Shaping the Future

Experiences

At the moment, twelve employees take part in the Tenure Track Programme at ITC. All have their personal motivation, experiences, hopes and dreams. We have asked three of them to give an insight into their experience.

'OPEN THE DOOR TO YOUNG FEMALE RESEARCHERS'

I am an interdisciplinary natural scientist, specialized in mapping and quantifying human-nature interactions with a particular interest in the marine realm and in the land-ocean interface. I started my Tenure Track in March 2017 as an Assistant Professor at the Geo-Information Processing department. I expect this position to help me advance my career in international education, capacity building and scientific research with a global impact. Working in an international, interdisciplinary and highly skilled academic group within ITC, sets the basis towards this direction. Numerous skilled early-career researchers work on project-based short-term contracts, change working environment every two to three years, with a cost to their professional and personal development. The tenured positions offered by ITC provide young academics a longer-term opportunity to pursue a career by investing time and effort to this direction.

The emphasis given on female scientists in this position could be a step towards a more balanced gender distribution among academics. This position opens the door to young female researchers to take leading roles in research and develop new pathways within the university educational system. Of course, this requires a more fundamental change towards gender equality in academia and beyond, but this is a first step, towards a future, where there will be hopefully no need for gender specifications in research and beyond.
Evangelia (Valia) Drakou

'EXPAND MY PUZZLE AND HELP OTHER PEOPLE TO SOLVE THEIRS'

I joined ITC in 2008 as an assistant professor at the Geo-Information Processing department. About four years later the ITC/UT tenure track policy was implemented and I became a tenure-tracker. Now I am associate professor on spatio-temporal analytics, an emerging field at the crossroad of quantitative geography and data science.

Looking back at these years at ITC, I see several parallelisms between my ongoing tenure track and the process of solving a large puzzle. To begin with, I started my track by defining my overall goals and ambitions because it is much easier to solve a puzzle having the final output in mind (is there any other reason for keeping the original puzzle box?). Then, I began to sort all the pieces that I already had on my desk (education, research and starting projects), and saw that those pieces were not enough to complete my puzzle. I knew that that would happen (those who like puzzles will recognize this situation) but one of the beauties of being a tenure tracker is that you get support to identify and (co-)design those missing pieces.

I started to solve my puzzle by connecting the pieces at the edge (those are always easy, aren’t they?) and after that I began to build small clusters of inner pieces (a new course here, and a project and a paper over there). Although finding the right piece at the right time was not always possible, the difficulties of solving the puzzle were dwarfed by the joy of seeing it grow over time and of seeing it evolving beyond the initial “figure” that I had in mind. Moreover, it is truly comforting to see that with a bit of creativity (over brute force) and thanks to departmental and institutional support (I am not working on this alone!) many things are possible. 

Now comes an interesting paradox: although at some point the pieces start to fall in the right place almost automatically, I know/have a feeling that my puzzle will never be completed (luckily! Otherwise, what is research for?). As a future Professor, I see ways to expand my puzzle, to help other people to solve theirs, and to connect all the puzzles together. I now have a team of puzzle makers and we have fun together. Do you want to play with us?
Raul Zurita Milla

'GUIDANCE TO BECOME THAT LEADING ACADEMIC'

At the time I applied for a tenure track position at ITC, I was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University in the USA where I had moved to after working for the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission for three years. So I had seen two very distinct worlds after obtaining my PhD: a large decision and policy making organization and prestigious academic school. Research for societal impact at ITC seemed the right balance for me.

My research has always been driven by and focusing on making a contribution to a more sustainable and just world. Spatial modeling became my most important research tool to capture and analyze biophysical and social processes that are linked but so different per location. ITC has a longstanding legacy in geo-information science for development. Applying for a tenure track position at ITC was therefore a very obvious choice for me.

I dream about being a leading academic, a person who has gained merit by credible and relevant research with good connections with decision makers, someone who communicates research clear and accurate. I see a tenure track as guidance to become that leading academic by stepwise improving and expanding my research, education, and management skills. A commitment to grow.
Wieteke Willemen