How I see Radboud - the story of José Sanders

Portrait picture of José Sanders
Make your story visible and personal
José Sanders
Current role
Rector Magnificus Radboud University and Professor of Narrative Communication

Staff and students breath new life into our university's values. This is the story of josé Sanders, Rector Magnificus Radboud University and Professor of Narrative Communication.

I have some ideas on the theme of identity myself, but I was really curious to hear how younger people see it. That’s why I opted for a group with student input. Hearing what others think was more important to me than expressing my own opinion. When asked to describe Radboud University in one word, I said 'Catholic' because I was curious what this original term would evoke now. To me, Catholic stands for a way of seeing and working: open, inclusive, eager to look after everyone. The session primarily brought forth identity terms such as connecting, authentic, solidarity, and emancipatory. ‘Modesty’ was also mentioned: the fact that as an organisation, we're not constantly blowing our own trumpet.

It struck me in the session that it’s quite difficult to express our identity strongly. Things somehow remained a bit general. And that while explicitly linking these terms to their roots in Catholic social thinking – core elements of Radboud University’s identity – can actually be a great way to distinguish ourselves. Take for example bonum commune, the common good. That is very topical now, with the current sustainability challenges, and we could articulate it more. Or human dignity, as a foundation for urgent current debates on inclusion and social safety. The canonisation of Titus Brandsma, which we attended with a delegation, was a unifying experience in that respect. The conversations we had on that occasion also led to deeper questions such as: What are the values that bind us, and how can we use them in the future?

I think it’s important, especially next year as we celebrate our University's centenary, to make the story of our beginnings clearly visible, with visuals and experience stories. We have to continue to tell today’s students where we came from. That we’ve always been a university for people for whom studying at a university was not self-evident. And why are we such a broad-based university now? Because back then, we wanted to do everything ourselves, to make our University truly accessible, just as we now want to make our knowledge accessible to new groups! Make that story visible and personal. It’s not just dusty old stuff.

And we can continue to express and shape those core values, for example by instituting awards or funds – for students, lecturers, and researchers. Prizes can be awarded every year to those who pursue emancipation in their teaching, or to the projects that best highlight sustainability or inclusion. That is how you can make clear what you stand for. Then you don’t need the word Catholic at all.

- José Sanders