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#015 Marion’s ability to connect different people

The story of Sterre’s voice of inclusion is a story of Marion’s ability to connect different people

Sterre Mkatini wanders the campus as a roving reporter. Well, digitally for now, but the diversity officer is fine with that. More inclusion at the UT? Leave that to this third culture kid. Today Sterre is interviewing Marion Kamp, the experienced Management portfolio holder. She, too, likes giving other people a platform. And the women share another interesting characteristic: ‘When your appearance doesn’t match your inner self, people approach you differently from how you feel.’

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Tuesday 26 January 2021

Every inch a ‘Tukker’

For Sterre Mkatini, diversity and inclusion officer at the UT since October, a meeting with Management portfolio holder Marion Kamp comes at the right time. Having worked at the university for nineteen years, Marion knows the ropes. And despite the two women having totally different positions, Sterre shares Marion’s passion: connecting people and thereby making the world a better place. But, Sterre wonders, who is Marion the person behind Marion the portfolio holder? ‘I don’t need to be the focus of attention.’

Sterre: ‘Hello Marion! We met before in the ambassador’s network. How has your life progressed so far?’

Marion: ‘Well, I’m Marion Kamp. Like you, I don’t look Dutch, but I have a very Dutch name. I was adopted from South Korea and grew up in a family in Twente. So, I might not have been born here, but I’m every inch a ‘Tukker’!’

Sterre: ‘Have you ever been back to South Korea?’

Marion: ‘Yes, when I was about thirty, I spent four weeks backpacking there with my (adoptive) parents. Otherwise, I’ve never felt the need to go in search of my Korean roots. I have no connection with Korea and I feel Dutch.’

“I’ve never felt the need to go in search of my Korean roots.”
Marion Kamp

Good intentions

Sterre: ‘Now I’m curious: have you ever experienced an identity crisis?’

Marion: ‘Oh, yes. When your appearance doesn’t match your inner self, people approach you differently from how you feel. Perhaps you recognise that... When I go shopping in Enschede, people speak to me in English. I know that they mean well, but I hate that. Or: my sister looks just like my mother. When I was a kid, people automatically recognised her as my mother’s daughter. But I got asked: ‘And who might you be?’ At times, that kind of things used to make me feel very sad. And it can still affect me. But I’ve gotten used to it.’

Sterre: ‘Sigh... yes. I know what you mean. Do you think experiences like that have made you more empathetic, that you find it easier to understand different situations?’

Marion: ‘I think I’ve become more aware of how people can experience situations differently. I can see that people ask questions with the best intentions, and I understand both sides – both that of the international Dutch person and the native person. I also understand when people say: where I live, I’m the only Dutch person in the neighbourhood and that feels threatening.’

“If you want to know who you should talk to about a certain subject, I can give you a whole list of names.”
Marion Kamp

Obstacles 

Sterre: ‘You’ve been around the UT for nineteen years. That’s a big difference between us: I’ve only been here for three months. What’s your average working week like?’

Marion: ‘Ha-ha, my nephew once said: you’re not a researcher and you’re not a teacher, so you don’t actually do anything! It’s sometimes difficult to explain exactly what I do. As the Management portfolio holder, I am responsible for everything that academics need to be able to do their work – from HR to secretarial support, lab facilities and housing. My day mainly consists of meetings. Perhaps most importantly: I connect people and make sure they know where to find each other. ‘I don’t personally need to be the focus of attention. But if you want to know who you should talk to about a certain subject, I can give you a whole list of names.’

Sterre: ‘So you play a connecting role. That’s what I want to achieve in my role as diversity officer. What obstacles do you encounter when it comes to connecting?’

Marion: ‘I think that obstacles arise when departments or faculties start thinking in terms of their own interests. Along the lines of: this is what the faculty wants, and that’s why you need to do this. When things get tricky, that’s often the reason. Academics don’t like being told what to do. You need to trigger them based on their intrinsic values and expertise, take them seriously. Where does their energy come from? And what makes them go the extra mile?’

Sterre: ‘In discussions with others, I notice that your faculty, BMS, does very well when it comes to diversity. Is that something you all actively promote?’

Marion: ‘When appointing professors, we always check first if a woman is available. That was something we introduced quite a long time ago. With respect to internationalisation, there are still things we can do better. Many of our students come from Germany. In a sense, that’s international, but it’s obviously just down the road. I see there’s a lot of attention for the theme, though. For example, our student associations really do their best to give internationals a home base in the study programmes too.’

Sterre: ‘And for you as a woman in a leadership role? For example, do you notice that you need to approach things differently from your male colleagues, I mean: has being a woman had an impact on you as a leader?’

Marion: ‘Hmm, I don’t think about that too much. I am very direct, that’s something people often associate with being a ‘male’ characteristic. But directness is in my nature. It has nothing to do with gender. On the other hand: when we talk about women leaders at the UT, I do feel there should be more. In the University Committee Management (UCB), most of the department directors are men. I really feel that we need more women there. Because I believe that a diverse team operates more effectively and better, but also because we managers must set a good example.’

“My most important life lesson? Always trust your instinct.”
Marion Kamp

Gender-neutral toilets

Sterre: ‘How do you see diversity and inclusion in BMS in the future?’

Marion: ‘I hope that we can make it an agenda item, together with you too. For me, it is a wider issue than merely having women in managerial positions. I sometimes joke to the facilities department: I want to be the first faculty with gender-neutral toilets. They think that’s odd. But it’s still on my list. For me, inclusion also means that we explore how people with poor job prospects can be given a place in our faculty. It’s a constant struggle, but I feel we need to do something. So, I’ll get back to you on that!’

Sterre: ‘Yes, and vice versa. In conclusion: when you look back at your twenty-year-old self, what would you want to tell her?’

Marion: ‘Oh, now that’s a tricky question. Looking back, my own most important life lesson has been: always trust your instinct. Things will be fine if you really listen to your intuition and your body. Easier said than done, because I also made choices that were not emotionally the right ones. And I paid the price – I got a burnout when I was 28.

‘It also helps to realise that you can ‘follow your heart’ in various directions. People tend to think: I didn’t get that job, so now I’ve failed in my career. But that’s not true. You can use your qualities and competencies in lots of different jobs. I sometimes say: I would love to be a chef. Well, it’s too late for that now. But when I think about why being a chef appeals to me so much, it’s about looking after others. So, that’s what I look for in my job at the UT. You see, you can’t always plan a career. Because things just come along and you think: I’ll try that. Or something happens in your private life which means you don’t achieve your ambition, but later another door opens to you. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow. And then you’ll get there.’

DRS. STERRE MKATINI (1984)

was born in the Netherlands and has worked in Tanzania and Ghana, Ivory Coast, Uganda and Kenya. After completing a bachelor in Social Sciences at University College in Utrecht and a master in International Development at the University of Amsterdam, she moved to Canada. Here she set up an organisation to show African students the options for social enterprise on their continent, travelling extensively in various African countries. In October 2020, she was appointed diversity & inclusion officer at the UT, the first person to occupy this position.

Drs. Marion Kamp

grew up in Twente. After studying at the Technical College in Enschede and graduating in business administration from the University of Groningen, she started work as an organisational advisor in healthcare. In 2001, Marion joined the UT as HR advisor. She held several management positions and since 2012 has been Management portfolio holder at the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences.