In an empty St. Jans church – without prize winners, without the future honorary doctor Jaap van Dissel, and with her gown, cap and rector’s chain on a mannequin beside the pulpit – Rianne Letschert praised the students. Their study results don’t seem to have suffered because of the crisis. But she is also worried about their well-being. She impresses upon them that studying is more than just achieving good grades. It is also about developing skills that are hugely important to the rest of your life: flexibility, perseverance, resilience, looking after yourself properly, physically and mentally, and last but not least, dealing with adversity.
COVID-19 has caused a lot of sorrow and stress, but it also became a catalyst and experimental plot for innovation, said Letschert. Not just when it comes to education, which went from on campus to online and hybrid overnight, but also working from home is now really in the picture, just like the need to be more flexible when it comes to “obligations and activities” that staff members have outside work.
The rector finished optimistically. “We have overcome tremendous obstacles.” Employees have shown that they make their contributions to society in various ways: as researchers, leaders, parents, etcetera. Various roles that will receive recognition with the introduction of the Recognition and Appreciation project for scientists (a national initiative of which Letschert is the figurehead and that should have been the celebration day theme).
As she had said before, Letschert cannot wait to launch a similar national programme for support staff as well, and in that way improve the career tracks for them too.
Innovations don’t come without a struggle. And they can only be successful, if “we do it together,” the rector emphasised. “Suggestions and feedback” from all corners of the UM are crucial. Or: “Please unmute – I want to hear what you have to say.”