Colombia consultancy project exposes RSM students to social issues

Talented bachelor and master students from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) travelled to Colombia to act as consultants for companies and NGOs as part of the Erasmus Consultancy Project. The 25 business students also supported the local community by volunteering at a children’s foundation, which made them aware of social issues and how they can be a force for positive change.

The annual Erasmus Consultancy Project (ECP) offers companies and non-profit organisations in an emerging market tailor-made research and consultancy services by carefully selected students from RSM. The project was organised by RSM’s study association STAR, and was guided by RSM faculty members Dr Marja Flory and Stephanie Maas.


Volunteering at children’s foundation

In addition to consulting for several companies for two weeks, the Dutch embassy in Colombia’s capital Bogotá connected the students to Niños de los Andes Foundation. The foundation’s programmes focus on family care substitution, when these fail because of issues such as education, nutrition, recreation and social attention. The foundation helps children between 7 and 17 who have escaped violence, delinquency, prostitution and drug addiction.

The RSM students played with the children, brought toys and food, and listened to personal stories. The foundation has four employees for the 62 children, so the children were happy with the personal attention of the RSM students.

“All these children were mistreated or had a bad experience in the past,” says Pieter Heeren from RSM’s BSc Business Administration/Bedrijfskunde programme. “You’re stressing out about the project and the reports you’re writing. But then you see those smiles on those children. That’s actually what counts. So when you come back from such an activity, you realise what really matters.”


Business transactions that matter

Not all the funds that the STAR Board allocated for this consultancy project were used for the consultancy project. The ‘leftover’ funds were meant to improve the project for next year’s Erasmus Consultancy Project. Encouraged by Dr Marja Flory and Stephanie Maas, the students decided to give the €2,000 to the foundation, which will use the monetary donation to buy a new van to drive the children to school and back.

“As a Brazilian I saw poverty every day. I know how important this money is for those kids,” says Caroline Kusniec from RSM’s MSc in Strategic Management. “Every business and transaction we do has a cost. If you don’t consider these kids then you may be doing the wrong transactions.”

Learning through experience

“The students were really touched by this experience,” said Stephanie Maas, adding that volunteering activities like this broadens people’s horizon. “Interacting with these children changed the way they look at the world. Learning opportunities like this give students an understanding of social issues, and make them want to get involved and help. No textbook can provide such an experience.”

RSM educates, helps and prepares students, academics and people in business to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. This ECP volunteering activity and the donation fit right into those values, and are a step towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Next year’s Erasmus Consultancy Project will take place in Indonesia. Companies interested in expanding their business to Indonesia and need more knowledge and resources can contact STAR.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.


For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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