Opening of Academic year at MSM: Grooming students for leadership


The large auditorium at Maastricht School of Management was fully packed for the opening ceremony of the new academic year on Monday, 1 October 2018.

“Today we are very pleased to welcome 29 students from 20 different countries for our 35th full-time residential MBA program, 30 students from 10 countries for the sixth intake of our Master in Management program, 109 students from the M.Sc. in Management and Engineering program in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University and 20 participants from our part-time MBA program MSM-CENTRUM in Peru who are currently at MSM for their study attachment abroad,” said Director of Education Mr. Dave Cass as he greeted the new cohorts.

“It is good to see so many students in so many programs,” agreed Dean a.i. Ms. Kati Kovacs, smiling at the audience. She encouraged the students to study hard and to withstand the pressure-cooker feeling that they were likely to experience in the coming months, assuring them that “a few years from now, you will appreciate even more the time spent at MSM.” Ms. Kovacs had also prepared a piece of advice for them, inspired by the Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge who recently smashed the marathon world record in Berlin: “Don’t chase after too many rabbits, but rather concentrate on one goal that matters to you and that you want to achieve.”

The practical tips that came next from the two fresh MBA and MM graduates Juan-Carlos Moreno (MM5) and Lawin Ileto (MBA34) focused more on life in Maastricht and caused for much laughter: “Get used to the crazy, unpredictable weather, enjoy the parks of Maastricht, travel as much as you can because you are at the heart of Europe, and get yourself a bicycle because that will already solve half of your problems.” They also gave valuable study-related recommendations: “Don’t procrastinate, work on your teamwork skills, your presentation skills and your time management skills, and start preparing your thesis early. Ask your fellow students and your supervisors for their opinions and perspectives: you will learn a lot from them. Try to go to activities outside of MSM and to learn Dutch, because this will help you to look for jobs later.” But most of all, they advised the new students not to forget to also “take time to think.”

“I am happy to see that MSM’s curriculum is aligned with what the job market is looking for right now,” said Mr. Henri Blaffart in his keynote speech. The former Executive Vice President and Head of Human Resources and Corporate Services of ArcelorMittal shared his view on the expectations of employers from new hires based on his life-long experience. “In the current context of rapid change, political instability, globalisation, digital transformation and environmental challenges at planetary level, you need to acquire and master skills that go beyond your academic competencies. You will be asked to have the characteristics that will help companies to be successful and sustainable in the future.”

“Most companies do not have it in their DNA to adapt to the new context,” he continued. “Your challenge will be to bring and explain new views in a way that you will be listened to and understood. Nowadays, anyone can have access to information, but the key is to know how to analyse and interpret this information,” he explained.

Mr. Blaffart stressed the importance of being pro-active and developing an entrepreneurial approach to challenges, and encouraged the students to take advantage of studying in an international school such as MSM to increase their cultural awareness: “A ‘yes’ doesn’t mean ‘yes’ for everybody. You will find out that sometimes, a ‘yes’ only means ‘I’ll think about it’. A ‘Yes’ can even mean ‘I will not do it’.”

Concluding his speech, Mr. Blaffart said that in his view, the winning strategy was to develop the capacity to take distance from events and to stay true to one’s strengths. “And most of all,” he smiled, “try to keep a healthy work-life by having fun, both in your studies and in your future work.”

During the lunch that followed, students and staff members mingled together in the restaurant and in the business lounge and looked ahead on the year to come. At one of the tables, a group of MBA students from Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa shared their plans: “I want to meet new people, I want to learn about Dutch culture and the Dutch language, I want to buy a bike and learn to cycle again, I look forward to travelling throughout Europe, I am eager to visit Dutch companies and to learn the secret of Dutch efficiency!”

In the next two weeks, the residential MBA and MM programs will follow an introduction program consisting of various workshops on topics such as Critical Thinking, Presentation Skills, Dutch culture and language, and in outdoor activities such as a city walk in Maastricht and a Teambuilding Day in the nearby village of Bunde.

The academic program for the MBA and MM students will start on October 16th with a course on Managing Cultural Diversity. The M.Sc. in Management and Engineering students already started on the 1st of October with their classes on International Business. And the MSM-CENTRUM MBA students started with classes on Marketing in a Global Context.

We wish all our new students a successful year at MSM and in Maastricht!

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