After taking up the reins temporarily following Jean-Michel Blanquer’s departure for French Ministry of Education, Vincenzo Esposito Vinzi was unanimously appointed by the ESSEC Group’s governing body. The new president reveals his first objectives, and part of the strategic plan he intends to share with ESSEC’s key players.
ESSEC Alumni: For those who don’t know you yet, can you tell us about your career path?
Vincenzo Esposito Vinzi: I’m originally from Italy, from the island of Capri. I came to ESSEC in January 2007 as a statistics professor, having worked as a teacher-researcher at the University of Naples Federico II. I’d already been to France as I’d taught at HEC and ESSEC between 2000 and 2006. A major step in my career was my election to the post of Dean of Permanent Faculty at Cergy in December 2011. I was elected by my peers for a three-year mandate, renewed in 2015. When Jean-Michel Blanquer was appointed Minister for Education, I was asked to lead the ESSEC Group for the transition period.
EA: You’re actually the first non-French director of the ESSEC Group…
V. Esposito Vinzi: Yes, it’s an important signal to the ESSEC community and our academic and corporate partners - in France and abroad. When I arrived in Cergy on 1st January 2007 I didn’t speak a word of French. I learnt through total immersion in the language. I feel both international, and very French. ESSEC is more than an international school - it’s a global school with 4 campuses on 3 continents. It’s also a school that needs to assert its French roots - its culture, history, savoir-faire and savoir-être. These are our core strengths.
EA: What objectives have you already set for yourself and the school?
V. Esposito Vinzi: The world of higher education has finished internationalizing and is now in a standardization phase. ESSEC’s strength is its uniqueness. My goal is for ESSEC to become a leading global business school by reasserting that uniqueness, and being recognized for our excellence in national and international rankings - by both the corporate and the academic worlds. That balance between uniqueness and excellence is at the heart of my ambitions for the school. This is what will enable us to recruit the best teacher-researchers in the world, attract top international students to ESSEC, and place our students in the world’s leading companies.
EA: What about international development?
V. Esposito Vinzi: ESSEC is now a global school. We are present on 3 continents with a real flow of students, programs, knowledge, professors, ideas and partners.
First, our campuses increasingly need partners to help them integrate into the local economic, social and academic fabric and to become entry points to regional economies, and gateways to the world for all the players in the ESSEC community. This integration is still underway.
I don’t plan to build another physical campus abroad. Instead we’re going to create a digital campus to complement the physical ones. The digital space isn't just a tool; it allows us to follow our students and provide them with services. Digital today also means artificial intelligence algorithms, which already allow ESSEC to offer a personalized study path from bachelors to higher degrees. Tomorrow we can put in place a digital monitoring of our students, so as to understand their skill acquisition, follow them in their professional lives and offer them personalized study paths/degrees further down the line.
Second, at international level ESSEC needs to be present in other regions, particularly in the United States - an international priority. We don't need a US campus, but an alliance - a strong, structured partnership. The exchanges currently in place are a first step to achieving this.
Third, as the world’s economic future lies in Asia, it is important that we reinforce our ties with China and India. These two countries alone represent one third of the world’s population and have clear ambitions in some of the sectors in which ESSEC is - or will be - a leader (e.g. luxury or digital). By strengthening our ties with those countries we are also building a solid foundation for our future development. A priority therefore is to ensure the ESSEC brand is known and recognized as a leading brand in the United States, China and India.
EA: What role does the Foundation play in this scenario?
V. Esposito Vinzi: It’s important that we (the school, the alumni and the Foundation) have a coordinated approach to ESSEC’s development. Underpinning this are companies – and thus alumni as they’re already in the business world – but also individual donors. We need to see how we can coordinate development both in relation to individuals and companies, and at national and international level. Once again, my actions will take place within the framework of co-construction with all the different stakeholders.
EA: What are your views on ESSEC Business School's relations with alumni?
V. Esposito Vinzi: I’m dedicating an important part of my preparatory work to alumni, as they are key players of the school. Their professional experience and network are important for our students, and their analysis of the business world is highly enriching for the school’s management. And they can make a real contribution to the school, e.g. by coming and sharing their thoughts on the ESSEC campuses.
Our mission is clear. We are here to train talents for the business world of tomorrow. In preparing students to anticipate future changes, the school also needs to adopt a position of collaboration with its stakeholders and to try and anticipate rather than follow trends. In the world of higher education, the revolutions underway - whether in teaching, research or innovation - have yet to play out. I therefore want ESSEC to speak up, assume its leading role and set the tone at an international level.