I am a full professor in Economics of Education at the department of MILE (Macro International and Labour Economics) of the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE). Next to research and teaching, I am involved in many activities, of which I want to highlight some here.
Educatieve Agenda Limburg
I am program manager of a program called Educatieve Agenda Limburg (EAL). This is a longterm regional knowledge infrastructure in education in which all partners collaborate on the improvement of education. The partners include institutes of higher education (Maastricht University, Open University, Zuyd Applied University, Fontys Applied University), schools for medium vocational education, secondary education and primary education, and the regional government (Provincie Limburg). This research-practice partnership in education is quite unique in the Netherlands, since all partners of the educational chain are involved as of 2014. The EAL is an important platform for connecting partners for projects and contributes to evidence-based education within the challenges of the regional education.
An important instrument within the EAL is the OnderwijsMonitor Limburg (OML). This is a longitudinal database in which we bring together test scores with information about the social-emotional skills of students and their socio-economic background of students. The monitor is created and updated in continuous dialogue between researchers, school leaders and teachers, to make sure validated instruments are used for important topics in educational practice. The monitor is used to provide schools with feedback on their education, that they use for strategic planning. The monitor is also used to evaluate projects in education, such as personalised learning, the development of teenage colleges, the reduction of early school dropout, or the improvement of equal opportunities in education.
PhD supervision and management tasks
I also supervise several PhD students. I love to work with PhD students. They can have very innovative, fresh ideas, and it is rewarding to help them in their further development as researchers. I also work a lot with people who pursue a PhD next to their job. Many of them are involved in educational practice in their daily jobs. They bring in new perspectives, arising from their own practice. I learn a lot from that. They are often very motivated to find answers. It is challenging for them to work on their thesis next to their jobs, and it requires a different kind of supervision. Making clear agreements, setting realistic expectations and flexibility are key factors.
Within our university I participate in several committees or task forces. I think it is important to be involved in shaping the future of a department, faculty/school, or university. Among other things I am deputy head of our department, and in that role I learn a lot about strategic decision-making. It is not easy to make decisions from which all players benefit. A lot of different factors play a role, and many things are at stake. More than it seems on a first impression. I really enjoy getting insights in these processes and thinking along in the next ‘best’ steps to take.
I was also chair of the newly launched tenure track committee of our School (faculty). In this committee we discuss the criteria for tenure tracks within business and economics and we advise the Dean on actual cases. This is also not an easy task, and criteria might seem clear-cut, but in practice more leniency is involved. In academia currently changes are taking place with more room for diversity in career paths. Not only one road to success. Such a transition is not taking place overnight and involves weighing pros and cons and taking careful steps. Again, I enjoy learning from others in decision-making and contributing actively to this transition in academia.
Whereas some of my colleagues view such management tasks as “admin”, I really see it as an enrichment of my work package. It helps me to gain understanding in how academia in general, and my university, school or department work and why certain decisions are being made. I really feel blessed to be able to contribute to important developments therein.