Boris Blumberg: “I am a real Rhinelander”

Dr. Boris Blumberg (1965), Executive Director of UMIO as of September 1st, calls himself a real Rhinelander. “The Rhine (or its tributaries) are a constant in my life; born in Bonn, raised in Wuppertal and studied in Mannheim. Although I left the Rhine-area for a while to live and work in Utrecht and Maastricht, my wife and I moved back to Wuppertal when our first daughter was born.” “Being a Rhinelander entails more than living close to the river”, he says. “In a way it defines who you are; your norms and values.”

 

“When I studied Business Administration and told my mother about my studies and the topics we discussed, she told me to keep in mind ‘what is just’. That remark has always stayed with me. Laughing: “Wuppertal is also the birth town of Friedrich Engels, Marx’ partner. He was an imported figure in our city and we learned a lot about him in school. Maybe he shaped my ideas about social responsibility too. I believe in balance; a certain level of individualism is needed to promote innovation and motivation, but always with social responsibility in mind.”

 

Apart from being a Rhinelander, Boris is a family man, avid traveller, art lover and – in the weekend – an amateur cook. “I am renowned for my lasagna but also very good in roast chicken.”

Postdoc in Maastricht

After graduating in Business Administration, Boris got a PhD in organisation sociology from Utrecht University. He has been visiting scholar at the Booth Business School of the University of Chicago and the Haas Business School at the University of Berkeley. Boris’ research focuses on social networks and entrepreneurship, with a special interest in methodological questions. “After I got my PhD in social sciences, I wanted to return to business administration”, he says. “Preferably in the Netherlands, because the non-authoritarian culture suits me. In 1997 I applied for a postdoc vacancy at Maastricht University and this year I celebrate my 25th anniversary! I like working here, because of the freedom and autonomy the university offers. There is room for creativity and experimenting. The culture allows people to make mistakes, as long as they are willing to learn from them. Also appealing is UM’s educational system and the fact that it is under constant development and improvement.”

In retrospect

In 2014 Boris was appointed Director of the MaastrichtMBA programme. Looking back on those eight years he says: “I am proud of what we achieved. Take for instance the continuous growth of the programme; the number of students quadrupled from 25 to more than 100. One of our strengths is that we offer both an on-campus and a hybrid programme. In the past years, we added Tongji University in Shanghai and UC Davies in California to our list of partner universities, thus offering our students even more choices in where they want to spend the international weeks. But I am most proud of my enthusiastic and committed team. We did this together!”

 

What’s next?

Since November 2021 Boris has been acting as Executive Director of UMIO ad interim during Mariëlle Heijltjes sabbatical. “When you’re watching the store in the owner’s absence, you don’t take far reaching decisions. But it offers you the opportunity to get to know the role in a comfortable setting. I enjoy this next step in my career. My team and I have lots of ideas for further growth and development of UMIO. During corona the acceptance of online education has accelerated, both by students and employers. By translating the corona lessons into new product categories, I am convinced we can attract other segments. Next to that, we want to focus on developing interdisciplinary programmes. Not just by connecting with other faculty institutes, such as the Maastricht School of Management, Maastricht Sustainability Institute or Inspire, but also with for instance the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences or the Faculty of Law. UMIO’s focus is on the development of leadership. By connecting with experts in other fields, we can deliver leaders that are up to the huge challenges of our time.”

A room with a view

“Every month I publish one or more 90 degrees photos on Facebook with views from my hotel room”, says Boris. Grinning: “Parking lots and boring buildings are in the majority.” “Philosopher Martin Buber’s quote ‘All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware’ is one of my favourites,” says Boris. “I am an avid traveller, both for business and for pleasure. I like meeting new people, from different backgrounds, organisations and cultures. I encourage my team members to travel too, to visit conferences. Not because of the presentations or workshops, but for meeting new people, from different organisations, building networks. It is during the coffee breaks and meals where new perspectives and new ideas emerge. If you come back with just one idea, is was worth the money.” Other Facebook posts of Boris are selfies with iconic paintings. “I am a big fan of contemporary art. I go to museums and exhibitions whenever I can. Recently I visited for instance the Biennale in Venice and Documenta in Kassel. A work of art enriches, gives joy and makes you think. It challenges your perspective on the world and inspires new ideas.”

 

Boris enjoys his new role at UMIO. “I feel joy and energy in taking up my responsibilities and building UMIO’s future, together with my team.”

 

 

The entire MaastrichtMBA office looks back on a very pleasant and successful period of working together, wishing Boris all the luck in his new role as UMIOs Executive Director and we look forward to staying connected in Boris’s new capacity!

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