As mayor of Nijmegen, Political Science alumnus Hubert Bruls is at the helm of our university city. Although he always had an interest in history, he also learned about the world of philosophy during his studies. ‘Why are we doing this?’ is a question he asks himself while making decisions.
‘Keep asking essential questions while making decisions’
Don’t drive yourself mad by examining every tiny possibility and, above all, listen to your intuition
Mayor of Nijmegen
Master Political Science at Nijmegen School of Management
What did you want to be as a child?
‘As a child, I remember I thought it would be really interesting to be the captain of a big, ocean-going ship. Sailing across the sea in the merchant navy with all kinds of stuff on board, it seemed special. That passed after a while, although I still enjoy sailing during holidays. Like when I sailed to Dover: that’s when I like the boat trips the most.’
You’re mayor of Nijmegen: are you the captain of the city?
‘Well, running a ship is very different from running a city, of course. As mayor, you steer policy and, naturally, you can’t just make 180,000 residents change course. You have different roles: you are chair of the Municipal Executive, and of the Municipal Council. In addition to my role as representative, my duties in terms of security and public order are hugely important. For example, I have regular talks with the fire brigade and the police about how to keep the city safe for residents. You basically loom over the political parties and aldermen and make decisions. You have to as well: a democracy couldn’t survive if no decisions were made.’
You started studying Political Science: why did you choose this study?
‘I was always interested in history. I found out that people studying history often ended up in research or teaching after their studies during an open day at Radboud University. It didn’t feel like my fate, even though my mother was a teacher. Studying Political Science felt very open, full of possibilities, and I could express my love for history too.’
Did your studies make you see things from a different perspective?
‘What has been very valuable for me is that the study taught me to think abstractly. For example, how do you conduct research? How do you make the link between theory and practice? Since theories never cover everything completely. I also thought it was special and good that we could take philosophy courses. I still ask essential questions when making decisions: why are we doing this? What is this good for?’
How do you contribute to making the environment more sustainable?
‘Sustainability is currently playing an important role, at the municipal level too. It’s fantastic that you’re at the front of everything in the mayor’s position: you have a front seat when it comes to social developments. However, the bottom line with this change is that, ultimately, society has to move. If society doesn’t want to be more sustainable, you can push only so much as government, but it just won’t happen. Of course, there is a guiding role from governments and we can indicate the importance of matters, but the change itself comes from the citizens.’
Do you have any advice for current students?
‘The number of studies on offer is overwhelming and there is more and more to choose from. This is all well and good, but it can be complex too. Make sure you stay true to yourself and choose a study where you feel at home. Don’t drive yourself mad by examining every tiny possibility and, above all, listen to your intuition.’
Over the next five years, Nijmegen School of Management should focus on...
‘... the shift from knowledge to wisdom. Continue to teach students to make connections and ensure they can reflect thoughtfully. Information is everywhere in the digital age. Most of all, keep reading books: it will teach you discipline and you will learn to think better while reading. After all, you become an autonomous person by reading.’
Text: Kelly Janssen