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 were the considerations behind the In Praxi Award? Which purpose was behind the introduction of the award?
Rebecca Stallbaumer: In general, In Praxi is committed to ensuring that WHU and its students have as close and diverse a relationship as possible with their alumni, for example through financial support or the contribution of expertise. For the In Praxi Award, it was important to us as alumni to set a strong accent on content. We wanted to show how much we value the fascinating research work that our students do, in part, as a product of their final theses.
Michael Rzesnitzek: And we wanted to encourage the students to think outside the box of business studies in their choice of subject, and to work on issues that are relevant for society as a whole.
2. How is the jury composed?
RS: The award covers a vast range of topics, and this is reflected in the profiles of the jury members. For example, they have experience in the areas of social enterprise, media, or cooperation with the public sector. Besides, the jury is always assembled of half women and half men.
3. What does the award consist of?
MR: The award is endowed with €1,000 and is officially presented at the graduation ceremonies. We offer the prizewinners the opportunity to bring them together with an experienced alumnus or an alumna as a mentor, depending on the topics they are professionally involved in. So here again someone from the In Praxi network, who already has 15 to 20 years of experience, takes the time to give younger graduates one or the other long-term perspective.
4. Has the award changed in the last ten years? Are there any plans to change the design of the award in the future?
RS: We initially started with an award and awarded the "most suitable" of all submitted Bachelor's and Master's theses. Since 2016, we have been awarding prizes to one Bachelor's and one Master's thesis. We introduced mentor matching for the award winners two years ago. For the time being, no further development is planned for this year - but we are always open to ideas.
5. Which criteria must a work fulfill to be considered for the In Praxi Award?
RS: In principle, the In Praxi Award only considers works whose questions have specific relevance for society as a whole. Based on this criterion, we first draw up a shortlist - which we also announced last year - and from which the jury then makes a final selection.
6. How do you determine the winner of the award? According to which criteria does the jury weigh up the submitted works?
MR: Specifically, we weigh according to three criteria. First, the degree of innovation of the work, i.e., whether new, surprising, and/or counterintuitive insights have been gained. Second, the consideration of different, even contradictory, perspectives in the treatment of the topic. Third, the impact potential of the work, i.e., the extent to which concrete and useful recommendations for action can be derived from the analysis. If several works on the shortlist do the same or similarly well here, then we will once again question their social relevance. We want to reward the courage to make a particular contribution to critical issues, for example, in the areas of migration, demographic change, or climate change.
7. What motivates you to get involved in the In Praxi Award?
RS: I enjoy being very close to the topics the students are currently working on. The range of what they are dealing with is enormous. I am learning a lot too and have the feeling that I am keeping my finger on the pulse of the younger generation.
MR: I agree with that. I am even a little proud when I am dealing with the work: it is great that our school can interest and educate so many capable students. It is impressive to see how much creativity, diligence, and intelligence there is in this work. I particularly like the fact that many of the works have genuine social relevance and that the authors' desire to contribute to improving our world speaks for itself. Sounds pathetic, but it is.
8. How can one support the In Praxi Award as an Alumnus/Alumna?
RS: If someone can imagine becoming active as a mentor or would like to participate in the jury in the future, he or she should contact me.
MR: Of course, the quality of theses is only as good as the empirical basis with which the students can work. So anyone who can advertise exciting topics for dissertations with their company should definitely do so. Moreover, if you get an interview request or a questionnaire again, give it a jolt, and support our students!