Alumni Stef van Dongen and Niels Eldering from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) received the RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards 2015 in the Young Leader and Senior Leader categories. Van Dongen’s achievements in global social entrepreneurship and Eldering’s success in bringing technology into business and education were recognised during the award ceremony, which took place at the annual RSM Leadership Summit in Rotterdam on Friday 2 October 2015.

Each year, the RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to outstanding alumni from RSM’s various former and current English and Dutch programmes who have shown excellence in business, and for their contribution to society. All nominees exemplify leadership and RSM’s values, and represent the breadth and diversity for which RSM and its programmes are known. The jury consisted of members of RSM’s Advisory Board, and previous recipients of the RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards.


Innovating for social and environmental solutions

To choose the winners, the jury kept in mind RSM’s four core themes; critical thinking, innovation, sustainability, and spirit. Alumnus Stef van Dongen won this year’s RSM Distinguished Young Leader Award. Van Dongen, who graduated from RSM’s MSc programme in Business-Society Management in 2007, started up social enterprise Enviu, which creates innovations and ventures that address some of the world’s large social and environmental issues. Van Dongen also helped kick-start various sustainable innovation and social impact projects.


Creating an inclusive economy

“Stef is an inspirational leader, who founded a very successful enterprise that takes many initiatives worldwide to support entrepreneurial solutions to societal problems in countries such as India, Ghana, and Brazil,” says Prof. Rob van Tulder, who nominated Van Dongen for the award. Enviu is the world’s first initiative to crowd fund equity in 2009. Van Dongen plans to keep contributing significantly to shaping global social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy and impact-investing space.

The jury was impressed with Van Dongen’s ambition to create a mainstream inclusive economy that serves people and planet. “The RSM spirit is present in his practical execution of microfinance, focusing on the bottom of the pyramid,” said Maria van der Heijden, who won the award in 2009. After she handed the award to Van Dongen, she added that he “is innovative in a social sense and makes good use of new available technologies, and his results are sustainable.”


Bringing technology into business

The RSM Distinguished Senior Leader Award 2015 went to Niels Eldering, who graduated from RSM’s MSc programme in Technology and Innovation Management in 2003. As technology transfer officer at the European Space Agency (ESA), Eldering manages the ESA’s 11 Business Incubation Centres across Europes, supporting more than 100 new start-up companies each yet. Eldering was nominated by RSM’s Anne van de Graaf, executive director MSc programmes; Gina Kim, programme manager MSc in International Management/CEMS; Frieda Franke, senior corporate relations manager CEMS and career services manager; and Dr René Olie, associate professor of international and strategic management at RSM.

Eldering links around 65 students from the MSc in International Management/CEMS programme to 56 unique business projects annually during its curriculum’s block seminar, engaging future leaders from RSM to disseminate space technologies to improve society. Through this annual week-long event, as well as providing guest lectures, Eldering has brought ESA into the business world, and technology into management education.


Critical thinking towards future leaders

“Niels shows critical thinking in tapping into the talents of students,” said jury member Herbert Smorenburg, who won the RSM Distinguished Senior Leader Award 2014. “He is innovative in using space technology for non-space markets. He engages RSM to disseminate space technologies for benefit of society, and has brought the European Space Agency into the business world,” added Smorenburg. Both alumni received a certificate and a statue of Desiderius Erasmus.

The nominees for the RSM Distinguished Young Leader Award 2015 were Josée van der Hoek, Himanshu Kachhwaha, Huib Lloyd, and Stef van Dongen, who all graduated from one of RSM’s academic programmes less than 10 years ago.  The nominees for the RSM Distinguished Senior Leader Award 2015 were Edwin Wenink and Niels Eldering.


Connecting leadership with education

This year’s jury consisted of the chair of the jury Maria Molenaar, CEO of Woonstad Rotterdam, and honorary advisor to the Dean of RSM; Marco van Kalleveen, managing director domestics at TNT Express, and RSM Advisory Board member; and previous RSM Distinguished Alumni Award winners Maria van der Heijden, managing co-founder of Women on Wings; and Herbert Smorenburg, senior manager Netherlands at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.

“To recognise and celebrate distinguished alumni is inspiring because it highlights how great leaders are making a difference in this world,” said jury member Marco van Kalleveen. Maria van der Heijden added that she feels honoured to have received the award in 2009. “The RSM Distinguished Alumni Awards connect leadership of alumni with their alma mater. Education is the start to fulfil dreams and aspiration,” she said.

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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