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'Students can come to me if they feel they need help’

Guiding people and helping them flourish. That's what Alexandra Blank's work is about. She has two jobs at W&N and she likes them both. ‘It is precisely because I combine these two jobs that I can do both well'.

‘During the pandemic I started working at LIACS as a student coach. It is a difficult time for many, and that certainly applies to students as well. That is why I have taken on this new role. Students can come to me if they are not doing well or if they want to talk about something. They can go to their study advisor for subject-related advice, and I am their main contact for all other issues. It works really well; students are positive about it, and I am in my element.

Helping students with study progress

In addition, I have been the faculty's student wellbeing officer since November 2021. This is another position that came about because of the corona pandemic. We are now in a phase where I am starting up all kinds of things. For instance, I guide study programmes in setting up initiatives that help students to continue their study with success. Study associations can also come to me with ideas.

These are two nice examples from 2021:

1) Study association Life organised a mental health masterclass for students of LST (Institute LIC). In it, they discussed stress, leisure activities, perfectionism and failure.

2) CML organised coaching sessions for master thesis students about the mental side of writing; how does it feel to throw away written pages? What happens when you fail?

Science movie night and choir

I'm all about action and so I'm concentrating on concrete actions rather than policy. We have to do things now, students need it now. One very concrete idea, for instance, is to appoint writing coaches. We hear from teachers that students find it difficult to do writing assignments. They appreciate it to get help with that.

We have to do things now, students need it now

I am also organising a Science movie night and there might even be a Science Choir. We have also started with intervision meetings for the Faculty, Real Talks. Students are allowed to interview a teacher about his or her personal and professional growth. After the interview, we continue the discussion in small groups about themes such as failure, the future and uncertainty. Ofcourse with the famous Dutch bitterballen and drinks.

Lunch for Ukrainian colleagues and students

Currently, we are also looking at what we can do for people affected by the war. Does it help them if they can postpone deadlines? Do they feel the need to meet each other? For example, this week we are organising a lunch for Ukrainian colleagues and students.

Above all, my work makes me very happy. The conversations with students are inspiring and it is nice when I can add something. In my job as a student coach, I hear what is going on, and I take that with me in my role as wellbeing officer. It's really great that I can combine these functions.’

Because of the pandemic, the Ministry of Education has made money available from the National Programme for Education (NPO). As a faculty, you can use these NPO funds for student welfare and for a better flow of students. FWN programmes, for example, have been given the opportunity to use the funds to strengthen their mentorship and tutoring system. The budget for 2021 has already been used up, Alexandra Blank explains. ‘That shows that the resources are really needed.’

Text: Christi Waanders

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