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“Do you still enjoy life, with four women at home?”

“Do you still enjoy life, with four women at home?”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Observant

SBE-dean shares a meal with Maastricht Student Swimming Club Tiburón

“Burgers are always good!” Sjoerd van Dijk calls from the kitchen as he does his final check: “Onions in the pan, potatoes in the oven, pasta salad, tomatoes.” Tonight’s guest – Professor Philip Vergauwen, dean of the School of Business and Economics – had already shown up at the Noormannensingel a week earlier. Someone had got their wires crossed. Still, he left two bottles of wine behind, and behold: the Chilean Chardonnay is still in the fridge, unopened, by the time he returns the next Tuesday evening. “Of course”, says Van Dijk, who lives in the student house in Wyckerpoort. Together with fellow Tiburón board member Tobie van Zwieten, he is in charge of the cooking tonight.
The Noormannensingel is not in a typical student neighbourhood. There are many families around, and a high school. “It’s a nice place”, says Van Dijk. No problems with the neighbours. Vergauwen, leaning back in a lawn chair, jokes: “No, he has no problems with the neighbours. But they do with him.”
The dean asks who does the gardening. “I do”, says Van Dijk. “I’ll be getting started tomorrow.” Van Zwieten looks around, wondering what on earth needs to be done with a garden that is mostly tiled. Van Dijk points to the edge of the terrace. “Don’t you see the weeds over there?”

Vergauwen: “So you’re all swimmers? Yes, now that you mention it, I can tell from your arms”, he says, looking at the broad shoulders of Van Zwieten. “And all three of you live here?” They don’t, but they do eat together regularly.
One of the students has noticed that Vergauwen is Belgian. “Yes, I live in Borgloon, on the other side of Tongeren”, the dean says. “Half an hour’s drive away, which is just enough to switch on or off. When I’m home, I’m really home. My two oldest daughters are studying in Leuven and Ghent, and the youngest is going to Liège. But they all come home regularly. And no, not just to do their laundry. I’m just ‘pap’, not dean. To them I’m someone who knows nothing about higher education, has no idea how a faculty works, doesn’t assess students, knows nothing of exams. And I play it up a bit too. With me they can just be kids who study. At home I’m different than when I’m at work.” “A professional versus a personal self”, says Van Dijk. “I can imagine that.”

As the burgers sizzle in the pan, Vergauwen talks about the attitudes of (mostly Belgian) colleagues who have a “fundamental distrust” of students. “They think students are lazy, copy other people’s work, aren’t interested in getting smarter.” Medical student Jeroen van Brakel chuckles. “It’s such a load of rubbish”, Vergauwen goes on. “Surely we as lecturers don’t have to go around giving out red and yellow cards? Let students be students, let it happen, have more faith. At SBE we let our students furnish an entire lounge. They were given every freedom, and money for the project. Why would I bother with an expensive architect? Students know best what they want.”
Medical student Van Brakel has no idea who his own dean is. “Albert Scherpbier”, says Vergauwen. “A really nice guy! Bit of a rebel too. He works in the Lambert van Kleeftoren.” “In the what?” asks Van Brakel. “In the hospital’s main admin building, you can’t just wander in there”, laughs Vergauwen. “Speaking of deans: I got lucky, working with four female deans: Bernadette, Anita, Hildegard and Sophie. Albert and I are the only men! Yes! But Albert’s a bit older, he’s been priced out of the market for ages”, he laughs. Van Brakel googles ‘Albert Scherpbier’ and conjures up a picture. “Could well be that I’ve seen him around.”

“You’ve just finished the Maastricht Science Programme? Fantastic”, Vergauwen says to Van Zwieten. “If I could choose again, I might study systems biology. You know Thomas Cleij, your dean? I’m a big fan of his. That’s a dean who’s prepared to give people the finger now and then, figuratively speaking of course. He’s very relaxed, thinks outside the box.”
Van Dijk: “Is that the guy with an app of South Park?” Van Zwieten nods. “He also imports Coca Cola from the USA. Apparently doesn’t like the Dutch stuff.”
As the red wine – an Italian Morellino di Scansano – is being poured, the food arrives on the table. Full plates with two large burgers in buns. “Do you know Burgermeester nearby zoo Artis?” asks Vergauwen. The students shake their heads. “They make the tastiest burgers, but this definitely comes close. Top! Homemade burgers, crispy bun, onions.”
“You have three daughters and a wife. Do you still enjoy life?” jokes Van Dijk. “Sure”, laughs Vergauwen. “You’ll think I’m crazy, but I love ironing. I iron every Sunday morning. It’s kind of like meditating and you get an immediate result. I iron my own shirts on Sundays, and better than my wife does. I’m not a big sports fan, but I do enjoy teaching. I teach postdocs in two four-hour sessions, one right after the other – that’s sport too.”

In a few months Van Brakel will head for China, Vietnam and Cambodia, followed by his first medical internship in India. “But first I have to pass my exams, it’s sink or swim time. I do study, but sometimes I think I try to cram too much stuff in my head.” “You should study more like me”, says Van Dijk. “After a long day of study I have a beer in the evening. Relaxation as reward.” Vergauwen chimes in reassuringly: “Jeroen, son, it’ll be fine. You’ll pass.”
Van Dijk studies at the Hotel Management School and shares a house with a number of Maastricht University students. “What I notice is that uni students deal with more content, but are much less good at personal contact. When I see how self-absorbed they are – especially the Germans – I think: ‘How are you going to be able to work in a team later?’” “That will catch up with them”, says Vergauwen, who recognises the attitude. “Germans in particular place huge pressure on individual performance.”

“So about that laundry”, Van Dijk says after the meal to Vergauwen, who is admiring a dish with sliced pineapple, melon and figs. “Shall I make a burger for you next week in exchange for a basket of laundry?”

Every week Observant invites a professor to have dinner with students in a student house


Sjoerd van Dijk * 22 * fourth-year student at the Hotel Management School Maastricht * Tiburón activities coordinator

Tobie van Zwieten * 21 * recent graduate of the Maastricht Science Programme * Tiburón secretary

Jeroen van Brakel * 23 * third-year medical student * Tiburón president

Prof. Philip Vergauwen * 48 * professor of Management Accounting and Control, dean of the School of Business and Economics * wife Sigrid, three daughters Margot, Alice and Emma * lives in Borgloon

Scores (up to 5 stars) given by the guest, professor Vergauwen:

*Hospitality: 5 stars

*Quality of food: 4 stars “I can envisage more of a challenge”

*Cleanliness: 3 stars “Probably the max for students, haha”



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