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A Conversation: Leonard Geluk

On a rainy Monday morning, we met with Leonard Geluk, President of our university to have a conversation about the things that move us. We are not the ones starting with the questions, Leonard does that. Jumping into conversation with him feels natural, it is very obvious that he is used to leading the dialogue. But that is not what we are here for. This time, we brought the questions. Before we get to them, Leonard probes deeper to get to know us, as students and as people, asking about our programmes and our future perspective. Throughout the interview, Leonard keeps coming back to us, trying to understand our perspective on the things he talks about, about our university, about the pressure we feel from society and home, and the support we want as students, as developing human beings, as he describes us. We carefully redirect the course of the conversation; after all, we brought the questions.

What is the most important part of your job?

For me it is important to have connections with students, so I try to have a few meetings a week with students just to discuss how they feel at our university and what we can change. In my experience, students are honest, open, and fair. They are also clear on what they expect and what they ask from a certain type of education. We have to deliver that, so it is quite important for me to have this sort of conversation.

How do others influence your work?

My work is permanent interaction, a daily mirror, and I learn a lot from my colleagues. Together we know more, have more experience, and that is important for my responsibility to decide. I cannot do that without the opinion of others.

What are the most important things to get done?

We have the ambition to be the most international university of applied sciences in the Netherlands, but also to educate in a different way so that our students become global citizens. It is really inspiring when I see or hear of students who are willing to participate, willing to make the world a bit better.

What does global citizenship mean?

In the future, you are not a lawyer, or a nurse, or an accountant. You are a human being, and we need human beings in our world to realise real change. That means different things, forexample being open to others. I think The Hague University is a playground tobring together all these differentcultures, connecting people with different backgrounds. Curiosity is also important.Why are things how they are, what is normal? As students you have to learn to be curious. And lastly, responsibility. It is possible to change.You can contribute to real change, and itis in your domain to make change possible.

Which role does the university play?

The culture of our university must show to our students that change is really possible; that when they are open and curious they also feel responsible, because their contribution to a better world is quite important and possible. My ideal university is an open playground and a community. You are not only part of your classroom or the people from your programme, but the aim is to bring students together and realise cooperation. Just like in the normal world: wherever we work, it is important to have contact with people from totally different backgrounds. That is my vision and ambition for this university.One step is to allow students to follow minors in different programmes, or offer an honours programme like the global citizenship honours programme, for all kinds of different students. That way we can organise our official curriculum, but we can also stimulate the sports and cultures programme. Many students are supporting that; it makes our university special I think.

Which moments make you proud?

Many. It is quite emotional when you see that so many students really want to be global citizens.I see that more and more in the university. It is a proud moment when we realise our visions, when we see that it is working, that students are inspired to become global citizens. That is my finest moment, I think.

How has studying changed a lot in your eyes?

I think there is more pressure now, much higher than in the 80s, when I studied. Society expects a lot more from our students, as well as parents.I am a parent as well, and parents expect quite a lot from their children. They have to work hard, in a short period of time, and then have a great job and a great future. I think my generation was more focused on being successful, on getting jobs with lots of money. Your generation is not only focused on career and money but also on its responsibility in society.

How does our generation stand out?

I think it is difficult to be a member of your generation, there is so much pressure. It is difficult to make decisions, also about your study, thinking about what you want to realise. The world is changing so quickly that we must invest in human development and personal development so you can switch from one career to a different one. Our future will be more flexible, so we need more flexible people, and I think we need to prepare our students for that society. Human development is more important than your knowledge; I think that is a challenge for your generation. I hope we can support our students to fit those needs of society.

What can your generation learn from ours?

Being open. All these different stories from students are stories I can learn from, they award me with new and different perspectives. Twenty-six thousand different stories at our university, and they are all relevant.

How can our generations tackle the challenges we face today?

Feeling responsible, as your generation does, is about being willing to connect to others and facing the challenges of our society. I think it starts there. Universities must educate a new generation in a new way of thinking. Connecting our generations will make it possible to realise the changes that are necessary, and I am positive about that because I see that we can focus on the things we can change.

By: Vincent M. Rump & Gabriella Lund



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