10 oktober 2017

To the next level

What sort of university are we? What sort of university do we want to be? These are the essential questions that we have been asking as we take stock of where we are, and chart the course for where we want to go. This past year we have brainstormed extensively about educational innovation, Gross Academic Value, leadership, talent development, internationalization, and diversity. The start of a new academic year is a good moment to reflect on these questions, and to wonder at how members of the VU community, at all levels, are trying out new ideas, setting the bar higher, and helping, in their own way, to find answers to these key questions.

Let me share three examples that struck me in the last few weeks.  The strategy plan of the new University Student Council, and in particular the preface to their plan, spells out succinctly that changing times, and by extension changes in the higher education landscape, require us as an institution to follow suit. I’m impressed by the drive, ambition, and creativity of this group of students, and look forward to collaborating with them in achieving our shared goals.

I’m impressed by the drive and ambition of the new University Student Council

On September 11, I had the privilege of opening, together with Achmed Baâdoud, chair of Amsterdam’s Nieuw-West district, a study space in the district town hall, as a part of our Community Service Learning activities. This space provides VU students who live in Nieuw-West with a place to study, but also an opportunity for them to serve as role models for youth in the community, and a focal point for community activities addressing societally relevant issues in which students and the community can participate. This is very much in line with our core value of societal engagement, and I am certain we can step up to the challenge of actively reaching out to the community here, and elsewhere in Amsterdam.

Finally, on September 22, I participated in the closing symposium of the first VU-course Educational Leadership. In one of the first meetings of the course, this group from all over the university had a lively discussion with me about the essential characteristics of the VU and of a VU education. In the final meeting, I was delighted to listen to their fascinating ideas for educational innovation and to see how they had become a team. These educational leaders will indeed be important ‘change agents’ who help steer the VU into the future.


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