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#international: "Like a bird’s eye view"

Hendrik Reefke

In November 2019, Hendrik Reefke visited Business School Pforzheim for the third time to teach a course
on Global Sourcing and Supply Chain Management. In the interview with student reporter Conny Reinhard, he
talks about the differences between teaching at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire and Pforzheim, the privilege of doing what you are interested in and why research is highly relevant for teaching.

Von Köln über Auckland nach Bedfordshire und nun Pforzheim – wir freuen uns, Sie zum dritten Mal bei uns willkommen zu heißen. Was gefällt Ihnen besonders gut an der Goldstadt Pforzheim?
Zum einen genieße ich Spaziergänge am Flussverlauf von Nagold, Enz und Würm. Zum anderen mag ich das
Essen in der Region. Neben der schwäbischen Küche freue ich mich auch immer auf die türkische Küche, diese ist in England nicht in dem Maße vorhanden.

At Business School Pforzheim you are teaching in English and for the benefit of our international readers, let’s switch to English. What are the main reasons you decided to teach at the Business School Pforzheim?
I met one of the professors from the Business School in Auckland and that was how it all started. Afterwards I came to Pforzheim and I really enjoyed the teaching atmosphere. Here you generally have small groups around 15 to 20 students and that allows me to employ different teaching methods which is really a luxury. Further, I have much more time for individual students as well as group discussions.
Is there a difference between teaching in the UK and here in Pforzheim?
Apart from the class sizes it’s the level of practical engagement. Both universities are very practical, but Pforzheim has an advantage because of its location. It’s surrounded by many international companies and the Business School offers various practical projects for the students. Furthermore, there is a difference in the internationality. The MBA is of course very international but in the bachelor program most students are German whereas some of my student groups in England have close to 30 different nationalities.

Do the students abroad have different ways of working?
The master students in Pforzheim are generally great to work with. They approach problems in a structured way, and they know how to write a report or how to work through a case study. There is not a lot of hand holding required so that you can set a task and they manage themselves. I probably provide more guidance in England at times, also due to the diversity of nationalities. It’s a bit more directed and the students expect more advice. However, it is nice to have the reflection from different backgrounds at Cranfield University.
The students can compare different countries because of their cultural background and thus interesting discussions frequently arise. In addition, a lot of the students already have practical experience and can reflect on that accordingly.

You’ve worked for various companies before. Why did you decide to become a lecturer?
I always had it in my mind as an option, but I finished the doctoral degree out of interest in my research and not primarily to work in academia. As I started teaching during my doctoral degree, I enjoyed the engagement with the students and companies. It’s like a bird’s eye view because you gain insights into different companies and cultures and you are exposed to diverse opinions. Thus, working at university provides me with an elevated viewpoint which you don’t necessarily get when you work in a single company.

If you imagine being a student again, would you do something different today?
I would go in the same direction again. I started my studies with more engineering focus but then got more interested in the areas of operations and supply chain management. I am certain that transition would happen again. In terms of completing my degrees – I cannot say if it would happen in the exact same sequence. Not everything can be planned, and life tends to throw new ideas and experiences at you. I can certainly say that it is a privilege to study towards a doctoral degree and to be able to research a topic that you are interested in and that you enjoy. I hope I could do it again if I had the option.

In your recent journal publication with David Sundaram (September 2018) you discussed the realization
of sustainable goals for supply chain managers. How do your results affect your contact with students?

I like to think of it as ‘research informed teaching’ – I bring my own research results into the classroom and of course also the insights from other authors. If I come across an interesting article, I try and reduce some of its complexity and discuss the relevant insights with my students. We talk about what the results mean, why the research was done and how it applies to supply chain practice. It’s a great way to enrich the lectures especially when research results are explained in light of their practical relevance.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy motorcycling but I have not had as many opportunities to ride after leaving New Zealand. At home I like to relax and spend time with my two cats. And now that I am back in Europe, I enjoy being close to all these great countries, so I do a fair amount of travelling if time permits. Weekend trips are great to see other places in Europe.

Thank you for the interview, Mr. Reefke.

Cranfield University (UK) in Bedfordshire is a British postgraduate university. Around 5,000 students are studying in five different faculties. The Management School is one of the oldest business schools in Europe and triple accredited (AMBA, EQUIS, AACSB International).