“Learning should be done through teamwork and learning from each other, similar to EYP”: Alumni in Academics

Many EYPers join an academic team of an EYP event to be an academic facilitator and moderator of thematic committees , but how many of them go on to become academics? The alumni we talked to joined many media, organising, and chairs teams—one even headed up the chairs’ team of an International Session in 1994—before moving on to teach the younger generations at universities. We talked to:

  • Matthew Bidwell (UK), who works as an Associate Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania and was active in EYP between 1992 and 1998;
  • Richard Hedlund (UK/SE), a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Lincoln, who did EYP between 2005 and 2011.
  • Madara Mara Irbe (LV), who is a lecturer of Product Design and Development at Riga Technical University and lecturer of Entrepreneurship at College of Business Administration in Riga, who was involved in EYP between 2009 and 2010.

What is something EYP has taught you that you have taken into your current job?

Matthew: The EYP gave me a much more global outlook, which has served me well as I have worked on three different continents and taught international groups of students and executives. In addition, the experience of chairing committees and working with others has been invaluable in managing teams of students and academics.

Richard: So much! I owe a lot to EYP and I would not be the same person without my experiences at all the sessions. These experiences allowed me to grow as a person and develop my individuality by meeting new people, new ideas, new cultures; I became more confident and more curious about the world; I developed new skills such as public speaking, negotiating, and compromising. This is useful for everyone, but I use a lot of these skills in my job, as giving lectures or leading seminars is very similar to speaking at a general assembly or in a committee meeting. My EYP experiences definitely help me be good at my job today.

Madara Mara: EYP was the first international event that expanded my perspective on the opportunities in my life and career drastically. First of all, the teambuilding activities and excellent management by the devoted organisers that stimulated creative thinking and problem solving gave me a fundamental basis to undertake and resolve challenges later in life. Next, the process overall was amazing – learning to analyse and argument information became a crucial aspect in undertaking various projects and attract funding for creative business ideas. Lastly, teamwork with diverse minds reminded me of how important it was to understand and accept each individual as a personality, which is an everlasting lesson regardless of the organisation you are working in. Although the academic field has its rules and methods, I do my best to bring in the excitement that follows learning, exploring, ideating and experimenting processes. The learning process should definitely be done in a dynamic and attractive manner through teamwork and learning from each other, similar to what I experienced at EYP. Exploring and experimenting should have no boundaries to be able to maximise the creativity potential of each student. The courses I teach are related to product development and entrepreneurship, which are based on problem-solving, creativity and justifying solutions. Each study semester I do my best to transform the mindsets of the students into ones that are motivated, passionate, creative, open to opportunities, and have belief in themselves and their dreams. This is what EYP taught me and what I wish to instill in the young and prosperous minds of my students. EYP is still a memorable event that I am keen to advertise to anyone who has school-aged children and is interested in involving them in worthwhile activities for personal and professional development.

What can academics learn from young EYPers and vice versa?

Matthew: We always need new ideas and new ways of understanding the world. EYPers can bring in these new perspectives. We academics seek to develop and preserve systematic knowledge in ways that help us to understand the world better and solve its problems. I hope that such knowledge is useful for the problems that EYPers grapple with.

Richard: Academics do two things. Firstly, teaching, and we always want to support and encourage tomorrow’s students and leaders. Secondly, research, we want to understand how the world works and how to solve its challenges, and we want to engage with the experiences of young people and harness their ideas, hopes, and aspirations to help develop society.

Madara Mara: Even though I am the lecturer, I keep an open mind and step into the shoes of the student and look upon each bright individual in my audience as a teacher who has something valuable to tell. It is important to reflect on how the knowledge you transfer comes back to you in various formats and what new ideas and perspectives each student brings to it. It is especially important to enhance collaborative learning opportunities among students and the lecturer as a mentor, particularly in the dynamically developing area of innovation development and entrepreneurship. If any of my students were an EYPer, I would be delighted to enhance the interest they are pursuing and learn from their experience along the way as they are developing it. I believe it is the role of the lecturer to identify and enhance the key interests and skills of each student, especially if it is possible within the course you teach.