Universiteit Leiden

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‘Jasper is the dean Leiden Science needs’

Two deans: one leaving and one just arriving. Paul Wouters was deputising at the Faculty from March up to December. As of January he returns to his 'ordinary' role as dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Jasper Knoester is taking over from him, as he will be leaving Groningen for Leiden. How did Paul experience his time here and why did Jasper take the step to join us? High time for a double interview. In 2 questions and 4 dilemmas you will get to know (almost) everything about these administrators.

2021 was a year of change for you. Paul took on a second deanship, and Jasper left his post as Dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering in Groningen. What was that like?

Paul: ‘I thought it was very educational. Of course I already knew the Faculty of Science, so I was curious what it would be like to work there. It was fun and inspiring. We managed to build a good relationship and create an administrative culture in which we, the Faculty Board and the institutes, run the faculty together. Jasper is now taking over and he is exactly the kind of dean that Leiden Science needs. He has a lot of experience and knows how to create opportunities for the faculty in the outside world.

Jasper: ‘Those are beautiful words from Paul. I hope to be able to add a lot to Leiden using my experience and expertise. I have been dean in Groningen for more than ten years and was ready for the next step. The science faculty in Leiden is very different from the one in Groningen, with new challenges. That gives me energy. It's a great opportunity for me, although it is of course difficult for my family. We are busy looking for a house and hope to move to The Hague in the summer, so that my children can start at their new secondary school after the summer holidays.

Next, 4 dilemmas to get to know a bit more about you:

  1. Phone or mail?

    Jasper: 'I’m more likely to send an app than to call. Of course, it depends on the subject or the person, but if there’s a problem, I prefer to have more direct contact.'

    Paul: 'If you want to have trouble in an organisation, mailing is a sure way to achieve that. Particularly when emotions are running high. So, if it’s something sensitive, call me. Even better: drop by. Teams can sometimes be a good option too. And apping is handy if you know people are busy.'

    Jasper: 'That’s why I’m going to really try to meet people in person if it’s at all possible. It’s disappointing that there are now so many infections; I hadn’t seen that coming. But, I’m staying optimistic and hope we’ll be able to see one another in person in January.'
  2. Public transport or your own car?

    Jasper: 'I like driving, but not for work. It takes up precious time and if I take the train, I can work, probably even better than in the office. I get good vibes from the cadence of the train. Reading, writing, it all goes fine.'

    Paul: 'It’s the train for me too, though I don’t find writing as easy in the train; I prefer to do that at home listening to music. What kind of music? Mostly jazz. Art Blakey and people like that. They’re my heroes from my younger days.' 
  3. Humanities, social sciences or natural sciences?

    Jasper: 'Natural sciences is my first reaction, although that isn’t the only thing I like. In my teens I wanted to be an archaeologist and for me that’s still really interesting. But when I’m out walking or on my bike I mainly notice things that have to do with sound or light. What’s behind that, I ask myself. I also like telling my children about these kinds of things, but they’re teenagers now and they don’t always appreciate my explanations.'

    Paul:  'I had a hard time choosing between chemistry, astronomy or history. I’m interested in all three: from the natural sciences, I find the theory of evolution very interesting; from the humanities I like the philosophy of science and the history, but in the end I look at things from a social sciences perspective.'
  4. Cook or take-away?

    Paul: 'COOK! That’s so much more fun. My husband is a professional chef, but I do some cooking too. Take-away is really a last resort. I enjoy experimenting with dishes very much, which may have to do with the fact that it's about chemistry. And then enjoying a long, relaxing meal together, non of this downing food as fast as you can. No way; a couple hours over a meal is real enjoyment.'

    Jasper: 'I’m no chemist so experimenting doesn’t come easily to me. I can cook and I do it if it’s necessary, but I have a total lack of fantasy with cooking. My children really love it though. Spending hours over a good meal with great people around you, that’s something I enjoy. Nothing brings people together more than eating together. Now that’s a good idea for our faculty: maybe we should eat together more often.'

A final question for both of you: Paul, what will you take with you after your 9 months at the Faculty of Science?

'The Faculty has gained a friend. I can now see much more concretely how we can set up good, interesting cooperation between the social sciences and the natural sciences. Especially in terms of understanding each other and establishing joint thinking.'

And Jasper, what are you going to do, how are you going to start?

'First, I want to get to know the people as quickly as possible and discover what we are good at as a faculty. Then I will continue to build on what Paul started. I also find an open and transparent culture extremely important. Furthermore, a good personnel policy has my full attention and my love is also in representing the faculty to the outside world. I may be able to add a lot in that area and bring people along in that spirit. We should not miss out on external opportunities. I cannot wait to get started.'

Text: Christi Waanders
Picture Paul Wouters: Edwin Weers
Picture Jasper Knoester: Monique Shaw

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