A Bachelor degree programme at a University College in Flanders that is ranked first in an international ranking of Game Design and Development training courses, it is a big deal. HOWEST is justly proud of this achievement and so are we. SEAUTON has been HOWEST trusted MICE partner for more than fifteen years, organizing study trips to digital entertainment hubs in Seattle, San Francisco, London and Japan. Time for a double interview with Rik Leenknegt, Academic Director DAE at the HOWEST University of Applied Sciences and Jan Samyn, CEO at SEAUTON.
Digital Arts and Entertainment, a Bachelor degree programme at HOWEST, took the first place in an international ranking for Game Design and Development training courses. Was that an important recognition to you?
Rik Leenknegt: “It makes us very proud, especially because it is not just an academic ranking based on scientific publications, but a global ranking that looks at what our students create. Also, the ranking-criteria are objective, transparent, and designed to assess if their work meets the industry’s needs. That is exactly what we are aiming for with this Bachelor degree programme. Training people for the labour market by listening to the industry and responding to companies needs is our first priority.”
How do the study trips you organise with SEAUTON fit into that vision?
Rik Leenknegt: “The study trips are important to us, especially because the international movie and game industry is not located in Belgium. We want to train people who are employable anywhere in the world. The study trips are an opportunity to introduce our students to the companies they may someday work for. Often, these visits make students realize that employers in the US or Canade need people with their skills. It’s a positive reality check for them. The trips are also a way to introduce our school and our students to companies like Microsoft and to build sustainable international relations with the gaming industry.”
Jan Samyn: “The study trips contribute to HOWEST’s image and appeal, as does their dynamism and the speed with which they make decisions. HOWEST is not afraid to make clear choices, they never have second thoughts. We work together as real partners on every project.”
You have been business partners for 15 years. How do you complement each other?
Jan Samyn: “I think we are able to recognise and acknowledge each other’s strengths. Also, we have grown in this partnership together and we always kept challenging each another. We discuss things in a very open and transparent manner.”
Rik Leenknegt: “During that process of common development we both succeeded in using our competences in the best possible way. HOWEST delivers all the content, SEAUTON is responsible for the logistics. If you are travelling with students, there are always things that can go wrong. Someone might lose his passport or miss the bus… SEAUTON does an excellent job responding to and anticipating these kinds of unexpected situations. They also make sure every company visit goes as planned, that there are no tensions during the on-site tour, and that everyone receives the right information in time. That helps us to maintain a strong quality image. Evaluations also show us that students appreciate SEAUTON’s high service level: spread payments, the way they respond to personal needs, … It’s a perfect match with HOWEST’s values. Together, we are an unbeatable team.”
What does it take to maintain a partnership for this long?
Jan Samyn: “When we had just launched the study trips, we as stakeholders were very close. As both if our business grew, we had to make room for other, younger people. That involved finding a new balance and that’s exactly what we did. I am very happy to see that since then new partnerships were formed between young people from SEAUTON and from HOWEST.”
Rik Leenknegt: “You can’t take this kind of partnership for granted, either. If at some time things do not turn out quite as planned you have to be able to talk about it. You have to be mutually committed and keep challenging each other.”
What will the future bring, for the study trips and for HOWEST?
Rik Leenknegt: “At this point the study trips are not part of the curriculum. They are re-evaluated every year and the destination changes according to where the interesting companies are.”
“We are planning to launch an international department abroad, probably in Canada, so we can offer students the possibility to study abroad for one semester. In any case, we are keeping our international focus.”
Jan Samyn: “HOWEST has a clear vision and keeps growing, and I am sure the study trips will continue to grow too, even if it is only in terms of content. SEAUTON’s added value is our expertise in organising encounters in a qualitative manner. We will continue to support HOWEST by creating the right framework for their content, because that is what we are good at. As long as we both understand what our role is and maintain our vision, this partnership can’t go wrong.”