Staying relevant

Over the past 50 years, engineering and technology have advanced to an extent that the first cohort of students could not have dreamt of. But current students have just as much interest in engineering-related subjects as their predecessors. Whereas the first classes of students in the 1970s did bench work (bankbewerken), today’s classes enjoy technical subjects such as neuromarketing, data analytics, and computer programming. Providing students with more flexibility to take electives and designing customised programmes could well be part of the School’s future. The role of students, alumni and corporate partners remains very important in defining what is considered relevant for the future of teaching and research.

➤ The activities and sense of community of RSM’s alumni association have grown substantially in the last decade.

As an example, the formation of Local Chapters in 33 countries around the world by 2020 has provided a great way for RSM’s international community to stay in touch. Local Chapters ensure alumni stay connected with the School in Rotterdam no matter where they are in the world, and open up possibilities for making them feel at home and part of a network. Local Chapters expand, strengthen and build upon RSM’s extensive global network by providing mentoring, sharing knowledge and business insights, and continuing lifelong learning.

One reason for RSM’s continued success can be found in its mission: to be a force for positive change in the world. This brief yet bold statement is distilled from quantitative and qualitative research led by Prof. Steef van de Velde in the later stage of his eight-year tenure as dean, and which involves faculty, alumni and stakeholders and includes input based on more than 8,000 I WILL statements from students.

In 2017, after much consultation and discussion, a summary of the School’s ambitions and purpose is encapsulated in one sentence: RSM is a force for positive change in the world. It is an ambitious and inspiring strategic mission. At the time it was considered groundbreaking to put such a principle at the heart of a business school. It breaks with the commonly accepted view that business schools cater to intrinsic “personal” motives rather than outside “worldly” ambitions. At the same time, the mission statement shows RSM is a school that understands the increasing need to be societally relevant if it is to have meaningful impact.

The new strategic mission requires some educational reform within the School. For example, the bachelor programmes department embarks on an initiative called ‘Boost the Bachelor’ to develop tailored ways of teaching students. It fundamentally reviews, renews and modernises the programme so it reflects students’ needs for high-quality business education. It also addresses their worldly goals and ambitions.

By engaging students and challenging them to think about how the knowledge they learn can be applied in sustainable business solutions, both the personal goals of students and RSM’s mission are aligned and can be met. To achieve this, RSM offers its third-year bachelor students five specialised learning tracks that focus on providing students with more choice to differentiate and deepen their knowledge, not necessarily linked to the SDGs although they can be easily integrated.

The tracks trigger a discussion about the values of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how business practice can contribute to them. This form of responsible management education is the foundation upon which the School and its students take responsibility for value-driven lifelong learning.

Dean, Prof. Ansgar Richter, appointed in November 2019, commits to the mission with renewed emphasis on a high-value curriculum, quality staff, and above all. strong networks with corporate partners and alumni. In the long run, alumni are the only constant for any business school. With increasing demand and need for lifelong learning, it is more likely that alumni will return to the classroom in some way. RSM’s commitment to its mission in the coming years will see the integration of must-have guidelines. The inclusion of the SDGs into the curriculum is an echo of how, in the 1970s, the School’s founding partners integrated business and technology into one curriculum. The need to educate well-rounded business practitioners is as important today as it was then. And it is precisely that need that drives RSM and its extensive networks to be open and adaptive to change, and keeps the interests of all its stakeholders in mind. Looking back on the 50-year history of the School, you can be certain that RSM is well positioned to deliver on that promise. We’ve come a long way – from 30 pioneering students in a small villa in Kralingen to a modern campus with over 9,000 students and more than 40,000 alumni worldwide.

Here’s to the next 50 years.

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