6/23/2008 - Convocation for the Kellogg School’s Class of 2008 was a time for self-reflection, shared by faculty and students alike. Held June 21 in Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena, the celebration put an exclamation mark on the Kellogg experience for nearly 1,000 members of the school’s Full- and Part-Time MBA Programs who will now go out and put their leadership education into action.
Proud friends and family members surrounded the procession of purple gowns with congratulatory cheers from their seats. Once the arena was filled, Kellogg Senior Associate Dean Sunil Chopra began the ceremonies by welcoming attendees; then Northwestern President Henry S. Bienen praised the graduates and introduced Kellogg Dean Dipak C. Jain, whom he called “a splendid dean and great friend.”
Smiling as he took the podium, Jain said that the occasion is one that he cherishes. “Today is a day of celebration, a great day of reflection and renewal. Our enthusiasm comes from what our students have achieved so far, but also from the promise of what will be as they begin the next part of their journey,” he told the audience.
Jain challenged the graduates to turn their passion into action. “Kellogg has given you a leadership framework and the tools to do this. Now you must engage the world with new eyes to see how you can be a force for positive change.” The dean’s advice to graduates was to do so by shifting their perspectives “beyond success, beyond business and beyond the United States.” He urged the new MBAs to consider how their talents could contribute not only to their personal well-being, but also to the benefit of the larger community.
These sentiments were echoed in the Convocation address by Jeff Immelt, chief executive officer of GE.
Immelt highlighted how the graduates created a framework for learning by earning their MBAs. “Business has no shelf life,” he said, emphasizing the importance to continue to grow post-Kellogg. He shared several of the lessons he has learned from business, including the importance of relating to and respecting people. As a leader, “You have to want the best in them and get the best from them,” said Immelt, who joined GE in 1982 and was appointed president and CEO in 2002, earning high marks for his leadership from Barron’s and Financial Times, among others. He also encouraged graduates to stay on the leading edge of globalization, technology and social policy for success. Finally he said, “One thing I wish you more than anything else is failure. I don’t mean that in a bad way,” he said, “but I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from failure. It’s how you generate confidence.”
After Immelt’s speech, Clinical Professor Harry Kraemer Jr. was recognized as this year’s L.G. Lavengood Professor of the Year. Kraemer, who was president and CEO of Baxter International from 1997 to 2004, also emphasized the importance of self-reflection for the future business leaders. He did so by giving the graduates a final homework assignment: “Take the time to be truly self-reflective. Ask yourself, who am I, why am I here, what are my values, what am I most passionate about, will I find success and what it means to me, or will I let others define whether I am successful?”
Referencing Socrates, he reminded the audience that, “The unreflective life is not worth living.” Kraemer also asked graduates to find balance in their lives by spending time on what is most important to them. “My personal hope is that it includes your family, your spirituality, your health, your career, your friends and your sense of social responsibility to truly make a difference in the world.” He also challenged graduates to focus on developing a true level of self-confidence and genuine humility.
Following Kraemer’s recognition, the graduates individually received their degrees. Outgoing Kellogg Student Association President Zoravar Dhaliwal addressed the newly minted MBAs before they exited the arena. A reception in the Joseph and Carole Levy Atrium concluded the celebration.
During the ceremony, 639 members of the Kellogg Full-Time MBA Program received their degrees, joined by 338 members of the Part-Time MBA Program and 12 graduates of the doctoral program. A week earlier, the Kellogg Executive MBA Program celebrated its convocation, conferring degrees on 117 students.