Monday, 18 September. The start of a new academic year at University College PXL. In my opinion, THE best college in Limburg (Belgium). And probably also beyond. Where students are named junior-colleagues. The place where they try on the X-factor suit. Starting from day 1.
What does that mean? Passion, international collaboration and networking, multi- and disciplined work and innovative business. Quite a lot. Empty buzzwords? Slang? Not at all. Definitely not in communication management.
Yep, you’ve probably already figured it out by now, I teach within the communication management programme. If this was a deliberate choice? Err, not really. Rather an assembly of several incidental coincidences. As it often happens.
Throwback to my beginnings
A few years ago, I worked as a (digital) marketer for a company named Ardennes-Etape. As a former student of PXL, I stayed in contact with the university through the alumni network which resulted in Herve Vandeweyer, Head of the course, contacting me for a mission. He examined the possibilities to set up an authentic learning assignment for graduate students. An assignment he wanted to be conducted in French. I accepted his offer. It was my first acquaintance with a classroom from the other side. This collaboration is now in its 5th year.
“Coincidence doesn’t exist”
I no longer work for Ardennes-Etape. I’ve had a change of plans 3 years ago. Herve wanted to continue the mission but needed a lecturer to coach the students. No need for me to think that over! He introduced me to PXL Research where they asked me to do research in the leisure sector, considering my background. To resume, one small year later I was 100% into education! Something I could never have imagined before!
It did not stop there. A little later I was asked by Herve to be the beacon for Moonfish, an advertising agency run by students studying Communications and overseen by myself. That withholds that I prospect, coach, manage revenue and guard the quality standards. Some people ask me if I am the CEO but in my opinion this is an outdated term. I prefer the idea of shared responsibilities and low hierarchy. I absolutely love to be an inspiration and a mentor to my junior colleagues (or at least, I hope to be). Seeing how they gain confidence, gives me a tremendous thrill and pride when I see them finish a project! And as far as I believe, a perfect example of that X-factor I mentioned earlier. Moonfish should cover its own costs, and we perfectly manage that! After 4 years, I am happy to say we have quite a portfolio. So, the mission for this year is: keep the motor running!
Tutoring, research and project management
The academic season starts with a new programme and a lot of new faces. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I work on Research, trying to find an answer to questions such as: “(i) what is the wine tourism worth in Belgium; (ii) how can we professionalise this sector; (iii) can you measure hospitality through mystery visits?; (iv) how can you bring tourism for all into practice?”
In addition, I start preparing the content for my lecture in Advertising for Master students. They have the possibility to choose their field of interest in their final year.
“I feel lucky to be teaching Advertising this year”.
So, what have I planned? A deep dive into one of the, if not the fastest changing areas in the world: Advertising. With a lot of workshops, guest colleagues, external visits, and last but not least, an introduction to edcom and the world of Artificial Intelligence in the Age of Advertising during Evolution Lab 2017 in Brussels on 17 October 2017. Next to these exciting activities, students will also need to work on a briefing and assignment for Ardennes-Etape.
Looking back and forward
And so, this is how I found my way into education. I, who thought that this environment was a slow and rather boring machine. Silly me! If I consider all the activities I am lucky to be in charge of and all the opportunities still out there, I think it is safe to say I don’t regret my choice.
Working together with people that share the same passion creates an energy bubble that rises and rises. If you have found that match, then you are never bored, always with the foresight of new possibilities in your region, nationwide and on an international level. Because, indeed, a school is embedded in society.
My tip for junior colleagues and other students out there today? Seize as many opportunities as you can as there is plenty out there! Develop your talents! And if that is within marketing & communications, I consider it a privilege to be able to share as much of my passion with you as possible.