Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Interim vice-dean Maarja Beerkens focuses on happiness and trust: ‘Very proud of teachers and students’

A new face is strengthening FGGA's Faculty Board as vice-dean in the coming months. Maarja Beerkens comes from the Institute of Public Administration, where she has been teaching since 2010 and has also been Associate Professor and Educational Director for many years. The enthusiastic The Hague resident is looking forward to her new challenge at Leiden University: ‘The most beautiful university in the Netherlands’.

Love brought her to The Hague, the city where Maarja loves to be, so it was a welcome surprise that the Institute of Public Administration moved to The Hague a semester after she started at Leiden University in 2010.

Originally she comes from Estonia, where the passion for policy developed. ‘A lot was changing in Estonia and there was a need for policy analysis. I founded a think tank, but after 2-3 years I found that I needed to know more myself.’ She moved to the U.S. and received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: ‘An inspiring place.’

When Maarja was approached to do research at the University of Twente, she left. ‘I enjoyed doing research on science and higher education policy there for two years. That is my specialisation within Public Administration. What kept itching was that I also wanted to teach. The Public Administration team in Leiden is very strong and good, so I switched.’

‘Respect for science’

Years later, she is still very happy with her decision. ‘It is the most beautiful university in the Netherlands. I really like the combination of real traditions, traditional values and the forward-looking orientation. There is a lot of respect for science.' As education director for six years, Maarja saw how committed the teachers are. ‘The workload and demands are high, but in the end everyone is enthusiastic about their profession. Very positive, so I didn't hesitate when I was asked to be vice-dean.’

‘Don't jump to conclusions. I think that's the point of science anyway’

‘Happy teaching’

She joins the board for a short period, but Maarja was given a clear goal. ‘Happy teaching and happy teachers. Very nice goals, I think. First and foremost, we want to keep all the good things. We have very strong programmes and our faculty is growing fast. It is important that all new initiatives, such as minors and programmes, start well. Workload remains an issue; I hope to mean something in that. Teacher autonomy, for instance, is good for education and for the teachers themselves. That we have confidence in the content of their teaching and other decisions.’

Maarja is proud of both lecturers and students. ‘We have a lot of energy to do new things, to develop. Our teaching is innovative in every way. I am also proud of the students, for coming to study in The Hague and making it a student city. Over the past decade, the city has really changed, Leiden students have really contributed to that. It's livelier, more international, more sociable.’

‘The workload and demands are high, but in the end everyone is enthusiastic about their profession'

Looking for the truth

Furthermore, Maarja likes to see students being challenged, leaving the comfort zone and thus growing. She likes to contribute to this. ‘Good teaching also requires safety, that students feel free to experiment, change their minds and also make mistakes. In these times, it is also important for students to search for truth. That you take the time and rest to go into depth and fully understand the causes of problems. Don't jump to conclusions. I think that's what science is all about anyway. Taking a step back, to see from a distance exactly what is going on and important. And then back to practice.’

Maarja wants to convey a message to students: ‘It's a unique time in your life, use all the opportunities that university offers you. Try things out and see what is important to yourself. Don't forget to take care of yourself, you have a whole life ahead of you. Give it time, it's not a race.’

Text: Magali van Wieren

On 1 May, current dean Erwin Muller will leave for Leiden, where he will become Vice-Rector of Organisational Development. Current vice-dean Koen Caminada will become dean until 1 September. Maarja Beerkens will temporarily assume the position of vice-dean (0.4 fte).

The board of FGGA from May until September.
This website uses cookies.  More information.