Monday 10 May 2021
Annet: 'I need to check something, Brigitte. Several people I talked to about this interview told me that you and I knew each other.'
Brigitte: 'I know, but we haven't met before!'
Annet: 'I didn't think we had. I thought: maybe I've blocked someone from my mind. Luckily I haven't. You're a new Brigitte for me. What do you do?'
Brigitte: 'I've been at UT for nearly 25 years now. I am currently working as an assistant for two departments. Quite a key role because I need to know about a lot of things. Obviously, people figure out lots of things themselves, but sometimes they need my support. Which is fine – that's my job. I like to be needed. Like many of my colleague secretaries and facilities and technical assistants, I make sure that everything goes smoothly without hogging the limelight. A quiet force in the department.'
Annet: 'You've been at UT a long time then, like me. Many students, PhD candidates and even academics are only here for a short time. How do you view the role of dinosaurs like us?'
Brigitte: 'I have good memories of the various job-switches I've made within UT. Sometimes I needed to leave my comfort zone, for example when I was plucked from the tight-knit UT-News group. But I always enjoyed discovering new things. I am now very familiar with the structure of UT. I know exactly who to turn to if I have any questions or need help. And along the way, I have obviously acquired the necessary skills, knowledge and life experience. I've done a lot of self-study, for example, through courses and workshops. And I enjoy passing on what I’ve learned. I like to call myself a lifestyle coach and experience expert.
'To return to your question: that's how I see the added value of experienced people like you and me. Younger members of the UT community can come to us with problems because we've seen it all before. As a study advisor, you probably recognise that, you give students one tip and that's all they need. Which is nice, isn't it?'
Annet: 'You're right. Sometimes it's that simple. I send many students out for a walk, for example. They don't get outside at all. A walk around the block is enough. After a week, they say: "I feel much better!" You call yourself a lifestyle coach, so being the project leader of the student well-being project, I'd like to know more about that.'
Brigitte: 'Students, as well as PhD candidates and colleagues, know that I will take the time to listen to them. And my managers allow me to do so. It's nice that they encourage our own initiatives, ideas and personal development.
'I notice that more and more students and staff sometimes need a good conversation. They have a problem and are unsure how to tackle it. Going to a psychologist is a big step for many people. They are glad to be able to talk to someone they trust. Someone in the department who listens to them, shows understanding and gives advice. I try to prevent things coming to a head and becoming too much. By just being there for people, without making it formal. They can just walk in. After our conversations, they can get back on track for a while.'
Annet: 'Easy access, perhaps even coincidental conversations? Obviously, I am more on the institutionalised side. Do you have views on that?'
Brigitte: 'Obviously, there are various people students can talk to. Like study advisors or lecturers. But students that I've known for a while find it easier to pop into my office when it comes to personal things. They feel the pressure of their study and research, during which their lecturers support them very well on the content side. But there may not always be time to discuss personal things with supervisors.'
Annet: 'I agree with you. A colleague of mine said recently: It doesn't matter how many study advisors we have, if we don't make time for students, they all come to me. I can listen to them, but that becomes less necessary when students also feel seen and heard by others. I still think though: easy access and coincidence are great, but we do need some kind of structure.'
Brigitte: 'I feel it's particularly important that we haveto talk to each other, so that we know how people feel. Conversations in which we can get things off our chest. That just works. And of course, UT needs to measure and study things.
'With Shaping2030, people first and student over system are becoming more important. Which is good for the recognition and appreciation of everybody's talents and development. I hope that this will really become part of the complex organisation of UT. Due to lack of time or pressure of work, good ideas are sometimes not followed up enough. I feel we ought to record less and do more. And I've already made a start with that.'