Your university studies are not an individual activity - column Han van Krieken

I don’t really like the saying that your student years are the best time of your life. I have experienced every phase of my life as special and good, of course with the ups and downs that come with them. However, my student years were very decisive. I learnt what it is like to study and found out a lot about myself at the same time: in the classroom — but certainly outside of it too — as a result of conversations and activities with students of other study programmes. I learnt that the university is not all education and science: it’s primarily the students who live and learn with each other.

As Rector Magnificus, I have noticed the importance of that even more: the university and its staff members try to make the study programmes as good as possible, but the extra something that is so very crucial is mainly brought by the students themselves. I am referring in particular to the associations: study associations, social clubs, sports and cultural associations, organisations with a religious or social focus, and so on. Studying would be nothing without them.

All those associations and organisations must be managed, and students do this themselves. I have seen what that demands, and I admire the many student board members at our university. I know that it is not easy to find people who are willing to take on the responsibility, certainly not after a period in which associations had difficulties due to the many measures introduced as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, associations may have been more important than ever.

It is of course quite a challenge to become a board member, you are entrusted with an enormous responsibility. You only partly know what to expect; the rest is unknown. The same is true for when I became Rector Magnificus.

It helped me to realise that the people who asked me to take on this job thought it was right for me and that those who appointed me had the confidence that I could do it. I think that if you are asked, you should look at it like this: it must be right for you and you will be able to do it.

What does management mean, actually? Renè ten Bos, Philosopher Laureate and professor at our university once talked about the two elements involved in management, Gloria and Regna. When thinking about management, most people first think of the Regna: the scheduling, organising, meeting, taking action. This is really important of course, and playbooks and planning schedules for this are ready to go. However, the Gloria is equally important. Gloria is about connection, inspiration, and representation. For the members, you, as a board member, are a visible symbol for the association, both externally and internally, a source of inspiration, and a role model. This may sound a bit serious, but it is really a beautiful thought. It took me a while before I understood, but now I have come to regard it as very valuable.

I meet many student board members at the start of their terms and again at the end. I know that in my first year as Rector Magnificus, when I spoke to students who were very enthusiastically starting their term as board members, I sometimes thought: “Do you know what you’re getting into? It won’t be all fun and games: do you have enough life experience to handle difficult problems?” Now I know better. Because I have seen so many students grow during the year, I no longer have that thought. I know that it will work out, that student board members support each other well, and that they know that they can turn to the university if it is truly complicated or difficult, and that the university will be there for them. In fact, I would like everyone with the right capabilities to be a board member to experience that during their studies, and, as with everything, you experience it by doing it!

Han van Krieken is Radboud University's Rector Magnificus. The other members of the board are Daniël Wigboldus (president of Radboud University's executive board) and Agnes Muskens (vice president). All members of the executive board regularly write a column.

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