Marielle G. Heijltjes: The Collaborator



Reprinted from BizEd–September/October 2014. Marielle G. Heijltjes is a professor of managerial behavior and is the associate dean of strategic development and internationalization. She is also the director of postgraduate education at the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics.

Marielle Heijltjes’ list of responsibilities has gotten longer, especially as society’s expectations for business schools have changed. This is particularly true in Europe, where business schools are expected to create visible societal and economic value. In the Netherlands, this concept has been labeled “knowledge valorization.” This has meant that in addition to conducting research and teaching,

Heijltjes and her colleagues also are expected to “collaborate and co-create” knowledge in ways that advance their industry and address today’s social challenges. If business schools are to help faculty fulfill this new role, they must change in fundamental ways, Heijltjes says. But in her view, business schools have only recently—and reluctantly—begun to address this shift. She points out that promotion and tenure decisions and other faculty incentives most often revolve around research production.

“The challenge for faculty is balancing what it takes to survive in the old system while producing the innovation required to create the new,” she says. Heijltjes is encouraged, however, by efforts such as the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI), a consortium of more than 50 business schools, corporations, and associations dedicated to redefining the purpose of 21st-century corporations and business schools.

For instance, the GRLI’s 50+20 project, launched in 2011, aims to identify best emerging practices among business schools today. “I am fortunate to work at Maastricht, a GRLI partner school. There is an understanding among our board members and program directors of what needs to change,” she says. “The next step is to broaden our dialogue to all faculty members, and put our money where our mouths are. I hope that we will be courageous enough to convert this understanding into new budget decisions and faculty HR policies, even when other colleagues in the industry might not yet be changing.”

Policies change when likeminded individuals stay connected, says Heijltjes. She shares her school’s progress and obstacles with executives, policymakers, and other academics. This activity cultivates the “co-creation of knowledge” that she finds most valuable. “Progress has been possible because we learn from each other on questions that have meaning for all of us,” she says. “The most positive reward is our ability to address the challenges we collectively face.”

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