Maria Rosa Parra is the Marketing Team Lead of the Young Professionals Portfolio at Nyenrode Business University, an institution in the Netherlands providing full-time, part-time and modular business programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level. We recently caught up with Maria Rosa to talk about her role, what sets Nyenrode apart from other universities and the marketing methods she swears by. Read on to find out more about Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Stewardship (LES), why the “high touch” approach is still so important, what the future holds for business education...and more!
How would you describe your current role at Nyenrode Business University, and what are your main goals and responsibilities?
I’m responsible for the marketing of the Young Professionals Portfolio that includes all international programmes at Nynerode - bachelors, masters and MBA programmes – both internationally and locally.
One of the most interesting aspects for me personally is the fact that for the first time in my 15 years in the Netherlands, I’m working with the Dutch market - promoting things like our prestigious programmes in accountancy and controlling to Dutch students. It’s nice to be able to add this to my experience and background in international higher education marketing.
One of Nyenrode’s goals is to increase its international reach so I’m always on the lookout for partnership opportunities in international markets. Not only from the marketing side of attracting students to come to Nyenrode, but as a way of supporting our international office which organises international exchange programmes and the international strategy for Nyenrode as a whole.
Nyenrode recently redesigned some of its degree programmes and curriculum to be better aligned with the expectations of current students. Can you highlight some of these changes?
One of our key priorities is to keep personal contact with people. A lot of universities are focusing on having a large online presence, however Nyenrode believes in the importance of the personal touch (in my team we call it “high touch”). We’ve always valued personal contact and still do.
“We really value the insights professionals from a diverse range of disciplines bring with them when they study with us.”
We’re a small-scale university with very small class sizes so have the privilege of knowing all the students. We have 2 cohorts of around 35 students in our bachelors class and in 2020 the BScBA programme will start at our Amsterdam campus also with a small group of 35 students maximum. Our Business Administration Masters class is also small, compared with other universities in the Netherlands, as is our MBA programme, as we want to limit it to 40 students maximum. We’ve made a conscious decision to keep small class sizes.
We also value multidisciplinary education, which is why, for example, engineers and medical doctors are welcome on our programmes. We really value the insights professionals from a diverse range of disciplines bring with them when they study with us.
Although we’re a business-driven university, we’re interested in other areas too. For instance, we have programmes that focus on sports and government institutions, and other industries such as food and beverages.
We’re also aware of keeping up with the pace of digital change are always bringing new technologies into our classrooms.
You’ve talked about “high touch” as being one of the distinction points of Nyenrode; what else do you think makes Nyenrode different from other universities?
We have one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, I must say!
We have two campuses. Nyenrode Breukelen is located in a beautiful estate with a historic castle that can’t help but spark creativity and inspire innovation. Our Amsterdam campus is located in The 9 Streets which is one of the most dynamic places in the city.
We believe students have to be in an environment that inspires them to do something better, something new. Innovation is key.
Since we first received funding in 1946, our core values have been Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Stewardship (what we refer to as LES). They are very much part of our DNA and the way we integrate these three values in our programmes is what makes us different.
For example, for our MBA we run sessions called “Meet the CEO”, developed by Prof. Désirée van Gorp; we also have the Breakfast Sessions where alumni, current students and people from our network come together over breakfast 4 times a year to share new developments and business insights; and moreover we have an incubator at our Amsterdam campus that nurtures enterprises, some with a focus on social entrepreneurship.
“Every decision we make is based on how we’re going to provide value to prospective students, alumni, current students, faculty and other stakeholders.”
One of the companies we support is Farm Brothers - they sell cookies, and the sale of every box protects a piece of degraded land . It not so much about the cookies as the value chain; they work with the farmers to try and get the best, most organic products.
We have quite a few companies that are working along those lines; there’s a real ecosystem that allows innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership to emerge with a conscious mind (stewardship).
As a marketer, what tools, methodologies and channels do you currently use to promote the university’s brand?
When it comes to the brand, I like to focus on value creation. I’m not talking about unique selling points, but unique value propositions. Every decision we make is based on how we’re going to provide value to prospective students, alumni, current students, faculty and other stakeholders. This integrated approach is important to me as a marketer and is what I propose to my team in every endeavour.
Since I started at Nyenrode in November 2018, I’ve been really interested in creating partnerships and alliances and joining the organisations and platforms that we believe are going to add value to everyone’s experience, not just current students but also future ones.
I’m utilising all the social media channels – just today we were talking about how we’re going to start use Tik Tok for future generations if at all. We have bachelors students in our programmes so I need to consider which channels to focus on.
“About 35% of students that come to Nyenrode have met an alumnus abroad or locally.”
Instagram is one channel we use for our bachelors students at the moment. We use LinkedIn a lot for our Executive MBA, full-time MBA and MSc programmes. Pinterest, I’ve found, is a platform that comes and goes. Running alongside that of course are our partnerships with most of the educational platforms we’re using.
Also, in the Netherlands, we have the Netherlands Education Support Offices (NESO) and we work closely with them. We have representatives worldwide though the Dutch government and in bigger countries agents support us with promotion. In Asia, we’re using platforms like WeChat, Weibo and bilibili and always coming up with new ideas to try. We need to be where our future Nyenrodeans are, but also our alumni and future employees.
I always say our alumni are like walking brochures, they know better than anyone the value of Nyenrode’s education. About 35% of students who come to Nyenrode have met an alumnus abroad or locally.
How do you maintain relationships with alumni – especially those who’ve moved abroad?
Let me start by saying that our Head of Alumni and External Relationship, Heleen (van Hall, EMBA alumna), is excellent at keeping relationships going with our alumni. She’s such an asset and remembers everything! Heleen is very active when it comes to personal communication – if an alumni gets a new job, she gets a notification and will immediately send a personal communication to wish them luck on behalf of Nyenrode. That’s something we’re really proud of.
We host alumni events at the Nyenrode Campuses and abroad. In cooperation with the Nyenrode Alumni Association VCV and the Nyenrode Fund, homecomings for alumni are organised. Many of them give back knowledge, experience and funding for scholarships and the estate. It ties in with the idea that alumni give back what they received, and it works well.