Historic Foundation Evening for HEC
The annual HEC Foundation meeting on October 6, 2022, turned its sights resolutely towards the future, sharing plans for a new campus, further engagement towards students in conflict zones, an expansion of its equal opportunity programs and a commitment to its new Climate & Earth Center. A landmark event set in Paris’ regal Maison de l’Océan. You can watch the replay here.
(© Guillaume Maimone)
Founded 111 years ago, the House of the Oceans was an appropriate location for HEC’s top actors to share their expanding vision of the business school with some 350 participants. The auditorium was dominated by paintings by Louis Tinayre, who, as the Maison’s Event Manager Mathieu Kandaroun pointed out, accompanied Prince Albert I of Monaco on some of his 28 scientific explorations. “This has become an environmental hub in the heart of Paris, with a strong engagement to protect the oceans’ fragile ecosystems. Here, we combine research, symposia and the confluence of researchers, political decision-makers and civil society, seeking answers to the issues of sustainable management of the oceans. We are delighted to welcome you to our Maison in a year where we are focusing on the protection of the North and South Poles.”
These geographic extremes did reflect the breadth and width of the evening’s presentations and homages. They included HEC’s new center devoted to Climate & Earth, the school’s ambitious program for students in world’s conflict zones and the essential development of the campus. “The HEC “Impact tomorrow” campaign, aimed to collect €200 million in five years has enjoyed remarkable support with three-quarters of the sum raised within two years,” Foundation President Olivier Sevillia (MBA.90) told the audience. “Behind this drive we are building a formidable ecosystem which will align our school’s most important causes and principles: affirmative action, inclusiveness, the dissemination of knowledge, values of excellence and a strong will to react to the world’s challenges.”
Imagine Repairing a Damaged World
One of these challenges is incarnated in HEC Imagine Fellows initiated thanks to the generosity of HEC graduate Adrien Nussenbaum (H01). This €1 million fellowship program for students from war-torn countries celebrated its first anniversary on this October night by inviting one of its laureates, the Afghan Behishta, to share her experience. “This has been a rebirth for me,” she told the public in a short speech. “It shows there is always hope, even in the darkest moments of life. It has made me more resilient. Coming from Afghanistan, and I will be able to compete, study, and work anywhere in the world. I will make the most of this opportunity to become someone who helps people and makes this world a better place."
Visibly moved, Nussenbaum asked the audience to share his vision: “What better education is there for the heart, soul and head, than to hear such stories? HEC is now working on a class on Business & Peace and aims to organize a Youth Peace & Business Summit in the coming years,” continued the founder of Mirakl. “Imagine carries a message and we hope it helps repair this damaged world.” This year, four students from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine were provided the help and funds to reach the school.
HEC Equal Opportunities program was also at the heart of the evening with the testimony of Emilie-Céline (H.24). As a Major Donor to the HEC Foundation, Eduardo Fernandez, confided his reasons for supporting the school’s Equal Opportunity drive: “I wanted to do my part to help students from social and economically challenged backgrounds access the top-notch educational opportunities provided by HEC.”
New Programs for Lebanon and Sub-Saharan Africa
Sharing the stage with Behishta was Lebanese student Antoine. He is one of the 20 benefactors of the CMA CGM Excellence Fund for Lebanon inaugurated this year. This is the school’s most ambitious grant program ever which aims to accompany 200 of Lebanon’s best student talents in the coming decade. “I am more motivated than ever,” Antoine told the audience. “I have joined SASI (Master in Sustainability And Social Innovation) to become a change-maker in my country. We are suffering but meeting like-minded people on the program will help me become the leader I aspire to be.”
Another initiative in full expansion is the PACT Africa program (Programme d’Accompagnement des Talents Africains). Thanks to the school’s donors, the number of students from West and Central Africa has tripled since its inception in 2019 (at present, 8% of the school’s total student population is from the African continent). Through HEC’s Abidjan bureau, this equal opportunity program aims at preparing 500 students and welcoming 50 students a year by 2026. Working in close partnership with the Côte d’Ivoire’s Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny (INPHB), the school also sees its role as “(supporting) companies and public administrations in their growth and developing the human resources of African nations.” PACT Africa helps talented students who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to attempt the Grande Ecole selection process. For the first time, this year saw the arrival of students from Cameroon and Gabon.
Focus on New Campus Project
To make room for such expanding affirmative action programs, Dean Eloïc Peyrache and HEC Board of Directors President Jean-Paul Agon outlined the new campus they are designing for the coming generations. “The campus will reflect HEC’s very soul,” said Agon. “We are reinventing it to answer three great challenges: our school’s engagement towards diversity, as seen through its architecture; an educational model that encourages experiential exchanges over digital ones. And a campus that reflects an environmental responsibility leading to an inclusive, socially responsible and ecologically conscious environment.” Peyrache mapped out the campus’ principle features. "There are two axes that cross our campus, the one going from the Chateau to our Blue Arch, and another from our entrance down to the Chateau. Where these axes cross is the heart of our campus. And what’s missing is this heart. The professors are at one periphery, the restaurant area at the other. We need a campus organized around a "heart" that will become the center of life for student life. So, the first construction will be there, a learning center that will be a coworking space, a place to exchange, meet, somewhere where we don’t stop at the problem - we resolve it.”
“This new place must reflect our commitment to pluridisciplinary research and teaching,” pursued Peyrache. “One building will unite academics from all disciplines to accelerate this dialogue. This, we hope, will encourage a feeling of belonging, with zones for sports, relaxation and after-study activities. Simultaneously, we aim to build 500 new rooms to accommodate students, which will include an extension to the Chateau for our executive students. This is a historic moment!” Peyrache repeated. “After 18 months of consultation and reflection, we are making this new campus our Number One priority.”
Realigning Business Models with the Planet
Arguably symbolizing this quantum leap is the new Climate and Earth Center under the academic direction of Daniel Halbheer, holder of the FII Institute Research Chair on Circular Business Models. The center brings together a dozen research professors from different departments and intellectual traditions. "A key objective is to get more faculty members on board – either through collaboration or hiring – to increase the research output of the center,” said Halbheer, a specialist in circular business models and decarbonization of supply chains. “There are enormous challenges for businesses to tackle sustainability issues, and leaders need answers today that go beyond piecemeal solutions. My dream is that we will have a voice in this space to realign business models with planetary boundaries."
Lofty objectives that were loudly applauded in the Grand Amphitheater of the Maison de l’Océan and its vivid frescoes by French artist Louis Tinayre.