Brandeis International Business School

A Reunion Weekend to remember

Alumni and friends of Brandeis International Business School celebrate 25 incredible years, toast to a bright future

Hundreds of alumni returned to campus to celebrate the school's 25th anniversary.
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Hundreds of alumni returned to campus to celebrate the school's 25th anniversary.

Michael Ramer ’88, MA ’89 was a sophomore at Brandeis University when an Economics professor handed him a blue pamphlet.

“They were talking about a master of arts in five years,” Ramer said. “I was like, ‘Wow, five years!’ And it was exactly what I was interested in.”

That brochure promoting the Lemberg Program in International Economics and Finance, forebearer to Brandeis International Business School, changed the course of Ramer’s career.

On Sept. 20-22, Ramer returned to Brandeis with his family to celebrate the International Business School’s 25th anniversary. Reunion Weekend drew more than 300 alumni and friends to Waltham along with postcard-perfect weather.

Participants engaged in expert panels, celebrated at Fenway park and listened to an in-depth discussion on monetary policy and the U.S. economic outlook with former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, recipient of the 2019 Dean’s Medal.

The event doubled as a 30th anniversary homecoming for Ramer and other members of the Lemberg Program’s inaugural graduating class. At Reunion Weekend, Ramer recalled the feeling of jumping headfirst into a new and untested graduate program.

“It’s embracing the unknown,” said Ramer, who after earning a master of arts in international economics and finance went on to found his own executive recruiting and consulting firm. “That's entrepreneurialism. That’s in my DNA — my parents were entrepreneurs, I’m an entrepreneur.”

Ready for the future

Reunion Weekend was more than just a chance to reconnect. The festivities also served as a celebration of the International Business School’s entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, and an opportunity to reflect on the school’s legacy.

“These things do not happen because of a person. They happen because of a time, because of a community, because of a university,” said Peter Petri, the school’s founding dean and a central driver in launching both the Lemberg Program and International Business School.

The school’s ambitious plans for the next 25 years were a frequent topic of discussion throughout the event. Dean Kathryn Graddy pointed to the successful launch of the Master of Science in Business Analytics program and new FinTech concentration within the Master of Science in Finance as prime examples of how the International Business School is evolving to meet emerging global challenges in a data-driven economy.

“We have an entrepreneurial faculty who sees what’s next,” said Graddy. “And we’re small enough in size where we can get together and actually do it.”

Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz noted that the school is recognized around the globe for a strong tradition of innovation that can be traced back to its earliest days.

“As we look ahead, I am confident that the International Business School will continue to be a home for innovative, forward-thinking scholarship and teaching on the pressing questions and challenges facing business, finance and economics,” said Liebowitz.

A wealth of expertise

The celebration kicked off Friday evening with a reception and alumni panel exploring the drivers and risks associated with global growth. Carol Osler, the Martin and Ahuva Gross Professor of Financial Markets and Institutions, moderated the discussion.

Saturday was the big day. After breakfast in the World Court, Graddy kicked off a dean’s panel featuring Petri, Brandeis Provost Lisa Lynch, alumna Amy Kessler ’89, MA ’90 and current student Erica Ma ’18, MSF ’20.

“As dean, I am proud to share that our school — your school — is absolutely thriving,” said Graddy. “Back in 1989, our first Lemberg Program class comprised just 12 graduates. Fast forward to 2019: We have 270 students from 32 countries starting this year in our five degree programs. And we will also graduate some 130 business majors and 40 business minors at Brandeis University.”

Four concurrent discussions followed — all featuring alumni and each touching on diverse topics including global trade, asset management and climate change. After an international lunch, more than 600 members of the Brandeis community packed Spingold Theater for the main event: a conversation between Yellen and Professor Stephen Cecchetti, the Rosen Family Chair in International Finance.

Honoring Rachel McCulloch

Yellen, currently a distinguished fellow in residence at the Brookings Institution, broke down the challenges and opportunities she sees in the current economic environment. Also at Spingold, Liebowitz formally announced the establishment of the Rachel McCulloch Endowed Scholarship in honor of the achievements and legacy of the economist and Brandeis professor who helped establish the International Business School’s PhD program in International Economics and Finance.

Yellen was a close friend of McCulloch, a trailblazing economist in her own right who was recognized worldwide for her scholarship on international trade and policy. McCulloch served Brandeis from 1987 to 2012.

“This is a fitting tribute because Rachel played a very important role in this school,” said Yellen. “Rachel was a distinguished economist who made enormous contributions to the field of international economic policy.”

After Graddy awarded Yellen with the Dean’s Medal, the International Business School’s top honor, alumni packed into Lee Hall for three faculty-led micro courses on cybersecurity, design thinking and machine learning. The busy day culminated with a 25th anniversary celebration at Fenway Park in Boston.

Reunion Weekend concluded Sunday morning with brunch at the Faculty Club, a toast to the future from Graddy and a tour of Rose Art Museum.

Alumni traveled from as far away as Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Iceland, Peru, Turkey and Uganda to attend the special event. Many have maintained their connection to the International Business School precisely because of the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation celebrated all weekend long.

“It was a leap of faith,” said Ramer of the inaugural Lemberg class. “We knew the Brandeis name, and who was steering this, and we believed. We took a leap of faith and it’s been wonderful to watch the school grow and to be a part of it all.”

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