Recently, Bouwien Janssen joined Maastricht University as the new Director of Development & Alumni Relations and Director of the University Fund Limburg. Interestingly, Bouwien is an alumna of the MaastrichtMBA, so we had a chat with her about her experiences regarding our MBA.
Why did you want to get an MBA?
At that point in my career, I wanted to connect, and exchange experiences with professionals in a similar managerial position. Expanding my network, meeting people with a different take on their profession, who might also foster new insights. I also felt the need to broaden my horizon and focus more on approaching things from a strategic angle.
Why did you choose the MaastrichtMBA?
As I had made the decision to continue my professional career in my home region, the MaastrichtMBA was a good fit: it gave me the opportunity to work on my local network of professionals, organisations and businesses. And the MaastrichtMBA has a very good reputation of course!
What was your most inspiring moment in the program?
The international week in Barcelona really stands out. Among other things, we had an assignment to analyse and advise the management team of a local company and I still remember our group working late at night on our presentation and advice. It was the combination of field trip, practice, and getting an inside view of a foreign company, with the opportunity of advising the management team. That was very rewarding and great fun.
We developed such a good bond in our workgroup that we invited our partners and extended our stay in Barcelona for the weekend. We still meet at least twice a year. Recently to have a taste from the wine from a small local vineyard of which one of our group is co-owner.
What did you find most challenging?
Finding the time to work on things according to my own quality standards. You have to be aware that it can be quite a challenge to write a paper every month, beside a busy job. Not only for yourself, but also for the group. It’s give and take, and everybody benefits from quality input by fellow students.
When did you complete the MaastrichtMBA? Did it meet your expectations?
I finished in 2005 and it was a very rewarding experience. The programme was very varied and the group very pleasant. The themes ranged from ICT, leadership to culture. All these different angles made it very interesting and fun. Best of all was, and is, that much of it translates directly into my professional practice.
Working with cases where you compare practices from your own company with those of fellow students was especially insightful. This requires a certain level of openness and trust among participants and of course, as mentioned before, a give and take mentality and willingness to contribute. In my experience that worked very well, as you can see from the fact that contacts and even friendships have endured for more than ten years now!
What you do now and where? What is your current focus?
I started with Maastricht University in July 2018. My job is twofold: I am Director of the University Fund Limburg – SWOL (an independent foundation with public benefit organisation status) and Director of Development and Alumni Relations (D&A).
As Director of the University Fund Limburg, my team and I focus on fundraising. The funds are intended to stimulate education and research at UM and to promote UM’s involvement with society. To strengthen and modernise our fundraising efforts, we are working on a crowd-funding platform, which will offer researchers and students the opportunity to raise funds for their own research projects. The crowdfunding platform will go live in the last quarter of 2018.
As Director of Development & Alumni Relations, I aim for interactive relationships with our alumni: keep them informed about ground-breaking research and current affairs at UM, give them a voice in improving our education and offer them the opportunity to take postgraduate education. Therefore, it is important that we know our 69,000 alumni well and that our interaction is based on their personal interest.
How have you benefited from the MaastrichtMBA?
After more than 10 years, it is difficult to separate my ongoing work experience and development, from what I got from the MBA. In general, the MaastrichtMBA teaches you to approach issues from a broader perspective and provides new angles of approach.
Can you give an example of something that you experienced in the MaastrichtMBA that helped you in your career?
One of the charming aspects of the MBA was that every paper I wrote, had a link to my own professional practice. I enjoyed that very much. The case-theory always offered a link to a concrete challenge within my organisation.
What concepts from The MaastrichtMBA are you currently applying in your life?
There are lots of different theoretical angles and models offered in the courses. Some of those I can still apply to practical problems in my everyday professional practice.
Any advice for the prospective MaastrichtMBA student?
Be clear about what you want from the course and your motivation to do it now, in this phase of your career. Will you be able to use it in your work setting? Do you have sufficient span of control (leadership, strategy) to benefit from the MBA and to contribute on an equal footing with other students? Can you put in enough time?