The small scale and the campus; two elements which Ilonka believes are really part of the UT feeling. De Beer, who started studying Industrial Engineering and Management in the 1980s, says that there was certainly no shortage of fun during her studies. For the first three years of her student life, she lived on Witbreuksweg, where she met many new people: "Everyone in the flats on Witbreuksweg knew one another, so it was easy to get to know a lot of different people quickly."
She also soon made friends others on her course. Although this did sometimes require a little creativity: “When I started studying business administration, there were 200 of us, only 20 of whom were girls. You didn't really have year clubs back then, so we took the initiative of forming one ourselves." This unofficial year club grew into a close group of friends, who still see each other during their annual 'friends weekend'. And besides lifetime friends, Ilonka also met another very nice student. She has been married to this fellow UT student for many years and they have two sons. In terms of extracurricular activities as a student, Ilonka certainly didn't sit around doing nothing. She was vice-chairman of the Stress study association, organized a study trip to Brazil, sailed for Euros and played volleyball on campus. She hasn't lost her sporty character. For example, she occasionally ventures on a sailing trip with friends from her days at Euros: 'The family and children come along now too, so that's great fun''.
Within her Industrial Engineering and Management study programme, Ilonka chose to focus on chemistry. After graduating, this came in handy at her new employer AkzoNobel, where she held a variety of commercial and international positions over twenty years. Ten years ago, Ilonka decided it was time for something different and set up her own company: Sandalfon Sustainability. She provides sustainability advice to various companies and organizations. She is currently working on a project to provide insight into the impact of manufacturing on the people in the production chains. “Besides the environmental aspect, sustainability obviously also has a human aspect. Making the latter measurable and transparent is difficult. Together with a number of companies, we are developing a methodology that is applicable to everyone." She still regularly uses the knowledge gained during her study period: "You really do need an engineering approach. That's actually the part of my study that I still apply."
Ilonka is still very involved with the UT. As a board member of the University Fund, she visits the campus about three times a year for various events and meetings. She also regularly meets other alumni: ''What connects us? The memories of the campus… And how Twente students approach things. Don't waste time talking about it, get on with it. That's a certain style of working, I feel, quite down to earth. There always seems to be a match in that respect."