The class of 2021 will likely go down in history as some of the most resilient students the Rotman School of Management has seen yet. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, these intrepid students have persisted. On top of completing the coursework for their degrees, they’ve supported their fellow classmates, given back to their communities and made the most of their business school experience.
Today, the Rotman School celebrates the 481 students from the Full-Time MBA, Morning and Evening MBA, Executive MBA, Master of Finance and PhD programs and honorary degree recipient and long-time Rotman supporter, Donald Guloien (BCom ’80), who were officially granted their degrees earlier today, June 23rd.
Celebrations kicked off at 11:40 a.m., with a live address from Interim Dean Kenneth S. Corts, and a keynote address from alumna Joanna Rotenberg (JD/MBA ’01), group head, BMO Wealth Management.
In his address, Corts praised the graduating students for the compassion and leadership they demonstrated this past year.
“There are so many examples of you and your classmates reaching out to volunteer at clinics, working with faculty to model data, helping organizations transition their business models or simply offering a friendly voice of support to a classmate or friend — that is community,” says Corts. “It is also the essence of true leadership.”
From there, graduating students, friends, family and Rotman staff and faculty joined program-specific watch parties to cheer on graduates as their names appeared onscreen during the virtual convocation ceremony where they were officially conferred their University of Toronto degree.
Celebrations for this long-anticipated day began weeks ago, as program services offices across Rotman organized virtual celebrations where graduating students experimented in the kitchen with a group cooking lesson, were entertained by a mentalist or treated to live music performances. As well, students eagerly elected program valedictorians, who took time to reflect on the past year and the experiences that shaped their Rotman education.
Though most celebrations were virtual, today’s graduates knew they were never alone. Alumni from previous Rotman classes and faculty members came forward to share notes of inspiration and congratulations. A few new grads took to social media to share their #ProudRotmanGrad selfies and to connect with fellow new grads.
It comes as no surprise that these students have maintained their energy and enthusiasm during this year’s spring convocation celebrations. They have proven that they can adapt quickly and make the most of the learning opportunities presented during a crisis.
For instance, a select number of students, like Elsa Abi-Khalil (Full-Time MBA ’21), jumped at the chance to work with the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Recovery program when it launched in April 2020.
Photo of Elsa Abi-Khalil (Full-Time MBA ’21)
She and others worked with emerging startups to rapidly transform their scientific innovations into products and services that address public health and economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At Rotman, I wanted to be remembered as a classmate who offers different perspectives and encourages innovation in business problem solving,” says Abi-Khalil. “CDL Recovery offered me exposure to early market innovations and allowed me to harness my professional brand. It is a one-of-a-kind program, and it is no coincidence that my CDL classmates and I have stayed connected to the CDL startups after the MBA.”
The students from the class of 2021 should also be commended for their compassion. Many stepped up to support their classmates and maintain a sense of connection during a difficult time, when many felt isolated from their loved ones abroad.
Students like Yanpu Liu (MFin ’21), who was an MFin 2021 class representative, worked hard to maintain a sense of community with fellow classmates throughout the 2020-21 academic year.
Photo of Yanpu Liu (MFin ’21)
This past year, he and his classmates participated in online social events and stayed connected through group chats and texts.
“When a classmate asks a question, there is always someone willing to help and provide an answer,” he says.
Those connections have been critical.
“A channel of open communication — which allows us to reconnect and relieve stress during this challenging situation — is more important than ever,” he says
Impressively, many graduating Rotman students spent the past year balancing school, work, childcare and other life priorities from home. Still many students, like Yashaswi Vemuganti (Morning MBA ’21), saw this time as an opportunity to make the most of their business school experience. In his final year at Rotman, Vemuganti stayed active in the Business Analytics Club, Business Design Club and the Rotman Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Association. As well, he competed in a number of case competitions and organized coffee chats to learn about industries outside of his expertise.
Photo of Yashaswi Vemuganti (Morning MBA ’21)
He’s leaving the Rotman School ready to take on new challenges and opportunities.
“I can say this for sure: every single student graduating from an MBA program at Rotman has undergone a transformation,” he says. “We now have clarity on what we want to do, our skills and our interests. We’re equipped to be the best leaders we can be.”
The Rotman School of Management congratulates all students who graduated from their Rotman programs in June 2021, including:
277 Full-Time MBA graduates
108 Morning and Evening MBA graduates
51 Executive MBA graduates
41 Master of Finance graduates
4 PhD program graduates
610 Rotman Commerce graduates