This wasn’t exactly the plan. A newly graduated economist is much likelier to end up in a business career. But life has a way of pushing you in a certain direction. Then one day, you find yourself responsible for the alumni policy of your own alma mater.
Sonja Nollen-Smith: ‘After graduation I didn’t hear so much as a peep out of the university.’ Smiling: ‘Probably mostly because my address wasn’t up to date. The point is that although Erasmus University has a giant, important, diverse network at its disposal, it was hardly used.’ Creating something out of nothing makes her heart beat faster. So for the last two years she’s been toiling away, developing an online community that’s designed to serve as a meeting place for alumni and students, both third-year bachelors and masters: EUR Connect. The goal is to turn alumni into fully-fledged members of the collegial community, just like American and English universities have.
‘The role of the university is changing; it’s becoming less of a transmitter, more of a facilitator. We’re asking our alumni, is something missing, what do you need? Would you care for academic updates? Would you like to be involved in research focusing on the big social issues of the 21st century? Would you be willing to supervise interns?’ Alumni now have the option to start new groups within EUR Connect, join a society, contact each other, share messages or start a discussion. ‘EUR Connect was developed in close cooperation with the faculties. I’m rather proud of that, because as a rule Erasmus University is resoundingly decentralised, and while some of the faculties had their alumni policy well underway, others didn’t. EUR Connect now offers a university-wide community that addresses the needs of our international alumni just as well. It’s this ever-expanding group in particular that is feeling the need for a strong network. Being so far away from home and living on campus, they tend to experience student life in a much more intense way.’
In case you want to be part of EUR Connect, please please go to www.eurconnect.nl. Sonja: ‘I hope as many students and alumni as possible join EUR Connect and the conversation, share information, meet or reconnect. If we manage to keep this community alive and lively, my mission is accomplished. And there’s always room for improvement, so please send me your suggestions!’
TEXT: Carien van der Wal
PHOTO: Jennifer Remme