Major Esade Alumni Gathering at Dubai World Expo

February 7, 2022 12:27 pm

As part of their commitment to internationalisation, Esade and Esade Alumni chose the Dubai World Expo as the venue for a major event on the future of education and innovation. The gathering brought together alumni from the area and highlighted the role of Esade and Esade Alumni in bringing about positive change in society.

Dubai World Expo

After being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dubai World Expo is now underway. Esade and Esade Alumni wanted to take part in this major event by organising a two-day programme to meet, socialise and reconnect with alumni from all over the United Arab Emirates and neighbouring countries.

The events kicked off on Thursday, 16th December with a Christmas dinner attended by Esade Director General Koldo Echebarría and various alumni. A session at the Spain Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo, entitled “Reinventing Higher Education”, was held the following day as part of Education Week.

During this session, Koldo Echebarría spoke with Ben Nelson, founder of Minerva, an institution that has reinvented higher education, about a new learning model to foster the widespread development of skills adaptable to all contexts. Today’s major social, economic and political changes require not only competence and effectiveness, but also a different sort of leadership: purposeful leaders, pragmatic innovators and informed global citizens with values and a sense of their impact on society – and this is where educational institutions have a role to play.

The Middle East, and the United Arab Emirates in particular, is a region of great interest where a growing number of alumni are temporarily working and living. It is a growing community – now upwards of 300 alumni – and a highly attractive destination for professional and personal experiences. Ariadna Vilalta, International Relations Coordinator at Esade Alumni, Judith Puigbò, Associate Admissions Director for UAE at Esade, Franziska Ewald, Associate Director of Employer Engagement at Esade Careers, and Soraya Korkar, Associate Director of Individual Giving at Esade, were also present in Dubai to attend to participants during a private visit to the Spain Pavilion, as well as during the networking cocktail that marked the end of the event.

Great potential

Dubai has positioned itself as a financial hub and a top tourist destination. Locals account for just 10% of its population, while the rest are expatriates from all over the world, making it a very cosmopolitan and attractive city due to the large number of highly qualified young professionals. Furthermore, in this part of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is developing a strategic plan called Saudi Vision 2030 in order to reduce its dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop sectors such as health, education, infrastructure and tourism. It is also a very young country. Approximately 50% of inhabitants are under 30 years of age, making it an area with incredible potential for Esade: “Companies confirm the opportunity and value of training their employees under the rigour and experience of an internationally prestigious school like Esade,” commented Judith Puigbò. “We currently have collaboration agreements with several Saudi companies that have approved our school to train their executives. Only the top-ranked schools are eligible to appear on this exclusive list.”

“In addition, the region’s native talent is increasingly interested in studying at Esade,” added Judith Puigbò. “Although people from this geographical area represent a small percentage of our students – less than 10% – in the last three years we have nearly tripled the number of MSc and MBA enrolments from the area.” Moreover, the United Arab Emirates is home to one of Esade Alumni’s strongest international chapters, with a large part of its community in Dubai as well as in Abu Dhabi. This is a region that values quality education and is passionate about Spain, as our alumni in the area can confirm.

One example is Heythem Ben Salem (GEMBA ‘16), a member of the Executive Board of the Esade Alumni Riyadh Chapter, who describes the Dubai World Expo as an incredible setting for networking. “Besides cultivating knowledge, strengthening relationships among alumni is the best achievement of these events,” he commented. “As we live in a very challenging and rapidly changing world, we need to have a strong network so that we can support each other in terms of job opportunities, sharing experiences and ideas. At every event, I feel like I’m going to a family reunion because a community is a second family. Esade Alumni is making this a reality: Wherever I travel, meeting fellow alumni is a must for me!”
As a representative of the Esade Alumni Riyadh Chapter, Heythem acts as a liaison to organise get-togethers in parallel with local events, thereby facilitating connections between alumni “to lend continuity to the experience we had at university”. He added: “The university experience begins after graduation in two ways: through how you apply the knowledge you have acquired, and through the contacts you have with other alumni.”

Alba Rubio (Lic&MDE ‘12), President of the Dubai Chapter, is also of the opinion that events like this “allow us to build our community and strengthen ties among the 300 alumni in the United Arab Emirates, speakers, and alumni from other universities; to expand Esade’s brand as a high-quality educational institution; to broaden our knowledge on specific topics; and to maintain our connection with Esade Alumni in order to stay abreast of news and future plans for our alma mater.”

Alba underscored the growing profile of the region: “In terms of employment, Dubai is the hub where all international companies have their headquarters. The vibe is very multicultural. I thought London was the most international place in the world, but Dubai is incredibly diverse: your team might include Australians, Peruvians, Syrians, Lebanese and Pakistanis. On a personal level, the most important thing for me is that both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been rated on several occasions as two of the safest cities in the world. Especially as a woman, this is game-changing. Dubai is also a peculiar city. This is an increasingly Westernised country with more secular laws and a real business model that works perfectly. The rules on cohabitation of couples, consumption of alcohol without a licence, civil marriages and recognition of children out of wedlock have all been changed recently. Additionally, as of January 2022, the public sector (and part of the private sector) has moved the weekend to Saturday and Sunday to be in line with the Western world.

2030 Leaders Programme

Another example of the Middle East’s potential is the 2030 Leaders Programme, which the MISK Foundation has launched in collaboration with Esade. Targeting a thousand men and women in the region with high leadership potential, this programme focuses on growth, embracing new technologies and sustainable development. “The programme’s impact in the region has been vast – they received 100,000 applications for a thousand places,” commented Judith Puigbò. “So much so, in fact, that we have several Saudi candidates who are considering applying to Esade as their first choice for their master’s degree. In their view, Esade is currently one of the most popular business schools.”