Frank Wijen Joins ERIM as Academic Director of Part-Time PhD Programme

On 1st September 2022, Professor Frank Wijen of RSM joined ERIM as Academic Director of the Part-Time PhD Programme. In the following interview, Frank shares his motivation to become Academic Director, his vision for the future of the Part-Time PhD Programme, and his top priorities as he comes into the new role. A warm welcome to Frank from the ERIM team!

What has motivated you to become ERIM’s Academic Director of the Part-Time PhD Programme?

With a team of committed and experienced colleagues, I will be happy to give engaged research a more prominent role. Having taught in several courses of the Programme since its inception seven years ago, I have appreciated the eagerness of the participants to learn and their willingness to go the extra mile, despite their oftentimes very demanding agendas. The first-hand experiences that the participants share surely add to the Programme's richness. While the Programme surely has its challenges (e.g., in terms of securing a critical mass of dedicated research time to make a research project successful and integrating mostly remotely working researchers into RSM and its academic departments), I also see tremendous opportunities to make this Programme flourish further.

What is your vision for the future of the Part-Time PhD Programme?

The Part-Time PhD Programme is a diamond in the rough. Drawing on ERIM's stronghold in rigorous academic research and the participants' extensive professional experiences, the Programme has the potential to combine the best of both worlds. With the incoming cohort, the Programme hosts around one hundred PhD candidates, who often fulfill high-level positions in business, government, and civil society. This offers the ability to realize our coveted outreach to the world of practitioners. I see a major role for engaged research, in which academics shed light on complex societal problems in collaboration with practitioners. While there have been persistent calls for both rigour and relevance, we have made too little headway in this respect.

The size and diversity of the Programme and its participants offer an extraordinary opportunity to walk our own talk. This will take both further integration and differentiation. The Programme's recent integration into the ERIM research environment is an important step forward to warrant academic rigour, yet further integration will be needed. At the same time, we also must differentiate the Programme more. We may, so far, have too much sought to emulate the Full-Time PhD Programme, which has excellently prepared its candidates for an academic career. Most participants of the Part-Time Programme do not have the same career ambition and do not enjoy the same amount of research time, yet they do have a wealth of valuable practical experience. Therefore, we need to leverage the different profiles of the participants. This will involve exploring the boundaries of what types of research meet both rigour and relevance criteria. We do not have all the answers at this point, so much further work is needed.

What are the first 2 things you’d like to do as you come into the role?

My first priority is to ensure that the new cohort of slightly over twenty participants will enjoy a great start. They will shortly arrive on campus. Well begun is half done, so a warm welcome and strong programme are important.

My second priority is to check whether participants of the previous cohort have progressed well and are ready for their coming years. Our aim is clearly that participants accomplish their PhD trajectory, which means that we need to keep a keen eye on their progress.