I was born on a sunny Thursday in Antwerp on the 25th of September 1986. At the time, my father was an expat in Indonesia. That’s where my name “Iskander” comes from. I’ve moved around a lot, but Antwerp is still my home town. In the summer of 2003, I took on a student job in an Italian restaurant. This turned out to be the best career decision of my life: I met my amazing wife Nathalja in that restaurant. We now have three kids together: Aeneas, Elijah and Enora. If they are not occupied with their own hobbies, I sometimes take my kids to the “Bosuil”, the football stadium of Royal Antwerp FC. I’m a devoted fan. Next to watching sports, I like to practice them myself. I enjoy biking and hiking and I try to run 10 km each week. My passion of food, makes that I need the exercise :-). My family and I fell in love with Tuscan food and culture when we lived in Florence back in 2018. Another, more serious, passion that runs in the family is communication. My parents got to know each other while studying communication sciences at the Free University of Brussels.

Studies

I studied a Masters in Political Communication at the University of Antwerp, which allowed me to combine my interests in communication, media and politics. I graduated cum laude in 2011. I initially wanted to become a journalist, like my grandfather. But I got hold of the research microbe during an internship at the University of Antwerp. My master thesis won the thesis prize in political communication and I was offered a PhD position in Political Science (2011 – 2015). The research project I was hired on was on EU lobbying. At the time, there wasn’t much academic work looking at lobbying from a media & communication perspective. I developed such a perspective in my PhD thesis “David and Goliath in Brussels: Lobbying strategies and success in the EU”. I’ve summarized the main insights of my thesis into a practice oriented article in collaboration with Aaron McLoughlin. The article has been translated into several European languages and is now widely used to train public affairs professionals.

Professional

After my PhD studies in Antwerp, I’ve been affiliated to several Universities in Europe, including the University of Aarhus, the University of Amsterdam and the European University institute in Florence. I am now an Associate Professor in EU politics and policy at Maastricht University. My research studies how the triangular relationship between lobbyists, citizens and politicians is shaped by contemporary challenges such as COVID-19, the role of money in politics and populism. You can find a list of my popular and academic publications on this website. I am now in the process of developing two new research projects titled (1) Lobbying for survival in times of COVID and (2) ACCESS4ALL: How access is biased towards particular individual lobbyists and why. I coordinate the courses “Lobbying in the EU”, “Civil Society and Policy Influence” and “Thesis Proposal” in the MA European Public Affairs and the MA European Studies. I sometimes offer consultancy or lead workshops for civil society organizations, public affairs consultancies or think thanks (e.g. at EIPA, the Public Affairs Council, Political Intelligence, Rud Pedersen, RAND). Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more.