'We believe new economic models are crucial to our future’

Two economics students, one current and one former board member of EFR (Economic Faculty association Rotterdam), started a transition-focused minor on sustainability, named ‘A sustainable economic transition for Rotterdam’. Why? Because a university may well be the best place to find solutions for the challenges the world is facing today. Emma Clemens (22) and Dunvel Délias (20) share their stories.  

‘Many of the world’s most pressing, grand challenges of our time spark the need for transformative changes that will deeply affect the way we think, organize and behave. They imply a fundamental change to an economy that is sustainable, circular, prosperous and inclusive.’ – From the minor website.

Why and how did you came up the idea for this minor?

Emma Clemens: ‘University teacher Karen Maas and director of DRIFT Derk Loorbach invited us to think about a way to include contemporary challenges, such as climate change, in our study program. They wanted to provide a broader and more complete view on economics than the one commonly held. As economics students, we often notice that certain topics and crucial nuances are not addressed. Societal challenges like climate change are only being taught in terms of micro economics, whereas in reality, the way our whole economy is set up has an effect on climate change.
Maas and Loorbach contacted EFR to get a better idea of what students are interested in and what subjects matter to them. Because social and environmental issues are such a challenge to solve that it often seems people would rather ignore them.
To tackle this tendency, we try to come up with realistic, tangible economic solutions. Students should learn the language and the tools to deal with these problems as soon as possible.’

Is the minor a success?

Dunvel Délias: ‘We just finished the first edition and received great feedback from the students. This academic year’s group was very diverse, including students from economics, econometrics and EUC bachelors. Our goal is to make the topic as concrete as possible by using cases from real companies and institutions in Rotterdam. What alternative economic models are available to us? How can we shift towards a new economic system where the long-term outcome is more important than short-term success? These questions are too urgent to ignore. That’s why we need professionals from different backgrounds and fields involved, who inspire students to think of solutions for these contemporary problems and transform the world we live in.’

‘This minor invites students to think about what can be done here and now’ 

Emma Clemens and Dunvel Délias

Isn’t this topic contradictory to economics studies?

Dunvel Délias: ‘I strongly feel that it’s not. This minor is about adding value to what you know and and are taught during your studies. About achieving a better understanding of the world we live in and its limitations. It invites students to think about what can be done here and now.’

Why is the ‘Rotterdam’ in the title so important?

Emma Clemens: ‘Rotterdam is where we live and go to university. For this minor, we collaborate with Rotterdam-based companies like RotterZwam. We learn about what’s already being done in the city. Sometimes people are sceptical about the so-called Blue economy or circular economy, but once they see examples of businesses who really work this way while also earning enough money to prosper, their sceptic bubble becomes an optimistic one. Change is always an option, that’s what we want to show with this minor and our examples from real life.’

Dunvel Délias: ‘Rotterdam is the perfect place to conduct this minor, because it’s such an entrepreneurial, creative hub. A great number of students in our city will likely one day start their own company, which gives them an opportunity to have a tangible and positive impact on the business world.’

Would you like to see this topic become a part of the official curriculum?

Emma Clemens: ‘It’s not EFR’s goal to actually change the curriculum. It is, however, important for us to meet the needs of students. I personally find it interesting to think about transformative changes. At the end of the third year, we have a subject called ‘Philosophy of Economics’, and I feel it should be more related to the challenges of today, instead of the challenges of the past.

More information

You can sign up for the second edition of the minor ‘A sustainable economic transition for Rotterdam’ and also read more about it and its eligibility requirements here.

Find out which other contributors accepted the challenge for fostering inclusive prosperity here.