“We didn’t want a staid anniversary book”

“We didn’t want a staid anniversary book”

Book to commemorate SBE’s 35th anniversary

31-03-2022

It took some time – the School of Business and Economics celebrated its 35th anniversary back in 2019 – but now the book has arrived: Together we are more than 35 years of SBE. It contains, as befits an anniversary book, space for the history and the pioneers of the faculty, but also for the various experiences and the critical view regarding the present day-to-day running.

The three compilers - Wim Gijselaers, Jos Lemmink and Tom van Veen - quickly agreed on the fact that it shouldn’t be a traditional anniversary book. “We are not historians,” says Van Veen, emeritus professor of Economics. “There are books that describe the development of a faculty almost day by day, but we can’t do that. We don’t even have all those documents any longer.” What they did want to do, was to tell the faculty’s story. “Who we are, what do we stand for, and how we got there.”

Organised anarchy

What they now have is “is almost a classic book about leadership and change management,” says Gijselaers, professor of Didactics. The story of the small group of obstinate economists (the term ‘young dogs’ is used regularly), led by dean Wil Albeda and director René Verspeek in “organised anarchy”, which set up a faculty, is given context in eight short essays by Wil Foppen, professor of Strategic Leadership.

“We thought it would be good if someone could put the history into a management perspective, says Gijselaers. “First, it was only a small group – I remember we used to get together in the teacher’s lounge/library with a cup of coffee. Later, we had to move into what is now Ad Fundum (under the stairs in the hall of Tongersestraat 53, ed.), and at one particular time the group became too large to meet in such an informal manner. Wil takes you along in that thought process. In terms of writing style, his essays remind me of Simon Carmiggelt: a little contemplative.”

No holding back

There are also interviews with present and former staff members and alumni, as well as with ‘outsiders’ such as former dean of Law Hildegard Schneider and beer brewer Paul Rutten, who allowed students to have a taste of entrepreneurship in their first years as students as well as giving them tours of the Gulpener brewery. What is noticeable is that nobody holds back. For example, Dirk Tempelaar, associate professor of Econometrics, emphasised that in his opinion director René Verspeek was the real ‘building dean’, not Wil Albeda. “Albeda never said anything, he just listened. Economics committee meetings lasted days because he never came to a conclusion.”

Head of the education office, Joël Castermans, poured out his heart: “Even if lots goes wrong, it is still presented as a good news show. Take the online Open Day for the bachelor’s recently with all kinds of log-in problems. It took our own dean no less than two hours to log in, and then later there is the jubilant message from UM Marketing & Communication about how many visitors there were! While it just didn’t work.”

Authors Gijselaers, Lemmink and Van Veen think this is fine. “We didn’t want a staid anniversary book,” says Van Veen. That was also the choice of the interviewer; former Observant editor Wammes Bos. “Wammes is of course not a neutral interviewer,” says Gijselaers. “He knows the faculty, has written about it in Observant for years. He gets people talking and the more interviews he did for the anniversary book, the better he knew where to dig deeper. There are some real gems among them.”

Criticism

Did the criticism – even the alumni, interviewed by Observant editor Maurice Timmermans, weren’t all positive – not hurt even a little? “When brewer Paul Rutten said that the university was a bit of an island and that he never noticed much regarding our presence in the region, I did think for a minute: ouch, that hurts,” says Gijselaers.

Eventually pride rules. “When I read the book, I thought; we did manage to do something,” says Gijselaers. Van Veen nods. “I came from Groningen, where they said: sure, sure, an Economics faculty like that in Maastricht, it won’t last more than a couple of years.” Gijselaers: “Whereas now if you attend a conference and you are wearing a badge from Maastricht, that means something, people respect it.”

Review

The most important question is whether such an anniversary book is also interesting for those who were/are not involved with SBE? The answer to that is ‘yes’, that is, if you are interested in the subject: building a faculty. It helps if you are a somewhat informed outsider; the names and abbreviations (although they are always explained) are multifold. Those who start on the book with a blank slate, will regularly have to return to the history at the beginning.

Wil Foppen sometimes repeats himself in his essays – maybe eight was too many – but adds colour to what would otherwise have been dry facts. As appears from the interviews later on, he really knows how to capture the atmosphere. What mainly makes the book a pleasure to read, are the personal stories. Good choices were made in selecting the interviewees. It is a great mix of old and young and from different disciplines (both for the staff members as well as the alumni) and – more importantly – everybody had a lot to say.

The QR codes are exceptionally helpful – an idea from Jos Lemmink – and refer to the Dutch texts. A nice solution for a bilingual faculty. The layout – made by Buro Zuiderlicht, with illustrations by Cyprian Koscielniak – is lively and complements the text.

SBE employees have already received a copy or they can still collect it. Others who are also interested, may send an e-mail to Tom van Veen: [email protected] The book is published in English, but by using QR codes in the book, Dutch texts can be downloaded.

Author: Cleo Freriks

Image: from the inner pages of Together we are more than 35 years of SBE

Tags: SBE,anniversary,35years,foppen,vanveen,lemmink,gijselaers,economics,business

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