Stories#082 Karins dedication to empowerment

#082 Karins dedication to empowerment

The story of arturo's natural chemistry is a story of karins dedication to empowerment

Growing up in Mexico, going to college was a privilege rather than a given for Arturo Susarrey Arce. That’s why he’s very appreciative of people like UT colleague Karin Paardenkooper. Karin sets up cooperation between UT and institutions from all around the world, mainly focusing on Mexico. Although the two met each other three years ago and have worked together a lot since then, today, Arturo wants to find out more about Karin’s past and future. ‘I’m thinking about going back to college after retiring.’

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Monday 27 june 2022 

indefinitely curious

Arturo: ‘So good to see you, Karin! Can you believe it’s already been three years since we first met?’

Karin: ‘Time flies. I still remember it vividly, though. When a research delegation from the university Tec de Monterrey came to visit UT, you were among the UT researchers to welcome them. I remember seeing some tall guy and thinking: who is that? He must be Dutch, why would he be here? It turned out to be you.’

Arturo: ‘Well, 1 meter 87 isn’t that tall for Dutch standards...’

Karin: ‘I’m 1 meter 65, so to me, you are tall!’

Arturo: ‘Anyway: we’ve been working together a lot since then. I feel like I know a lot about what you currently do, but not as much about your past or future. So let’s begin with your past. You studied Spanish Linguistics and Literature. Why did you choose that specific language?’

Karin: ‘I’ve loved Spain ever since I was a child. My parents had a vacation home in north-west Spain, and we went there every summer. I was always looking forward to the next time that we’d be going. It was the first thing I’d put on my calendar at the beginning of a schoolyear! By studying Spanish Linguistics, everything fell into place. Now, as a country coordinator for Mexico, I get to interact with Hispanic language and culture every day.’

Arturo: ‘I see. But country coordinator isn’t the first role you took up at UT, is it?’

Karin: ‘I started off as head of the international office. I think only three or four people worked there at the time. Together with Center of Education Support (CES) and Strategy and Policy (SP), we built it from the ground up; participating in writing the code of conduct at a national level, setting up a housing department, creating scholarships, establishing partnerships – that sort of thing. After seven years, my work there was done. The foundations had been laid. Which, to me, was perfect timing to quit. Zeven vette koeien, zeven magere koeien. Have you heard of that expression?’

Arturo: ‘Haha, definitely! Speaking of timing: I remember you mentioning that you’re planning on retiring in about three years from now. Do you still have enough time to finish your plans with Mexico?’

Karin: ‘I’m afraid not… Even now, I can hardly fit everything into a workweek. I recently started working four days a week instead of five. I get to dedicate half of that to Mexico. The other half is meant for my position as senior advisor for international partnerships and development. I try to do as much as I can in those two days, but with 12 projects in Mexico, I guess it will never be enough.’

Arturo: ‘Are you sure you don’t want to go back to five days a week?’

“Lots of academics continue a project after retiring. Who says I won’t do the same?”
Karin Paardenkoper

Karin: ‘Absolutely. Although, when I first told my friends and family that I’d be working less, they said: “That’s impossible. You’re lying to yourself. You’re already working extra hours while doing five days a week.” But I had made up my mind, and I still stand behind that decision. Even if that means that I don’t get to finish everything in time. Besides, lots of academics continue a project after retiring. Who says I won’t do the same?’

Arturo: ‘You’re absolutely right. Let’s flashforward to 2025: your retirement. You’ve been working at UT for almost twenty years. What are you most proud of?’

Karin: ‘Of 25 years of cooperation between UT and the Tec de Monterrey. At first, UT exchanged three students. This semester, we have 26 students from Tec de Monterrey, and we’ll get another 20 during the spring! Plus, all the cooperation projects that we’ve developed in the last three years have been extremely fulfilling to me.

“I’m proud of how we facilitate students from all over the world to bloom”
Karin Paardenkoper

I’m proud of how we facilitate students from all over the world to bloom. When you grow up in a wealthy country like the Netherlands, you may be unaware of all the privileges that you have. In many countries, going to college isn’t a given. For most, it’s unaffordable. I think it’s wonderful that we can help those people fulfill their potential, regardless of their situation.’

“When I first heard of ‘mechatronics’, all I could think of was this huge washing machine”
Karin Paardenkoper

Arturo: ‘As someone who comes from such a country and situation, I’m touched. I think it’s wonderful how you’re paving the paths for those students. Do you have any advice as to how we, as UT, can keep on doing that when you leave us?’

Karin: ‘I think the key is to be indefinitely curious. Talk to as many students and professors as you can. What are they working on? What drives them? What dreams and ambitions do they have? That’s how you get a grasp of what support people really need. Besides, that way, you’ll always learn something new. For example, when I first heard of ‘mechatronics’, all I could think of was this huge washing machine. I had no idea what it meant. So I asked someone from EEMCS to show me what it’s actually about. I love that about my job; having access to all that knowledge that’s outside of my scope of expertise. I’m even thinking about going back to college after retiring.’

Arturo: ‘Really? What would you like to study?’

Karin: ‘I’m definitely taking a course on contemporary Hispanic literature. I’m also thinking about doing something with chemistry. I’ve always loved chemistry, even though I had poor scores in other exact sciences like math and physics in high school.’

Arturo: ‘I was expecting the Hispanic literature thing from you. But not chemistry. You never fail to surprise me!’

Dr. arturo susare arce (1981)

got his bachelor’s in Industrial Chemistry, and his master’s in Material Science and Engineering in Mexico. He spent time in Triest (Italy) and Montréal (Canada) during his studies. He came to UT to do his PhD-research, after which he was a postdoc at the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom) and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg (Sweden). In 2018, Arturo rejoined UT. Now, he is an assistant professor. He teaches master’s and bachelor’s classes and together with his colleagues he has developed a new course in electrochemistry, specifically aimed at students who want to think like a researcher. Next to his job at UT, Arturo works at ENCYTOS, a spin-off company that provides rapid cell growth technology based on his research.

Drs. karin paardenkoper (1959)

studied Spanish Linguistics and Literature at the University of Amsterdam and lives in Enschede. She came to UT in 2006 and worked as head of international office for seven years. After helping build the foundation for that department, she fulfilled advisory roles at international education and international affairs. Karin is currently senior advisor international partnerships and development, and country coordinator for Mexico.

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