This will be my last DevISSues blog as rector of ISS. After serving two terms, eight years, it is time for a new rector to take over. With three months to go, I am in the process of contemplating the past years.
The years have certainly flown by; sometimes I can’t believe it all went so fast. Arriving from the University of Groningen in 2015, I was looking forward to working in a university institute with high societal relevance, with a very strong global focus and with people who work with passion. I found all that: passion for the field of development studies, for critical social science and for the societal relevance of our activities. Even now, whenever I enter the building full of students and staff of many nationalities, I feel as if I’m stepping into the world. What a privilege to work here!
I entered the institute with some major tasks pending: the reorganization and renovation of student housing, the renovation of the building and the aftercare of the 2013 staff reorganization. Those first years were not easy for any of us. Co-formulating the 2018-22 strategy, entitled Energized Embedded and Engaged, was a great joy to do together. Erasmus University Rotterdam’s (EUR) new strategy on creating positive societal impact facilitated the further integration of ISS into EUR. As all ISS’ activities had been highly societally relevant for almost 70 years, we were able to share our expertise. I believe that ISS is now an essential part of EUR, in The Hague, and we are seen and appreciated as such – for who we are and what we do.
Of course, COVID-19 brought many challenges, especially in the field of teaching. Our teachers were very quick and dedicated to finding online solutions, but I still feel sad when I talk with alumni who identify themselves as part of the so-called corona batch and who had to live and work in their rooms, studying online and isolated for almost eight months. However, corona also gave us good things such as the Local Engagement Facility projects: ISS researchers conducted research for action on corona coping mechanisms among several different marginalized groups in The Hague. Despite the circumstances, it was great to see how ISS could contribute to our local community.
There is so much more to contemplate and memories to cherish: the Dies celebrations, particularly the lustrum in October 2022; chairing PhD defences; meetings with the Advisory Committee – there is too much to mention. I will have time to contemplate more during my upcoming sabbatical when I will continue working as academic lead on the EUR strategy and the Erasmian Values in relation to leadership and culture in the organization. Some of my passions – on culture, leadership and transformations of universities towards more societal impact – will come together here. My experiences as ISS rector will greatly contribute to that work.
I want to thank you all for the wonderful years. It has been a privilege to contribute to the further development of ISS of Erasmus University Rotterdam.