Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Professor Wim Gijselaers shares a meal with student korfball club De Hippo’s
First, the name: why on earth would a korfball club call itself De Hippo’s? And where did that mischievous hippopotamus in the logo come from? According to president Yvonne Simons, the women who founded the club 25 years ago were not exactly skin and bones. What’s more, they all lived in the Heugemerveld district, which is dotted with ten concrete hippos by the artist Tom Claassen. Actually the technical name is hippopotamus amphibious – but hey, who cares?
What does keep the members up at night is the club’s male-female ratio: 25 women and only 3 men. Not even their flyer on communal showering did the trick. Men, Simons says, tend to think “korfball is gay. Not so much in the north, but here in the south at least.”
This Wednesday evening in the hippo district, on the Bloemenweg across from the USA car park, three board members from the korfball club are cooking for Wim Gijselaers. The professor arrives bearing organic Sauvignon blanc – two bottles, to be on the safe side.
“Gosh, a bottle opener”, says Laura Meulenbroeks. Eventually a housemate comes to her aid, and she pours a row of tumblers full to the brim.
The students, all from Brabant, have no idea who their guest is. They guess he must be in cultural studies. Gijselaers laughs. “Because I’ve got a jumper on, no doubt. Actually I’m professor of education at SBE. I do research on all sorts of things related to learning in the workplace.”
“Like what exactly?” asks secretary Lotte van Mil.
“For example, how you can help professionals – accountants, say – avoid making mistakes. Checklists don’t work. So what then? Often it’s about group processes, just like with korfball: you have to know if you can rely on your teammates or colleagues, you have to feel safe and be able to have your say. It’s not all that complicated; my grandmother could explain it.”
“There’s a taboo around making mistakes”, Simons remarks.
“Right,” Gijselaers says, “and yet you learn a lot from them, especially early on.”
The door swings open a little later and Simons reappears with a pot of soup. Courgette soup, her own recipe. “If it’s not tasty, we can always wash it down with the wine”, Meulenbroeks suggests.
“So do you have a family?” Simons asks the professor.
“Yes, my wife and I met in Maastricht. I was here back when the university still fit onto one floor at the Tongersestraat 53. I remember this one tutorial we held in the kitchen of a student house. I was thinking, my god, where am I? That was the year I met my wife: she was 23, the youngest doctor in the Netherlands, and got a job here.”
Gijselaers works all day long, spending his evenings reading scholarly literature. Interesting books, that is, not boring academic articles.
“If you find it boring though ... ” Simons trails off. “I mean, so it never gets fun?”
In fact, Gijselaers seems to be permanently in work mode, even when doing something as mundane as picking up chips from the chip shop in Mheer. “When it’s busy in there I can enjoy the teamwork, observe how they cooperate and remember everything – it’s great.”
On those occasions when he doesn’t have his nose in the books or the chips, there’s a good chance the professor is off giving a lecture. Meulenbroeks asks whether SBE students give a round of applause after a lecture. Simons can’t stand it, she says, because medical students do it all the time. “Come on, the lecturers are just doing their job.”
SBE students only clap if they want to show particular appreciation, Gijselaers says. “So when it happens, it feels special, particularly in a big lecture hall with six hundred students. It’s about capturing their attention, preferably from the very first minute. When they put their phones away or close their laptops, that’s wonderful to see. But you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously as a speaker. Being self-deprecating works. I always make jokes about my physique and compare myself with Pietje Puk [a short, stout fictitious character], who was never going to make it big in basketball.”
Things don’t always go well. Once he stalked out during a presentation for a group of professionals. “I hadn’t prepared anything, got a tough question and said, ‘If you all know it so well, I might as well just leave.’ And then I stormed out. I was shaking when I got outside. Not smart.”
The students find presenting nerve-racking. “It’s harder for us because we’re not experts in the subject, whereas lecturers know exactly what they’re talking about.”
Good point, Gijselaers says. “I should remember that.”
It’s time: a large pot of risotto is plopped down on the table. Van Mil had half cooked the Italian rice earlier, and was just ‘finishing it off’. Praise all round. Cooking’s not for me, says Meulenbroeks. “No patience. I put something in the oven, go and do something else and then see the smoke coming out of the kitchen.”
Gijselaers asks whether the students cook every day. Pretty often, they say, and reasonably healthily. They go easy on the chips, in any case. They don’t buy organic, though; that’s too expensive.
Understandable, says the professor. He himself tries to buy organic as much as possible. “You leave the supermarket with four things and find yourself sixty euros lighter. I also buy from the fruit farmer in Mheer. And I like going to markets abroad.”
“Ewww”, Meulenbroeks cries. “With like, all those whole fish behind the counter.”
“If you go to a restaurant in China you can choose which fish you want to be served out of an aquarium”, Simons says. “Last year I had a summer job in Hong Kong, in the sales department of a company. They really eat everything there – they gnaw on chicken feet right down to the nails.”
Gijselaers was once in a restaurant in Beijing that specialised in duck. “You could choose from ducks of different ages and from different regions. It’s not my thing. So I thought, I’ll just take a prawn from this little bowl on the table. It was quite dark. Straight away I felt something hard in my mouth. Turns out I’d bitten a duck head in half.”
Yvonne Simons * 21 * third-year medicine, president of De Hippo’s
Laura Meulenbroeks * 20 * third-year biomedical sciences * board member of De Hippo’s
Lotte van Mil * 19 * second-year biomedical sciences * secretary of De Hippo’s
Wim Gijselaers * 57 * professor of education * married, two children * lives in Mheer
Scores (maximum of five stars), given by Professor Gijselaers:
Food: 5 stars
Hospitality: 5 stars
Cleanliness: 5 (“I didn’t see the kitchen, but the student room looks good”)