Grzegorz Greg M. Augustyniak The Annual Meeting is a mandatory and, to some extent, the most uncomfortable item on the Annual Events agenda for the participants. It is mandatory because it is the CEMS stakeholders' General Assembly, where the following items are presented: the report on CEMS activities in the closing year (presented by CEMS Management and the chairpersons of CEMS Alumni Association and Pan-European Student Board) CEMS financial report and the decisions are taken (by voting) on changes to CEMS Statutes, acceptance of new members of the organization and augmenting the composition of CEMS Executive Board. It is the most uncomfortable item since, regardless of the weight of the issues discussed and the decisions taken, it is difficult to make the discussions dynamic and attractive to the wider audience, as they consist mainly of speeches and reports. This year this task was even more difficult because, apart from the representatives of the stakeholders, the Annual Meeting was open practically to all other Annual Events' participants - mostly to the students. And for this reason this year the 17th Annual Meeting was enriched with several new elements, while some presentations, much to the surprise of the public, were roleplaying shows. It started traditionally, with the speech by the SGH Rector - Professor Adam Budnikowski, who welcomed all CEMS Annual Meeting participants to the SGH Main Auditorium. During the speech Rector Budnikowski stressed CEMS' great role in building the SGH brand on the local and international market and its influence on shaping and improving the curriculum of the studies at SGH. He also mentioned here the growing awareness of the CEMS brand in Poland that was reflected in a number of press articles and, most of all, in the patronage of the Polish Prime Minister over the Annual Events. He also said he was proud that SGH should be host to the largest Annual Events in CEMS' history, this opportunity being the best birthday present for the School's 100th anniversary. Finally, Rector Budnikowski gave the floor to SGH graduate Ms Magorzata Gosia Wawrzyniak, who was to receive a CEMS MIM diploma the following day. Gosia faced a difficult task to share her experiences and impressions of the CEMS MIM program with the audience - starting from recruitment all the way up to graduation - at a really amazing pace. Judging by this short fragment of Gosia's activities one could say that such challenges are nothing unusual for a CEMS student: demanding studies, business projects, seminars, practical training, work for the Pan-European Student Board, and numerous parties and meetings. And all this in various locations in Europe, among a growing group of friends, while quickly gaining experience and acquiring the skills necessary for the start of an equally interesting career that is just opening for her. The speech was illustrated with a large number of photographs proving that CEMS MIM is really a unique experience and an adventure with a huge element of knowledge and practical training. At such moments every CEMS member feels proud, but, on the other hand, it is a pity that student life is just a memory for many of us… This really intriguing mixture of enthusiasm and melancholy was quickly spread by CEMS Chairman Professor Paul Verhaegen, who officially opened the meeting, showing that it is high time to make it known that the establishment of such an ambitious program as CEMS MIM requires a lot of effort, involvement, organization and significant resources. No wonder that the participants listened to the presentation of CEMS strategy with avid interest. The leading motives of the strategy are: the improvement of the curriculum quality, building the prestige of CEMS MIM and its diploma and the globalisation of CEMS. The latter was indicated during the Annual Events by the presence of the first CEMS MIM graduates from the associated universities. And all this was implemented in close cooperation with CEMS Corporate Partners, whose role in shaping and finalising this enterprise cannot be overstated. But CEMS is not only an academic program - first of all, it is a unique alliance whose possibilities go far beyond offering a joint diploma. Such a challenge requires some changes to CEMS' organisational structure. The joint presentation by Nicole de Fontaines - CEMS Secretary General and Phlippe Louvet - CEMS Branding and Communication Vice President, was devoted to this issue. During their presentation the speakers presented the proposal for changes to CEMS Statute prepared by the Governance Task Force. The proposed changes include the establishment of a new body: the CEMS Board consisting of a Strategic Board and an Executive Board, and the introduction of a number of amendments to the fields of authority of particular authorities. The vast majority of the General Assembly approved of these changes, so the coming years will let us see whether the new structure (and its members) can meet the new challenges. When the discussion on the strategy and the changes to the Statute was over, it was time to present the 2005 year's achievements of CEMS. And it is worth noting that this year brought a lot of changes and events in CEMS. It is hardly possible to list them in a short report, so you are encouraged to read the 2005 CEMS Annual Report. It is as carefully prepared as always and it contains a lot if information, photographs and excerpts from the activities of the CEMS community. Certainly the most important event in 2005 was the attainment of third place by the CEMS MIM program in Financial Times ranking of pre-experienced M.Sc programs in Europe. As CEMS President Paul Verhaegen put it, it was the first time that CEMS was assessed as the leading M.Sc program in Europe by an independent body, and not by the Association members. This is an important and significant accomplishment. CEMS Executive Director François Collin discussed the Financial Times ranking, the results of surveys among CEMS students and alumni, and the profiles of this year's graduates and freshmen, speaking with passion, as usual. Professor Carlo Gallucci - Vice-President for Globalisation - presented the progress in cooperation with CEMS associated members, devoting special attention to the presentation of CEMS students from Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Argentina, both those already studying and those beginning the program this year. Professor Thomas Bieger - Vice-President for Academic Affairs - revealed his hidden talent for live interviews. The first guests of his CEMS debut were the participants of the selected business projects, who shared with the audience their students' points of view, a corporate partner and a tutor. Though the guests' fluency in this extraordinary talk show suggested that Professor Bieger gave them some time to prepare their replies, we can safely assume he has a career in show-biz if he finds the academic world too small for his skills : ). Congratulations! The next presentation on CEMS achievements was conducted by Professor Eero Kasanen - Vice-President for Research & PhD and Academic Cooperation, who focused the audience's attention on one of the projects giving CEMS a wider dimension than an MIM program, namely, co-operation in research and doctoral programs. Professor Bodo Schlegelmilch, in turn, presented plans for the development of a European Business Forum quarterly. As from this year the magazine has been published and financed by CEMS solely, so the growth of CEMS academic and corporate associates' contribution to this quarterly as well as the increasing number of subscriptions - for a fee, obviously : ( - are becoming critical issues. When some of those present were wondering how their organization can support the building of the EBF brand on the business magazine market, some others were impatiently looking at their watches, as they realised that according to the time schedule they should be filling their stomachs with the starters waiting for the Annual Meeting participants not far from the Main Auditorium.
This moment of hesitation did not last long, as Ms Hanneke Frese - CEMS Vice-President for Corporate Development, who analysed the profiles of the alliance members, attracted the public's attention. The second part of the presentation was interactive and it consisted of examples of the companies' cooperation in creating the CEMS program, e.g. the June training for CEMS coordinators, assessment centre in the recruitment process and CEMS Career Forum, etc. It was a significant item on the agenda, because it presented live proof of the companies' involvement in cooperation with, and for the benefit of, other community members. They are the basis for building mutually beneficial relations with the companies in CEMS and for growing loyalty. And we are all aware that without their financial and practical contribution it would be difficult to achieve the ambitious objectives that our Association has set for itself. This is why the attendants were sorry to hear from Professor Verhaegen that this was Ms Hanneke Frese's good-bye speech, though we believe that the person of such merit to CEMS will remain the friend of our organization and we will have the pleasure of hosting her during the next Annual Events. It was not the only good-bye, however, as the terms of office of some other representatives of companies and of an associated universities have also expired.
Besides saying good-bye, there was also an opportunity to say hello, as the new candidature for corporate partner - The Royal Bank of Scotland - was presented. So, including the changes to CEMS Statute, the voting members had a lot of work filling in their ballots and at this important moment we were entertained by the representatives of finance: Professor Pierre Semal - CEMS Treasurer, who added his usual drop of humour to the serious financial report, and Mr Paul Monfraix - financial auditor, who succinctly and precisely analysed CEMS financial standing and stated that the documentation presented was in accordance with the GAAP. In view of this, the Assembly members had only one choice - to approve CEMS financial report, which they did. There were three more items on the agenda: the reports of the Pan-European Student Board and CEMS Alumni Association and the presentation of the outcome of the voting. Another person said good-bye having presented the achievements of the CEMS Pan-European Student Board - Ms Wieteke Dupain, whose term as the President of the Student Board has just expired. At the end, she introduced her successor (Mr Christian Bjol) and the new management board. Ms Claire Pontal, chairing CEMS Alumni Association, presented a similar report. She, like Gosia and Wieteke, talked enthusiastically about the successes and plans of her organization that now reaches well beyond Europe. When Ms Claire Pontal finished her speech, the CEMS Chairman announced the results of the voting: the approval of CEMS' new Statutes and of the new Executive Board members:
  • Mr Kai Christian Ekholm of PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Mr Christopher Hagman of Reuters
  • Mr David Pappie of Shell
  • re-election of Ms Marina Eloy of ING Group to the Executive Board, and election of a new representative of associated universities: Carlos Romero Uscanga of EGADE, Tec de Monterrey (Mexico), was introduced
  • Also, a new corporate partner - The Royal Bank of Scotland - has been admitted to CEMS.
Only then was the agenda complete and the CEMS Chairman could close the meeting. The author of this text, whose task was to persuade the attendants to treat themselves to sumptuous refreshments (and to forget about changing dress for the Opera, if they planned to), played the last note. Though the session was 50 minutes longer than planned, the snacks were ready in the hall on the second floor of the main building. The number of people who appeared at the tables proved that this task had been accomplished. Later, the guests were expected to go to Teatr Wielki in Warsaw to see an opera starting at 7pm. And the final comment? The Annual Meeting still requires much patience and endurance of its participants (it is not easy to spend two and a half hours there without a break), but the first attempts to make it more dynamic and interactive should definitely be continued and developed in the next years. Let us hope the coming year will be equally successful for CEMS and full of interesting events. Well done!