Brandeis International Business School

Class of 2020 honored at virtual celebration

‘It will be your world’ — Brandeis International Business School graduates charged with embracing change, giving back amid turmoil

More than 270 students graduated in 2020 amid unprecedented circumstances.

More than 270 students graduated in 2020 amid unprecedented circumstances.

“The only constant in life is change.”
Ebube Iheme, MA ’20, shared that ancient but ever-relevant insight with his classmates on Wednesday, May 27, as the Brandeis International Business School Class of 2020 was honored during a virtual graduation celebration held amid unprecedented circumstances. 
The Class of 2020, unique in so many ways, will be remembered not just for the pandemic that upended their lives during their last semester together, but more for how they persevered through it all to achieve personal goals, strengthen their bonds with one another and embrace the Brandeisian spirit of repairing the world.
“In the midst of uncertainty, we have seen selfless and difficult acts of service from people and organizations across the world that have saved lives, slowed the spread of the disease and significantly reduced societal costs,” said Iheme during his address to graduates. “To our class, these actions should remind and encourage us that we too can rise to the challenge during this time. Because navigating change is something most of us are already familiar with.”
Wearing her full regalia, Dean Kathryn Graddy kicked off the celebration by lauding the Class of 2020 for their resilience. After having been “tested like no other class in modern history,” Graddy told the graduates they are leaving the International Business School with the knowledge, skills and experience they need to build successful careers.

Graddy also urged graduates to identify opportunities in the current crisis. 

“In the face of this pandemic and the danger it presented, we all found new opportunities to come together, innovate and adapt,” said Graddy. “I am so proud of how you all stepped up to keep each other safe, engaged and moving toward your goals. Your acts of kindness, generosity and ingenuity bring me enormous pride.”
Alan Hassenfeld, co-chair of the International Business School’s Board of Advisors and the retired chairman and CEO of the global toy company Hasbro, charged the graduates with the task of improving a rapidly changing world.
“Today we are faced with uncharted waters and the unknown,” said Hassenfeld. “We must be the catalyst for thoughtful change in all things. What will the new norms be? You, not I, will be the ones to create these new norms. It will be your world.”

Hassenfeld — the recipient of the 2020 Dean’s Medal, the International Business School’s highest honor — also touched on the importance of giving back.

“Realize that anyone wanting to be a part of the 21st century must understand and link personal and business success with social responsibility,” said Hassenfeld. “We can never truly enrich ourselves unless we first enrich others. What will you give to the world? What will your service be?”

Altogether, the Class of 2020 comprises 274 graduates — including the first full graduating class from the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program.

Several stand-out graduates were honored during the virtual celebration, including Community Awards winners Morris Nadjar, MA ’20; Tal Richtman, MA ’20; Elidaurys Martinez Catano, MA ’20; and Paavna Suresh, MBA ’20.

Jiawei Zhang, MA ’20 and Keyu Jin, MA ’20 earned the Master of Arts in International Economics and Finance (MA) Program Award for Academic Excellence, while Federico Lederman, MBA ’20 and Yang Zhang, MBA ’20 received the Master of Business Administration (MBA) Program Prize for Excellence in Business Leadership.

For Iheme, the student speaker, the Class of 2020’s ability to embrace change is a collective strength that helped graduates navigate a semester like no other.

“To the Class of 2020 — congratulations on all your hard work and many achievements!” said Iheme. “It has been my honor to learn, struggle, laugh, fail, triumph and journey with you during these past two years. You all are an inspiration and I expect nothing but the best from you as we embark on this next phase of life.”

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