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#050 Alex’s proud rainbow message

The story of Mila's sensing borders is a story of Alex’s proud rainbow message

Mila Koeva came to the Netherlands when she noticed she had reached the boundaries of her development in Bulgaria. She fully enjoys the open-data culture in Dutch academia and at UT in particular. Alex Jonkhart is passionate about creating an open culture for the lgbtqi+-community. He knows there is still a lot of work to do, both with Dutch and international students and employees. “Simply raising the rainbow flag helps starting up the conversation.”

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Monday 27 September 2021

Time for the tables to turn

Mila: ‘I saw that you work on our timetables, or roosters – I got used to this word, but it’s funny in English. Are you as organised in your private life, as you are in your job as timetable maker?’

Alex: ‘Yes, I guess so. I like to be organised. I have a feeling for schedules: I always remember the train schedule, too. And I see patterns that not everyone sees.’

Mila: ‘Why do you like being a timetable maker?’

Alex: ‘It's a nice puzzle to find the balance between a lot of variables: teacher preferences, students’ wishes, the ideal situation for education and the use of rooms. I try to keep all parties happy. And I like to produce the best possible schedule for students – who will do great work to improve our world.’

Mila: ‘Is your work different now than it was before the coronavirus pandemic?’

Alex: ‘Yes. Of course, we had to keep up with all regulations. And online education is here to stay. At UT, we already wanted to do more online teaching. The coronavirus outbreak forced us to change faster. Our goal is to have 80 percent of all teaching on campus and 20 percent online. Some students really benefit from online education. It allows them to take classes at their own pace. Some go through them quicker, others can rewatch lectures if they need to. It is better adapted for different learning styles.’

“Our goal is to make sure every student and employee feels welcome at UT, especially lgbtqi+-people”
Alex Jonkhart

Mila: ‘How do you see your future at UT?’

Alex: ‘Besides my scheduling job, I co-founded the Th!nk with Pride  work group at UT. My time is already shifting more and more towards Th!nk with Pride, and I hope I can keep working on that. Our goal is to make sure every student and employee feels welcome at UT, especially lgbtqi+-people. Something as simple as raising the rainbow flag to start up the conversation between people helps battle misunderstandings.’

Mila: ‘What plans do you have with Th!nk with Pride?’

Alex: ‘We are an information platform for people who struggle with their identity or orientation. Our webpage shows where they can find help or where to report discrimination, for example. Students and employees can get in touch with us, too, if they need advice.’

‘Next to this, we organise activities: informal get-togethers – where people can just chat, eat rainbow cake and get to know each other – and workshops on different topics. Once a year, we would like to organise a big event in collaboration with Saxion University for Applied Sciences and the ROC of Twente.’

‘Th!nk with Pride is also present at special occasions. We had our first stand at Kick-In 2021. During the next coming out week, we will open the first gender-free toilet on campus. We are going to celebrate that moment, with a play written by theatre association NEST, which will hopefully help create more awareness.’

Mila: ‘That must be difficult, sometimes. I know that in Bulgaria the topics you are dealing with are taboo. Some people are open-minded enough to receive your message. Others may never be ready for it.’

Alex: ‘True. People at UT come from all over the world and are raised with different ideas, based on their culture or religion. At Kick-In, some students told us they appreciated our rainbow flag. But others avoided our stand. I understand that if you’re raised with certain ideas, your first reaction may be: “I cannot talk to these people”. I’m still looking for the best ways to start the conversation.’

“I understand that if you’re raised with certain ideas, your first reaction may be: “I cannot talk to these people"”
Alex Jonkhart

Mila: ‘Maybe it’s nothing, but I took some courses at UT about how to supervise students and how to lead projects. I learned that I can take different approaches with different people, depending who is on the other side of the table.’

Alex: ‘What advice can you give me based on these courses? What would you do when there’s a miscommunication?’

Mila: ‘I learned to try and find ways to let the other person speak. To not only tutor and give input myself. I listen to students’ key points and use these to help them reach a conclusion themselves. To find the best solutions in their own way.’

Alex: ‘That's a great tip. Because I really don't want to force my ideas onto others. I just want to inspire them. That's as far as I can go, I can’t do more. The change should happen in people’s minds.’

Mila: ‘It’s great to see the sparkle in your eyes when you speak about Th!nk with Pride. But I’d still like to change the topic. I saw that you dance. I’ve also been dancing a lot since I was eighteen years old.’

Alex: ‘Oh really? What kind?’

Mila: ‘Mostly salsa and bachata currently, but also cha-cha and rumba in the past. I'm lucky that my husband is my dance partner. We can practice at home, even when society is in lockdown.’

Alex: ‘I used to dance five evenings a week. It's a great release for me. I’m usually very busy in my head. But when I'm dancing, I'm present in the moment, not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow.’

“My dream is to facilitate all faculties and educational programmes in teaching how to be an inclusive colleague”
Alex Jonkhart

Mila: ‘Amazing. And I saw you were a dance teacher too.’

Alex: ‘Yes, I like teaching in general. I just got my teaching degree from University of Applied Sciences Leiden. I hope one day Th!nk with Pride’s message will get a place in UT’s curriculum. Students are already taught academic skills – how to work together and how to act professionally. I think we should also teach them how to work and think in an inclusive way. To be able to collaborate with others without thinking: I don't like working with him, because he's strange. My dream is to facilitate all faculties and educational programmes in teaching how to be an inclusive colleague. And maybe teach such a course or workshop myself.’

MILA KOEVA (1977)

was born, raised and studied in Bulgaria. After working for the government and several private institutions in Bulgaria, she chose a career in academia. After a PhD in 3D modeling in architectural photogrammetry at the University of Sofia, she came to the Netherlands for her current job as assistant professor at the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), which has been officially part of UT since 2010. She specialises in 3D Land Information, and her research focuses on the application of technological innovations in land administration and urban planning.

Alex Jonkhart (1986)

is a timetable scheduler at UT. He studied Personnel & Labor at Saxion University of Applied Sciences and worked at various educational institutions in and outside Twente. He has been working at UT since 2019. He also teaches Career Guidance and Citizenship at Aventus, an MBO school (for vocational education) in Deventer. Alex is the chairman of Th!nk with Pride, the platform for the lgbtqi+ community at UT.