Rotman School of Management Valedictorian Address
Morning MBA Class of 2011 by Jaime Stein
It takes an extraordinary person to commit to a program that requires you to be in class by 7 o’clock in the morning. Strangely, many of us were not morning people prior to attending Rotman. Instead, we were driven into the morning program as a result of family or job commitments. But I’m sure many of us would not choose an alternate path if presented with the same option.
In fact, the past three years have taught us a valuable lesson on how to balance priorities and gain the most out of life.
I would like to travel back to august of 2008 when we spent the afternoon running around the ROM competing in teams to solve problems. We were vulnerable and shy – except for the group labelled ‘orange’ by the colour personality test. But we worked together and it became clear from day one that we would be a part of something special.
Our class bonded quickly and we soon came to recognize that this was not your typical Type-A, win-at-all-costs group of MBA students.
I come from the world of sports where leadership, loyalty, teamwork and integrity are paramount. And when you encounter someone from this class you quickly discover that each and every one of my classmates possesses these values. Our class refused to let anyone fall behind and when someone did struggle, we picked them up off the floor like a good teammate would on the field or court. It was this attitude that created the foundation for a series of lifelong friendships.
The greatest part of the past three years may have been what transpired outside the classroom. From exchanging financial management advice for babies with Louise and Deepta… Political discussions at the pub with Richard… Energy saving tips from Harneet… Or sharing a love of fine coffee with Andres… We were always learning from each other.
And why not?
This is a group with remarkable backgrounds from engineering to finance to law to physical therapy. From environmental science to political science. The military. Biology and physics.
We have covered the globe with our travels and possess a unique worldview.
This is a group that has been there, done that. And has the battle scars to prove it.
Despite the rumours that three-year students don’t frequent venues like Cheval, we tore the roof off Levack block during 90s night and managed to rack up a four-figure bill at The Madison. Which I had to cover because the PSO’s credit card didn’t work! Thanks Dana!
Allow me to add that some of the last people standing at grad ball were the students with kids – nothing beats exploiting your parents as babysitters for an extra hour, even if the coach has turned back into a pumpkin and the glass slipper no longer fits.
Over the past three years we have endured long nights and early mornings. And early mornings following long nights fueled by copious amounts of second cup coffee.
Not to mention the crazy commutes by people like tony from Ancaster or Chinkal to Charlotte, North Carolina multiple times per week. But the real story here – the “so what” as Asher Drory likes to say – is the ROI from our time at Rotman.
But I’m not talking financial ROI. I’m talking about our investment into reversing Canada’s declining population.
Despite all the added pressure of pursuing an MBA, I’m proud to declare that the morning class of 2011 has invested in people – to the tune of more than a dozen babies born since we entered the program in august 2008. Including both Vince and Nick who managed to overcome the pressure twice!
For those counting, that’s an infinite return on investment if you ask any smiling, sleep deprived new parent still trying to deal with the challenges of a morning MBA program in addition to a full-time job!!
In fact, our class had so many babies that we were often mistaken for a new division within the PSO!
While we have each achieved our individual goal here today, it would not have been possible without the support of our families.
On behalf of my classmates, thank you to our husbands, our wives, our children and other family members who put up with our absence for the past three years. You were our support system. You gave us strength to achieve our goal.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the entire Rotman community including the PSO, IPSO, CCC and other staff who enabled us to succeed. You nurtured us. Guided us. Helped us. Greeted us with smiles at 6:30 in the morning. And sent us a lot of informative e-mails… For this we are thankful – but not for the e-mail!
To our professors – you are world class. You deserve enormous credit for making us the people we are today.
You have told us that the highest compliment we can pay you is an e-mail or phone call down the road to say thanks and refer back to a piece of learning from today. I have no doubt your phones will ring and your blackberries will buzz with tales of triumph and stories of success from the seeds you planted today.
So even though you gave us “B’s” when we deserved “A’s”. And the odd “A” when we probably deserved a “B”; you supported us in every way possible. Thank you.
To Rick Powers and to Jim Fisher. You welcomed us into the program on our first day at Rotman. Your effervescent personalities and attention to people will not be forgotten. Rick was the father of our program and we are proud to be the second ever morning class to graduate from the Rotman School of Management.
And finally, thank you to our dean, Roger Martin. Your guidance and leadership has established the Rotman School of Management among the greatest business schools in the world. You have inspired a new generation of leaders – a generation that understands the importance of putting the needs of others first.
When I received my acceptance into Rotman in the spring of 2008, I thought I was the smartest person in the room. And now, as we leave here three years later, I realize that there are 300 people who are smarter than me. And that’s just in this room.
One of the great lessons we take away from our program is humility. Be humble!
Too often we read stories of business people gone bad. The Enron’s. The Worldcom’s. And the Madoff’s of the world. What you don’t often hear about are the stories of business people who’ve done good. Which is why I would like to highlight some of the causes that gained from the selflessness of my classmates:
1. Canadian blood services
2. Room to read
3. Water projects for developing countries
4. Becel ride for heart
5. The united way
…just to name a few.
These initiatives benefited because we at Rotman constantly strive to make the world a better place. We will leave our mark on this world.
But the world is changing. And if we learned one thing here at Rotman it is that we can also change. We can adapt to new ways of thinking. New teams. New ideas. New mental models. And that is something we can take with us into the workplace and help transform business in this ever-changing ecosystem in which we now operate.
When we leave here today we won’t just be leaving with three new letters behind our name. We will be leaving with an obligation. An obligation to represent Rotman in everything that we do. An obligation to be ethical – because we now represent thousands of people who came before us and the thousands more who will surely follow. The strength of our degree is what we make of it. Our future is in our own hands.
When I started my undergraduate program I was told: “Look to your left, look to your right — one of you won’t be here next year.”
Instead, as I look out here today upon a magnificent group of people I can’t help but smile at what is to come.
Leaving this institution will be hard. Especially for Mihnea who turned the fish bowl into his office. But what I will miss most are the people.
Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it is gone – and as the weeks have passed since our final classes you begin to understand why our time here at Rotman was truly special.
While this is an emotional time, I would like to draw upon the words of the great statesman Sir Winston Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
It is the beginning of the next chapter in our lives and a chance for some of us to start fresh. A chance for others to use these new skills to continue their rise to the top.
This is a room of strong individuals who will no doubt go on to accomplish amazing things. But we are strong because of each other and we are stronger together. We must go forth into the world and support each other and support our school and continue to strive for greatness.
As the good doctor, Dr. Seuss once said: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.”
We may cross the stage this afternoon as individuals, but we graduate today as one. As the Rotman School of Management’s class of 2011.