Monday 31 January 2022
Irene: ‘Hi Raymond! I'd like to start by reminiscing about 2015, when you wrote your dissertation.’
Raymond: ‘Ha, it sounds like you've done your homework.’
Irene: 'I had to search for a while, but I finally found it. On the front I saw a striking work of art: Kazimir Malevich's Knife Sharpener. Why did you choose this?’
Raymond: 'Firstly, I just think it's a beautiful, colourful painting. But it also represents something that I find very important: craftsmanship. Working with your hands and your head, while using technology. That interplay. Martin Heidegger's philosophy on this is also woven into the dissertation.
The main idea is that ultimate professionalism means being so absorbed in your craft that you forget your surroundings. Then, people and technology are no longer separated. Heidegger calls this “dwelling”. It goes completely against the popular idea of mindfulness. I find it very inspiring.’
Irene: 'Isn't being so absorbed in something that you forget your surroundings, a form of mindfulness as well?'
Raymond: 'Yes, but the difference is that mindfulness is about being aware of your actions. In the case of dwelling, you do everything routinely without major cognitive effort. The knife sharpener portrays that beautifully. He no longer thinks about what he is doing, with how much power or with what technique. Until something goes wrong. For example, if he cuts his finger.”
Irene: ‘What happens then?’
Raymond: 'The knife sharpener in this example becomes aware of the process again; the separation between him and technology. He can think about that relationship for a moment and possibly adjust something before he continues working.
I also look at innovation in companies from that perspective. I see these kinds of disruptions as opportunities for innovations in techniques, methods and processes. Constant reflection is not good for continuity, but neither is too much routine. To innovate successfully, you must find the right balance between the two.’
Irene: 'It's nice to hear your perspective on the deeper layers of this painting. It says a lot about how you work. But who is Raymond as a person?’
Raymond: ‘Gosh, who am I. I always find that a difficult question. I tend to start talking about my work. Maybe that makes me a passionate person. I’m committed to the goals I set, for myself and for the organisation. That also makes me who I am: purposeful and disciplined.’
Irene: 'Can you give an example of such a goal?'
Raymond: 'Ultimately, I’d like our students to have a kind of signature; something that sets them apart from others. So that the people they encounter in business or society will say: “That is typical of a UT student.'
That’s also what I want to achieve with educational innovation. I want our students to gain interdisciplinary knowledge and, at the same time, learn practical and social skills. Such as critical reflection and action, for example. Don't take something at face value. Ask the 'why' questions first, then the 'how' question.'
Irene: 'How do you contribute to that yourself?'
Raymond: 'Actually, I've been contributing to that for about three years now. It began when I was first introduced to the concept of challenge-based learning, by Linköping University in Sweden. There, it’s called the Ingenious. Its students work on solutions to pressing problems from local companies and public institutions. Afterwards, they are given plenty of time to reflect on the process. I was so inspired that I thought: I’m going to apply that to the minor courses I give, collaborating with companies from my own network. Nowadays, challenge-based learning is included in the vision of UT.'
Irene: 'And how do you think the implementation of this is going?'
Raymond: 'So we have plans at policy level. An important first step. But UT is a large organisation and that makes it difficult to translate systemic innovations from a vision to the workplace. It requires a communal effort. As a Senior Fellow I’m working with the Centre of Expertise in Learning and Teaching (CELT), among others, to figure out how we can get the ball rolling. We ask questions such as: Do we have enough willingness to innovate? Which educational innovation competences do we and don’t we have? How do we get everyone involved?’
Irene: 'I can imagine that it’s difficult to get everyone on the same page. At the same time, that means that at UT, you can mould something like challenge-based learning to your own liking. And that's a good thing, right?'
Raymond: ‘Absolutely. We certainly don't want to discourage that with some sort of step-by-step plan that people blindly obey. We are very good at innovating here at the UT, so I trust that teachers will go about this in a good way. But first, we must really get it off the ground and offer the right organisational support. Otherwise, ideas will remain ideas and you won’t make an impact.’
Irene: 'Making an impact is so important. Not only on a national or international level, but also in Twente.’
Raymond: ‘Exactly. Society starts with your neighbour. That's why I love working with local companies and institutions, no matter how big or small they are. Opportunities are just everywhere. Besides, I think that as a university, we have a duty to remain meaningful for the region.'
Irene: ‘We've now talked about your past and how you envision the future. Touching upon the present for a second: what are you looking forward to right now?’
Raymond: 'In the short term I’m looking forward to my daily walk in the woods and to continue reading the book "The fear of freedom". The author, Erich Fromm, is a leading thinker on man and society. In the longer term I hope to see many more students graduate. I still enjoy celebrating successes and putting students in the limelight.’