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Enjoy pearly white beaches and palm trees while you work on a solution for socio-economic issues on a small island. In the new academic year, in the second course period of the first semester, we’ll be launching a new elective: Community Service Learning Project: Curaçao. The elective is for third-year bachelor’s students. An interview with Dean Han van Dissel about the project: 'It’s going to be an extremely interesting learning experience.'

How did the idea arise to develop an elective together with large organisations on Curaçao?

The idea was actually born through a number of experiences I had at INSEAD in France. There we had groups of students in project-based learning programmes build playgrounds for disabled children in residential care homes for children. Learning combined with the pursuit of a social goal was highly appreciated. These 2 aspects are also combined in the elective. We want students to experience the things they will encounter when working in a research or policy role in an environment that is very different from Amsterdam. I went to Curaçao with Pepijn (Pepijn van Neerijnen, Assistant Professor in Strategic Management) to prepare everything. The idea gained a lot of traction at the local level and we received support from ministers, ministries and other groups on the island.

Why was Curaçao chosen?

Curaçao is an island which has a similar number of inhabitants to an average municipality in the Netherlands, but with the complexity of an independent country with a very different socio-cultural environment. That makes it very interesting. Tourism is an important export product for the island, but besides that, there’s little diversification in the economy.

Sun, sea and sand… it sounds amazing, but what will the students be doing in this elective?

Thirty UvA EB bachelor’s students will spend 3 weeks in Curaçao for this course. On the island, they'll work together with University of Curaçao students on relevant socio-economic research areas. They’ll be supervised by Pepijn van Neerijnen and Koert van Buiren. Van Buiren is someone who does a lot of research and consultancy work in Curaçao and he’s familiar with the island.

Pepijn and Koert will speak with various public and private organisations such as the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten and the Ministry of Economic Development to come up with a variety of research topics. These topics will focus on socio-economic issues they are currently dealing with, such as: How can Curaçao encourage cruise ship tourists to increase spending from 70 dollars to 100 dollars? Or, what are the possibilities for electric cars in Curaçao? The research findings are really relevant and won’t just be filed away in a cabinet. An especially challenging aspect is that the teams will be multidisciplinary and that not much research material is available. This will make it extra challenging for the students to carry out academic-calibre research.

Why is it interesting for students to research practical cases in cooperation with organisations in Curaçao?

The students will experience what it’s like to answer questions based on practice in a multidisciplinary team. How do you apply theory to real-life situations, how do you deal with cultural differences? Besides the fact that it looks good on your CV, student also get the chance to make an impact.

Will there be any time left over for tourist activities and lying on the beach?

We believe it’s important that this experience is very special and interesting for our students, and we want them to see that studying Economics and Business can be used to tackle important social issues. Of course we're not going to deny that theres a tropical climate with palm trees, white sand beaches and sea. There will be enough time in the evenings and weekends to discover what the island has to offer. Laughs: The students will have to pay for their own beer.

Out of all the students who register for this course, 30 bachelor’s students will be selected through a lottery system. Students interested in applying for a spot can still register for this elective course between 16 and 21 July. Where possible, travel costs will be kept to a minimum. Read more about this elective in the Course Catalogue.