Investing in Arts or Education?

A Meet & Greet at the world’s most renowned art fair is an event MaastrichtMBA students and alumni wouldn’t want to miss out on. As such we were very pleased to see many familiar faces on Tuesday March 15 for drinks and talks, to both honour the 40th anniversary of UM and celebrate our own achievements in life and work. The group gathered at a designated business stand, which was situated in a strategic and quiet corner of the expo centre’s venue. While some of our attendees engaged in thoughtful or light conversation, others couldn’t help but feel drawn by the lure of the many treasures that surrounded us. Everyone was free to explore the fair at his or her own pace. One by one or in small ensembles, our alumni and students thanked us for the invitation before merging into an eclectic and enamoured TEFAF audience. What’s not to love about art?

More than just an asset!

Art and Business is a topic widely discussed in many different communities. TEFAF itself stands ground with a clear vision in their TEFAF Essentials: Art is more than an asset. From that perspective, if we compare to our very own MaastrichtMBA programme, our students and their ambition towards career enhancement aren’t just assets either. There’s more to it than just a climb to the top, to achieve success for one’s organisation or oneself. There’s an intrinsic value that can’t always be put into words. Like we can’t always describe what we feel when we look at a masterfully crafted contemporary painting, or find ourselves opposite a massive art sculpture created by man in long forgotten eras. But how do we feel about buying art as a secure investment with future revenues expressed in monetary gain?

Adam Lindemann, billionaire and collector, wrote an insightful article with an interesting conclusion, perhaps, for someone with inexhaustible financial means. He once asked an art dealer whether he believed art was an investment. The art dealer said yes, but not always a good one. Mr. Lindemann, at the time, agreed with that statement. Ten years later, mr. Lindemann’s perception and view have changed. “Investing requires cold analysis and objective thinking, and there’s no art in that. Art collecting is a different thing, it requires interest, patience and hopefully some passion, or at least intellectual curiosity.”

Interest, patience, passion and intellectual curiosity

We can relate to that in and for our MaastrichtMBA programme, where students explore and discover the art in themselves, metaphorically speaking. Or maybe it’s a matter of collecting the art within themselves, with interest and patience, passion and intellectual curiosity, while they strive for the next level in life and their chosen careers. How ‘return on investment’ is perceived, can perhaps also be compared to or measured by an afternoon at TEFAF, surrounded by master pieces and art of all centuries, from ancient to contemporary, old and new, tangible and elusive, ground-breaking or traditional, but always professing of what we humans bring forth. And it’s up to each individual whether they opt to invest or collect.

A Personal Recollection of the International Week in Stellenbosch

It’s a special and highly anticipated part of the MaastrichtMBA programme, the International Week towards the end of the year. We invited Francisco De Melo Vieira Jr. (38) to share some of his trip to University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa with our MaastrichtMBA network. Francisco is from Brazil. He began his career as a civil engineer, but after his Master’s Degree in Mechanical-Aeronautical Engineering he ventured into the field of aerospace and since then works for an international company, Embraer, the 3rd largest airplane maker after Airbus and Boeing. He and his family relocated to Maastricht in 2012.

“We were with a diverse group of about forty participants from all nationalities, a variety in age and different stages in the programme. I arrived three days earlier and did some sight-seeing in Cape Town before joining the group activities. The week at University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) started on Monday, with a look on the African continent economy in general and South Africa in particular, our host was Prof. André Roux who is a recognized specialist in the subject. It was quite interesting, with a lot of history, facts and figures. Later that day we went to visit SAB Miller, one of the world’s largest brewery companies. It was an interesting tour, we learned about their brewery production and history, but I would have welcomed more information about their position in the market as a business entity, how such a huge company functions and which are their management challenges.”

“This is exactly what I expected from it: stepping into a different environment with what we know, our own knowledge and then to try and apply it into that environment.”

Tuesday morning started with a lecture at USB about social entrepreneurship. Francisco: “Afterwards we went to visit two entrepreneurs in the township Khayelitsha, east of Cape Town. One of them is trying to change the mindset of the people in his community, by offering proper coffee as a beverage. Before he opened his cafeteria Department of Coffee, people were used to drinking instant coffee. He prepares cappuccino, espresso, fresh coffee for his customers. It’s interesting, because he’s not offering the township something cheaper, instead he is trying to change the coffee culture in that community and a way of life by bringing them a premium product. The second entrepreneur was Espinaca Innovations. After learning spinach harvesting, Lufefe Nomjana volunteered at the local hospital, where he saw people with bad nutrition related diseases, such as diabetes. He wanted to make change. Eventually, he developed this idea to sell a better and nutritional bread for the township by adding spinach to the bread recipe.”

“To be in a group with many different nationalities was also one of the highlights of the International Week.”

The big group of students was divided into eight smaller groups assigned to study 4 business efforts in the township. In addition to the cafeteria and the “spinach king” there was a football-club focusing on coaching children from the township and an initiative to collect remains of food to manufacture compost which would be sold for gardening.

Francisco: “Our task was also to interview these four entrepreneurs, bring our own knowledge into the equation and present them with our interpretations of their business. Finally, we had to offer them advice on how they could improve their business, make it more sustainable and ready for the long-term future.” Naturally, there were discussions about the essence and merit of social entrepreneurship, which in these two small enterprises is represented by offering employment to people from the township and launching various projects, such as donating muffins for children (Department of Coffee) and educating people on vegetables harvesting (Espinaca Innovations).

“We humans can always learn a lot when immersed in the experience.”

For Francisco, the whole experience of being in South Africa was worth it. “We had to engage in group discussions and prepare for our presentations on Friday morning. I think that was the most essential part of the week, because it was centered in the way of doing business in South Africa, in particular in the reality of Khayelitsha. This is exactly what I expected from it: stepping into a different environment with what we know, our own knowledge and then to try and apply it into that environment.” There were also lectures at USB about innovation, marketing, corporate governance and other business and cultural visits during this International Week.

To be in a group with many different nationalities was also one of the highlights of the International Week. “I really liked the experience of working with people from different cultures and trying to understand what influence the culture background has on doing business or decision-making. Being in South Africa enhanced our understanding of different points of view on how things work in that unique environment, a way of doing business, and how it can be improved. We humans can always learn a lot when immersed in the experience.”

The MBA Class Experience: Different Backgrounds Bring Different Questions

The MaastrichtMBA programme applies small-scaled teaching, which has proven its merit over the years. Our programme’s Class Experience on Friday the 27th of November practised the MBA vision to its fullest by welcoming three selected prospective students: Fernanda, Fred and Michel. Their background couldn’t be more different as was their motivation to participate in this last Class Experience of 2015. For this edition, Ron Jacobs, our MBA Marketing Manager, invited René Katerberg, executive MBA student, who is currently involved in his concluding Business Consulting Project before graduating. René would share some of his experiences as an MBA programme participant and answer any of the questions the three guests might have.

This time around, the MBA Class Experience was combined with the Taste of Knowledge event, a series of workshops and seminars for the business network of Maastricht University School of Business and Economics. More than ninety participants registered for five different sessions and topics, the Class Experience group was added to Dr. Ad van Iterson’s session about gossip as a potential constructive element at the workplace.

Fernanda (33) is from Mexico, but she has recently relocated to the Netherlands with her Dutch partner. Her background in International Business Administration and having been employed at a large international company, suited her preference for an MBA, as it felt like utilising her achievements so far towards new channels. “I don’t know anyone except my partner’s family,” Fernanda explains, “and apart from wanting to learn Dutch as fast as possible, finding a new job is very important. I love the city of Maastricht and we’ve visited here often. The MBA programme appealed to me a lot because it has a different, small-scaled approach. I definitely feel it would broaden my skills and improve my chances to find a job in the Netherlands. And by going back to school, I will meet new people and be able to build a new network or maybe even find a job.”

Fred’s curiosity as a seasoned business consultant for twenty-seven years and marketing partner for entrepreneurs, made him decide to sign up for a Class Experience. “Ron’s introduction to the MBA programme left nothing to be desired and it’s crystal clear what the programme entails,” Fred responded, “but whether gossip at the workplace can serve as a fruitful tool in business still needs further discussion, I guess”, he concludes, based on the active conversations in Dr. Van Iterson’s trial session.

Michel, the third Class Experience guest, works as a sales manager and sales trainer with an abundance in mileage on his resume. “I have to travel a lot for my job, and since I am in the learning business, I love to broaden my own experience as well, and be able to grow by learning, to improve myself. The MBA programme focuses on topics that would allow those personal improvements to be useful in my work environment. Because of my traveling, I have learned that different backgrounds bring different questions, which adds to a new total of knowledge and information we gain access to.”

Some of the questions René Katerberg had to answer defined the subtle but essential distinction between teaching and coaching. “As part of the leadership development trajectory, coaching is a powerful instrument, and a very personal one. Our teachers become coaches and facilitators rather than being teachers, our own input is valuable and preferred.” For René, as a pending MBA graduate, following the programme has brought him more mental agility and better access to his communicative skills.

As the introduction session slowly morphs into a Class Experience with the arrival of Dr. Ad van Iterson and a dozen registered participants from the university’s business network, everyone’s mental agility is being put to the test. Can gossip at the workplace facilitate newcomers to familiarise with the corporate culture more quickly, or is gossip an accepted affluent in social behaviour, with a primarily negative influence? Opinions and experiences differ and where one mentions keywords such as “inclusion” and “collusion”, others share a positive outcome as they have successfully used gossip as a workable tool to tackle bullying in their organisation.

At the end of the session, multiple thoughts have been left open for discussion and interpretation, with some valuable insights many can agree upon. “It’s about intention and impact” is one of them.

It surely was another fruitful experience as the attendees gained an insider’s perspective on Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, its MaastrichtMBA programme, and its renowned problem-based learning approach recognised through its active conversations and effective co-creation of knowledge and insights by all participants involved.

Thinking in Different South African Boxes

„Thinking out of the box“ is one of those sentences that I totally dislike was Martin Butler’s strong opening statement. The innovation professor was one of the inspiring lecturers during our international MaastrichtMBA week at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. “Thinking out of the box and I am open minded mean usually I am empty minded and I do not have clue” Butler continued. Innovations are the result of a lot of hard work and developing understanding of underlying complexities and the ability to transfer this understanding to a different context. Thus, we need to think in different boxes rather than outside the box in an empty space.

Social and leap frog innovations in South Africa was the overall theme of the week and we approached the topic by looking through multiple lenses or in different boxes. In teams we worked together with young entrepreneurs based in Khayelitsha, the second largest township in South Africa closed to Cape Town. Visiting the businesses in that township and supporting the young entrepreneurs in developing strategic growth plans placed us in one a totally different box and we quickly understood that our eloquent application of our strategic management tool box reached quickly its limits.

From the township we beamed to Launchlab, the start-up incubator of Stellenbosch University, again a jump into a different box. We talked to companies developing satellite and wind turbines technologies. Leap frogging technologies in a country that misses extensive cable networks which we are used to in Europe. While Europe struggles to balance its centralized electricity generation in large power plants with the decentralized generation through small wind parks and solar panels. Those latter technologies bring renewable electricity to remote areas in South Africa creating new opportunities.

Obviously a visit to Stellenbosch cannot miss a wine tasting at one of the many wineries in the surrounding hills. But before we tasted the Pinotage, we learnt how Backsberg Estate become one of the few carbon neutral wineries in the world and how sustainability considerations become an integrative part of a business case. We also learnt that willingness to change is a crucial factor of Backsberg’s success. While they have been winemakers for more than a century they continuously explore other opportunities. About a decade ago they raised pigs but turned to hatching chicken eggs when profit margins in pork deteriorated. Nowadays the land with the old hatching stables is used to grow blueberries, currently the new blue gold in South Africa. One of the secrets of success in South African agriculture is the willingness to break with traditions and deploy existing resources to new and different purposes and find niches in the world market for food.

Moving from the sunny and warm box called summer in South Africa back to the wet and cold box called Dutch Winter was our final and least pleasant shift in boxes, but the rich array of impressions and the engaging discussions with so many people will remain from our journey through the different South African boxes.

A Coffee and Cookie Meeting with MBA Director Dr. Boris Blumberg

Our MaastrichtMBA programme belongs to the 1% of business schools worldwide that have been granted the Triple Crown status. This internationally renowned accreditation ensures the high quality of our professional approach in academic achievement for a practical business-related outcome. Despite being driven and serious about our task as educators and facilitators, the informal atmosphere we like to offer our students holds equal merit. We value people. We value a personal touch. Hence the coffee and cookie meeting with director dr. Boris Blumberg.

Dr. Blumberg is our Academic Director MBA since 1 October 2010. As assistant professor Organization & Strategy, researcher and author, his experience and knowledge regarding entrepreneurship and strategic management fit the MBA programmes like a glove. His role as a director is diverse and working with a small team contributes to the department’s transparency and workability. “Prospects always already have a talk with our admission officers Pia and Chantal,” Boris Blumberg explains. “But they can also have a talk with me, whether in person or via Skype if they don’t live nearby. Of course I would like to get to know our students a little bit better after the first introduction. I’m interested in their motivation, why they decided for the MaastrichtMBA, like how will it fit into their career plans, or what their expectations for our programme are. I always assume they have read all the information available in our brochure and on our website. So what I then try to explain to them in our talk, is the philosophy behind our programme.”

One of the pillars is focus on leadership. “The reason why is because it’s an executive MBA programme. The average of our students have eleven to twelve years of work experience, so the people in the programme are what I would call mid career professionals. They have made the first steps in their career, or have experienced their first promotion. Average age is 37, so they  still have a lot ahead of them. They are given room and time for development and what they usually lack or miss despite their bachelor or marketing degree, are sufficient skills that are required for a leadership position. Now we don’t believe that if you start the programme on Monday and finish it by Friday, you will already be a better leader if you return to work the next Monday. The learning is very much a process. We’ve incorporated this leadership development into the whole 2-year programme with different educational weeks.”

Small scale teaching and Problem-based Learning (PBL) are two other pillars. “We have a different understanding of the role of our teachers,” says Boris Blumberg. “Our students are working professionals and also participants. We encourage them to bring their work experience to the classroom and vice versa, which makes for a new dynamic in work, learning and teaching, or coaching.”

Boris Blumberg also mentioned informal leadership. But if you’d like to hear more about the importance of such leadership, why not request a meeting?

Meeting Professionals in Frankfurt and London

Last month the MaastrichtMBA team went out for a little promotional tour abroad to meet qualified professionals in Germany and England who consider starting their executive MBA on short term; a deliberate move since the MaastrichtMBA is gaining more and more attention from abroad. Over the past 12 months, we have added 18 new nationalities to the programme and it is our ambition to grow the attractiveness beyond the borders even further in future.

Our foreign exploration led to quite some interesting meet-and-greets with professionals in Frankfurt and London who were exploring their options for an executive MBA.

“Maastricht… why should we come to you?”

was one of the very first and frequently posed questions we received. Yes, it is a small city and yes, at first sight it seems too far away for most busy professionals whose time to travel should be kept at a minimum. However, a brief conversation about the MaastrichtMBA has taught our interlocutors otherwise. Maastricht is an international destination with London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Frankfurt all within a close reach. It is a city that is renowned for its diverse student population, a true “UniverCity”. Coming to Maastricht means meeting professionals that hail from all over the world. Joining the MaastrichtMBA means getting a multinational, multicultural learning experience all around.

“Does the benefit of internationality outweigh the travel distance?”

was the next question that came to mind at most of the fair’s attendees. “YES it does and NO it does not!” would be our answer. For once, there is no real distance impracticality since participants in the MaastrichtMBA only need to visit our campus four times a year for one full week of class sessions. Besides, it is obviously not only the international atmosphere that builds a unique learning experience. Maastricht University School of Business and Economics is renowned for its innovative, small-scale learning approach. Creating a setting that stimulates active dialogues between experienced professionals is what we do best. It is this “co-creation of knowledge” that sets us apart from other programmes. Co-creation through the sharing of knowledge and experience between professionals and translating the implications to their own workplace. And our teaching faculty? We rather see them as coaches that guide the conversations and add valuable insights from ground-breaking research to provide participants with additional food for thought.

After our little MBA tour last week, we still realise that initial conversations won’t suffice to convince anyone, as the proverbial proof of the pudding is in the eating. This is why we cordially invite everyone to give it a go in Maastricht before making a big decision. Join the MBA Class Experience on November 27th and be a MaastrichtMBA student for one afternoon. Afterwards, you are allowed to see for yourself whether the juice of our programme is worth the squeeze!

An Introduction to the GMAT: a Kick-off Session to Offer All-round Preparation!

One of our basics and beliefs is that we never stop learning in life. As such, we highly value every opportunity given to offer education for those who seek to further their career paths or venture new career directions. Professionals aren’t made from a singular mold. They may explore various walks of life before discovering new and unexpected talents. Their true calling can be discovered by detour, or they may even rise to the occasion after a life-altering epiphany. As such, taking an interest in our MaastrichtMBA programme without the credentials of a master’s degree doesn’t mean one’s dream or ambition has to end before it’s even begun. Quite the opposite, actually!

If you don’t have a master’s degree but feel strongly about following our MaastrichtMBA programme, taking the GMAT will be part of your admission process. The Graduate Management Admission Test will address a number of skills that are required to become a successful MaastrichtMBA student and advanced professional. You can expect assessments of analytical reading and writing, solving-problem abilities, critical reasoning and data sufficiency questions. In order to help you prepare for your GMAT exam and give you a chance to learn from our experience and expertise, we occasionally organise GMAT kick-off sessions or workshops, presented by Ron Jacobs, our International Projects Manager. Our last kick-off session was on October 20th.

Like in our MBA programme, we strongly adhere to the added value of small groups. On the 20th, we hosted a kick-off session for six prospective MaastrichtMBA candidates. Ron Jacobs welcomed the group and explained this session’s purpose and the significance of GMAT. “The line of questioning is compatible with the qualities of a business professional. We launched these sessions to help you get acquainted with the test’s structure, answer any of your questions and provide you with a certain sense of control, to help build confidence that you can pass this exam. By preparing yourself thoroughly for the GMAT, you’ll also be reintroduced, if necessary, to the rhythm of having to study again, which is relevant if you’ll start our MaastrichtMBA programme.”

The benefit of working interactively in small groups proves itself in the following hour of the session. As Ron presents each section and its questions, the candidates make notes, discuss the answers and which steps to take to answer correctly. The mathematical input in some parts is just a means to get through the assessments, but it comes highly recommended to brush up on your basic math if you’re not using it at work frequently.

For each section, Ron offers some valuable advice on how to best approach a question and what would be the best format to answer. To carefully read, to be logical and practical is very important and a key to succeeding in passing this test. The participants were glad for having joined this kick-off session that helped them pave the way to a thorough preparation for the GMAT.

Stellenbosch: Here We Come!

Later this month, 38 executives from the MaastrichtMBA are going to Cape Town, South Africa, for a one-week learning episode on a bundle of intriguing topics in the context of doing business in an emerging market. Students will be following lectures on the local campus, visit local SMEs as well as international organisations, meet local entrepreneurs and engage in an intriguing social innovation project.

The international immersion – this time in Cape Town – is a fixed part of the MaastrichtMBA curriculum and is reported as a signature component by many of our MBA alumni. This week’s programme is co-developed and hosted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB); one of our highly respected and highly qualified learning partners that – like us – holds the Triple Crown accreditation by AACSB, EQUIS, AMBA.

Going to the University of Stellenbosch Business School is a deliberate choice in terms of location as well as quality. With the international-oriented curriculum of the MaastrichtMBA, we specifically aim at taking participants to an emerging market and high-potential economy; one of the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). We always carefully select our local partner to safeguard the academic quality of our Triple Crowned MBA programme. In the past, this selection policy also brought us to places like Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) in São Paulo, Brazil, and theIndian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) in Bangalore, India.

The End of One Journey, the Start of Another…

While preparing hard for the first educational week in their MBA journey, an international and diverse selection of fifteen MBA newbies lined up on campus for an exciting three-day induction programme where they were invited to reinvent the way they approach learning as a professional, to think about the commonalities between great leaders and great learners, and – last but not least –  to get acquainted with the programme and with each other.

The Class Experience: a Unique Introduction to the MBA Programme

The School of Business & Economics introduced Postgraduate Education (PGE) in 2002 to bring together its MBA and Executive programmes. Since then, PGE has earned a solid reputation for facilitating personalised education for professionals by combining the best of both worlds: academic achievement designed to suit the work environment.

The best way for future applicants to get to know PGE, its programmes and its people, is to experience and see things first hand. “The Class Experience offers a selected number of candidates the possibility to be part of the programme and meet with MBA students, for one day exclusively,” says Chantal Dortants – Van Wissem, MBA Recruitment Administrator.

The Class Experience is organised three times a year, with Pia Camardese as its Programme Coordinator and planner. This time it’s a group of seven potential future MBA students, each with their own background story, motivation and enthusiasm. Diana (31) is from Romania where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a major in Marketing. She initially came to the Netherlands on a student exchange programme and decided to stay for a while. She has been working for an American multinational for seven years. “I work in Eindhoven and live in Venlo,” Diana clarifies, “and I am at a point in my career where I feel an MBA will give me more tools to work with on both a business and personal level. The MaastrichtMBA is focused 100% on leadership which I really like. I also like their idea of small groups to keep it more personal, that is really what attracted me!”

Dave (44) lives in Maastricht and works as a Business Support Analyst. He’s in a personal development project and took an interest in the MaastrichtMBA programme because he wants to broaden his career options. He has a HBO Bachelor degree, so this seems to be a logical choice.

Bihter (34) is from Turkey, but she lives in Maastricht. She’s a mother of twins, 16 months young, and works four days a week in Business Intelligence Project Management. She takes an interest in the MaastrichtMBA programme because she’d like to explore her leadership skills and is confident she can combine motherhood, work and study with efficient planning.

After the initial introduction by Pia, the group for the Class Experience is meeting the MBA students for a coffee break before they all join in class. Dr. Boris Blumberg, the Academic Director, is also present to welcome the potential new candidates. The mood is very relaxed and informal, and everyone is mixing and mingling and talking to someone. There are two classes after the break, one about real time stocks and bonds by Dr. Roger Otten, and the other is an assignment for business administration by Dr. Harold Hassink. Even though the Class Experience group is not obliged to participate in any of the discussions, some of them soon engage in Dr. Otten’s class as if they’re regular students already. This MBA programme for professionals brings together people from different backgrounds who can also learn from each other, and as Chantal explained earlier that day, “it’s not just about following their MBA programme. It’s also about becoming part of a new network, and to create a new community.”

It’s a long afternoon, and the day is closed with a group dinner in Het Kruithuis. Director Boris Blumberg again emphasises the value of this great opportunity to combine work force with academic force and its unique position in the academic world. Diana will most certainly sign up for the MaastrichtMBA programme and is already looking forward to the day when she can get started!