Brandeis International Business School

Interim Dean Peter Petri's 2018 Brandeis IBS Commencement Remarks

Delivered at Brandeis University on May 13, 2018

Welcome and congratulations to the Class of 2018, as well as to their parents, friends and relatives. It is a very special day.

Let me begin with congratulations for the graduates. This is the last class, as you know, that I can say goodbye to as dean. And it is a great honor to be able to say goodbye to this class. I’ve gotten to know many of you well. We have gone through difficult days and good days. And you are wonderfully talented, dedicated, friendly, warm, and even lots of fun. We on the staff and faculty are very proud of you and look forward staying in touch.

And then congratulations, secondly, to parents, families and friends. I know this is a day that many of you have waited for. And it would not have been possible without decades of hard work, support and lots of sacrifice. I understand this as a parent, and all of us here, especially the students graduating today, are very grateful for your huge contributions.

At the dean’s reception Friday, you remember that I estimated that the Class of 2018 is worth about $250 million U.S. dollars. Now this may sound a little bit crass. But after all, I am an economist and I think in these terms. And that may seem like a lot. But think of all that has gone into this extraordinary pool of what we economists sometimes call human capital: Large investments by parent and families. Decades of very hard work by you, the graduating class. And then a lot of effort also from my colleagues at Brandeis IBS, to help you reach this state-of-the-art in your specialized fields.

So the big question is what happens to this quarter-billion dollars in human capital now, after we finish this ceremony? None of us can know the future. But I do have some very good news. And I’ll tell you why. We at Brandeis IBS are obsessed with data. And over the past 25 or 30 years or so, and especially the last two years, we’ve been collecting big data on about 3,500 of our alumni. I was involved in helping them graduate. And I’ve met many of them since. The big data in this case is not so easy to collect, because they are, as you will be, scattered all over world. I’ve met alumni in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Delhi, London, Paris and many other places. And by the way, that’s one of the nice parts of being a dean. You get to travel to all these wonderful places and meet wonderful people.

And the results are very good. The alumni I have met are warm, interesting, engaged in their lives and successful. They are very busy. Most of them are working extremely hard, but they have interesting jobs and they are satisfied by these jobs. Those who are a bit older often have a lot of responsibility. Not only at the workplace, but they are juggling families. But many also find ways to volunteer and help others alongside their professions. So I feel very good about this. The alumni from Brandeis IBS live complicated lives, but lives that seem full, generous and satisfying.

I say this because I know that days like this, although lots of fun, are stressful. Many of you have not quite figured out where your career will lead you, or in some cases where in the world your career will lead you. But if we look into the future, the path before you is encouraging. Today you are joining a worldwide alumni network. You now have the tools, like other graduates before you, to pursue what really matters in life: helping others and enjoying what you do. So as your journey as students comes to an end, we’re confident the next stage of your Brandeis experience will be filled with meaningful work and success.

So I’d like to close with a few stories from our alumni community.

First, on three different occasions this semester, in San Francisco, Boston and New York, we hosted more than 100 alumni for events on a variety of interesting subjects, including innovation and real estate. All of these events were led by alumni who are now senior leaders in their fields. They are not always Brandeis IBS alumni, but Brandeis alumni, our larger community. That’s because Brandeis IBS is becoming a center that draws people together from across the Brandeis community.

Second, in China, specifically Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, a large new Brandeis alumni club is forming. There are significant groups of very interested and very engaged alumni in each of these cities. And they now have joint leadership in Beijing, which will help them coordinate across the country. Students and faculty will leave for China tomorrow on the Hassenfeld trek, which some of you may be participating in. And some of the faculty, including Dean Katy Graddy, will go on to other cities to attend big receptions. Those receptions look like they will have at least 100 people in each city. So when you go out there, you are going out there to a community that will welcome you and that will give you many opportunities to continue building a powerful network.

Third, in the fall of 2019, we’ll have a 25th anniversary reunion of the Brandeis International Business School. It will be a big deal. It will be here, it will be a lot of fun, and we hope to see you. So we’ll be in touch with you often, by email, by WeChat and who knows what else, but it will be a way to celebrate this tremendous community.

So as you leave Brandeis today, you will be welcomed tomorrow as a Brandeis alum — a Brandeis that is poised to take over the world.