Setting up a strategic marketing plan at O'Neill or starting a water installation at a school in Gambia - that doesn't sound like an average Bachelor in Business Administration. You do not only spend the BSc in Business Administration at Nyenrode Business University in the classroom. Lecturer and coach Herman van der Meulen explains what makes this study so special. "Theory can always be found in books, but no practical experience."
“Who is a fitness champion here?” Herman van der Meulen asks the students. "You? Okay, make a move. Two minutes! We will join you.” Don't be surprised if you suddenly find yourself in a deep squat position halfway through college. Herman's lessons are anything but boring. To keep the brain fit, he makes his lessons as varied as possible. Not an hour-long monologue on his part, but a lot of interaction with the class - which also includes humor and action with the students. Herman has been named Lecturer of the Year nine times. He knows better than anyone how important it is to be yourself and show personal leadership in your work. This last point is an essential feature of the study. “Stay close to yourself in everything you do. You radiate that, and you can draw energy from it,” says Herman. “I can be myself in the classroom and I pass that energy on to the students. During the course you will learn to better understand your character, so that you gain insights into yourself and your talents.”
“We teach students to determine a course from their own strength. Because in addition to theoretical knowledge, it is also about learning who you are, what you can do and what your deepest ambitions are,” says Herman. “Academic knowledge is fantastic, but in my view not a purpose. If we want responsible managers and leaders, that requires a basic attitude of service and the ability to effectively respond to continuous change. To do this, a leader needs self-knowledge - knowing what you are good at and what you can better relinquish. That is why we pay a lot of attention to personal development, aimed at effective functioning in an organization.”
In the second year, the students dive into practice - and deeply too. During the Company Project, students fulfill an assignment at a company for a year. The assignment is based on a question that arises in this organization. Nyenrode has a large network of companies where students can work. “It is an inspiring introduction to business in real life. The issues vary enormously. Last year, students set up and applied a strategic marketing plan at O'Neill. But I also went to Gambia with several students last year. We have laid the foundation for a water installation at a school, to provide students with clean drinking water.” This year I would finish the project there with a new group of students, but unfortunately, we had to postpone that because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On a positive note: we founded the Nyenrode Gambia Foundation this month. So, more Gambia projects will follow.”
Prefer to start your own company during the Company Project? It’s possible! Entrepreneurial blood is thicker than water - you don't have to explain that at Nyenrode. Last year, a few students set up a startup that offers innovative, technical solutions aimed at sustainability. “An example: do you know the small receipts that you always get at restaurants during checkout? They have made those chemical prints superfluous by digitizing them. Another cool example is the online tea shop Benjah Minttea of former student Saber Benjah and his partner. This startup grew quickly at the time, and it still exists.”
“As a student, you develop your character and talents best in practice. It’s a wonderful experience, but it does require intensive guidance from experienced entrepreneurs,” says Herman. Like many other teachers at Nyenrode, Herman has his own company. He guides change processes in organizations and supports managers. He takes his entrepreneurial experience into the classroom and makes it available to his students. “You can always find theory in books, but not in practice. It makes Nyenrode unique that we combine an academic study with so many practical targeted assignments and individual attention.”
“The first place is for personal guidance,” says Herman. “I always try to put the student first. I don't want to be better than the students, I listen to them with great enthusiasm. I think that is the best gift I have to offer as a teacher: sincere attention and appreciation for their efforts. Then a bond is formed.”
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