“Faculty in the Spotlight” with Stefan Creemers

With more than 700, including 186 permanent professor-researchers, IÉSEG offers to its students a high-quality learning experience, based on 4 key elements: an active, interdisciplinary learning process, focused on the acquisition of competencies, offered through customized curricula.

Each month, “Faculty in the spotlight” invites you to meet one of the School’s professors who presents their vision of teaching, their methods for transmitting their expertise and passion to students and shares their best memories and stories at IÉSEG.

This month, we are meeting Stefan Creemers, Professor of Operations Management at IÉSEG.

Stefan, what is your background?

I am Belgian. I completed two Master’s degrees (one in Sciences and one in Economics) at the KU Leuven in Belgium. I then obtained a PhD in Applied Economics because I was passionate about research. After my studies I set up a consulting company but it didn’t really work out. So, I decided to switch careers and I became a professor at IÉSEG. I often make this joke for my new students when I introduce myself to them – I tell them that if they ever fail in life, they can always become a professor!

I have taught a lot of courses to different audiences – students and professionals. I have not only taught at IÉSEG but I have also taught at University of Antwerp, KU Leuven, HUB, Loyola…

Apart from teaching, I am also involved in education science – I have written a number of cases and published a number of business games in international journals. I am also the editor in chief of a journal entitled “INFORMS Transactions on Education”.

What courses do you teach? Could you explain your area of expertise in a few words?

I teach everything that has to do with Operations Management. I am mainly specialized in teaching Project Management. But I also teach Supply Chain Management. My courses mainly consist of technical and mathematical courses. Broadly speaking, Operations Management is aimed at optimizing the performance of business processes by using mathematical techniques. The idea is to allow a business to utilize its resources in a better way so that performance increases.

I have taught in many programs at IÉSEG: Grande École, International MBA, Master in Big Data Analytics, Master in Fashion Management, Master in Banking, Capital Markets & Financial Technology… I thus deal with different types of audiences, which is interesting.

How would you say your way of teaching and class content have evolved overtime?

My way of teaching has certainly evolved overtime, compared to when I started teaching. I come from a typical university and you probably know that at university we teach the ‘old’ way – professors lecture for hours from a book in a room of 300 people, without interaction. This was the example of teaching that I had so that’s how I began teaching. But now, my courses have changed a lot. I try to make my students participate as much as possible and to lecture as little as possible. I get them involved with exercises, by asking questions and making sure they’re experiencing things. Furthermore, my slides barely have any words but they do tell a story, it is almost like reading a comic book. I focus less on details and focus more on the main message. When he heard that I wanted to become a professor, one of the best teachers that I have had once told me: “If, during a class, you are able to convey one or two insights that students will remember for the rest of their lives, then fantastic! You’ve done your job!” I always ensure that my classes are fun, impactful, and insightful.

Why did you choose IÉSEG?

When I finished my PhD, I applied to a few positions, including one at IÉSEG, in Lille. IÉSEG was (and still is) an attractive School. The location was very convenient for me because it is close to Belgium. I had heard that staff members were nice, which is quite important too. At that time, the School was still rather small and I got to know all of the professors quickly. I don’t regret one second coming to work at IÉSEG.

How do you integrate IÉSEG’s Vision into your courses?

I try to give students the best tools they can have to contribute to a better society by optimizing business performance. Indeed, if you better use your resources for better results then you are actually contributing to making the world a better place. The core goal of optimizing operations management is to make things more sustainable. For instance, research shows that in 2020, 20% of trucks you can see on the highway in EU are driving empty. So, if we can optimize this performance and make sure that more trucks are driving fully loaded, this will definitely reduce the impact on the environment.  By being a professor I also learn a lot because I have to delve deeper into the subjects I teach and I have a lot of fun doing this. Obviously, you must master your discipline to be able to teach it to others.

According to your students, what are your strengths as a professor?

The students say that they find my slides entertaining and interesting. I often hear that I’m one of their favorite professors at the School. I’m really happy about that. I always think about the students’ perspective: if I was a student, what would I like? And I don’t take the lazy approach – I invest time and energy into my courses.

What pedagogical methods do you use for your courses?

I like this quote: “tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I understand”. Therefore, I include lots of exercises which are unique for each student, lots of business games, and I also developed software for specific business cases. I often invite guest speakers from companies to come to my classes. I always try to make my teaching material as practical as possible and I provide feedback to students for every activity. I also provide certifications for each course to help them enhance their CV.