How a Little Green Book Helped Wittenborg CEO Maggie Feng when She First Arrived in the Netherlands
What is your most prized possession? For Wittenborg CEO Maggie Feng, it is a small, green address book that is already more than 30 years old, given to her as a child in Beijing. She explained the value of the book in a recent column published in the corporate relations magazine of Achmea, the largest insurance company in the Netherlands with an annual turnover of €23 billion.
For Feng, the book represents a lifeline to China, family and friends, at a time when she needed it the most, as a newcomer to the Netherlands with all the strange awkwardness that implies – a feeling many international students will recognise.
"I got the book from my father when I was about 12 years old. It is full of telephone numbers, addresses and even pager numbers of family and friends, because that was still what one used back then. The little book was my safe haven when I had just started as an exchange student in Deventer. You have to understand – I did not know anyone, could not speak the language and found myself in a country which was entirely different from my own.
"The book was my gateway to keeping in touch with the people back home, although making a call those days cost 5 guilders per minute and a letter took 15 days to arrive. I got the book in 1988 from my father. There are more than 200 names in it and almost all the pages are filled with different colour pen strokes, handwriting and some of the names have been Tippexed out. Yes, not everyone had the honour of being in my book!
Visit to Fair Trade Centre an "Eye-Opener" for International Business Students
Master's students of Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences recently got more acquainted with the concept of fair trade - which has been around since the 1950s - during a visit to the Fair Plaza in Culemborg, near Utrecht. The visit was part of a Project Week assignment which focused on sustainability. Using fair trade enterprises as a case study, the group explored the challenges and opportunities for more sustainable business and trading models.
Wittenborg lecturer, Dr Natalia Leal, who led the group of Master of Business Management students, says: "My goal was to increase students' awareness about the range of options regarding sustainable businesses, in particular fair trade ones. Fair Plaza is, as far as I'm aware, still the largest fair trade wholesale centre in the world - hosting multiple fair trade importers under one roof."
Rwandese student, Remy Rukundo, said he was pleasantly surprised to find some top-quality coffee from her neighbouring country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the product range. "Afterwards, I did a lot of research myself about the subject, how some countries can improve their fair trade practices."
Asian student, Le Phan, said the awareness about fair trade and fair trade products sourced locally is quite low in her own country, Vietnam. "In my opinion, this stems from the fact that the Vietnamese economy is more focused on industry and the service sector in most major cities. Therefore, this course and especially this company visit, opened my eyes about the value of handmade and agricultural products from around the world."
Research on Supplemental Education Programmes
Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences has been commissioned by the city of Amsterdam's Department of Youth and Welfare to conduct research and write a report on the effectiveness of supplemental education programmes in Amsterdam Zuidoost. The report will focus on one organisation in particular, Buurt Talent Ontwikkeling (BTO - Neighborhood Talent Development) a social enterprise that offers homework support to students whose parents lack the financial resources or skills. BTO has grown from 30 students to more than 300 students in less than 10 years. They currently have more than seven locations and are considering expansion. The organisation was founded by sisters Lydia and Mierelle Seerdorf, social entrepreneurs who are familiar with the neighborhood and ready to face the challenges surrounding education in a resource poor-environment.
High Number of Students with VMBO and HAVO Advice
The research will be led by Senior Lecturers Amy Abdou, Dr Dadi Chen and Andreas Ooijer. Abdou and Chen will write the report, while Ooijer will help conduct interviews with the key stakeholders.
The main aims of the learning support given by BTO are to improve the children's school results and contribute towards their general development. They conduct lessons every day of the week for school children between the ages of 6 and 13 years. They also offer language, sewing and computer lessons for the parents and organise special meetings for parents to share information regarding the education system as well as their children's progress in the learning process.
Wittenborg's Intensive Dutch Courses Remain Popular with International Students and Staff
Learning to speak any new language is not easy and Dutch is no exception. The good news is that you can make considerable leaps and bounds in learning if you submerge yourself totally in a language – even for a week. Which is what Peter Saes, Dutch language teacher at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, has been doing with the Dutch Intensive Courses he offers 4 times a year. Each course spans a week – from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saes joined Wittenborg 4 years ago where he teaches regular language classes to both undergraduates and master's students as required. In addition, he also teaches the Dutch Intensive Beginner and Intermediate courses, which were developed by him and focus on participants' speaking abilities. "The more you submerge yourself in a language, the easier it gets, which is why I think focusing on it for a week is so effective," Saes says.
The course remains popular with international students and staff, and the last one in October was well-attended. The next beginner course will be in Week 4 of 2021 and the intermediate course in Week 7.
Aside from teaching at Wittenborg, Saes also runs a language school in Apeldoorn, the Apeldoorns Taalcentrum. He is an accomplished linguist with a master's degree in English and General Linguistics. He also speaks German, French, Russian and Limburgian – Limburg is a Dutch province in the south where Saes was born and which boasts its own language, in the same way as Friesland, another Dutch province in the north. Since his wife is Russian, he is now learning Russian as well.
Wittenborg Students Address 'Sustainability through Innovation of Circular Business Ideas' in Project Week
A Real-Life Project
During the recent Project Week assignment, bachelor's students at Wittenborg were engaged in activities that require them to address the issue of 'Sustainability through Innovation of Circular Business Ideas'. The main aim of this real-life project is to encourage our students to be aware of environmental issues that are plaguing the world today.
In the past hundred years, industrialisation, urbanisation and modernisation have catalysed and accentuated the 'make-use-dispose' business culture all over the world. This rapidly increasing culture has excessively deteriorated the earth's environment and depleted the planet's limited resources. As part of its efforts to increase student and staff awareness of environmental issues, Wittenborg has infused into its curriculum projects revolving around sustainability and the circular economy. The idea is to make students more aware of ongoing social, business and environmental issues and to educate them on what they can do to help the situation.
During the recent Project Week assignment, bachelor's students were tasked to develop innovative business ideas that look beyond the current predominant 'take-make-waste' industry linear models. The students played the role of founders of new startup circular companies and were to come up with entrepreneurial ideas that focus on home-based recycling, or industry-based (such as tourism and hospitality) initiatives. After that, the students were to write a mini business plan that proposes how their clean-tech businesses will develop economically while eliminating waste and re-using resources continually.
“Lessons Learned at Austrian SMEs during the Pandemic” was the title of the speech delivered by Wittenborg Senior Lecturer Dr Alexander Bauer at the first ‘INCREDIBLE’ Conference held on 26-27 October, 2020.
The acronym 'INCREDIBLE' means International Congress on Regional Economic Development, Information Technology and Sustainable Business. The virtual conference was organised by the Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Sebelas Maret in collaboration with the Central Java Province of the Regional Development Planning Agency (BAPPEDA). The theme of the conference was “The Pandemic, Business Impact, and Economic Recovery”. Bauer was one of the Plenary Session Speakers as well as the Pre-Conference Workshop Speaker.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic impact on almost all sectors of business, with widespread restriction policies resulting in mass unemployment, financial problems and bankruptcies. As physical scientific meetings are cancelled worldwide, researchers have resorted to virtual networking as a replacement. The 'INCREDIBLE' conference is one such conference which seeks to provide a venue for scholars, leading academicians and professionals to effectively respond to the global crisis caused by the pandemic.
Netherlands to Overhaul Accreditation System for Universities by 2024
If it is up to the Dutch Ministry of Education, the Netherlands will overhaul its accreditation system for universities by 2024 with the focus on more self-regulation. Currently, the Dutch Flemish Accreditation Organisation (NVAO) accredits all programmes at institutes of higher education – whether public or private like Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences. The plan is now to shift from programme accreditation, which is done every 6 years by NVAO, to institutional accreditation.
ScienceGuide reports that the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, plans to send a letter to parliament detailing the ins and outs of the new accreditation system. It is foreseen that the new system will be more flexible and make it easier to work with other institutions abroad. Moreover, it is seen as an good instrument to strengthen the quality culture at institutional level.
Wittenborg Webinar Outlines Career Opportunities after Graduation to Prospective Students
A post-graduation webinar hosted by Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences has revealed that many prospective students are already thinking in-depth about their future careers before even starting their studies. Where do I start looking for a job? Is the labour market in the Netherlands any good? How will Wittenborg assist my job-search? These were some of the questions posed by prospective students during the webinar expertly facilitated by Yanti Setiawan, Wittenborg's Manager of Admissions & External Relations.
Setiawan was assisted by Wittenborg alumni Katya Sivkova and Witney Laizer. Sivkova is a marketing specialist at Jamf, who graduated in 2017 with a MSc in International Management, a programme jointly offered by Wittenborg and the University of Brighton in the UK. Laizer is an accounting officer at Alter Domus who graduated with a bachelor's degree in Financial Service Management and Economics Management earlier in 2020. Both managed to find employment in the Netherlands soon after graduation.
Setiawan explained that after graduation international students in the Netherlands are granted 12 months by the Dutch government to look for a job without being subject to minimum salary requirements, etc. "This is basically a gift from the government, called a 'zoekjaar' or orientation year. Graduates are also permitted to defer the orientation year for up to three years and go back to their own countries in the meantime."
One week 'Introduction Week' extended to nine weeks
Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences is introducing an additional support system for new students after they have completed the introduction week at the start of their studies. For a period of up to 9 weeks after students start their studies, throughout the year, new students will have access to workshops and coaching sessions introducing them to the procedures and policies of studies at Wittenborg. The additional support to new students has been introduced as part of Wittenborg's drive to increase its support for students. The new initiative is the responsibility of the Wittenborg Students Support Team, headed by Support Office Coordinator Sophia Faraji and Front Office/Facilities Coordinator Vikram Athvale.
As explained by Faraji, this new initiative is specifically for the newly arrived students. It comprises weekly online hybrid group sessions where common topics about class enrolments, project weeks as well as exam information for the coming weeks are explained and discussed. Each session is informative and worthwhile for students to participate as the team delivers information that students need for the coming weeks in advance. She added that 'preparation is key' and Wittenborg wants its students to be well prepared all the way from start to finish of their study period. Students also have the opportunity to learn from their peers and share information with each other.
Frequently Asked Questions Addressed
The new initiative was already implemented at the start of the new academic year in September 2020. The catalyst for organising these sessions was the amount of commonly asked questions that new students pose to the Students Support team in the early weeks of their study programmes, said Athvale. The timings of the sessions are carefully planned so that they don’t clash with the students’ timetables, thus allowing all to join in.
First Virtual ICEF Berlin Conference in 25 Years Impresses with Efficiency
For the first time in 25 years, ICEF Berlin was held virtually but that did not detract from the annual international education event's quality, participants said. It also meant that this year Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences' full recruitment team was able to attend – led by the chair of the executive board, Peter Birdsall, who made a presentation on the institution as one of the Dutch study providers.
The 3-day event, which started on Monday, is the international education industry's largest networking event, bringing together recruitment agents and education providers, facilitating webinars and offering insights on the industry by experts. According to Lena Vandenbosch, Wittenborg's International Partnership Manager, the team fielded a staggering 72 meetings with potential partners and agents from 36 different countries.
"I loved the way ICEF replicated the Berlin venue virtually with some very nice touches as you enter the online area. Even though I do miss the energy of the face-to-face event, I found it very effective since you can speak to many agents in a short amount of time in a quiet, virtual environment. The meetings were generally very pleasant, and agents were also well prepared. The insights provided by industry experts were also very interesting and ICEF did their best to make everything go as smoothly as possible," Vandenbosch said. On Monday she kicked off with an agent from Tanzania, followed by agents from Russia, Nigeria, the UK, India, Vietnam, Ghana, Kenya, Brazil and many other countries.
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