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COLOFON EDUCATION SPECIAL August 2020 TILBURG SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND MANAGEMENT This education special was created by the editors of New Scientist and was commissioned by Tilburg University, Tilburg School of Economics and Management (TiSEM). TiSEM is a leading European player for research and education in the field of Business and Economics. Editor-in-chief Jim Jansen Final editor Wim de Jong Photo editor Jaap Augustinus Contributors to this issue Pepijn Barnard, Bram Belloni, Bob Bronshoff, Fenna van der Grient, Irene Faas, Ans Hekkenberg, Cees Heuvel, Jim Jansen, Joris Janssen, Peter de Jong, Maaike Putman, Iris Verhoeff, Sebastiaan van de Water Basic design Sanna Terpstra (Twin Media bv) Design Donna van Kessel (Twin Media bv) CONTACT NEW SCIENTIST Mail redactie@newscientist.nl (for press releases), info@newscientist.nl (for questions to editors only), customerservice@newscientist.nl Tel +31-(0)85-6202600 Address (post and street address) Oostenburgervoorstraat 166, NL-1018 MR Amsterdam Brand manager Thijs van der Post (thijs@newscientist.nl) Sales Alex Sieval (alex@newscientist.nl) CONTACT TISEM Marjolein Breems M.M.A.Breems@tilburguniversity.edu tilburguniversity.edu/tisem Printing Koninklijke Drukkerij Em. De Jong ISSN 2214-7403 The publisher is not liable for damages as a result of printing and typesetting errors. COPYRIGHT Absolutely nothing in this publication may be copied or stored in a database or retrieval system in any way without the written permission of the publisher. The publisher has endeavored to fulfil all legal requirements relating to the copyright of the illustrations. Anyone who is of the opinion that other copyright regulations apply, may apply to the publisher.

Student-focused If you choose Tilburg University, you will not only find yourself at one of the best universities in the Netherlands, you will also get Tilburg as a university town as a free extra. When I read the stories in this special, made in collaboration with the editors of popular science magazine New Scientist, I almost regret that I am no longer a student myself. The interview with student Bas van der Werf (page 34) reads like an engrossing boys’ book. While he is still at university, he has already founded several companies, he works out at the various sports facilities offered by the university, and he has left Tilburg for six months for an internship in America. And judging from the other stories in this issue, Bas isn’t unique in this. The student is our focus, and together we try to get the

Interviews 06 Student’s move Vice Dean Jeroen Kuilman on quality of education, lectures during corona, and studying abroad.

12 M r. Spotify Hannes Datta researches streaming platforms – and prefers to teach online.

15 “ Entrepreneurship is sexy” Wynand Bodewes on the new bachelor Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation.

20 More than figures Accountancy couple Bart Dierynck and

Sofie Vanden­ bogaerde about passion for their profession.

most out of everyone’s career. This approach is bearing fruit, and I am sincerely proud of the high standards set by the National Student Survey and the Selection Guide for Higher Education. Students give us high scores because the quality of education is high, and we have many good professors here. I hope you enjoy reading this special. And if you are not yet studying in Tilburg, I say: welcome! Prof. Dr. Geert Duijsters

Dean Tilburg School of Economics and Management

Get inspired by studying


22 Help and stay

en Frank Rijk een combineert met turncarrièree in een studi Tilburg


04 Lecture in front of a green screen Bob van den Brand spices up his classes with innovations.

The Education Support Team ensures that education runs smoothly. van de makers van

24 “Everyone is susceptible to brands” Marketing titans Bart Bronnenberg (Fender guitars) and Ronald de Jong (Harley motor­ cycle) give in.

26 S econd life for Second Life Anne Rutkowski teaches in the virtual world.


30 Top-level sports and study The lives of students Frank Rijken and Dogus Köker are determined by iron discipline.

32 View of the World De Smeetskring and Improving Society Lab are opening the doors to society up wide.

34 M ultientrepreneur


Student Bas van der Werf already has three companies to his name.

10 Facts and figures TiSEM in a nutshell.

18 Campus life Everything there is to do on the Tilburg University campus.


09 Column Henri van den Hout Teaching boring? Far from it!

28 Hitting the books Julia Cleton (22, fiscal economics) recorded her student life in a diary for a week.

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 3


st endtu “Ss m eb en v gi omedfr f o ”ecio ­h

“We involve students in everything we do” Students should take charge of their careers, according to Vice Dean Jeroen Kuilman. A discussion about the quality of ­education, lecturing during corona, and studying abroad. “Of course, it’s also great to travel, to meet new people, and to party with them.”

Text: Jim Jansen Image: Bob Bronshoff


here is a serene peace and quiet as we walk up Universiteitslaan at the end of May. On this sun-drenched day, the campus is deserted. The AH-To-Go is closed, the tables and chairs at Starbucks are covered with a thick layer of dust and students are few and far between. Due to corona, Vice Dean Jeroen Kuilman has also exchanged his office in the Koopmans building for a home office in Breda. He is visibly enjoying walking past the buildings again after an absence of eight weeks. “Hey, that’s new,” he says when he sees that the stairs along Universiteitslaan are painted in rainbow colors. Although he does his work somewhere else, part of what he does has remained the same, with corona as a major added dossier. “I try to keep mornings free for larger things that need my attention,” he says. “I read urgent e-mails, write documents, and from half past twelve meetings start via Skype and Zoom. The vast majority of my work con-

sists of talking. With people in education, other vice deans, students, professors, and many others with the ultimate goal of improving education.” Do you still have time to do research or to teach?

“In my current position, research time is scarce, and I teach very occasionally. I lecture on the subject of innovation management to people from the business world. And that gives me a lot of energy. It’s great to discuss topics that are close to your heart with students. When I started as a researcher, it was part of my job to teach courses; at the beginning, it was quite exciting. But soon I discovered a passion for education.” How does high-quality teaching work?

“One of the most important things is that, as a professor, you have to provide structure. Students want to know where they stand and what is expected of them. It is lethal to suddenly move the goalposts halfway through a course, for example by changing the set-up of the exam. You take them by the hand, from a to b. Compare it to taking people on a trip. It’s not smart to change the destination halfway through.”

6 | New Scientist | Tilburg School of Economics and Management

What have you learned from the corona crisis?

“Needless to say, we’ve come out of our existing ways of thinking. We have been talking for years about offering lectures online, but again and again this met with resistance. Students wanted it, but for lecturers the ­barrier was difficult to cross. Now we were forced to do it. This also applies to online exams. We’ve never had to do that before.” Do you think things have changed ­permanently because of the virus?

“I hope so. I also don’t think we should go back to the situation before 1 March 2020. We had lectures with five hundred students at a quarter to nine in the morning. Some got up early to travel from Zeeland or Limburg to Tilburg. Isn’t it better if lectures like that, with limited interaction between student and ­lecturer, take place online? On the other hand, of course, it’s good for them to be here occasionally, especially for smaller, more interactive gatherings. Because of corona, we view our forms of education differently and we are studying what we do and do not allow to take place on campus. Of course, the bond between students and between student and university remains extremely important.”


Jeroen Kuilman

How is TiSEM doing?

“Very well. Many of our study programs ­score well in the National Student Survey and the Selection Guide for Higher Education. These are rankings that indicate how study programs are valued compared to comparable programs in the Netherlands. Students give us high scores because the quality of education is high, and we have many good professors here. In addition, compared to the Randstad conurbation, education here in Tilburg is on a slightly smaller scale. We involve students in everything we do. They are very active in study program committees and the Faculty Council, and we ask for feedback that we actually use. If, for example, we want to change the courses within a study program, we won’t do this without taking the input of students into account.” “Understanding society” is the slogan you use to recruit new students.

“Certainly. Our university is very socially oriented. In our curriculum, we focus on corporate social responsibility. We also have a sustainability center that researches this, and at the Zero Hunger Lab we try to find solutions to the world food crisis.” This slogan fits in seamlessly with the three pillars: knowledge, skills, and character.

“We’ve always been a research university; that’s ‘knowledge’ pillar. In our education program, we pay increasing attention to skills needed to do well in the labor market. We teach students to work together in teams and teach them social skills, IT knowledge and negotiation skills; that is the ‘skills’ Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 7


“Because of corona, we view education differently” ­ illar. In terms of ‘character’, we try not to be p too pedantic and normative. It’s about thinking and doing; we want to teach students to have a critical attitude and to think independently. Students must take control of their careers. First here at the university and later in a company or their own business. That is why it’s not only about the practical transfer of knowledge, but also about things such as philosophy and business ethics.” Entrepreneurship is the common thread in your own career. What is so great about entrepreneurship?

“You’re taking steps to create something new. You’re deviating from the status quo and creating something that didn’t exist before. I think that’s great. The process of thinking, creating, and refining is fantastic. Eventually, an idea that originated in your mind becomes reality. It’s extremely satisfying.” You will have the same satisfaction when the new study program starts in September 2020.

“The BSc Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation did exist at the higher professio-

nal level (HBO), but not at the university level. We want to introduce students to entrepreneurship and offer them a study program that prepares them for a job in SMEs or for starting their own business. Together with colleagues such as James Small, director of the Tilburg Center of Entrepreneurship, we have been thinking about this program for years and it has slowly taken shape. More and more people were enthusiastic, we received the support of the Board of Governors, and the Municipality of Tilburg was also involved. Two hundred ­students have already enrolled, and they have their own building here on campus. They will learn everything about business administration, marketing, finance, strategy, and planning. In addition, they will work on projects with the Tilburg business community. Things they learn here at lectures, they will immediately be able to put into practice in their projects.” You yourself left Tilburg several times to teach in Hong Kong and Moscow.

“Hong Kong came my way and I stayed there for four years. A fascinating region. The meeting place between East and West with a lot of British influence. I found the mishmash interesting, as well as the contradictions. On the one hand, you have the business center with its New York character that goes on twenty-four hours a day. But if you get on the bus, you are in beautiful nature with ­white beaches and palm trees in twenty minutes. Moscow was different. I worked at the state university, and ‘business’ is a dirty word there. The students mainly associated it with corruption. It was rather complicated explaining my theories about entrepreneurship.” Do you advise students to go abroad for a while?

“Definitely. It is good for them to get to know a different culture in a different environment. To see that a country and a city are organized differently, both socially and eco8 | New Scientist | Tilburg School of Economics and Management


Jeroen Kuilman (Hoogezand-Sappemeer, 1979) is Vice Dean of Education and Associate Professor of Management at the Tilburg School of Economics and ­Management. Between 2006 and 2010, he taught and ­researched at Hong Kong ­University of Science and Technology and also taught at Moscow State University and at Universidad de los ­Andes in Colombia. He ­obtained his PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2005 with a dissertation entitled The Re-Emergence of Foreign Banks in Shanghai: An Ecological ­Analysis.

nomically, and that not everything is a matter of course. It is good for them to start thinking outside of existing structures. And, it is also great to travel, to meet new people, and to party with them.” As Vice Dean, you have a busy job and you’re always “on”. How do you relax?

“I have a boat on the Sloterplas lake in Amsterdam, and, on the water, I feel like I’m on vacation and I can forget all the stress. I come from a family of bargemen, several uncles and aunts are in inland shipping and water is in my DNA. It gives me the ultimate feeling of freedom.”

opinion column

Long live education! A

question havo and vwo teachers are frequently asked is whether it is boring to explain the same story in class every year. Apparently, the questioners assume that a teacher mainly explains and that little or nothing changes in terms of subject matter. Admittedly, there are teachers who do not stop talking throughout the entire class, adhere strictly to a teaching method, and do not change their examples. But it can be done differently. A teacher’s task is to help students learn. They must ensure that students receive accurate information about the subject matter. But they also have to judge whether the students meet the learning objectives, so that they can make changes if this is not the case. In order to do so, they must be able to assess the value of their students’ learning performance in written or spoken form. Boring? Far from it. Unwittingly, students unfailingly show you where you’re not clear enough. My first experience (as a teacher without any teacher training) was a textbook example of what to expect. The subject in a fifth-grade business economics class was the final value of capital. I asked students the following question: “In three years, you want to take a long trip. You want to have €10,000 in your savings account. Your

account balance is now zero. The bank pays you 1 percent interest per year. Do you have to put more or less than €10,000 in that savings account now? A simple question, in my opinion. A student said: “More, because I sometimes take money out of an account.” At the time, I thought that training as a teacher was not such a crazy idea, especially since there were still subjects like costs and reserves to come. Tilburg University, in collaboration with school umbrella organization OMO, offers a master’s program Teacher Higher Preparatory Education in the field of economics or business economics. With this master’s degree, a first-degree teaching qualification can be obtained, which can be used to teach at vmbo, mbo, havo, and vwo. (There is no qualification for higher professional education and university education.) The master’s program focusses on teaching methodology, education studies, and didactic research. Of course, internships at schools are an important part of the master’s program. Between 2014 and 2019, 54 students completed one or two of these master’s programs. 43 of them then went on to work as teachers, mainly at havo and/or vwo, but also in higher professional education and university education. All 43 are still working as teachers.

My first experience was a textbook example of what to expect in education

Henri van den Hout is academic director of the University Teacher Training Center Tilburg TiSEM


Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 9


TiSEM in facts and figures Students



385 50% international

1.060 345

15% international in ­academic year 2019/2020

National Alumni Monitor

40 educational support staff





89% of graduates are (very) satisfied with the ­master’s program they ­completed at TiSEM. 10 | New Scientist | Tilburg School of Economics and Management

76% would choose the same program.


18 master’s programs

Portfolio of study programs 7 bachelor’s programs Business Economics International Business Administration Fiscal Economics Economics and Business Economics Economics Econometrics and Operational Research Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (new as of September 2020)

Accountancy Business Analytics and Operations Research Econometrics and Mathematical Economics Economics Finance Fiscal Economics Information Management International Business Taxation: Economics International Management Teacher Training in General Economics Teacher Training in Management and Organization (Business Economics) Marketing Analytics Marketing Management Quantitative Finance and Actuarial Science Research Master Business Research Master Economics Strategic Chain Management Supply Chain Management

Alumni work at:

Number of alumni

Every year, approximately 1,600 master’s degree students receive their diplomas.

Accreditations obtained TiSEM has an AACSB accreditation. All TiSEM programs are NVAO accredited.

Selection Guide for Higher Education 2 bachelor’s and 3 master’s programs are at the top of the ranking of ­comparable programs in the ­Netherlands. Of these, 1 bachelor’s and 2 master’s degree programs are TOP-rated programs.

National Student Survey The TiSEM programs ­receive a score of 4.17 out of 5 from students on whether they would recommend the program.

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 11

12 | New Scientist | Tilburg School of Economics and Management


Datta loves data

Mr. Spotify – that’s how Hannes Datta is sometimes seen because of his research into the popular music streaming service. But his research into digitization is much broader. “Education is in need of a format that is just as radically innovative as Spotify’s.”

Text: Wim de Jong


annes Datta (1984) found the university where he studied, in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, to be boring. “Virtually all students at the business economics faculty thought they would become managers at Audi, which has its head office close by. Very one-dimensional.” Partly on the advice of his father, who had read good things about Dutch universities in the newspapers, he tried his luck on the other side of the border. In the end, he chose Maastricht. After his PhD there, he became assistant and later associate professor in Tilburg. What did he like so much? “The research climate in business economics is much better here. The Netherlands switched to English-language education, of which I am a great proponent, much faster. Partly because of this, it is easier for Dutch researchers to publish in leading journals.” Another reason he stayed is the lifestyle. “I’m not really into hierarchy, so maybe I just fit in better with Dutch society.”

Swedish app At a party thrown by German friends in 2011, he had an encounter that would influence both his professional and private life. A Swedish guest was telling anyone

who would listen about an app called Spotify that was slowly conquering Europe. Datta subscribed, started listening enthusiastically, and noticed that his taste in music was changing. “First, I was into alternative rock, indie, that kind of stuff. But since I moved to the Netherlands, I’ve started listening to electronic dance music, for example. I started to wonder: is it because I live in another country or is it because of Spotify? It also seemed to me an interesting research topic: what influence does a platform like this have on listening behavior? I think Spotify really did influence my personal taste in music. It introduced me to artists I didn’t know about and that I wouldn’t pay for. I wouldn’t have dared to try. But if you have access to thirty million songs for one subscription price, you’re going to play around a little.”

“I study not only how consumers make choices, but also how platforms influence these choices” Big Puzzle Datta’s research career began with research into music streaming platforms, but he wants to broaden his research agenda

with the NWO Veni grant that he received in 2017. “I want to be more than Mr. Spotify. Digital platforms are not only found in the music industry. Thanks to successful platforms like Netflix, you no longer buy films but rent them through a subscription. The same can be done with games, books, etcetera.” With various research projects, Datta is trying to look at small aspects of the big puzzle in order to better understand digitization. “Competition is one of those aspects. If there’s only one music streaming platform left and that controls everything you listen to, it’s bad for you as a consumer and for the producer, the artist. So, I study not only how consumers make choices, but also how platforms try to influence this choice.”

Advantages of video At the time of the interview, however, Datta had not gotten around to that research for months. Because of the corona pandemic, education, in a form fully adapted to the circumstances, has swallowed up all its time. Datta is glad that this has accelerated the changes he already wanted to make. “I could have done all my lectures via live stream. I would have spoken for an hour and a half, twice a week, and then I would have been done. But I chose to adapt my format to the digital tools that are available and to what can be done when teaching digitally.” Datta cannot stop talking about its advantages. “You can allow students to go at their own speed. If you record things, students can pause you if they don’t under-

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 13

interview Hannes Datta

stand, or rewind you. Secondly, we no longer have to stick to those timetables with lectures lasting an hour and a half, because you no longer have to stick to the scheduling of a lecture hall. Sometimes I would very much like to give a two-and-a-halfhour lecture, sometimes only half an hour, but with a few more home assignments that is now possible. Thirdly, online lectures have a public chat feature. Students in this generation are very accustomed to using those chats. But in a physical lecture, some would never dare to ask questions. I have noticed that that is why there is a lot more interaction in my lectures.”

Better teaching Datta sees many more advantages in digital lecturing, but his point is clear: it works great and we need to radically change our format. “It is what Spotify did to the music industry. They radically changed the format in which music is offered. That is what has made them so successful. They have used the advantages of digitization to create a better revenue model and I try to do the same with education. I think we could be much better at teaching. It would mean

the university would have to invest less in educational buildings and more in licenses for digital platforms, for a fraction of the cost.”

Reproducibility Another of Datta’s points of contention is the reproducibility of research. “We pay a lot of attention to it, but it is still very difficult to persuade researchers to do, because it takes time. I think it helps if you can make it clear that reproducibility ultimately makes you a better and more efficient researcher. That is why I started a major initiative with the working title Tilburg Science Hub. To this end, together with other researchers, I have developed manuals and tutorials to convince colleagues of the efficiency of reproducible research.” Here too, Datta believes it is best to catch them while

“Reproducibility ultimately makes researchers better and more efficient”

they’re young. “I want to teach this to students very early on. For example, I had them collect tweets during Rutte’s press conferences on the corona crisis for an assignment. They had to describe very precisely on the basis of our site: what is in that data, what were the problems, how was that data collected? We made this readme publicly available, together with the data, for everyone to use. It’s great. This can be used for other research. And they now know how to document data properly, so that other people can work with it. Isn’t that great?”

Legal twilight zone Still, sometimes companies do not like the fact that Datta is web scraping with their publicly available data. “Officially, no one really knows if it is allowed or not, it is a legal twilight zone. Some companies write in their terms of use: it is not allowed. But the data is publicly available, and I store it safely, etcetera.” This almost went wrong once for Datta. “I was doing research with public data and every year I informed the company in question about the progress of my research, which lasted about four years. They never responded, but when I was about to publish, they tried to block it. If that had happened, it would have meant the end of my career. And there are plenty of young researchers who experience similar things. I would like my institution, Tilburg University, to provide the necessary support to get our research out of this legal twilight zone. A policy paper, possibly together with other institutions in the country, could help with this.”

Really a scientist

Thanks to Spotify, the music industry has changed beyond recognition. Which app is going to turn education on its head? ISTOCK

14 | New Scientist | Tilburg School of Economics and Management

In short, Datta has no lack of ambition. How does he see his future? I’ve been an associate professor for two years now and sometimes you get invitations for a full professorship. And then I think: mwah, I actually want to enjoy the stage I am in right now. I want to supervise even more PhD students; I want to set up my Tilburg Science Hub properly. After that, I will think about the next steps.” And if Spotify calls with an attractive offer? “I would like to observe a day or two a week, but mainly to do research. I am and will always be a scientist.”

interview Wynand Bodewes

“Entrepreneurship has become sexier” Wynand Bodewes (53) is academic director and senior lecturer in entrepreneurship of the brand-new Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation bachelor’s program. He brings with him twenty years of educational experience in entrepreneurship. “I like research, but my heart lies in education.” Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 15

Text: Peter de Jong Image: Bob Bronshoff



“Both my grandfathers were entrepreneurs. The one on my father’s side had a winch factory in the shipbuilding industry. My other grandfather was a carpenter and ran a furniture business. My father had a profession, he was a civil-law notary. I grew up in Drenthe, between the cows. That is where I could often be found. I remember I often had to take a shower when I came home covered in dirt once again. One of my uncles, Gerard Wortelboer, was also a farmer; I went to the agricultural fair with him. I never sold anything as a kid. But I was always very interested in everything that was going on around me.” Student

“After graduating from havo, I first studied chemical technology at the University of Applied Sciences in Groningen. During

internships in England and Germany I noticed that company culture differs from country to country. In Germany, I once wanted to copy the operating instructions and asked Herr Direktor for permission. Well, it was not allowed. Later, I heard that I should have asked the deputy manager, who would arranged it with the Big Boss. What did I know? In the Netherlands, you pull the instructions off the wall, remove the staples, and make a copy. It is much more informal here. After the University of Applied Sciences, I studied business administration in Groningen and obtained my PhD at Erasmus University in Rotterdam in the field of business innovation.” Work

“In Rotterdam, I started teaching entrepreneurship, as one of the first. Before that, there was research into entrepreneurship, but no education. After that, I helped set up a center for entrepreneurship at Maastricht University and taught entrepreneurship at the Master School of Management, also in Maastricht. I taught a lot of classes abroad

for MSM. Suriname, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, China, Peru, Hungary, you name it. I learned that the Netherlands is not really a country, but a city, with lots of green between the neighborhoods. I advise students to look beyond the borders of the Netherlands. There is a far greater market beyond the borders. Why stop there?” Students abroad

“Most people’s dreams are universal. A decent job, a nice life, and maybe a company car. Abroad, the contrast between rich and poor is much greater than it is here. If you don’t try your best there, you won’t make it. In Kazakhstan, the students had three smartphones. One work phone, two private phones. The latter they alternated because they were afraid of being bugged by the secret service.” Research or education

“Research is super fun, but teaching students is much more fun. I don’t have enough patience to be a researcher, especially for the tedious publishing process. I enjoy teaching

Wynand Bodewes with Fatboy cuddly toy Co9 (pronounced “konijn”, Dutch for rabbit). “Fatboy was, in part, made great by an alumnus of Tilburg University. The company, which originated from a product idea from someone other than the founders, illustrates that you don’t have to be an ‘inventor’ to be an entrepreneur.”


Preferences young people things, improving them. Teaching them that dry theory really adds something to their skills. I have my former students, who are now entrepreneurs, give guest lectures, so that today’s students learn from their practical experience.” Entrepreneurship over the years

“Entrepreneurship has become sexier. In the past, the goal of business administration students was often to get a good job at a large company. If you really couldn’t find anything better, you would start your own business. A small group chose entrepreneurship. Now that group is much larger. But the group that truly chooses entrepreneurship remains small. Today, there are many more role

ve in the manufacturability of success. They are not so much interested in what the competition does, but what their customers think.” His own company

“I started it as a joke when students in Rotterdam kept asking me if I was an entrepreneur myself. The company is called Bodebo; that was my nickname in military service. I sold Italian furniture online. This came about because I was looking for a nice bookcase on the Internet. But it was expensive. Elsewhere, the same bookcase turned out to be much cheaper. Then I thought, if I order five at the same time it would make a considerable difference in terms of shipping costs

“Former students who have become entrepreneurs now give guest lectures” models than there used to be, for example Picnic’s Michel Muller or the Carlier brothers of VanMoof bikes. We can all follow them through social media. Entrepreneurship nowadays is also easier than it used to be, thanks to the Internet. In the past, the drive of an aspiring entrepreneur was often: your own joint, making good money, and no nagging boss. These days, students are more socially engaged, they want to add something to the world.” The Entrepreneur

“He or she is not a loner, often it is a duo that complements each other. One is extroverted and seeks out risks, the other is introverted and keeps a closer eye on things. The entrepreneur doesn’t exist. Research has shown that managers in companies take more risk than entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs play with their own money, managers don’t. Good entrepreneurs are clever at minimizing the risks and can accept that sometimes something will not work, but before that time wholeheartedly believe in it. Entrepreneurs have an urge to prove themselves and belie-

and I could sell four of them. I easily sold those four. And then I ordered another five, and so on and so forth. I registered with the Chamber of Commerce and built a simple website. I’ve stopped now; a German party came onto the scene selling the same furniture for a lower price than I could offer. I direct potential customers to him now. For me, Bodebo was a nice hobby, which I might take up again later on. I also learned something from it: I don’t like bookkeeping. And: if, as an entrepreneur, you accidentally forget to pay your VAT, then the tax authorities are not your best friend.” Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation

“We will be starting the three-year bachelor in September. I’m looking forward to it. My ambition is for our students to push their boundaries. To think out of the box and color outside the lines. Many people keep their head down because they think they can’t do it. But they could, as long as they believe in it. That’s what I want to impart on my students. The sky is the limit.”

The preferences of Wynand Bodewes Book The collected works of Max Weber Movie Gladiator Sport horseback riding Car Lotus Elise Hobby walking Food chocolate mousse Beverage wine Tilburg industrial city Tilburg University the most beautiful campus in the country Climate opportunities Bucket list paragliding Country Mongolia Example my uncle Hans Pennings (Professor of Business Administration)

Tips for prospective students


Let yourself be inspired by biographies of well-known entrepreneurs. For example, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and Muhammad Yunus, known for microcredit. Some entrepreneurs have gone bankrupt several times, but still have recovered. Make sure you have a mentor, an experienced entrepreneur you trust and with whom you can discuss all your ideas and hurdles. Learn to reflect on yourself. Create your own counterarguments, so that you don’t keep chasing after something like a blind horse. Celebrate your successes! And realize that sometimes they are achieved with luck. Don’t give up too quickly, but suffer losses in time, so you still have time and space to try something else. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will get it more often than you think.

2 3

4 5 6

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 17


A day on the TiSEM campus

“Accountancy is about more than figures” Professor Bart Dierynck and lecturer Sofie Vandenbogaerde both work at the Department of Accountancy. They are a couple and have two children. Together they are helping rid accountancy of its unjust “dry” image. Text: Joris Janssen


managers with experience in such a task indeed realize that it can also be intrinsically motivating. This allows them to switch more quickly to a fixed sum.”

Making lectures fun and educational Getting acquainted “As a professor of management accounting, I teach and do research. I am also research coordinator and I coordinate the PhD program within the department.”

The term “accountancy” sounds dry, but... “It’s very interesting to investigate how people in companies make decisions. For example, I researched whether having certain experience influences how managers motivate their employees. The question was: do managers motivate their employees in a different way if they themselves have experience with the task the employees have to perform? Managers often tend to reward on the basis of performance. But if a task can also be intrinsically motivating, you are less likely to switch to such bonuses. We discovered that

“Before a lecture, I have students write tweets about the papers they have to read. They send in the 140 characters in advance and then, throughout the lecture, a discussion about the tweets unfolds. In this way, I try to stay close to the personal experience of students. They write messages like that every day, so to speak. They like doing it very much. In addition, the tweets lead to making connections with other things and you can immediately see what the students do and don’t understand.”

Message to would-be accountants “Until I started my PhD, I was a top-level athlete: duathlon. Running, cycling, and running again. I combined that with studying during my student days. This taught me, for example, how to plan well, how to distinguish between main and side issues, and how to deal with stress. My tip for

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“I have students write tweets about the papers they have to read” prospective students is to use your time mainly to learn new things, to get to know yourself, and to explore the world. Later on, when you are working, you’ll find out how much time you had for that sort of

motivation come from them? If you promise a reward, they’ll really clean up that garden. But then a child won’t learn why it’s valuable to clean up the garden. The alternative, encouraging intrinsic motivation, takes more time and you have less certainty about whether it will actually happen. I think about that a lot.”


Getting acquainted “I lecture and coordinate courses at the Department of Accountancy. I am also program director of the accountancy master’s program. In order to train future accountancy professionals properly, we have recently updated the master’s program. Topics that are becoming increasingly important in the sector, such as IT, big data and non-financial information, now have a clear place in the program.” BRAM BELLONI

thing in your student days. These are investments that will benefit you for the rest of your life and career.”

Sneaking your work home “I sometimes apply some of the principles of my profession to our children. For example, the difference between giving extrinsic rewards and encouraging intrinsic motivation. Suppose you want your kids to clean up the garden. Then it’s very easy to say: if you do this, you will get a snack or you can play on the tablet. But is that wise? Do you want them to be rewarded or should the

The term “accountancy” sounds dry, but... “People often think that accountancy is only about figures, but it’s much more than that. We accountants do have a thing for figures, but you also have to understand where those figures come from. There are many human decisions involved. The interesting thing about accountancy is that it is a nice mix of hard figures and human aspects. In addition, due to the rise of big data, the question now arises: will accountants still be needed in the future? The answer is ‘yes’, because computers cannot take over all decisions. I find this a fascinating subject. Some people fear that computers and robots are going to take over everything, but that’s really not the case.”

“I like to discuss current affairs, such as the corona crisis” Making lectures fun and educational “I think it’s important that students get their wisdom not only from books, but also from what’s happening in the world. Take the situation now, during the corona crisis. One of my online lectures was about inventory management. This was a good occasion to discuss the fact that there are now many shortages of some products because Chinese companies are no longer able to supply them. How do you prevent something like that? You could have bought more in advance, but you don’t want to be stuck with immense inventories in the Netherlands or Belgium. I enjoy discussing current affairs like that.

Message to would-be accountants “Student life is more than just burying your nose in books. It’s the start of standing on your own two feet. This is difficult for students who start their studies after the summer. A lot will take place online because of corona. Building networks and making friends for life may look a little different after the summer. That’s why, as program director, I’m now thinking about how we can turn our new group of students into a group online. It’s a huge challenge: providing a social experience in a situation in which a lot will take place off campus.”

Sneaking your work home “Bart does this more than I do, haha. As a joke, he looks at our kids to see how to best reward them for things. But the eldest is only four years old, and will listen for a moment, but will have forgotten two hours later. Unfortunately, you can’t work with toddlers like you do with employees.”

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 21

Behind the scenes of the lecture hall Good education is about more than just good teachers. A whole team works in the background to make sure everything runs smoothly. But what does this Education Support Team do?


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Text: Irene Faas


igh-quality education that continues to improve, that is the goal of Yvonne de Vries. She thinks about every step of education: “It’s not just about how the teachers teach, but also, for example, about how exams can best be organized. In addition, I help our employees to improve themselves. I’ll think about the whole system and help keep it running.” De Vries is part of the policy and educational development team. Together with the education coordination team, the examination board, and the secretarial department, she forms the Education Support Team (EST) of Tilburg School of Economics and Management (TiSEM). The team is headed by Patricia Leemans. “In many ways I am the connecting factor between TiSEM and the umbrella department of Academic Services,” she explains. “I see it as my task to ensure that the education professionals are able to do their work as well as possible.” “The EST forms a link between the students and the study program,” says Leemans. “The education coordinators are the face of the program for both the students and the program directors. We give feedback to the directors concerning the things that students are dealing with. Students can contact the Examination Board with requests in the field of, for example, exemption from courses. Complaints from students are also dealt with by the Examination Board. As a support team, we play an important role for students from the moment they come to the information day until the moment of graduation.”

Education on its head “Program directors organize education, lecturers teach, and students study; we

“The magic word is quality, and in particular its improvement”

Yvonne de Vries (left) and Patricia Leemans of the Education Support Team. “We have to do it together; if one of the links breaks, the whole system goes horribly wrong.” BRAM BELLONI

make it all possible,” adds de Vries. The tasks of the EST vary widely: from planning the courses and the curriculum to supervising students. Supervision takes place both in workshops and during office hours, in which students can talk one-on-one with an education coordinator. They help the students on their way or refer them to the right expert. De Vries is co-responsible for ensuring that this process runs as smoothly as possible. “The magic word is quality, and especially its improvement,” says de Vries. And that quality is tested extensively. “Every five years, we are assessed by Dutch and international bodies,” says de Vries. “They look at whether our education is up to scratch and offer recommendations. We then use those recommendations to make the education that we offer even better.” In between these assessments, there are plenty of other activities. For example, all the available courses had to be digitized in a short period of time in response to the corona crisis. “That was quite a job,” says de Vries. “It’s more than giving lectures via Zoom. Suddenly, examinations and meetings between students also took place online. In the meantime, of course, the quality must remain high.” “The whole organization of our teaching activities was on its head,” she continues. “I steer this kind of change in the right direction by providing an overview: What is going on? What is going well and what

“You really need each other. We can’t do without the input of the lecturers and students” isn’t? What do we have to change? And who do we have to inform about it? I make sure that all this information is fed back to us so that we can really use it.”

Proud of her team “We have achieved a great deal with unprecedented speed in these strange times,” says Leemans. “Digital developments were already in their infancy as a form of innovation and a different way of teaching, but this was actually a multi-year plan. And then you suddenly find yourself in this situation... In two months, we’ve achieved so much, I dare say I’m very proud of the whole team.” “It’s moments like this that you realize how much you need each other,” adds de Vries. “We’re not the only ones who are important in this. We can’t do without the input of the lecturers and the students. We have to do it together: if one of the links breaks, the whole system goes horribly wrong. Of course, I already knew that, but during a crisis like this you realize it even more. We have to keep communicating.”

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 23


Bart Bronnenberg en Ronald de Jong

“Everyone is susceptible to brands” One drives a Volvo and is considered a leading academic. The other rides a Harley-Davidson and won his spurs high up at Philips. Under the flag of TiSEM, marketing titans Bart Bronnenberg and Ronald de Jong bring together their unique insights and experiences.

Text: Sebastiaan van de Water Image: Bram Belloni


ogether, they have one goal: to ensure that students recognize the difference between outdated paradigms, new laws, temporary trends, and eternal truths in the wilderness of the marketing world. Ronald and Bart, you are both marketing experts, does that make you immune to the power of marketing and branding?

RdJ: “Certainly not. The fact that I ride a Harley when it’s objectively not the best bike says it all.” BB: “Brands offer a ready-made story you can easily step into. I like to play guitar. Preferably a Fender. That preference is also partly irrational. That brand was founded by

Leo Fender himself, the inventor of the electric guitar.” RdJ: “Anyone who claims to be impervious to the perception of a brand is not being honest with themselves. When it comes to cars, I drive a BMW. Why? Probably because my uncle used to be passionate about BMWs. The best car manufacturer in the world. That feeling will stay with you for the rest of your life.” BB: “American research has shown that brand preferences are partly hereditary. It’s no coincidence that I always drive a Volvo, just like my father. There are studies that show that if someone moves from Twente to Brabant, there is a good chance that, decades later, their children will drink beer by Twente brand Grolsch more often than the average Brabander.” RdJ: “You can rationalize all these preferences, but that’s nonsense. Usually it’s about emotion. And that not only plays a role with consumers – although many academics think so – but also with business-to-business transactions.”

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You give lectures to students together. Aren’t you in constant danger of clashing because of your different backgrounds?

RdJ: “No. We rectify each other’s deficiencies. I cannot rival Bart’s deep academic knowledge. But at the same time: in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.” BB: “I have been lecturing for 25 years, but the course we are now teaching together – Pricing and Monetization – stands out. It’s very attractive to students and lecturers when, after a tense theoretical explanation, someone like Ronald stands up to tell them: and this is how you can apply it all in practice.” RdJ: “There is little more practical than a well-developed theory. But students also need to understand the limitations of frameworks and models. Sometimes perfectly rational decisions in the market turn out to be disastrous.” Have you experienced marketing disasters like that at Philips?

RdJ: “Sure. A few years ago, Philips launched a medical-grade smartwatch. It could measure all kinds of vital functions. The idea was that specialists in the hospital would prescribe this smartwatch to patients. After thorough market research, it was decided to sell the product via Amazon as well, for a relatively low price. All models predicted this to be very sensible, because it would allow you to reach a larger market segment. That turned out to be a huge mistake. In one fell swoop, the product lost its credibility and high-quality image, especially in medical circles. It was a flop. Purely for marketing

Bart Bronnenberg

“Our environment has never been so commercially loud” reasons, because the watch itself worked extremely well.” Is smart marketing more important than ever?

BB: “Without a doubt. Today’s information overload is immense. In the lecture hall, we talk to students about the marketing messages they experience on a daily basis. It’s about three to ten thousand a day.” That many?

BB: “Think about it. Logos on parked cars. Logos on clothing. Shop signs. Brand names in the supermarket. Online ads. Our environment has never been so commercially loud.” How can you, as a company, still effectively get your message across?

BB: “The heyday of sending messages blindly into the ether is over. The more focused your communication, the better. Some companies don’t advertise at all anymore. Arizo-

na Iced Tea, for example. They are only strategically present at festivals. As a result, they reach their target group very effectively despite competition from Coca-Cola and Nestlé.” RdJ: “In terms of content, I foresee a change. Traditionally, marketers try to associate their products with young, beautiful, successful, energetic people who always have fun. It is becoming increasingly clear that this message clashes with how people really experience their lives. I expect that, in the future, companies will be more successful with a message aimed at acceptance and recognition of everyone’s authenticity. That also fits in well with IT technology that actually makes tailor-made services and products possible.” Isn’t it a bad thing that marketers are constantly trying to influence people’s feelings and behavior?

BB: “That’s the view of some critics: marketing manipulates people, and because of the marketing costs, prices go up as well. Doubly

“The old model, which only revolves around profit and shareholders, is in decline”

Ronald de Jong

bad. But, in my opinion, the advantages of marketing completely outweigh the disadvantages.” What advantages?

BB: “Marketing makes our lives a lot easier. When you go shopping, you may find twenty product categories on your list, each of which is made up of forty different products. If you have to compare them all rationally, it will take an extreme amount of time and energy. The fact that we can put our favorite brand in our basket and then go home quickly and happily is very valuable.” Can you sell people an empty box with the right marketing?

BB: “Maybe once. But using clever tricks is not smart in the long run. You have to create repeat customers. You can only do that if you add value to their lives. You have to make sure that your interests and those of customers are aligned.” RdJ: “And not just the interest of customers. Consumers and, therefore, companies are becoming increasingly aware of their responsibility towards the entire planet. The old model, which only revolves around profit and pampering shareholders, is in decline. That’s why I am now developing a course for TiSEM that focuses on responsible leadership. Sticking green logos on your products is all well and good, but after a while consumers will see through them. You have to ensure that you integrate your vision for a healthy planet and society into your business operations. But how do you do that? And just as important: how can you develop a sustainable competitive advantage? For students, that kind of insight will be worth its weight in gold.”

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 25

Virtual education: a specialty in its own right Going to your study group on a horse and attending lectures in an amphitheater on an island: for Anne Rutkowski’s students this is the most normal thing in the world. Rutkowski teaches in the virtual world Second Life.

Text: Irene Faas


ach with their own avatar, the students walk into the amphitheater. Some look like themselves, others have dressed up as an angel or a zombie. The avatars sit down, while the avatar of Professor of Information Management Anne Rutkowski stands in front of the group to start her lecture. This virtual environment is part of the program Second Life, designed to simulate a social, virtual world. “It’s really an environment and not a game,” stresses Rutkowski. “In a game, you have a goal to work towards. By completing

tasks, you can achieve that goal. Second Life doesn’t have that: its only purpose is social contact.”

Natural contact Rutkowski first used the program in 2008, when she led a project with students from, among others, Hong Kong and the United States. In 2010, the project ended and with it her use of Second Life. When the country was shut down by the corona crisis and scientific education went digital, Rutkow-

“Second Life is a sustainable option for education” Anne-Françoise Rutkowski Anne-Françoise Rutkowski is Professor of Information Management. With her background in psychology, she bridges information systems and social sciences with topics such as decision-making, emotions, and socially responsible use of IT. Applications of her research can be found in organizations with a great deal of responsibility, such as hospitals or banks, with a focus on decision-making or cyber security.

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ski breathed new life into the program. “I knew right away I wanted to use Second Life again,” says Rutkowski. “I teach a course on innovation, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce students to a new technology.” The classes look just like on a real campus: Rutkowski gives lectures and groups of students can work in their own workspaces. Outside is a square where students can relax and catch up. If they have any questions, the students can come by Rutkowski’s office. “Second Life is a much richer environment to teach in than, for example, Zoom,” says Rutkowski. “Zoom works just as well for a lecture, but for discussions and interaction Second Life offers many more options.” For example, she can drop in on the groups of students to see how things are going. Conversely, students can wait for her when she’s talking to someone else. “You see the same natural dynamics that you see on campus.” It is also easy to have discussions or share ideas via Second Life. “We can hang posters on the wall to pitch ideas,” says Rutkowski. “Then you can walk over to them together and look at them. The interaction begins spontaneously: you really have the feeling that you are together.”

Research tool Rutkowski knows her way around Second Life. She uses it not only in education, but also for her research. “In psychology, we

Teamwork in Second Life.

make a distinction between space and place,” explains Rutkowski. “When you enter a new office, it’s a space. If you then display your own photos and decorate it to your liking, it becomes a place: it’s your office now.” The feeling of “place” only arises when you are familiar with the space and experience a feeling of familiarity. Together with a colleague, Rutkowski researched how the movement of objects affects the sense of place. When designing our virtual world in Second Life, we paid extra attention to objects and how the avatars can move them,” says Rutkowski. “The more directions in which the students could move or rotate the objects, the more they got that feeling of place and familiarity.” Second Life serves as a tool for research in virtual environments.

Virtual Venice Even after the corona crisis, Rutkowski sees plenty of applications for Second Life. “It’s certainly a sustainable option for education,” she says. “Students don’t have to travel anymore. We can use Second Life for a number of educational activities, but I wouldn’t use it for full courses. It is perfect for use with international students.” Apart from scientific education, Second Life can also be useful for other meetings. Rutkowski cites policy development as an example. Project groups of the European Union already use it. The program can also be a good addition for language courses: it allows participants to learn Italian in a virtual Venice. “In the United States, they even use Second Life to organize prom now that the students have to stay at home because of Covid-19,” says Rutkowski. Second Life offers many possibilities. The program creates a feeling of togetherness when real togetherness is not possible. “You really feel like you’re somewhere else,” Rutkowski agrees. “As soon as I log in, I’m in Second Life. I’m not home anymore. It’s a complete psychological immersion.”

The Innovator Corridor is the place to brainstorm with your team.

Knowledge Management lecture from a student’s perspective.

Cybersecurity guest lecture in the amphitheater.


A week of HITTING THE BOOKS Julia Cleton (22, fiscal economics) recorded her student life in a diary for a week. By Sebastiaan van de Water


niversity studies can be so much more than a road to 240 credits. That is the deep conviction of Julia Cleton (22), fiscal economics student. She makes full use of the possibilities that TiSEM offers students to develop themselves outside of the lecture hall. “If you want, you can have a successful academic year here without having obtained a single credit,” Julia says. She recorded her student life experiences in a diary for a week.


Julia Cleton Born 30-01-1998 Resident of Tilburg

2019/20 student assessor TiSEM 2018/19 vice-president of the SAM party 2018/19 seat on the University Council 2017/18 treasurer of Serve the City Tilburg 2016-heden Fiscal Economics bachelor 2010-16 vwo (subject cluster Economics & Society)



I finally know the answer to a question that is difficult to answer. For the past two months, I have lived with my parents, in Haarsteeg, because of the corona crisis. A village hidden between pastures full of grazing cows. After eight quiet weeks, I stood at the door of my student room in Tilburg for the first time last night. I opened the door and breathed, ready to discover what the cramped room I’ve been living in for three years really smells like. And... wow. From now on, I will never doubt the unsurpassed effect of fresh laundry fragrance sticks. So much for the good news. This promises to be a tough week. The exam period is approaching. Including, for me, two exams in one day. I owe it to myself, though. Last year, I was a full-time member of the University Council of Tilburg University. Some students think you’re there for show, but you have real influence, even where the university budget of 250 million Euros is involved. What’s more, you learn to networks and cut Gordian knots. Unfortunately, it results in a grand total of zero credits. So, I have to catch up. Starting this week by hitting the books here at my desk. Fortunately, it smells like clean laundry.

My gym is hermetically sealed, so I did a tough YouTube workout by one of those fitness girls this morning. That was the highlight of my day, because after that I dove into the subject of “Principles of Company Taxation”. I’ll quote the textbook: “Cessation is the termination of subjective enterprise of the natural person. In the case of cessation, you have to settle all profits that have not yet been taxed.” So now you know. I admit, I never used to think, “Yeah!!! I’m going to study taxes when I grow up.” After vwo, I chose to study business economics. But there was only one subject that fascinated me: fiscal economics. That’s why I switched to that program. FE has two parallel dimensions: the legal side and the numerical aspect. Together they form a labyrinth of limitations and possibilities. The challenge is to find optimal ways out of the labyrinth. So, it’s like a puzzle. Sounds a little better, doesn’t it?

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Wednesday Roses now adorn my room. Bought them this morning at the market around the corner. I’d never been there before. Crazy, huh? Maybe it’s because I’m afraid of becoming bourgeois too soon. Anyway, this afternoon an interesting dilemma came up during a Skype meeting with the TiSEM Education Board. Due to the coronavirus, exams cannot take place as usual: with elderly observers in a crowded hall. As a student-assessor, I help the faculty find solutions for these kinds of problems. One option is home exams, where students are monitored via a webcam and eye-tracking soft-

ware. But what happens to those recordings? And what if the Wi-Fi fails? In view of these concerns, we decided to use this system as little as possible. Other options are preferred, including substitute assignments and open book exams. The latter sounds like a license not to have to study but believe me: if you take an exam like that when you haven’t studied hundreds of wordy laws, theories or formulas before, well, good luck with that.

Thursday Two years ago, I was running a campaign for SAM student party. For three very long, intense, and unforgettable days, I attempted to convince students on campus to vote for us. Over the past year, I served as a mentor for new candidates. Why am I telling you this? This afternoon, after studying (and after a picnic in the Spoorpark), I visited a board member of SAM to pick up a thank you. After that, I hit the books again. At least, that was my plan. But my party mates thought otherwise. They said that, because I had already had a beer, my focus would no longer be sharp and studying would be a waste of time. I thought that was an irrefutable argument and celebrated my night off.

Friday I’ve gotten completely used to my room again. But you know what I miss? Especially at times like this afternoon. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I took part in a Zoom crash course for the investment course. Five hours. Without a break. Afterwards, I walked to my kitchenette, opening half-empty cupboards in search of caloric comfort. That’s when I miss my parents’ huge fridge, which is always filled to the brim. Oh, well. By the way, a few software demos arrived today. At TiSEM, we want a better program for students to evaluate courses and teachers. One of my requirements is that students should be able to see the results for themselves. This weekend, I will thoroughly evaluate the evaluation programs. But first, I’m going to cook dinner tonight with my roommate and her boyfriend. I’m looking forward to it already. Those kinds of cozy moments with people my age make me feel how nice it is to be back home again. Even though I can barely smell the fresh laundry.

“I miss my parents’ huge fridge, which is always filled to the brim” Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 29

Train, study, sleep, repeat With meticulous plans and iron discipline, gymnast Frank Rijken and rower Dogus Köker show demonstrate that studying and top-level sports can be combined. Text: Fenna van der Grient

Frank Rijken, gymnast “I see many similarities between CEOs and top athletes”


hen I was a little boy, I used to go to the gym regularly, because my sister was a high-level gymnast. I saw the trampoline and the foam pit, and I thought: I want to train here too! When I was about nine years old, I started, and I turned out to be pretty good. I am most proud of my participation in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It was the first time that the Dutch team qualified, that was very special. Vault and parallel bars are my favorite events. I think I have a good chance of getting European and World Championship medals for those events. I would also like to participate in the World University Games in 2021 and I am already looking forward to the Olympic Games in 2024. I train eight times a week and combine that with my studies in business economics. My passion really lies with economics, and I like the fact that this bachelor’s program is very broad. The tricky thing about the combination with gymnastics is that the big tournaments actually always fall around

exam weeks. That means you have to get very creative, and you have to be able to plan and communicate well. I don’t feel like I’m really missing out on student life; there are only a few things that I can do a little less often. I also live on my own and not in a student bunker with a lot of roommates. But I’ve been able to have fun holidays and I really can go out evenings outside of the competition period. I am very glad that I am so well supported by Tilburg University. When I first spoke to Ferenc Jongejan, the top-sports coordinator, he told me that, of course, they are bound by rules, but that with good communication we can come up with a solution for everything. Together with academic coordinator Natascha van Enckevort, we have always succeeded. The competencies I have gained in top-level

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sports I can put to good use in my studies. You learn discipline, consistency, and dealing with difficult periods and emotions. I also learned how to coach a group of younger athletes. I think that could help me in business later on. For example, I see a lot of similarities between CEOs of companies and top athletes.”

Dogus Köker, rower “I used to sit in the back of the lecture hall, putting away a kilo of cottage cheese”


hen I came to the Netherlands to study, I had no intention of playing top-level sports here. Before this, I was in Turkey’s national ski team and I have been playing top-level sports since I was eight years old. But during orientation week, members of the rowing club put me on a rowing machine drunk. It turned out I had the fastest time of the week and I was soon persuaded to start rowing. I picked it up quickly, partly because the leg movement was similar to skiing. During my studies, I rowed for the national team of Turkey, training twelve to fourteen times a week. In 2015, we finished fourth in the under 23 World Championship, I’m very proud of that. My experiences in rowing, the ultimate team sport, inspired me to move on to the Strategic Management master’s program after my bachelor’s degree in economics. I’ve seen how good coaches can make something very special out of a combination of individuals and wanted to learn how to manage people that way as well. The combination of top-level sports and studying is only possible with a lot of structure and iron self-discipline. I’m not naturally disciplined and tend to postpone

things until the last moment. But because of sports, I had to plan so well that I knew in advance exactly what the next month was going to look like, and when I could study. I knew that if I didn’t do it at those times, I wouldn’t pass my exams. That gave me the self-discipline to stay on the right path. In sports, you also have to perform at a specific moment. During my top-level sports career, I learned how to deal with the stress that’s involved, which also comes in handy for exams. In order to perform optimally, you have to make sure that your sleep and eating rhythm remain constant. Sometimes, this resulted in me sitting in the back of the lecture hall, putting away a kilo of cottage cheese. The university was also very helpful. If, for example, my exams coincided with a selection or competition, I looked for a solution together with Ferenc Jongejan, the top-sports coordinator, and Linda van Klink, the program coordinator for economics. A year and a half ago, I finished my studies and now I teach at Tilburg University and work at a rowing company.”


The right balance At TiSEM, we try to guide top athletes as well as possible in their combination of high-level sports and studying. Together, we look at the right planning with regard to their courses and to the bottlenecks they experience. Where possible, we solve these bottlenecks, for example by relaxing deadlines and the attendance requirement or by granting an extra exam opportunity and a postponed binding recommendation on the continuation of studies. We always try to find a suitable and feasible solution together. Top athletes are used to working in a disciplined way. The ambitions they have are great to see and that makes it fun to ensure that they can find the right balance between study and sports.

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 31

René Peeters

Eric Kemmeren


View of the World Econometrics students can count on their fair share of theoretical mathematics and statistics. But anyone who thinks they see little of “the real world” because of this is wrong. Thanks to initiatives like De Smeetskring and Improving Society Lab the doors to society are open wide. Text: Ans Hekkenberg

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IMPROVING SOCIETY LAB Mathematician René Peeters coordinates Improving Society Lab, a two-year course in which students discover how econometrics can contribute to a better society.

What is the purpose of Improving Society Lab? “During the course, students are shown all kinds of examples of how econometrics can make the world a little better. As a firstyear student, your courses will mainly be theoretical, a lot of mathematics and statistics. With Improving Society Lab, we want to demonstrate what you will be able to do with this mathematical knowledge.”

So, what can you do with econometrics? “When people think about applications of econometrics, most of them think about

optimizing the efficiency of companies: reducing costs, increasing profits. But optimizing efficiency is also important in many other areas. Think, for example, of the medical world – there is a lot of room for improvement there, too. We show our students how you, as an econometrician, can contribute to better radiation treatment plans for cancer patients. You don’t want to radiate for too long, but the treatment has to be effective. How do you optimize such a process? Another application the students are introduced to is the distribution of food in emergencies. How can you provide a large refugee camp with food as efficiently as possible? It may come as a surprise, but that’s a mathematical question. Food parcels have to come from somewhere, be transported optimally, and end up in the right place. How do you do that in a way that helps as many people as possible?”

Are students aware that their field has such a wide range of applications? “No, for a lot of students, the course is really an eye-opener. The applications that we cover are so broad, from calculating mortgage models to, for example, food aid.

How do you make sure the course is close to reality? “The course ends with a case study, in which students themselves get to work on a practical problem. Often the cases are based on the graduation work of other students. So, we give the students real datasets to work with. In this way, . It’s the first time the students work in teams. That, too, is instructive. We not only show what econometrics can do for society, but also how it works when you want to achieve something with others.”

FISCAL LEGAL AID FOUNDATION DE SMEETSKRING Professor of International Tax Law and International Fiscal Economics Eric Kemmeren is a member of the board of fiscal legal aid foundation De Smeetskring, a student organization that offers people of limited means legal aid in tax matters.

What is the purpose of De Smeetskring? “It is a foundation of students who offer fiscal assistance to people who are less welloff. This means people with an income of up to €35,000. Students assist them with tax returns, payment schedules, appeals, and remission requests.”

What is the impact of this initiative? “This impact is great, both for the students and for the people they help. We can often ensure that our clients get money back. Sometimes a few tens of euros; sometimes thousands of euros. And you have to remember: almost half of the clients have

an income of less than €18,000. Every euro counts. You make sure someone gets a small amount of money back from the tax authorities and then you hear: ‘That’s great, now my kids can keep playing football.’ De Smeetkring is also important for the students. They are socially involved; some see a different side of society for the first time. When people expose their finances, other stories emerge, about family troubles, debts, and other problems. But take a story like the one about kids who can keep playing football. That’s the kind of experience molds you as a human being.”

How much money does the organization generate for this group annually? “A total of some 550 to 650 thousand euros. That’s on the basis of some 1800 returns and 1300 other recommendations, which are done by 55 students.”

Is it easy for people to find you? “Generally, yes. By word of mouth, but also

through referrals from, for example, refugee work. What’s great is that our students are becoming more and more diverse. For example, we have more and more students who speak Arabic. This allows us to overcome language barriers ourselves. You can see here that the multicultural society is a fantastic enrichment.”

Do students do this work voluntarily? “Yes. Some get credits for it, but not so many that it compensates for your working hours. Most students do this work because they think it’s important. You sometimes hear that young people are becoming individualistic, but here you find people who really have their hearts in the right place.”

Fiscal Legal Aid Foundation (Stichting Fiscale Rechtshulp or S.F.R.) De Smeetskring is named after Professor M.J.H. Smeets, the founder of the fiscal programs at Fiscal Institute Tilburg.

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 33

“Running a business doesn’t feel like work” If entrepreneurship had not yet existed, Bas van der Werf would have invented it. This passionate business economics student at Tilburg University already has three companies to his name at the age of 24, as well as many other initiatives.

Text: Peter de Jong


t the age of ten, he earned his first money doing odd jobs: mowing grass for five euros, washing cars for ten. Later, as a junior at the local hockey club, he took over refereeing duties from veterans who didn’t feel like it, fifteen euros per game. “I officiated about five games a weekend, so it was easy money.” America is the land of his dreams. At the age of fifteen, he had to do a three-week internship at an English-speaking company. Bas arranged an internship in New York right away. The seed was sown. In 2018, he was back in the US, this time in Texas for six months to take electives for his studies in business economics. “I definitely want to go back there. In America, ambition is valued. Here’s the more: just act normal, that’s crazy enough. But first, let’s set up a solid business here.”

Greece After high school, he started studying technical business administration in Eindhoven, but that was too theoretical for him.

“After six months, I had had enough. I went to work as a ski instructor in Austria. In the summer, I supervised flotillas in Greece. I still do the latter; I go there for about six weeks every year. Wonderful. I learned a lot from working with groups. You learn to be good with people. To make people happy, even those with whom there is no click.”

The companies At the age of twenty, he started Wemeb, a management consultancy firm. Roughly speaking, Wemeb mediates between established companies and promising startups. One is looking for innovation, the other has good ideas and is looking for an investor.”

Gold Not everything Bas touches turns to gold. In 2018, he set up an investment fund in cryptocurrency, Werfs Investment Management. In the end it didn’t work out, there were too many legal snags. No reason to be put off, though. In October of last year, he launched Hallolex, an online platform that delivers custom-made legal documents to entrepreneurs. General terms and conditions, employment con-

34 | New Scientist | Tilburg School of Economics and Management

The preferences of Bas van der Werf Example Sander Schimmelpenninck and Jort Kelder Newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad Book What we can learn from America by Rick Nieman Watches Shark Tank Film The Big Short, The Wolf of Wall Street Actor Leonardo diCaprio Restaurant JAXX Marina CEO Nancy McKinstry (Wolters Kluwer) Club Ajax and Willem II Car Volvo XC90 Sport golf and hockey Tilburg University beautiful campus Tilburg breeding ground Country America Bucket list: skydiving

“I learned a lot from working with groups”

“My drive is not only to make money, but above all to achieve something I am proud of”

my mother every day. And with my grandfather, my great example when it comes to business. He wasn’t able to go to university, but he still set up a company in the IT sector. He always gives me advice, solicited and unsolicited. In honor of Hallolex, he gave me a sign with a beautiful maxim: “Success is doing ordinary work extraordinarily well.” BRAM BELLONI

tracts, privacy statements, etc. “In the Netherlands, we have a lot of freelancers and small entrepreneurs who lack the time and money to hire an expensive lawyer to draw up legal documents. Entrepreneurs can order them from us for a reasonable price. Leave legal to Lex,” he says with a laugh.

Seizing opportunities Bas works an average of 12 hours a day, six days a week; he has put his business eco-

nomics on the backburner for the time being. Isn’t he at risk of a burn-out? “No. It doesn’t feel like work. Running a business is wonderful. Freedom. Seeking opportunities and trying to seize them. Making your own decisions. My drive is not only to make money, but above all to achieve something I am proud of. Some people work to live, for me work is an important part of life. I also take good care of my body and mind. I work out and play golf, and I never bottle things up. I am in contact with

Simple online shop Does he have any tips for a fellow student with an idea for a company? “Certainly. There are roughly four steps you have to take. It starts with your idea, what do you want to sell? Step 2: check whether there is sufficient demand for your product. If so, you can carefully start a pilot, limiting your costs. With Hallolex, I started a simple online shop, without a lot of frills. It allows you to make adjustments easily. I launched a new website only recently. Once things are really up and running, you take step 4 and continue investing and building up the business.”

Tilburg School of Economics and Management | New Scientist | 35


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