Previous Messages from the Rector

November, 2014

This year marks that 20 years have passed since the first class of SSE Riga students entered through the doors of Strelnieku iela 4a.

Even though 20 years might not be perceived as very much of an age for an academic institution, there are ways other than years to measure the impact of an academic institution. With this year’s graduation close to 2 000 students have left SSE Riga with a diploma in their hand. In total they have worked around 20 000 years since graduation. They can be seen everywhere in the society – in the private and public sectors, in NGOs, as start-ups, in politics…

All of them having a unique story to tell – 2 000 unique stories, but with a couple of things in common: the SSE Riga experience, and the friendships and networks developed while being SSE Riga students. Friendships that still last although quite a number of years might have passed since graduation. Looking at Facebook, the SSE Riga Alumni community has more than 100 000 ‘intra community’ links. Links connecting SSE Alumni across generations and nationalities, links strengthening old friendships and developing new ones, links used professionally…

These are just a few examples of how SSE Riga has had an impact worthy considerbly older as well as bigger academic institutions. To learn more about the difference SSE Riga has made to its alumni as well as to the communities in which they are active, we have recently launched an alumni survey, the SSE Riga Impact Study. While being of interest as such for the School and the Alumni community, the project also has a clear scientific purpose. Led by SSE Riga faculty member Zane Cunska and myself, the project aims at getting an understanding of how the friendships and networks established during studies continue to develop after graduation. SSE Riga with its relatively small number of graduates provides a unique opportunity to address these questions. It is therefore our hope that you, our alumni, will participate in the survey and devote the 15-20 minutes it takes to fill it out. By doing so, you will help us in getting a better understanding of what the SSE Riga education means in terms of impact in a sense that goes far beyond the careers pursued by our Alumni.

The first findings from the Impact Study are presented in Home Coming issue of the Insider and there will be more to come during this year’s Home Coming weekend - a HoCo that will be different in several ways. On Friday November 7, your Alma Mater will host an Open Doors evening starting late afternoon. As the caring Alma Mater she is, she will feed you intellectually, spiritually and physically. To celebrate her 20th birthday she will even dress up in a way you have not seen her before…

On Saturday November 8, the activities move outside the School. The evening starts with the traditional SSE Riga Choir Concert followed by the equally traditional HoCo Party. This year’s party, hosted by the SSE Riga Alumni Association, will take place in the Palladium and continue until long after Saturday has turned into Sunday…

On behalf of your Alma Mater and her faculty and staff I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to the 20th Anniversary Home Coming weekend >>>

And no matter how convenient social media is, nothing beats meeting face-to-face. We are all looking forward to seeing you on November 7 and November 8!

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga

June 7, 2014
SSE Riga Graduation Ceremony 2014

Graduates, honoured guests,

Welcome to the 2014 SSE Riga Graduation Ceremony – it is a pleasure seeing you all here today. According to tradition I first turn to you in the audience recognizing that this is as much a moment of joy for you as for the graduates on stage. I would like to thank you for sharing your loved ones with us during their years of studies. So the diplomas to be handed out today are also your diplomas, manifesting the support you have given to the ones on stage today. Thank you very much!

Now let me turn to the graduating classes. 2014 is a special year, not only because you are graduating, but also because it has been 20 years since SSE Riga started. From an SSE Riga perspective it is a special year since we have the most diverse graduating class ever in terms of nationalities. If we leave SSE Riga and adopt a macro perspective, this is the year when we commemorate the centenary of the First World War. A war that continued to cast its shadows over Europe until 25 years ago, when in November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell.

Now you might think that this speech might be about how happy you should be that you were not born in the generation of your parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents. And that you should appreciate the opportunities given to you that they never had.

I will not do it the easy way. Instead I will give you another number in addition to the 20, 25 and 100 just mentioned. I will give you 90. I guess many of you, when hearing 90, started to think about what happened 90 years ago, in 1924. I can tell you, I have no idea, because 90 is not about years, it is about weight. We are talking about 90 grams – 90 grams of paper. That is the weight of the documents you are just about to receive, documenting the knowledge gained at SSE Riga.

90 grams is not very much; you hardly notice it if you have it in your pocket or purse. It seems that there is some truth to the Swedish proverb or saying “Kunskapens börda är lätt att bära”, which translated into English sounds something like “Carrying the burden of knowledge is easy”.

However, the saying is as wrong as I am Swedish. I am afraid I have to tell you that these 90 grams will be the heaviest papers you will ever receive. You might think this is because of the quality of your education, the SSE Riga brand name, etc., that adds weight to your diploma. No, this is not the case.

What adds weight to the diploma is the knowledge that makes it possible to distinguish right from wrong, the knowledge that urges you to act and the knowledge that gives you the potential to make a difference.

I am sorry to tell you that the diploma you are about to receive will not make your life easier. On the contrary! It will make your life so much harder. Ignorance will no longer be an option. With knowledge you cannot say: “So what – I do not care!”

Not to scare you too much when it comes to the diplomas you are about to receive; the good news is, the knowledge will make your life so much more interesting and will provide you with ample opportunities to make a difference.

Despite what I said earlier, I would like to go back to one of the years mentioned earlier in this speech – to events that made it possible for us to be here today to celebrate graduation. What I have in mind are of course the remarkable events that late evening on November 8, 1989, on Bornholmer Strasse in Berlin, where the Berlin Wall opened thanks to a few people who used their knowledge and made the right choice. A choice that still – 25 years later – has an impact on all of us.

As for your new life as SSE Riga graduates, I cannot promise that you will be able to make decisions with an impact as overwhelming as the ones made in Berlin that evening 25 years ago. I can, however, assure you that you will meet your own Berlin Walls – not only one of them, but many – in the years to come. It will be up to you and your knowledge that comes with the SSE Riga diploma to take them down.

On behalf of the SSE Riga staff and faculty I wish you the best of luck, and let the heavy burden carrying the knowledge that comes with the diploma be a burden that you carry with joy!

Thank you!

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga

Bachelor graduation ceremony pictures are available here >
EMBA graduation ceremony pictures are available here >

November, 2013
SSE Riga Homecoming

Autumn is the spring of the academic year – the season when we all are full of energy and ready to start a new intellectual growing season. Autumn 2013 is no exception. In late August new and ‘old’ students entered the doors of SSE Riga full of energy and ready to let their talents grow. The incoming class of B.Sc. students was the most international one ever with students from eight different countries including China.

This autumn we also welcomed two graduates, Anete Pajuste and Rudolfs Bems, back to their Alma Mater. In 1997 they left SSE Riga with B.Sc. diplomas in their hands and now they are back as SSE Riga professors loaded with academic and professional experience. The School’s permanent faculty increased even further with the recruitment of two more professors: Elina Banzina and Zane Cunska. Furthermore, Nellija Titova joined as Director of the EMBA and Executive Education programmes. Students and new colleagues alike – welcome! We are looking forward to growing together with you!

Another source of growth is the energy and inspiration we get from our Alumni. Every year we see growing support from our Alumni. It starts with the annual Alumni fundraising campaign in early autumn – and this year reached a record high again, making our Alumni some of the most generous in the world! Then the Alumni support continues throughout the academic year with Alumni involved in the School’s activities on a more or less daily basis. Thanks to all of you for contributing to the growth of SSE Riga by donating your time, money and knowledge!

Not only do students grow during the academic year, so does the School. Recent years have seen a considerable expansion in terms of activities at SSE Riga. What back in 1994 seemed like a very large building that needed to be filled with content is now a building almost exploding with activities. To start your own intellectual growing season, I welcome you all to come and foster your talent at the many open activities at SSE Riga!

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga

June 2013
Rector’s Graduation Ceremony Message

Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the 2013 SSE Riga Graduation Ceremony!

As tradition bids, I will first turn my back to the graduating classes of 2013 and turn to you, parents, family, and loved ones of the graduates, to thank you for sharing the graduating class with us. I know that we have been demanding and that we have probably requested too much of their time, but we are now happy to return them to you with a diploma in their hands. So thank you for sharing them with us!

Now let me turn to the graduates: I do not know about you, but maybe you are like me when I was sitting there a number of years ago waiting for my diploma – there were two thoughts coming to my mind:

  • Why am I here?
  • What am I expected to do next?

To help you answer these questions, I will reflect upon the fact that 2013 is a very special year in SSE Riga history – of course because you are graduating this year, but also because it marks the first of SSE Riga’s 20thAnniversaries. You might, looking at the School’s flag over there, ask: “Isn’t 1994 the year when it all started?” Yes it is, but 1993 is also a significant year – it is the year when on June 30th, the agreement on the establishment of SSE Riga was signed between the Republic of Latvia and the Stockholm School of Economics. Signing on behalf of the Republic of Latvia was Andris Piebalgs, by then the Minister of Education and Science and today the Latvian EU Commissioner, and on behalf of the Stockholm School of Economics, its President, the late Staffan Burenstam Linder.

In fact the history of SSE Riga started a few years earlier still – in the early 1990s – when a group of SSE Stockholm students and alumni came up with the idea that SSE Stockholm should admit a number of young Baltic students and educate them in business and economics, which they did and which later developed into SSE Riga.

So, when it comes to the first question, you are actually here today not only because in the admissions interview you managed to convince us that you wanted to study business and economics, or because you passed your exams or you completed your bachelor’s thesis or EMBA diploma project; there would not have been any interviews, tests or papers to be written had it not been for a number of people your age making a difference by coming up with the idea to educate students from the Baltic countries. So thanks to these SSE students and alumni you are here today!

To find the answer to the second question, “What am I expected to do next?”, I would like to go back to that day in June 1993 again. What was on the minds of the people signing the agreement on SSE Riga twenty years ago? What did they expect the School to achieve?

Here I would like to use the words of one of the signatories, the late Staffan Burenstam Linder, who a few weeks before his death wrote: “The Stockholm School of Economics in Riga is one of my attempts to defend freedom and to give youth an opportunity to do something for the benefit of us all.”

The conclusion is clear: even if the diplomas you are about to receive come with your name on them, they are not only for you and your own benefit. They are about much more. They are there for the rest of society as well and come with the responsibility “to defend freedom and to do something for the benefit of us all”.

You might say that this sounds very ambitious – but then look at your diploma and let it inspire you. It is there because a few young people your age had a clear idea about how to make a difference by planting the seed that eventually became SSE Riga. If they could do it, so can you. The diploma that you are about to receive confirms that you are ready to take on the challenge.

So on behalf of SSE Riga, its faculty and staff, I would like to wish you good luck in your efforts in defending freedom and in doing something for the benefit of us all!

Thank you!

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga

Bachelor graduation ceremony pictures are available here >
EMBA graduation ceremony pictures are available here >

November 2012
Rector's Homecoming Message

Welcome to the 2012 Homecoming and the 18th Anniversary of SSE Riga! This year has seen remarkable development in terms of alumni donations – both in terms of alumni participation and money raised. In fact, the SSE Riga alumni are, per capita, among the most active and generous in the world. For SSE Riga, this goes far beyond the funds raised – which are highly appreciated. It shows a strong committment to the SSE Riga community even after graduation, as well as willingness, through scholarships raised, to open up the SSE Riga experience to new generations of talented students. Furthermore, for any academic institution (and SSE Riga is not an exception) alumni participation and donations are viewed as a barometer of alumni satisfaction. Hence, for SSE Riga, the alumni commitment is good feedback which will spur us to further enhance the SSE Riga experience.

Furthermore, the high level of alumni participation also sends a strong signal to our benefactors that the education from SSE Riga is highly valued and worth supporting. In terms of corporate donations, the highlight of the year was when we, together with representatives from Nordea, SEB, and Swedbank, unveiled the ‘Key to Success’ glass sculpture in the SSE Riga courtyard. The sculpture celebrates the generosity of the three banks and their commitment to education, and hence to the social and economic development of the Baltic states. Through the generosity of the three banks, students from the three Baltic states will receive a tuition fee waiver, which essentially will open up the SSE Riga BSc programme to any qualified candidate irrespective of socio-economic background. This will undoubtedly benefit the individual students but also, and more importantly, will benefit the Baltic states.

Through the generosity of the banks, in combination with the Swedish Government Scholarship Programme open to students from Belarus, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, SSE Riga has developed into a regional educational ‘hub’ – and as such it will build alumni networks across borders and foster regional integration for the benefit of us all.

The past year has seen management changes at the Stockholm School of Economics (in Stockholm). A new management team, led by the recently appointed President, Professor Rolf Wolff took over this summer. On behalf of SSE Riga I would like to wish them good luck in their future endeavours – we are looking forward to welcoming them to SSE Riga! I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the previous President, Professor Lars Bergman, for his strong personal engagement and the pivotal role he played when it came to developing and implementing a long-term sustainable ownership and governance structure for SSE Riga.

On behalf of the entire SSE Riga community I would like to thank all our alumni and benefactors for their contributions during the past year and at the same time welcome you to Homecoming weekend!

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga 

June 2012
Rector’s Graduation Ceremony Message

Graduates, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the SSE Riga Graduation Ceremony of 2012!

As tradition bids, I will first turn to the audience to thank you by recognizing the hardships you have been through because of SSE Riga taking too much time away from your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, parents, spouses and loved ones. This day is also your day to celebrate!

The 2012 Graduation is a special one; we have a record number of graduates, 120 from the B.Sc. programme and 20 from the EMBA programme. In addition we do not only have two graduating classes this year – we have three. This might be somewhat of a surprise to you, but I will come back to this a bit later. But first let me turn to the B.Sc. and EMBA graduates-to-be.

I do not know about you, but to me it sometimes happens that among all the people you meet, there is a person or some people who will leave an imprint that will stay with you for the rest of your life. To me, this does not happen very often, maybe every fifth year or so. The last time this happened to me was on December 9, 2011 – exactly half a year ago!

The meeting involved a number of graduates from Strelnieku iela 4a coming to visit SSE Riga. Those of you listening carefully might ask: “Why did he say Strelnieku iela 4a (that is the street address of SSE Riga) and not simply SSE Riga?” There is one very good reason for this. You might not be aware of it, but there have been several other educational institutions located in what is now considered to be the ‘SSE Riga Building’. The gentlemen visiting us that day in December were from the Riga Industrial Polytechnicum. They started their studies in 1951; hence, they came back to their ‘old school’ to celebrate 60 years since matriculation and also 60 years of friendship.

We met in my office. They had brought photos from their years at Strelnieku iela 4a. Although it was 60 years ago, the young people on the photos looked very similar to you. On the photos from their first days at school they looked like you did when we first met: enthusiastic, but still a bit scared of what was ahead of them. Then there were photos from the classrooms, not studying finance or human resource management but making technical drawings. And then graduation day, looking into the future with their diplomas in their hands. In other words very similar to what you look like now.

Although the graduating class of 1955 might look very similar to the graduating class of 2012 there is one very big difference between you and most of the other graduates from Strelnieku iela 4a: you and the other SSE Riga graduates belong to a small minority. Unlike most of your fellow graduates from Strelnieku 4a, you will have the opportunity to live and work in a democracy and market economy. Today we might take it for granted, but for most of the graduates this was just a dream.

In this sense the diploma you will receive today is so much more powerful than most of the diplomas handed out at Strelnieku iela 4a – it provides you with opportunities most of the others never had in terms of influencing their own lives, the well-being of others and society in general. But with this comes responsibility – the responsibility to understand that the diploma is not only there for you, it is also there for the rest of society and not only for your own private benefit. It also comes with the responsibility to not compromise the fundamental core values upon which democracy as well as the market economy rests. On the other hand, if you let these principles guide you then you will be able to live a life that most of the graduates from more than 100 years of educational activities on Strelnieku iela 4a were deprived of.

These were, so-to-say, my words to the first two graduating classes. Now I will turn to the third graduating class of 2012. It is a small graduating class, comprising just one person. But it is a class that has worked very hard and also very long – it started already in 2004.

I know that B.Sc. and EMBA students sometimes complain that the B.Sc. thesis or EMBA Diploma Project involves hard work and that it lasts for almost half a year. In the case of our special graduate the Diploma Project already appeared on the day of matriculation in 2004. Apparently it took a while, not because of laziness but because of the complexity of the Project – the Project was to find an academically and financially sustainable business model for SSE Riga. Now the Diploma Project has been completed.

The ‘graduate’ I have in mind is of course the SSE Stockholm President Lars Bergman, whose term as President of the Stockholm School of Economics will come to an end this June. Although it is not common practice, I will reveal his grade on the Diploma Project. Excellent on the SSE Riga scale and A on the ECTS scale – I guess all of us here today agree that the grade is well-deserved. Lars Bergman will soon be invited by the Masters of Ceremony to join the other graduates on stage.

For me it just remains to welcome all three graduating classes to the group of more than 100 years of graduates from Strelnieku iela 4a and of course to the somewhat smaller (but growing group) of SSE Riga alumni.

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga

Bachelor graduation ceremony pictures are available here >
EMBA graduation ceremony pictures are available here >

August 2011
Rector’s Welcome

Welcome to the new SSE Riga website! Education is very much about making talent grow. I am convinced that our new website will communicate the various ways SSE Riga makes talent grow – ranging from the BSc programme through the EMBA and Executive Education activities to our research and open events.

This autumn not only saw a new website, it also saw a new group of students entering the SSE Riga BSc programme. In addition to students from the three Baltic countries, we have, with the 2011 admission also regular students from Moldova, Belarus, the Ukraine and Georgia. A total of 20 students from these countries have been given the opportunity to study at SSE Riga through the Swedish Government Scholarship Programme. This expansion into new territories will not only further enhance the SSE Riga educational experience for all students enrolled, it will also strengthen the School’s presence in the region through the students - and in three years’ time through a geographical expansion of the SSE Riga alumni network.

For an academic institution, the network of alumni is not only important as such. It is also plays an increasingly important role when it comes to fundraising. In this context I am overwhelmed by this year’s Alumni Association fund raising campaign; raising money for tuition fee scholarships, and opening up the SSE Riga educational experience to students who otherwise would not be able to finance their studies at SSE Riga. In total the campaign raised 80 000 Euros. Given that there are just somewhat more than 1 500 SSE Riga alumni, the amount raised is remarkable. On top of this I know that the SSE Riga Alumni Association has even more ambitious plans in terms of fundraising yet to be revealed at the annual SSE Riga HomeComing Day November 10-12.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our alumni and other benefactors for their generous support in making the SSE Riga experience possible and affordable, while at the same time inspiring all of us at SSE Riga to work even harder on further developing the School as a place where talent grows.  

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga   

June 2011 
Rector’s Graduation Ceremony Message

Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the 2011 Graduation at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga.

This is a special year since we have the highest number of graduates ever on stage – in total 140. This also means that we have the highest number of family members, relatives and friends of  graduates here today, so let me first turn to you. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the hardship you have gone through to ensure that we have a strong graduating class of 2011. This celebration is as much yours as ours, and were it possible I would like to have all of you up here on stage.

This is not only a special year since we have a record number of graduates. It is also a special year since this August marks 20 years that have passed since the three Baltic states fully regained their independence in 1991. I would argue that despite the recent economic crisis and the last weeks of Latvian political turmoil, the first 20 years of regained independence have overall been a success story for all three Baltic countries.

To some extent you, the class of 2011, are in a position similar to that of the Baltic politicians in 1991 when they were embarking the road of independence – it was a road they had never travelled before. And in a few minutes you will embark on an equally unknown road – the road of SSE Riga graduates which is also a road to independence.

Maybe we can learn something about  the road that is ahead of you by looking back on 20 years of Baltic independence.

Although 1991 is the year, my story starts two years earlier in 1989 (I know that several of our BSc. graduates were not even born then). To me, being an outsider, this is the year when I started to think about regained Baltic independence. What triggered my thinking was what was to be called the “Baltic Way”. Across borders, across nationalities and ethnic groups people were forming a chain from Vilnius in the south to Tallinn in the north. This proved to be crucial and formed a strong basis in the quest for independence. At SSE Riga we have not formed a chain between the three Baltic capitals, but we have worked in a somewhat similar way, trying to mix you in all possible ways, believing that the more diverse the better. This experience and the networks created will form a solid basis for your travels on the road as SSE Riga graduates. Hence, the first lesson to be learnt is to try to cross as many borders as possible, be it national, be it cultural, be it ethnic, this will facilitate and enrich your walk along the road of SSE Riga graduates.

Now when you, in a few minutes, will stand there with the Diploma – what should you expect? The Diploma is in many ways like regained independence – you have the freedom to act, but might not really know how to do it. So: what to do? Do like the Baltic politicians did, get in touch with friends from near and far. Here I think you are better off than the Baltic states were in 1991 since you have the entire network of SSE Riga as well as SSE Alumni at your disposal.

However, no matter how good the advice you’ll get, always remember that the decisions are yours and aim high, even higher than your friends might think is doable. Few would have been taken seriously had they, back in 1991, said that in 20 years Estonia would be one of the countries most integrated in a European and international context - with Latvia and Lithuania just a few steps behind. The second lesson tells us: Take advice, but never let it prevent you from fulfilling your dreams.

In other words aim high, but do not forget the realities. As last years’ Baltic experience has shown, even business and economics have their laws of gravity. Debt is still debt, a liability is always a liability and inflation cannot be anything but inflation no matter what you call it. As long as you remember this and as long as you remain truthful to your fundamental values you will not run the risk of taking what appear to be shortcuts but eventually turn out to be routes to disaster. Hence, the third and last lesson is very clear: There are no shortcuts, neither in economics nor in morals to long-term success or prosperity.

Finally, today we see the Baltic countries being invited to Number 10 Downing Street to share their experiences. Even though you might not be invited to meet the British Prime Minister, I am convinced that you, as SSE Riga alumni, will be good role models ready to support and share your experience with future generations of SSE Riga graduates when they too will embark on the road of independence.

Good luck in building your independence with the help of your Diploma, and remember that independence can never be built without the help of others!

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga  

Bachelor graduation ceremony pictures are available here >
EMBA graduation ceremony pictures are available here >
Commencement Speech by Ulrika Cronenberg-Mossberg >

August 2010
Rector’s Welcome

In the yearly cycle of SSE Riga, the months of June and July mean saying farewell to our graduates and starting to identify the graduates to be. Having seen this year’s test results and having had an opportunity to participate in a few interviews, I would say that the quality of this year’s applicants is as good as ever. In this context there are two more observations worth emphasizing.

Firstly, Baltic secondary schools and their teachers do, against the commonly held belief, a very good job in preparing their pupils for higher education. Secondly, SSE Riga’s main competitors are located outside the region – several candidates told that they were considering going abroad for studies were they not admitted to SSE Riga. Hence, the main challenge facing not only SSE Riga, but the entire higher education sector in the Baltic countries is to be competitive at a European level.

By providing an education that is competitive at the European level, SSE Riga gives talented Baltic students an opportunity to stay “at home” rather than go abroad for studies. Otherwise, the most talented might leave the region and once they have, it will be difficult to lure them back. In this context I am happy to reveal that the Swedish foundation “Anne-Marie and Gustaf Anders stiftelse för medieforskning” has joined TeliaSonera as one of the School’s major benefactors, ensuring the long-term development of the School for the benefit of the Baltic countries and their talented youth.

Anders Paalzow
Rector, SSE Riga

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