Personal Experience - Koen Smeets
Koen Smeets is a third-year bachelor's student of economics and business economics. He has been very active during the first two years of his studies. ‘Friends sometimes call me an Economic Psycho, but economics is my true passion.’
“The nice thing about the School of Management's Individual Honours Programme is that you can do research on whatever you want. I wanted to examine from an economic perspective how Trump managed to become so powerful. When the honours programme began, I first started reading a whole stack of books on economic models and American political history. After that I immersed myself in the ideas of the philosopher Foucault. Foucault writes about how accepted beliefs are subject to change as history evolves. I found it thrilling to dive headfirst into my field of study. This has taught me to take a critical look at existing theories and models.”
This is also one of the reasons why Koen has joined the international network organisation Rethinking Economics. “In our degree programme we are taught to think in the neoclassical framework. There are good reasons to use this model, but there are many more interesting angles. At Rethinking Economics, we look at contemporary economic challenges from all kinds of different perspectives. I wish economic education in the Netherlands would highlight a broader set of economic models.”
By coincidence, Koen found out about MIT's COVID-19 challenge a few months ago. This challenge focused on Latin America. “I ended up in a team of students from all over the world and from different educational backgrounds. Over a weekend, we brainstormed about the corona crisis and came up with practical solutions to stimulate the economy. It was extremely tiring, but a great experience nevertheless.” Koen's team was successful and emerged as the winner. He is currently writing a paper about this with Professor Stefan Zeisberger of Radboud University. The team will continue developing their solutions in the form of a start-up.
Looking back on the year, he realises that he has achieved a lot. “The honours programme has given me the skills to rapidly master new theories, and by joining the MIT challenge I’ve learned to use them in a practical way. And I’m not done studying. Next year, I will do another individual honours project on Economics and AI. For this project, I have arranged interviews with professors from MIT, Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Brown, venture capitalists and other experts in the AI industry.”