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Welcome Day Brings Together HEC Family

September 3, 2017 marked HEC Paris’ Welcome Day, organized on its leafy campus at Jouy-en-Josas. Yet this was an inaugural edition for HEC Paris, bringing together for the first time newly-arrived students and their families from all of HEC’s schools and centers. It was a 2,000-strong communion light years away from the 1881 version.

This breezy Sunday, HEC Dean Peter Todd, congratulated almost 1,000 students who had fought through the entrance exams to attain one of Europe’s most illustrious business schools. A total of 10,000 candidates applied to be part of the Grande Ecole, Masters, MBA or Executive MBA programs at HEC. Over 11 percent of the successful candidates arrived thanks to the school’s affirmative action policies, a record in France’s Ivy League institutions. In the marquee outside the Hall d’Honneur, HEC graduate Alexandre Cardain reminded a packed audience that the new arrivals were at the school to fulfil “their wildest ambitions”. But, he added, paraphrasing Voltaire, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

“So please,” he pursued, “don’t get lost in a tiny corner of business. Explore. Work with scientists, engineers, not only to bring the positive future to us today, but to distribute it evenly in the world.”

Cardain’s HEC experiences have helped him forge a career in which he is leveraging what he learnt to build a unique form of “humanist Artificial Intelligence”. Such a unique trajectory reflects the daring and tolerant approach HEC Dean Peter Todd hopes to inculcate amongst the new student recruits: “Life does not move in straight lines,” he told the students, “so look out for each other and don’t forget those who are most fragile.”

The solidarity HEC Paris seeks to instill naturally spills over into its alumni network, one of the most powerful in the business world. The alumni’s network director Janet O’Sullivan mapped out the supportive impact her organization brings to the newcomers even before they graduate. “Over the coming years,” she explained, “many of you will find yourselves in new cities and countries. Well, our 75 international chapters can be a very valuable support. We have alumni in 130 countries. Our motto is “the more you share, the more you grow”. Our ambition is to make HEC Alumni your number one network for life.”

All this was a far cry from HEC’s inauspicious beginnings on Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris. Back in 1881, the business school greeted 57 French students, average age 16, who were destined for Paris-based careers in French diplomacy, commerce and banks. Today, the 1,000 students from around 100 countries are as likely to find employment abroad as in France. And not just in those three fields…