"Researchers are important in societal debate"

Mathijs Noij studied Human Geography and has now worked at the independent university magazine Vox for eight years. He started out as a journalist, but has since been promoted to editor-in-chief as well. The fieldwork he did abroad during his studies made a deep impression on him: “I always wanted to explore the world.”

Verticaal portret Mathijs Noij

I'm not so much interested in exploring one theme in depth, but rather in highlighting different topics 


Mathijs Noij

Current role

Editor-in-chief at Vox

Previous education

Master Human Geography

Who did you want to be when you were a child? 

“An inventor. Even though I had no idea of what an inventor actually did. Nowadays I would rather call it a scientist. But if you were to ask me now if I still want to be that, I'd have to say ‘no’. I'm not so much interested in exploring one theme in depth, but rather in highlighting different topics. Which is precisely what I get to do as a journalist.” 

Why did you choose to study Human Geography? 

“I left secondary school at 17. I didn't have a clear career path in mind, and was mainly looking for a broad education. My cousin had studied human geography and was very enthusiastic about it. When I went to have a look for myself at what this study programme and studying at a university entailed, it really appealed to me. This study programme was a good match for my social interest. Plus, Human Geography is not just about the Netherlands, but about the whole world. It asks, for example, how people behave, and why. I found that really interesting.”

Did your study programme help you see things from a different perspective?

“I always wanted to explore the world. During my studies, we made frequent trips abroad, to places like Berlin, Brussels, and Morocco. In Morocco, I interviewed migrants who were stuck in the country and actually wanted to go to Europe. That research project made a big impression on me. Going abroad and doing fieldwork makes you see things differently. I think doing those interviews also paved the way for a career in journalism.”

Portret Mathijs Noij

So journalism was not immediately on your radar? 

“My journalistic ambitions emerged during my Master's programme, when I wanted to do something in the field in addition to writing my thesis. I did an internship at a journalism agency, Lokaal Mondiaal. In that context, I took on two journalistic assignments and ended up going to Brazil and South Africa. In South Africa, everything suddenly came together, and I did my application interview for the 'Postacademische Dagbladopleiding Journalistiek’ in Rotterdam from there, a study programme in Journalism for post graduates. I was accepted into the study programme, and from there, I was able to find work as a journalist. After six months of working for de 'Persdienst’ at Wegener, I joined Vox. Even when I was still a novice journalist, I was allowed to do lots do challenging things, from coordinating the website to taking charge of creating the magazine. I was asked to act as deputy editor-in-chief a few times, and from there it became my permanent position.”

What do you actually do as editor-in-chief?

“The most important thing is that as editor-in-chief I'm responsible for what Vox puts out. But I also look at Vox's position now and in the long term. What does it actually mean to be an independent university magazine? In this context, it’s important that we continue to gauge the needs of our target group: the lives of students are different now from eight years ago. For example, they spend a lot of time on social media, so that is something we respond to.”

How do you engage with sustainability in your current job? 

“By thinking about circulation, for example. We don't want bins full of left-over magazines. But we are especially critical of the University's own sustainability campaign: is it just marketing or does the University want to make real changes? We’ve written a lot about that in recent years.” 

Do you have any advice for current students?

“Don't stare yourself blind at your study programme and potentially a job on the side, but keep looking at what else you can gain from your time at the University. As for Vox, we’re not just there to follow University news; we also want to be a springboard for students who have journalistic ambitions. There are people who used to write for Vox who now write for national dailies.”  

Over the next five years, Nijmegen School of Management should focus on... 

“... the big social issues. How can science contribute to a social debate that is often emotional and derailed? Think of discussions around nitrogen, refugees, and the climate. It is important that scientists speak out about these topics and come up with substantiated facts. Researchers at Nijmegen School of Management have so much knowledge on these kinds of social issues that I think they have an important role to play when it comes to addressing these issues in society.”

Text: Kelly Janssen