Lerner Graduate Student Stories: Rolf van de Kerkhof

Rolf van de Kerkhof, native of The Netherlands., is the highly successful UD field hockey head coach who has led the Blue Hens to nine CAA Tournament titles and the 2016 National Championship since taking over the program in 2011. He is scheduled to earn his master’s degree in international business from Lerner in Spring 2024. He shared why he chose Lerner for his grad studies and his future plans.

Lerner: Why did you go back to pursue your graduate degree? Why did you choose the Lerner College for your studies?

van de Kerkhof: I believe in continued education. I am curious to learn more or be refreshed on areas of interest and how they can further complement me as a person and professional. Originally being from The Netherlands and always having had an interest in foreign connections, travels, cultures and business, the Master of Science in International Business was the perfect choice for me. Why Lerner College? Easy – its great reputation and stellar faculty, its network and connections on one hand, and as a full-time UD employee access to the tuition assistance and course fee program on the other hand. A win-win for me, my family, and the university I have been proudly representing for 13 years now.

Lerner: What did you learn through this opportunity that you wouldn’t have learned anywhere else?

van de Kerkhof: I learned that education remains the avenue to learn more about yourself, others, society as a whole, and became more informed and aware of the areas part of the graduate program. I also learned, as an older graduate student, the changes in higher education today compared to about 30 years ago. Although my graduate program is 95% online, I enjoyed interacting and learning from my professors and classmates via discussion boards (e.g., Yellowdig) and group projects (either via Zoom or in person). Education and continued education provide great opportunities to be refreshed in previously familiar or completely new knowledge areas, it doesn’t matter with whom or in what year.

What I wouldn’t have learned elsewhere? As a long time UD employee, if it wasn’t for my enrollment in the MSIB program, I would have never been in the position to get confirmation and experience the ins-and-outs of today’s student-university interaction, expectations, requirements, demands and partnerships. My personal UD educational experience will help me provide guidance and support for my current and future student-athletes. I had heard or met a number of my UD Lerner professors in different capacities than them being my professors. Thanks to enrolling in MSIB, I have built stronger connections and understanding with more colleagues on the UD campus, something that can only benefit my contributions as a Blue Hen myself.

Lerner: Please share an example of a course or concept that you were able to apply directly to your life and/or career.

van de Kerkhof: That would be my BUAD 674 course with Dr. Jack Baroudi, for overall experience and interaction. It was refreshing to read up and learn from a different perspective about the importance of positive leadership and overall culture and moral of a business unit or entire organization, as well as how to best serve all involved and impacted internally and externally. It provided a number of easy to understand concepts and how to integrate procedures to up the level of and create a climate through positive emotion, behavior, engagement, gratitude, relationship, understanding and being a valued asset.

Lerner: Describe an important connection you have made through your graduate program (personal, professional, peers, mentors, professors, etc.)

van de Kerkhof: The biggest difference in my experience with working towards my graduate degree is the fact I was in an online classroom setting with people from all different ages, from so many different states and countries, representing so many cultures and customs. I really enjoyed learning from them, reading their responses, and where possible interacting in person. It was very complementing as part of my MSIB to have access to and gain insight, knowledge and understanding from so many different nationalities and generations.

Lerner: If you were to describe your classmates in one word, what would that be and why?

van de Kerkhof: Unique!

Lerner: How do you balance your career with your studies?

van de Kerkhof: Find a way! Make the impossible possible! Making sacrifices leading to less time for self in order to perform well on the job, in graduate school, the family setting and community. Late nights, early mornings and celebrating the weekly progress made towards completing a graduate class. Finding joy and purpose through the learning and interaction opportunities that come with each individual class, professor and course.

Lerner: Fill in this sentence: “My graduate program helped me become…”

van de Kerkhof: better as a person and professional, and it will allow me to contribute more to my own life and the lives of others in my community either as strangers, friends, family or colleagues.

Lerner: What was the most impactful hands-on project or case competition that you were able to participate in?

van de Kerkhof: In BUAD 678, I enjoyed completing the Thunderbird Global Mindset Inventory and throughout the course learned more about the intellectual, psychological and social capital and how is it all connected. In BUAD 682, being reminded that although we may live in a global world with so many globalization opportunities, it is key to conduct a quality and thorough market research to maximize market entry and growth strategies.

Lerner: What are your plans or next steps for the future?

van de Kerkhof: For now, add my MSIB knowledge and experiences to further improve as a person and professional. I have a great job at UD so the added development will provide opportunities for me to serve others better. It will also allow me to educate my own children and my field hockey student-athletes about the importance of education and personal development as part of each individual’s life journey.

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