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'The world is changing and we cannot afford to stay the same.'

How can we cooperate better as a Faculty? Both with each other and with the outside world. Around 70 students and staff discussed this during the latest strategy session in Corpus. Keynote Harry van Dorenmalen, former president of IBM Europe: 'You know best what this Faculty stands for and what it needs.'

'It is nice to see that there is a broad representation of the Faculty again this afternoon. It shows that you all care,' said Dean Jasper Knoester in his opening speech. 'I hope this session will be as lively as the past sessions.' As a large organisation, we need a good Faculty strategy, Knoester emphasises again. 'It's important to have a compass to help us navigate. The world is changing and we cannot afford to stay the same. We have to keep asking ourselves how we match the changes in the outside world.'

A critical look at the Faculty

To have the audience look at the Faculty through a different lens for a moment, keynote Harry van Dorenmalen asks the audience critical questions. 'Suppose you go to the Jinek television programme, how would you describe the Faculty?' he asked the audience. 'We train young people to solve the world's future problems,' someone replies. 'But other Dutch universities say the same,' Van Dorenmalen says. 'We should take a moment to think about what makes this faculty unique. What do you have to offer that others don't?'

To get there, Van Dorenmalen offers some pointers. 'We need to look at those elements: now, wow and how. Now: how do you stand in the world as a Faculty? Show that you are part of what is going on and that you know what you're talking about. Wow: Look at the three pillars you already have to make change happen. In your case, I would say: harnessing technology, looking at the power of the individual and trusting each other's ability. And the how: how are you going to implement it? Decide how you are going to do it and describe it in an easy way.'

'Let's be that barracuda today'

Van Dorenmalen concludes with a story about a scientific experiment involving barracudas. 'Scientists put a group of these carnivorous fish together in a tank. Behind a partition was a piece of meat.' The fish tried to reach the piece of meat for a while, each time colliding with their heads on the partition. When the scientists removed the partition three days later, the barracudas did not swim to the piece of meat due to conditioning that they could not. 'So how do they get there? By adding one new barracuda to the group who looks at it with fresh eyes and does swim to the meat. Let's all be that barracuda today.'

Research facilities managed by the Faculty or individuals

With that refreshing perspective in mind, the participants split up. In nine groups, they discussed a variety of dilemmas related to collaboration. 'In Law, you only need a lecture hall to teach,' said someone on the dilemma of research facilities. 'That's really different at this Faculty.'

So how should we design these research facilities? And who should manage them? 'That depends on the type of facility,' someone echoes. 'If we arrange everything at Faculty level, we might lose the flexibility needed for creative research. But neither should we regulate everything completely separately. An intermediate solution would be ideal.'

Lively discussions on research and education

And how to proceed with the growth of our Faculty? And with the balance between research and teaching, for example? 'I think it's good to stick to the fact that all researchers also teach,' says one scientist. 'Otherwise, there will be a too great distinction between the researchers and the teaching group.' But what if someone actually likes one of the two much more than the other, someone objects.

The table discussions proceed smoothly and by thinking together, ideas flow. 'It was a fantastic discussion about basic research versus applied research,' says professor Eric Danen. 'It is enlightening that a number of scientists with opposing starting points ended up reaching the same conclusion together.' There was therefore a really pleasant atmosphere, adds ICTO coordinator Anne-Martine Gielis. 'Everyone was sitting at the table with the right attitude: ready to give input.'

What do alumni think?

At some tables, very concrete proposals emerged. 'We are always looking for the right balance between imparting knowledge and skills,' says astronomer Anthony Brown. 'We feel that this is already going pretty well, but it might be a good idea to ask alumni where things didn't go well.'

For associate professor Thanja Lamberts, it was already the third strategy session she attended. 'An awful lot of good ideas came out of it, I feel. I'm looking forward to seeing how those feed back into the strategic plan.'

A positive retrospective

Knoester closes the afternoon with a poll of the audience: how did they experience the afternoon? On the screen, the words 'inspiring' and 'interesting' appear large. 'I feel that bridges were built here between people who did not know each other beforehand,' says Knoester. 'Everyone interacted well, and you can see that in this poll. I can see that the future of our Faculty matters to people. That makes me very happy.'

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