For the record, I have just turned 50 years of age. I graduated in 1989 as a sociologist, not as an economist. I’ve spent my student years exploring social statistics, studying the topics of work and organisation, sports (I still loose myself in a game of basketball), music (from Mussorgsky to Sonic Youth, from Bartók to Can and Kraftwerk), love and so much more. As a NFWO fellow I made my PhD on the technique of management contracts in the public sector; research at the intersection of management, organizational theory and administrative law.
Afterwards my research has focused on the interface between the internal and external labour markets. My international work can be found mainly in journals dealing with the organizational sciences, personnel economics and psychology. It is a mix of fundamental work and practitioners oriented publications. Based on my research I have initiated 20 generations of students into the scientific foundations of organizational design and human resources management. Back in the old days, when the tradition still existed, this allowed me to put together a fine collection of 'golden chalks': for being the most 'papa' prof, the most punctual prof, the most sporting prof, etc. Once, I even got the chalk for the most handsome prof - but that was a long time ago ...
Crossing over faculty boundaries
After my PhD, I took a leap of faith into the unknown territory of the Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB). The governors at that time were quick to bring me into their administrative structure. Careers often develop in ways that are very different from what we had imagined, despite future selves. Perhaps this reflects the strong interdisciplinary interactions that characterize the FEB as well as myself.
The step to the governance board
In October 2004, I became a full professor and vice-dean of education in the FEB. In 2008, I was elected as dean. The recent years were marked by an increase in scale, major changes and governance transformation.
We have achieved much of value during this period, thanks to the efforts of many different people: the internationalization of the faculty; the enriching of the educational portfolio with more internationally oriented programmes; the successful integration of the Antwerp and Brussels campuses; the development of seven professional support services; the renowned EQUIS accreditation, which adds the FEB to the select list of internationally focused business schools. Nine years down the road, we can also look back on 14 successful programme reviews, all completed from our position at the head of the Flemish ‘pack’. We have also worked hard to create an enriching range of extra-curricular activities Being a student today is much more than only studying.
During my years as a researcher and as dean I encountered many topics I would like to further shape within the university. Especially important, both in my tasks as a dean as well as in the societal component of my research is the collaboration with different stakeholders bringing in expertise each from their own domain. I don’t just mean the employees of the faculty, but also the students (the nine praesides, but also the presidents and governors of Academics for Companies and Academics for Development). Furthermore, our strong international partners continuously challenge us to critically reflect. Finally, there are our partners from the practitioners’ field and the government with whom we translate our research into tangible policy and interventions (e.g. Steunpunt Werk or het Vlaams Partnerschap Duaal Leren).
Yes, I do have a life besides my work. And I spend that life at the side of my partner, Sophie. She started her career at the Lessius University College and after the integration made the switch to KU Leuven. She works at the Antwerp campus and is currently the programme director for the programmes in business administration that we offer at the campuses in Antwerp and Brussels.
Together we are an integrated couple. Fortunately, for the children Shoera, Yulia, Ilya, Simon and Wout that makes little difference. The eldest, Shoera, is studying mathematical engineering techniques. Two years ago, she was responsible for the ‘fakbar’ of VTK. She still involves me in her world, by inviting me for the yearly VTK ‘Old Bastards Evening’. The youngest one, Wout, is only three years old. Full of energy, not yet concerned about his future self.
This was probably the most difficult text for me to write. Rather than turning the spotlight on myself, I prefer to show passion in collaboration with others to realize shared ambitions for the university. In the years ahead, I would like nothing more than to carry on doing exactly the same - with you all.