RIGA - A look back at the graduates of the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga shows that it has a lot to celebrate on its 10-year anniversary. And with the school's reputation still riding high, the next decade will hopefully bring even more rewards.
Starting with just 56 Latvian students in 1994, SSE now enrolls an annual 115 students for each of its three courses, 70 percent being Latvian and the remainder from Estonia and Lithuania. Despite accepting students from all three Baltic countries and educating them on the business and economy of each state, the school is funded equally by the Latvian and Swedish governments.
Being a state-funded institution means that courses, such as the three-year bachelor degree in business and economics, are limited in the number of students. Thus, acceptance into the college is a great privilege, as the school enrolls only one in 10 applicants.
"As well as the obvious academic capabilities in mathematics and English, we also look for people who can work in a team and those who like the challenge of diversity," says Anders Paalzow, rector of the SSE. "We have students from three countries and four ethnic groups. We also make sure that the students fit our pedagogical methods."
But the success of SSE is ultimately reflected in the careers of the graduates, many of whom have gone on to hold high-ranking positions in top Baltic companies. One such graduate is Aleksandrs Tralmaks, managing director of the Latvian daily newspaper Diena.
Tralmaks, who was president of the student association during his time at SSE, graduated in 2000, and has since sat as director on the boards of the Swedish Export Council, Telia Multicom and JSC Diena.
"I was a bit of an exception for SSE as I started at the school when I was 23 and had the opportunity to work before I studied there. I knew when I started that I wanted a career which would enable me to do something practical. Now, at Diena, I have the chance to be involved on a creative level as well as in production and sales," he says.
Despite his work experience before joining SSE, Tralmaks credits the school for his skills as a businessman.
"SSE is very good for teaching the theoretical elements, without which it would certainly have been harder for me than it is now. My main discovery at SSE, though, was not to take things for granted. Compared with other teaching establishments, we were educated to do things more properly. We were also told that we're always on the edge of learning something new," the graduate explains.
Ivo Luka-Indans, finance director of Nordic Industries group, president of SIA Nordic Food, majority owner of SIA Staburadze and a board member of SIA Laima, is another SSE success story who credits the school in his professional triumphs.
"SSE changed my life completely. Although the two years [1998 being SSE's last year of two-year courses] were quite hard work, the knowledge, English skills, and other skills gained allowed me and other students to take professional positions in auditing companies and banks immediately after school," he says. "It was because of SSE that I was selected as finance director of Nordic Industries group at the age of 21."
Tralmaks and Luka-Indans both represent a change in direction for SSE graduates, from less risky jobs in auditing and accounting to higher entrepreneurial roles. And the school continues to evolve. The next decade will see SSE making more changes to reflect Baltic business trends.
"By 2014 we hope to have developed two MA programs - one in business and one in economics - and to have expanded our specialist subjects. We would also like to bring in more resident staff with PhDs, preferably people in the fields of consultancy and governmental affairs," says Paalzow.
But whichever route the school follows, its place in the Baltic business community is certain.
"Each person that has finished SSE has something like a stamp in a passport that shows the person has strong qualities, good knowledge and a mind that will allow him or her to become a high-level professional in whatever field chosen," Luka-Indans says.