fine array of exquisite canapés and drinks, a cheerful band and a stylish photo booth where the alumni could immortalise their diploma presentation.
Dressed for the occasion
Several of the programmes had finished some time ago, so for many alumni the graduation event was a great opportunity to catch up with fellow students they hadn’t seen for months. It was also striking that everyone came dressed to the nines. Presumably that is a sign that alumni attach huge importance to their programmes and the attendant graduation ceremony.
The White Album
Of course, no graduation would be complete without a graduation speech. Dirk Buyens (Professor of Human Resources Management and Director of Open Executive Education) threw himself into this prestigious task with great élan. He built up his speech around six wishes based on six songs from The Beatles’ White Album. He chose songs including ‘Back in the USSR’ and ‘I’m So Tired’, with the advice to graduates to stand on the sidelines from time to time and to reflect on what they are doing. It was no coincidence that Dirk Buyens chose The White Album: the most iconic rock album of all time had celebrated its fiftieth birthday the previous day.
The final assignment
However, there was more to the evening than merely eating, drinking and listening to speeches. The graduates had one final task to perform. After Dirk Buyens’ speech, each programme group closeted themselves away in an auditorium or classroom with their programme director. One by one, the graduates stepped forward to answer the question: why do I deserve this diploma?
The responses were highly varied. Some people kept things short and to the point. Others had written a three-page speech which they delivered with great aplomb. But there were also alumni who read out a poem, gave a performance or brought along a special object to illustrate their message.
Finally there were a few alumni who had prepared something in advance, but who soon put their notes aside and started speaking off the cuff about what the programme had meant to them. They tended to talk about things beyond the pure transfer of knowledge. For example, they recalled how they had begun to wrestle with themselves as the programme progressed, questioning themselves, resolving key problems and ultimately taking new paths. This made one thing crystal clear: a long-running programme at Vlerick is not something to be taken lightly. It often acts as a catalyst to unleash things inside you that you never previously suspected were there.
Arranging to meet up
After their personal speeches, the graduates were presented with their diplomas, thus marking the official end of their programmes. The rest of the evening was a chance to catch up with each other, with the Beatles in the background. What is more, it was an opportunity to arrange to meet up with fellow alumni again later. Because one thing’s for sure: a Vlerick experience does not end on Graduation Day. Or, in the final words of Dirk Buyens’ welcome speech: I wish you lots of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’.
Graduates in the following programmes received their diplomas:
- Advanced Management Programme
- Executive Master Class in Corporate Finance
- Management Acceleration Programme: Young Managers
- Executive Master Class in Human Resource Management 2017
- Executive Master Class in Supply Chain Management 2017
- MBI Life Sciences & Health
- Executive Master Class Controllership
- Executive Development Programme
- Executive Master Class in B2B Marketing