Lector Inclusion and the Creative Industries at Inholland University of Applied sciences
Lector Regional transitions towards Circular Agriculture at Van Hall Larenstein UAS
Name: Joke Hermes
Master’s degree: Political science at University of Amsterdam
PhD degree: Social Sciences at University of Amsterdam
Current position: Lector Inclusion and the Creative Industries at Inholland University of Applied sciences & lecturer Media Studies at University of Amsterdam
I have always been an audience researcher. I like talking with people and finding out what connects (and divides) them across conversations. For a career I wanted what I am happy to have: a job in which I can work with young researchers and to do audience research myself: to show others how exciting puzzling through interview transcripts and online conversations can be but also how useful and inspiring. Despite our academic degrees, we so often see so little of what goes on in the world, in other people's thoughts and feelings.
Looking back, I feel I was extremely lucky. Among the first generation of 'lectoren' to be hired, we had the luxury of carving out our own roles and duties and to be able to insist on not being overpaid teachers but to work with both colleagues and students to standards of academic research. The role of lector is not always recognized or well-respected. The Dutch academic landscape has its snobbishness and hogescholen (Universities of Applied Sciences) continue to be looked down on by some. I have been asked often whether I did not want to 'come back' to academia? The answer has always been no: none of my colleagues in universities have the luxury of being fully in a research job, or to work with as inspiring a mix of early-career and more senior researchers eager to learn and develop.
In my academic work, I was both a lecturer and a (founding) editor of an academic journal. A colleague and friend recommended me to the then Inholland department in charge of research. I have helped others in similar ways. None of this is 'taking a career step', it is about the value of being generous and taking time to help others. I do believe though if you want to have a career, or rather do work you like, you are well rewarded in everything you do for others.
I like doing research and coaching others in doing so. As lector you work with early career researchers and help them grow. Practice-based research itself is both about real-world problems and questions and the value of being of use, and about the fun of solving puzzles, shifting frames, allowing for a new perspective. There is nothing I like better. It fits my extremely nosy character.
The fit is also there because Inholland has provided a home for research and has dared to take the time for it to grow and become good. They have allowed us researchers to connect across knowledge institutions into centers of expertise that continue to strengthen practice-based research. Inholland has recognised that an open connection to academic research and publishing in academic journals works as a quality incentive for writing in professional publications and the teams in which we take part to co-develop new teaching forms and content. I am deeply thankful for all of this.
Be generous, help others, build a network on shared interest and engagement and not for how it might be useful to you. Don't over-rationalize and overburden connections but nurture them as work friendships. Secondly, if you are looking for a research job, do not be blinded by prejudice about universities of applied science. Forget that last bit, 'applied science' in any case. The knowledge we develop, the design research that we do in our part of the world is a powerful thing, connecting further and deeper into academic knowledge as we speak. For that matter, outside of the Netherlands, it will be the work you are able to do as a hogeschool-researcher that counts and not the institution's status.
Name: Rik Eweg
PhD degree: Agricultural Sciences (Spatial Planning) at Wageningen University
Current position: Lector Regional transitions towards Circular Agriculture at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences
I did not have a clear career ambition. During my PhD and subsequent PostDoc position, I was notably driven by interest and curiosity. My interest focused on landscapes: how do people interact with landscapes, how is landscape formed as a result of human activities and how do landscapes influence people and societies. Furthermore, I love experiencing nature and both urban and rural landscapes. Besides the interest, my ambition was to play a role in improving human-landscape relationships by making them more sustainable.
Looking back, it was not very hard. Keeping my interest as a compass in mind, helped me to make the right choices. Often I had to make quick choices when I was approached for a certain position or had to decide whether to apply for a position, but keeping my interests in mind helped me also to develop a network, meeting people and organizations which had the same interest. The uncertainties I encountered were mostly related to the duration of the contracts, which all were temporary, varying from four to six years. This sometimes gave me stress, but I always discovered that it was good to change positions after about six years, discovering new organizations and meeting new people.
Before becoming a lector I had four different positions (including PhD) and my position at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences was the fifth. The positions were in research, policy and innovation, so diverse and on different levels. This variety, but all relating to people-landscape interaction helped a lot. If I would have stayed in the same position for thirty years I would never have obtained this position. What also helped was that I collaborated with, and knew the decision makers who apparently had confidence in my competences and helped me to obtain my present position.
My current position does give a lot of freedom to work on what is still my curiosity and interest: human-landscape interactions. It is nice to work with a team and in an organization with people that share the same interest. During my career I learned that not only curiosity and an innovative mindset are important, but that good management, meticulous procedures and balanced budgets are equally important. I still do research myself, but mostly as a coordinator, coaching colleagues and students to work in applied research. I also design and organize new research projects.
My career ambition during my PhD was to do cutting-edge research on coastal and fluvial environments in a range of different countries. The international aspect of academia has always attracted me. I find it stimulating and enriching to work with different people with a variety of backgrounds offering new perspectives.
It wasn’t hard to fulfill my ambition. But while reflecting on it, I realize it came with quite some uncertainty along the way and it needs to fit your personal situation.
In my case, my partner also works in academia which makes it easier on the one hand because the dynamics are understood but more complex on the other hand due to the challenges to keep up two academic careers, ideally in one city. We worked in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom and the biggest challenge we always faced was to find a meaningful position for the other to be able to also continue this career.
Excellent mentors and a little luck of being at the right place at the right time. Mentors who believe in you are key because they can provide a stepping stone, guidance and advice at the right time, and simply a much-needed friendly face to discuss life and career every now and then. I have been fortunate enough to have a couple of great mentors who really helped me to kick-start my career.
Additionally, nobody fares well without a little luck. I was recently promoted to lector of our research group but that only happened following the retirement of our previous lector. That said, I have always expressed my ambition to once lead our research group, so if there is something you really want to pursue it is of course important that others are also aware of this ambition.
I really enjoy my current position because it combines research, education and working with practitioners. After my PhD I have worked as a postdoc and also in government and consultancy. None of these sectors fits me 100% but in my current role I can work with all of them and I find that very stimulating. Research is the essence of my current role but with important spin-offs to our educational programmes and with impact on the practices of regional coastal managers. This is not one-way traffic: students are highly involved in our research and also with practitioners we co-create our research.
An academic career is a marathon and not a sprint. Be open to the many possibilities out there and dare to explore the unknown. I highly recommend to also spend some time in other sectors like government and consultancy. It is enriching and also provides context and a fresh perspective on academia. For a career at a university of applied science, a wide skill set is required and a range of experiences will certainly help with that.
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