Students who join in on working on a case within an organsation or a company of an alumnus. That’s the Trustfonds Case Writing Cycle. ‘It’s the gift of knowledge, given by the alumni, to the university.’
TEXT: Marjolein Stormezand
PHOTO’S: © Claudia Broekhoff
Five years ago dr. Lisbeth Elens-Noordegraaf, senior lecturer at Erasmus University College, set up the Trustfonds Case Writing Cycle-programme. She did this in collaboration with dr. Brigiette Hoogedorn, affiliated with the Erasmus School of Economics, and with entrepreneur Michiel Muller.
It’s a programme where students get to work on a real-life case, provided to them by alumni. The goal of the programme: get more alumni involved with the university in order to create a broader, more relevant educational offer for BA students. The Case Writing Cycle is going strong by now, but there’s always room for improvement, says EelensNoordergraaf. Which is why she’s encouraging alumni to participate in the programme.
Before we can explore the benefits of the Case Writing Cycle, we must go back in time. It’s the summer of 2014. Eelens-Noordegraaf and Hoogendoorn are in the Tinbergen building, brainstorming. Michiel Muller calls them. The conversation’s main question: how can alumni get involved with Erasmus in a way that goes beyond a guest lecture? The answer: why not get students involved in a case, given to them by an alumnus? And why not make the case-writing part of the programme? In that way, you offer the student relevant educational material, and the organisations or companies involved get a new, fresh view on how to solve complicated issues.
One of the first cases the students were allowed to get stuck in on was proffered by Marcella Breedveld and Giselle van Cann from the Dutch news outlets NRC and NOS. The two outlets were struggling with the question of how to appeal to a younger public. BA students of Erasmus University College and Erasmus School of Economics interviewed the two alumni, and then dove into the ogranisation. Their result, according to Eelens-Noordegraaf, was a ‘wonderful case that has been discussed in-depth by their fellow students.’
This case had a successful result, but Eelens-Noordegraaf emphasises: ‘We mustn't forget that this research was an experiment, one that was executed by students who were still learning.’ In other words, doing the Case Writing Cycle requires time and input from the alumni who participate. In exchange for that the alumni get new ideas to help them view a complex issue in a new light, or even help in solving it.
‘At the heart of the Trustfonds is the want to facilitate knowledge exchange. The students aren’t advisors, which is something the companies who participate need to keep in mind,’ says Noordegraaf. ‘If you ask me, this programme is mostly about creating educational frameworks. It’s a gift of knowledge, given by the alumnus to the university. If in addition they get a helping hand as well, then that’s an added bonus, of course.