9 May 2019 • Arie Verhoef
‘The ECHO Award is a confirmation of your own capabilities’
Zunaica Phillips didn’t expect to win. The ECHO Award 2017. “When I heard that I was the lucky winner on award night, I first looked up at the screen: was that really my picture up there?”
The award gave the Caribbean HRM student many wonderful experiences. “When lecturers are now asked to nominate someone, it will help them see students with a non-Western background differently. Hopefully they will realise how much potential these students have.”
She won the award because she implemented concrete initiatives to support students in the short term and because of her desire to combine her two passions: art and HRM.
“An example: as an upcoming HRM graduate I am very interested in change management. How do you make sure that change happens in a positive and constructive way? By using art in my approach to change management I hope to accomplish more from a different perspective.”
As winner of the ECHO Award, Zunaica went on a six-week trip to Los Angeles. “A fantastic experience!” But even better was that this award served as an important counterweight against all the prejudice she encounters as a Caribbean Dutch woman. And also against her own doubts. “The ECHO Award is a confirmation of my own capabilities. This confirmation contributes to my self-confidence.”
“As a winner I can use the benefits of the ECHO network. By being actively involved in that network, I have a better overview of what others are doing. This provides me with additional expertise that I can use when I join an organisation as an HRM staff member. I hope to contribute to better diversity policies.”
Zunaica was born and raised on Aruba. As someone from the islands, she is often stereotyped. “You are probably lazy. You are always late. You are dumb. And if your Dutch is not fluent it only reinforces these stereotypes.”
She has experienced that her Caribbean background makes it more difficult to find an internship position. But that certainly didn’t deter her from persevering. “I interned at some of the best companies and even went to Australia. For my final thesis I am working on an assignment about change management at a company in Australia.
But unfortunately the prejudices are persistent. “When I tell people I spent some time in LA after winning the ECHO Award, they always want to know more about it. I can practically hear them think: oh, she must be pretty good. But it always takes a moment.”
The nomination effect
As ECHO ambassador Zunaica is invited to projects that she normally wouldn’t be invited to. An example: “The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences wants to increase diversity among the lecturers of certain degree programmes. As part of this project I attended a sparring session with teachers, HRM staff and students, organised by ECHO. I was invited in my capacity as ECHO ambassador to share my experiences and ideas.”
There are numerous reasons why it’s important for lecturers to nominate students with a non-Western background for this year’s award. “By making the effort, lecturers will become more aware of the potential of people with a non-Western background. This awareness will certainly change the way they interact with students.”
“The nomination process in itself will also help to eliminate some of the prejudices. It also encourages students to go beyond what is expected of them.”
Do you know a student within your degree programme who would be eligible for this prize? Please submit the student’s name and contact information by 15 May via e-mail to Jolanda van der Toorn (email@example.com) with a cover letter from a lecturer, team leader or degree programme manager, and the student’s letter of motivation and cv.
For more information about the Echo Award, please visit the website.
Zunaica, her family and friends attend her win at the ECHO Award in 2017. Zunaica believes that this year lecturers should again nominate students with a non-Western background for the ECHO Awards. “By committing to this, lecturers will become more aware of the potential of people with a non-Western background.”