Standing in The Hall of Fame: The Graduate Institute in Geneva

This September, the Graduate Institute in Geneva is launching The Hall of Fame at the Alumni Gala in Geneva, Switzerland.

Calling it “The Hall of Fame” is no exaggeration. The Graduate Institute alumni network includes some real stars of international politics and business.

For almost 100 years now, ever since its establishment in 1927, the Graduate Institute, or HEI as it is also known, has been cultivating world-class talent maintaining a solid pipeline of leaders, generation after generation.

The Hall of Fame will be unveiled at a gala evening on the board of a swanky boat from the Belle Epoch fleet. The boat is called The Simplon and it hosts an elegant dinner for alumni that come from all over the world to gather in Geneva once a year. I can’t wait. It doesn’t get more decadent than this.

As a quick sneak peak, The Hall of Fame features impressive alumni. Did you know that the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, studied at the Graduate Institute in Geneva? In The Hall of Fame, he is in the company of leaders such as former Swiss Presidents, the Director General of the International Red Cross, President of the International Court of Justice, the CEOs of Rothschild, Sony and Nespresso, the President of Microsoft, and plenty of foreign ministers, ambassadors, judges, members of parliament and heads of states all over the world.

Last year, Mr Raffael Grossi, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, became an Alumnus of the Year 2021.

Let’s recall that the Institute is the oldest school for international relations in the world. Here tradition matters.

The Institute was created in parallel to the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations. HEI was formed with the view of becoming the Geneva-based university for the UN. Today, the Institute is staffing the UN and other international organizations in Geneva at the entry level for those making their first career steps. HEI students are preferred over any other group applying, and I have seen and noticed this during my time at the UN in Geneva where I worked for five UN agencies.

Once you graduate from HEI, you become a part of an impressive family. The Institute opens doors you didn’t even know existed. Soon you realize that you’ve become a part of a very special circle. I myself had the honor of studying at the Institute and graduating with a Master in International Affairs degree, some 15 years ago. It was made possible by the Alumni Association who gave me a full scholarship for two years. That made all the difference and that’s why reconnecting with alumni is important to me.

The Institute’s motto for the new project is: Look forward, give back. The point is that as an alumnus, you express gratitude and help new students make it, the way that years ago alumni believed in you and helped you make it.

HEI grants scholarships by the Alumni Association in order to make a difference in someone’s life and does it in a Swiss, discreet way, not screaming for publicity. Often, you don’t even know whom to thank.

I met Jacques Moreillon over rice and Peking duck at a Chinese restaurant in Geneva, some 15 years ago in the fall of 2007. We sat not too far from the Institute’s main building, the pink Villa Barton at the lakeside. In fall Geneva glows in a late, Indian summer way. At the time, I came straight from Washington DC, star-struck with Geneva. Jacques Moreillon was this big shot, Director General of the International Red Cross. He invited us, a handful of Alumni scholarship recipients, to meet some Alumni over dinner. I remember that dinner until today. The style again was discreet and made an impression on me. Back then, I had arrived from Washington where you toot your own horn.

Until today, fundraising at the Institute happens in an unspoken way. You don’t have to be reminded about what you received from the Graduate Institute. It’s understood. The Alumni are those who made sure that we made it, together with the Institute’s Carine Leu-Bonvin and the tireless staff, of course.

As I am packing for Geneva, I can’t wait to get there and meet old and new friends where you get a sense of community. All on board.

*Iveta Cherneva is an Amazon best-selling author and political commentator. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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