The Diplomat’s exclusive interview with Emeritus Professor Geert Hofstede
by Kaschayar Javadi and Zoë Perry
Just a few hours before the big evening Professor Hofstede invited us to his Hotel in the city and talked with us about Maastricht University, the SBE and the international classroom.
We were very impressed, especially when it turned out that Prof. Hofstede is a polyglot who easily switches between German, French and English, leaving his interviewers speechless in the meantime.
Professor Hofstede, it has been a while since the last time you were in Maastricht. How does it feel to come back and see that so many people are excited for your lecture?
Well, I come to Maastricht from time to time. Of course I am extremely happy to be here today. It is always a pleasure to be here in Maastricht, to meet old friends and to see all these motivated people, even if my years at what was then called the Faculty of Economics were not the easiest in my career.
Why was that?
I was a Professor of Organizational Anthropology from 1985 until my retirement in 1993, when I turned 65. Beforehand, I had taught at the international business schools IMD in Lausanne and INSEAD at Fontainebleau. One year after I started, my Department Head asked me to design a business management program. I agreed, but I told him: If I do this, it should be an international management program.
At that time, there was no comparable program in the Netherlands. At Maastricht there were also no foreign students. Maastricht University was the first Dutch university trying to establish an international business management program. The academics and the course instructors were obviously not really familiar with this concept. Furthermore, the general interest in internationality was weak. The English of some of my colleagues was abominable. I had to face a lot of resistance and even a kind of uprising to prevent the start of the new program.
But the students liked it, and the program gained more and more momentum. My Chair was re-named “Organizational Anthropology and International Management”. My role in the new program remained limited, by the time it had really got going, I had reached retirement age.
Other universities in the Netherlands followed the Maastricht example. When I look at the International Business program of the SBE now, bearing in mind the difficulties and resistance in the beginning of its adoption, I can say that it developed very strongly and also as I expected it to. It is the largest program of the university and the international classroom has achieved a high level of multiculturalism. The same applies also to the university in general. The President is German, the Rector and the dean of the SBE are Belgian. You see internationality everywhere, and I think that this is great and that in the overall process it was not only the students who learned a lot but also the staff.
In 2006 the then president of Maastricht University created a part-time “Geert Hofstede chair on Cultural Diversity”, occupied by Professor Mark Peterson of Florida Atlantic University. The Chair was recently moved from the SBE to the School of Arts and Culture.
As you might know, the UM has recently climbed up several positions in the Times Higher Education list of the Top 100 young universities, which makes a lot of Maastricht students (especially from the SBE) very happy. What do you think of this development?
First of all, I don’t give a damn about rankings! These lists depend on what you put in them. You can put in whatever criteria you want, just depending on the results you want to see in the end. That’s why I couldn’t care less about them. But what I do care about are universities that are taking original initiatives.
Thank you very much for this interview Prof. Hofstede.