Monday 26 July 2021
Eduardo: 'Hi Marijke, I saw you have a long teaching career, which started at high school level…”
Marijke: ‘I think teenagers are fantastic. But teaching teenagers… did not turn out to be my thing. I started as an English teacher in secondary school. Keeping track of whether everyone turned in their book reports or took their tests, oh man. So I switched to teaching college. University students are more responsible, which makes a big difference. In addition to teaching, I was also a career counselor there. I loved talking to young people about their future and career plans! I wanted to do more of that – which is how I ended up here. First as a study advisor and now as International Affairs coordinator focusing on education.'
Eduardo: 'Being in direct contact with students really seems to suit you. That’s great to hear.’
Marijke: 'Certainly, I'm right at home at UT. And I get a lot of opportunities to take on new projects. I am also involved in the Shaping Expert Group Inclusion, which is a subject that really appeals to me. Not only from the perspective of internationalisation, but also in other areas in which we want to be inclusive.’
Eduardo: ‘I am very interested as to what I can learn from your expertise. Starting with internationalisation – UT has really focused on that. All teaching is in English now, and we attract many international students. In practice I have noticed that internationalisation and diversity do not always come easy. I narrowly passed the English language test for teachers myself!'
Marijke: 'It certainly won't happen on its own, you're right about that. And language is only the first step towards international education. If you attract international students, you have diversity, but how do you ensure inclusion? How do you get students to really mingle and learn from each other? Many courses are now ready for that next step.'
Eduardo: 'What is your role in this, as International Affairs coordinator?'
Marijke: 'I think along with the programs and the Faculty Board about what they can do to take those next steps. That usually starts with the question: what are your ambitions? This often has not been established yet. Each program has its own ideas, but everyone agrees that learning to work together in a group with different cultural backgrounds is a valuable skill that you can use in many places.'
Eduardo: 'In order for that to succeed, I think teachers also play an important role.'
Marijke: ‘Absolutely! The first step is for teachers to realise they can learn something. They often say: everyone is equal to me, so I treat everyone the same. But teaching an international group is about taking different backgrounds into account and adjusting your teaching methods accordingly.’
Eduardo: 'Some teachers have the feeling that English is somewhat forced on them. And when I see the numbers of international students joining us, it seems like there’s a lot going on at the same time.'
Marijke: ‘Well, we do not intend to force the issue, because that won't get people on board. We have to do this together. What does help, I think, is that we have an increasingly international staff. They know what it's like to get to know the Dutch education system, for example. In this way they can help build a bridge.’
Eduardo: 'Is there such a thing as too international?'
Marijke: 'What do you think would be too international?'
Eduardo: 'Suppose we no longer attract Dutch students at all, for example.'
Marijke: ‘No, nobody wants that. We are a Dutch university and, as UT, we are also very much connected to the region. That's part of our character, and a very beautiful thing.'
Eduardo: 'I think we should continue to cherish that.'
Marijke: ‘You can have both a Twente and an international character. The small-scale, being able to just walk into your colleagues offices and get to know them - that is really part of our identity. That also appeals to many people. Although there is also a flip side. Who you know is very important if you want to get things done. That is difficult if you are here temporarily, for example as an international student. We might have to work on that a bit.’
Eduardo: 'Yes, we should be able to ensure a good start, everyone should feel welcome. You also just said that diversity is more than internationalisation. What else is important – according to you?’
Marijke: 'Be aware of differences in ethnicity, gender identity, physical limitations - you name it. And to me, what's very important, is that while we look for ways in which we can be more inclusive, we keep an eye on people's different starting points. We should not exclude people because we push inclusiveness too far.’
Eduardo: 'What would you suggest I do, in order for me to have a better eye for diversity?'
Marijke: ‘Good question… I would ask: what is your goal? In case you mean: know more about the subject…”’
Eduardo: ‘Awareness is a good start.’
Marijke: 'I recommend the wonderful BetterAllies newsletter. Every two weeks they share concrete tips for the workplace. Recently, for example, the newsletter was on mentorship. Often you unconsciously coach someone who resembles you somewhat. They might remind you of yourself at a certain age, or a certain stage of your career. In order to improve diversity, you should help someone who does not resemble you at all.’
Eduardo: ‘That's interesting. One of the classic topics in diversity is the demand for more women in technology. Is there still attention for that?'
Marijke: 'As long as that is still an issue, it will stay on the agenda. I recently spoke about this with a colleague. There are many great projects to get girls interested in technology, but you can only see the yields in small increments. It is slowly changing. It's so ingrained in our language, our culture, the way parents raise children. Role models help. And if the university becomes more diverse, we will automatically create a climate in which more people feel at home. That will attract new students and therefore also women in technology.'
Eduardo: 'What is your ambition for the coming years?'
Marijke: 'I still have a lot to learn about inclusion. And it would be great if international education was so ingrained that my position would become obsolete. That is a long-term process. You can redesign modules under external pressure but that will engender unhappy teachers - and probably won’t improve the quality of education. And I only started this position in September, so for now I'm really in the right place.'