On the tenth anniversary of the presentation of the "In Praxi Outstanding Thesis Award" by the WHU Alumni Association In Praxi e.V., WHU has initiated a series of interviews. The series begins with two alumni who are themselves members of In Praxi e.V. and are part of the jury that bestows the award.
1. What was the thinking behind the In Praxi Award? What objective were you trying when you launched the award?
Rebecca Stallbaumer: In Praxi always seeks to create as many meaningful links as possible between WHU, its current students and the alumni, e.g. through financial sponsorship or by contributing expertise. With the In Praxi Award, we wanted to focus on content and thought leadership. The award is meant to show how much we appreciate the genuinely exciting research some of our students conduct in the course of their final theses.
Michael Rzesnitzek: And we’ve also wanted to encourage students to look beyond narrow “business-only” questions when selecting their thesis topics, and to work on issues that impact society as a whole.
2. Who makes up the jury? How are jury members selected?
RS: The award covers a very wide range of topics and that’s reflected in the profiles of our jury members. Their experience includes topics such as social enterprise management, media and working with the public sector. We always have women and men represented equally on the jury.
3. What does the award entail for the winners?
MR: Winners receive €1,000 and the award is officially presented at the graduation ceremony. In addition, we offer to match winners with an experienced alumnus or alumna as a mentor, based on whatever professional topics they’re wrestling with at that moment. Basically, someone in the In Praxi network with 15 to 20 years of experience invests quite a bit of time to share a more long-term perspective with younger graduates.
4. Has the award changed over the last 10 years? Are there any plans to reshape the award in the future?
RS: Originally, we started out with one award and we would select the best thesis from all submissions across the bachelor and master programs. We’ve been awarding both a bachelor and a master thesis each year since 2016. The mentoring program for awardees was launched just two years ago. We’re currently not planning anything new for this year – but we’re always open for ideas.
5. What criteria does a thesis have to meet to be considered for the award?
RS: We will only consider theses for the award that deal with a topic that is relevant to society as a whole. We use this criterion to create a shortlist, which we also started publishing last year, and from which the jury makes a final selection.
6. How do you determine the winner of the award? What criteria does the jury use to select from the submitted theses?
MR: We look at three criteria specifically. First, the degree of innovation of the thesis, i.e. if it creates new, surprising and/or counterintuitive insights. Second, if it takes into account different, potentially conflicting points of view in addressing its subject matter. And third, the thesis’ potential for impact, so to what extent it derives useful recommendations for action from its analysis. Whenever several theses from the shortlist rank equally or very close based on these criteria, we go back to considering societal relevance. After all, what we ultimately want to commend is the courage to tackle genuinely important questions and to advance the thinking related to topics such as migration, demographic change or global warming.
7. What motivates you to support the In Praxi Award?
RS: I just really enjoy being exposed to the topics that move our students. The range of things with which they engage is huge. So I’m also learning a lot and I get the sense that I can my finger on the pulse of the younger generation.
MR: I completely agree. In fact, I feel a sense of pride in reviewing the theses: It’s great that our school is able to attract and educate so many capable students. Seeing the amount of creativity, diligence and intelligence that’s reflected in the papers is impressive. I’m particularly pleased that many of the theses are truly relevant in a societal context and that they speak to the authors’ desire to make a contribution to a better world. Sounds lofty, but it’s true.
8. How can alumni support the award?
RS: If someone is open to being a mentor or they would consider serving on the jury, they should definitely get in touch with me.
MR: Of course, the quality of final theses can only be as good as the empirical data our students get to work with. Alumni who can offer exciting thesis projects in their companies should definitely do so. And when you’re receiving an interview request or survey, do try to make the time to support our students!