Business executives graduated from the MSc Corporate Communication
Business executives graduated from the MSc Corporate Communication

Special thesis awards were presented at the graduation ceremony for 11 communication professionals in the Part-time Executive International MSc in Corporate Communication at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) on Friday 29 November 2019. Sanne Verhoeven-Van der Laan’s thesis is about when companies should stay silent or when they should speak up – as a company or through their CEO – about political issues in society. And Sara Vernooij studied how companies can communicate with victims of a crisis.

The part-time MSc in Corporate Communication is for senior managers and directors with more than 15 years of work experience. The graduates in the Class of 2019 are Alma Feenstra, Ted van Hintum MSc (cum laude), Eveline de Koning, Sanne Verhoeven-Van der Laan  (summa cum laude), Bart van Leeuwen, MA, MSc, Rachel Martin, Andreas Petrosino, Marisa Saba, Arno Schikker, Sara Vernooij (cum laude) and Petra Beekmans-Van Zijll. They work in diverse sectors and organisations in the corporate and government worlds, including Dutch Safety Board (Onderzoeksraad voor Veiligheid), Nexperia, and Boskalis.

The keynote speech was by Dr Elizabeth Geerestein, who coaches senior executives, entrepreneurs and management teams, and teaches on RSM’s MBA programme. She challenged the graduates to think about how they live: Outside in or inside out? Agenda-driven or purpose-driven? She talked about the purpose of leadership, and urged the graduates to think about what they and to invest their talents and strengths in.

Innovation award for corporate activism thesis

Graduate Sanne Verhoeven-Van der Laan, who is a senior corporate communications manager at Corbion, was recognised with the Andreas Award for Innovation in Corporate Communication 2019 for her thesis on when companies should stay silent or when they should speak up – as a company or through their CEO – about political issues in society.

The jury, consisting of Prof. Joep Cornelissen, Prof. Paul Argenti, Dr Mark Hunter, Dr Guido Berens and Marijke Baumann MSc, was impressed with her reviews of the literature on this kind of corporate activism, and how she identified the risks and develops a risk management framework for companies. Verhoeven-Van der Laan also developed an innovative methodology of using event-based financial analysis alongside interviews and social media data to decipher the effects of activism related campaigns for Gillette, Volkswagen, Walmart and Fiat.

The jury said Verhoeven-Van der Laan’s research and recommendations make a valuable contribution in covering a new and vital topic for organisations, which “will become more prominent in the politicized world.”

Graduate Ted van Hintum received an honourary mention for his innovative thesis about the determinants of trust in nuclear energy in the Netherlands.

The Andreas Innovation Award in Corporate Communication was initiated in 2012 by Dries van de Beek, former chairman of the supervisory board of the Corporate Communication Centre. The award recognises a graduate who excels through innovative thinking, the creation of new knowledge and the development of methods that bring out the best in organisations in the field of corporate communication.

Impact award for crisis communication thesis

The graduation event also announced the Professor Cees van Riel Award for Impact in Corporate Communication 2019. Winner Sara Vernooij, who is a senior communications advisor and spokesperson for the Dutch Safety Board.

“Rather than a deliberative process of engaging and communicating with those who obviously were at the receiving end of the crisis, Vernooij notes how most literature is focused in a more instrumental and legal manner on how to contain the negative impact of a crisis on the company’s reputation. She researched how a different approach may work, and what kind of models and processes may describe such an approach. Through two case studies and by reviewing the literature on victimology in the adjacent fields of sociology and criminology, Vernooij revised crisis communication theory and present an adapted, and from the perspective of victims, much improved communication model,” said the jury. 

An honorary mention went to Alma Feenstra, who is for her thesis on the influence of storytelling on the involvement of teachers, and the basic elements of a compelling corporate story.

The Cees van Riel Award was established in 2017 in recognition of the vision and leadership of Professor Cees van Riel as the founder of the international master programme in corporate communication and as a path-breaker in developing and strengthening the professional discipline of corporate communication. His efforts and achievements, as well as his strive for excellence and impact in academic research and education, are reflected in this Award.    

The event concluded with a celebratory party for the graduates and their families and friends.

The abstracts of the theses of the graduates of the Class of 2019 can be viewed here.

Part-time Executive MSc in Corporate Communication

The Part-time Executive Master of Science in Corporate Communication (MCC) started in 1997, and is developed by RSM’s Corporate Communication Centre. Around 1,300 business professionals from 30 countries and nationalities have completed modules and workshops of the programme as short courses. More than 300 of them have graduated with an MSc in Corporate Communication title.  

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked 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.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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