Maternity and Studies: the story of a Solvay Brussels School graduate

Anna Vitiello Programme Manager 16/07/2021 Solvay Brussels School, alumni testimonials, Sustainability

 The past year has been a challenge for all of us. As social life came to a halt due to the Covid-19 health crisis, so would our lives, it seemed. However, that is far from the truth: aspirations, dreams, and plans for personal development do not have to waver in the face of the circumstances, and here at Solvay Brussels School we have been seeing this first-hand in the progress of our students.

Today, we would like to put Sofia Silva, one of our recent Advanced Master graduates, into the spotlight for her impressive commitment to learning and professional growth. Her resilience amidst a singularly demanding year was not only uniquely uplifting to witness but also a reminder and a token of our school’s dedication to facilitating grounds upon which all our students can equally thrive.

A year like no other

In her recent LinkedIn post, Sofia shares that following her second year of the AM programme was bound to happen under less than ideal circumstances, to say the least:

My family doubted my ability to conclude the programme. Me too. Combining a full time job with maternity and a master is not easy, and even more difficult when you live in a foreign country without family support. The bar was placed even higher after giving birth to Vasco.

Sofia was against odds which would solely deter someone from going through with their plans – no less having to face all of them combined. The young mother did not opt for that route, however. With the reassurance of Academic Director Pierre Francotte, she was back on campus two-and-a-half months after the birth of her child. 

When Vasco was 2,5 months, I was going back to the campus to complete the programme. Pierre Francotte told me not to worry; I could take Vasco with me. As a breastfeeding mum that was important for me. As far as I know Solvay Brussels School hasn’t a breastfeeding room as Disneyland Paris, but has great teachers like Bernard Nicolay, Robert Peirce and Martine George who don't mind if you're breastfeeding or if your baby is crying while they are giving a lecture or mentoring you.

Solvay Brussels School indeed does not have a breastfeeding room, but experiences like those of Sofia on our school grounds highlight what we strive to build on consciously through our practices: equitable and sustainable opportunities for everyone, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. SBS has expressly positioned itself with these goals manifestly by aligning the Solvay Executive MBA experience with them – all participants must complete a sustainability project, for instance.

Leading by example

But sustainable practices cannot deontologically be anticipated from our students and programme participants alone, not without our organisation setting the standards from within. These standards are paramount to the equitable treatment and consequent success of aspirational and dedicated individuals like Sofia.

Was it easy? Not at all. Some of the assignments were written on my smartphone while I was putting Vasco asleep. I did a presentation while I was breastfeeding…I failed in the retake of that exam, but after studying hard I managed to pass; thanks for the encouragement Benoit Daenen. I missed more classes than I wanted to and I didn't get the higher grades. Fine, I am a human not a superwoman… Learn, learn, learn.

We beg to disagree, Sofia – not only are you a superwoman, but more: an admirable example of  persistence and motherhood, and surely an inspiration to women and girls who hear of your experience.

Solvay Brussels School extends our most heartfelt congratulations for your achievements thus far and those to surely come, as we officially welcome you to our alumni community. 

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