Stories#097 Karina's maximizing students' experiences

#097 Karina's maximizing students' experiences

The story of Lucas' juggling pursuits is a story of Karina's maximizing students' experiences

From the first online introduction to a future meeting at a bar in the theatre. That is the shared journey of Lucas Damen, master’s student of Business Administration and Karina Bakker, communications adviser. What does their journey look like? And what do they come across along the way? Read all about it in this travel journal.

Click for Dutch version

Monday 21 November 2022 

Travel guide Karina

Lucas: ‘Hey Karina, nice to meet you. I read on your UT profile page that you work in student communication, specifically, student reports, student wellbeing, and the student journey. Could you tell me more?’

Karina: ‘I can, absolutely. Let me start with student wellbeing. At the moment, this is a very important theme, especially in light of the pandemic and the lockdowns. Within the Student Wellbeing Implementation Programme (SWIP), we set up a communications working group to focus on this theme. Additionally, we make sure that information and services for student wellbeing are more visible and easier to find.

Student report is a team of student reporters. They make videos on UT-related subjects, ranging from an interview with the Rector Magnificus to a story on the student running competition ‘Batavierenrace’ and a tour of the High Pressure Lab. And they ask students and employees about the ins and outs of university life. They alternate between serious and fun topics, a kind of behind the scenes of UT. I founded student report in the days of large-scale student protests. In 2015, students occupied the Maagdenhuis in Amsterdam. There were protests in Twente as well, slightly less loud, demanding involvement and co-determination. Now, I coordinate the student reporters’ activities and make sure their videos align with the UT marketing and communication goals.’

Lucas: ‘Their clips are so funny; I follow them on Instagram. And your third theme, student journey, what’s that about?’

Karina: ‘Student journey is about students’ experiences at UT. From finding information online to their first campus visit, and from courses to their graduation ceremony. And it’s about alumni life. A big part of our communications efforts go towards attracting new students. Still, we explicitly focus on the students we already have, too. What is their journey like? What do they experience? What obstacles do they face, and how can we improve their journey? The better their experiences, the better their wellbeing, which will make them more enthusiastic. That makes them the best possible ambassadors for UT.’

Lucas: ‘How do you collect the information you need to develop high-quality student communication? Do you talk to students, or do you use surveys?’

Karina: ‘Both. We organise feedback sessions in which we talk to students about various subjects, such as onboarding, the pre-master and career orientation. We send out surveys and use the results of the National Student Survey – a large-scale national study among students about their education. I also speak with students in my job at the Student Union (SU) – the interest group for UT students and student organisations. I advise the SU board, I mentor their communications team and I’m in touch with the University Innovation fellows. The latter is a group of students – first-years to PhD’s of all faculties – who promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the UT education programmes. So, we gather information through several channels. Working with students is one of the best aspects of my job. Together, we find the smartest solutions!’

Working with students is one of the best aspects of my job. And together, we find the smartest solutions!

Karina Bakker

Lucas: ‘Could you give me an example?’

Karina: ‘With a group of students, we took a closer look at the journey of graduates from universities of applied sciences who are considering pursuing a master’s degree at UT. They often have to complete a pre-master before they can enrol. A trajectory that can be pretty intense, but as a university we are not always aware of this. Why not send these students an overview of the steps they’ll have to take? And what about a ‘well done’ and ‘welcome’ message when they finish their pre-master? We are now looking into the possibilities of doing exactly that.

Another example is the meeting point we first introduced at the Kick In-market this year. Students could sign up to walk around the market with one or two others. We learned from their feedback that being at these events just by yourself can be a little overwhelming.’

Lucas: ‘Such great ideas! What can I do as a student, to make your work easier?’

Karina: ‘It can be difficult to find students for our meetings or to get a big enough response to our surveys. Perhaps students are a bit tired of them – we do ask a lot. I’m not sure, but I feel like often the same students participate. It would be interesting to hear from other students how they feel and what they experience. So if you come across a survey, please fill it in! Do you have any advice for us in that respect?’

It would be interesting to hear from other students how they feel and what they experience. So if you come across a survey, fill it in!

Karina Bakker

Lucas: ‘Work with rewards, for example. That really helped me when I wrote my master’s thesis. I was researching why international students go to the theatre and could offer participants a free ticket for a show at the Wilminktheatre. You might consider something similar; giving a free theatre ticket to the first fifty students to respond.’

Karina: ‘We are trying to do so at the moment with offering free lunches. But I like the idea of free tickets to a show. It’s different from what we usually do. People grab lunch every day. A free theatre visit might feel like more of a treat. Thanks for the tip. But tell me, what is the reason behind your focus on international students?’

Lucas: ‘I’m half Spanish, half Dutch. Last year, I was president of ESN, the Erasmus Student Network. About half of my student football team is non-Dutch, I have a non-Dutch flat mate, and I love visiting parties with lots of international students. I enjoy the diversity, and international students know how to party! They’re only here for a couple of months, are a little less concerned with the pressure to get the highest grades and they have no family obligations on the weekends.’

Karina: ‘I heard the exact opposite: that international students are incredibly focused on getting good grades to avoid study delays.’

Lucas: ‘Hm, these may not be the students who attend our parties, ha ha. Speaking of parties: what do you do in your spare time?’

Karina: ‘My husband and I have a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. I enjoy watching them play sports, and it’s nice when the four of us take trips. Other than that, I like reading, hiking and running. Because of Covid-19, I started doing these things more. It’s the perfect way to clear my head.’

Lucas: ‘Do you sometimes visit the theatre?’

Karina: ‘Absolutely. I am very much looking forward to Huize Enschede, a show about life in student housing in our city. That seems like a lot of fun, so I’ll make sure to go and check it out.’

Lucas: ‘I can recommend it; you should definitely see it. We might meet each other at the theatre if you do. I work as a bartender there.’

Karina: ‘I’ll see you there!’

Lucas Damen (2000)

is currently completing his master's degree in business administration and has started his pre-master's degree in Psychology. Lucas works as a bartender in the theatre, plays soccer and is very much into sports. In 2021 he was chairman of Erasmus Student Network Twente.

Karina Bakker (1980)

studied Applied Communication Sciences at UT. After graduating in 2003, she worked as a communications manager at the international tech firm Thales. After that, she worked as a communications adviser at the ROC Twente. She is completely captivated by the world of education and campuses, and has been working as a (student and internal) communications adviser at UT for nearly fourteen years.