‘It’s important that we continue to learn and evolve, and that we continue to move with the times and stay open to new insights’

Fifty-five-year-old Sylvia van der Weerden has a passion for anything that involves language and communication. It is hardly surprising then that she is Director of Radboud in’to Languages. Under the motto of ‘I’m always open to new knowledge and developments’, she completed the HR Leadership in Organisational Development course at Radboud Management Academy (RMa). She is keen to tell us more about it.

Portret Sylvia van der weerden

Education is everything: it emancipates people and it opens new doors



Sylvia van der Weerden

Current position

Director of Radboud in’to Languages

Previous education

HR Leadership in Organisational Development

Why did you choose to work in Nijmegen?

“The combination of education, language and communication is very important to me. That’s why I studied English, French and Communication Science. After several years in the commercial world, I ended up at Radboud University. I started working here as a communications consultant and eventually applied for the position of Director of Radboud in’to Languages. Because this is the place where education, language and communication converge.”

You completed the HR Leadership in Organisational Development course at Radboud Management Academy (RMa). What made you take this course?

“Since I became director four and a half years ago, I found that a lot of the decisions that I made were based on common sense. It’s not such a bad thing to rely on common sense, but I felt that I was missing a certain type of theoretical background. Even though I don’t have a background in business administration, I had to manage the organisational side of Radboud in’to Languages. After all, how do you organise an organisation?”

“I then started to look for a suitable course at the university. Our in-house knowledge is actually quite good. That’s how I ended up at Radboud Management Academy. The HR Leadership in Organisational Development course ties in really well with all my areas of interest.”

Portret Sylvia van der Weerden Liggend

What did you learn during the course?

“I learnt all about the Nijmegen model, which is an organisational-business model that on the one hand depicts the procedural side of an organisational structure, and on the other also looks at the human aspect. This model can be applied to any organisation and used to divide an organisation into different parts. I like being able to analyse an organisation to see which buttons you’ll really need to push in order to achieve specific results.”

“And it’s wonderful to gain new insights and scientific thought patterns in the process. Our teacher, Jan Achterbergh, took the theory from a specific philosophical train of thought, which made the whole thing even more interesting.”

How has the course benefited your career?

“It has provided reassurance. The things that we do at Radboud in’to Languages, we already do quite well. The course has given me new techniques that can be used to further optimise our organisation. It subsequently taught me some valuable lessons: the importance of social connection and engagement, and that you sometimes try to fix the wrong thing. By that I mean that it’s really important that people feel like they’re part of the bigger picture. As management, we need to be forthcoming by explaining the greater goal that we are collectively trying to achieve. And if a procedural error is made, we’ll sometimes need to go back to the drawing board. The process may occasionally contain a problem that can easily be solved, which can prevent countless mistakes from being made.”

What does an average workday look like for the Director of Radboud in’to Languages?

“There are a lot of meetings! And I also devote my time to HR matters, and strategy and finance. We’re obviously the centre of excellence for language and communication for students, staff members and the external market. We have a lot to offer, including training courses and teaching materials, and we also provide translations, interpreting services, editing services and assessments. Basically, anything to help people to achieve a rich communicative register.”

Why would the prospect of completing a course at Radboud Management Academy appeal to alumni?

“You gain so much new knowledge and so many new insights in just seven days! I listened intently to everything that the teachers said. It was also great fun to find myself in a diverse group of people with different areas of expertise. It’s so important to keep learning and evolving. The moment you stop learning and evolving you’re finished. That’s why I’m always saying that people should be open to new things and that they should take a look at what’s going on around them.”

Text: Alon Winnen

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