By Cille Kaiser
— Amsterdam University College has announced Dr. Mariëtte Willemsen as the new Head of Studies (HoS) for the Humanities department. She was offered the position after going through an open application process. Dr. Willemsen officially took up the position on October 1st, 2016, succeeding Dr. Rebecca Lindner, who left AUC at the end of the last academic year for the University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College. Dr. Marco de Waard served as the interim HoS for Humanities in the meantime.
Dr. Lindner, who took up the position in 2010, said she is “thrilled that [Dr. Willemsen] is the Head of Studies for Humanities. Since I have known her, she has been a role model for me – for her enthusiasm and ideas, her wit, her care of people, her ability to communicate across the different parts of our population at AUC, and her understanding of the often fine balance – between managerial, collegial, and teaching roles – that is required of faculty who work in administrative positions”.
Dr. Willemsen, an Amsterdam local, studied Dutch Linguistics and Literature before picking up Philosophy. She eventually received a scholarship to study Modern Philosophy in Germany for a year, with a focus specifically on Nietzsche, whose Philosophy became the topic of her PhD. Before coming to AUC in September 2011, Dr. Willemsen worked as a Professor of Philosophy at the VU University for roughly 20 years. Initially a part-time Professor in Ethics at AUC, Willemsen soon started working full-time, also teaching History of Philosophy and Modern Philosophical Texts. She also served as the Capstone Coordinator between 2012 and 2014 and then as AUC’s Senior Tutor for two years until October 1st, 2016, when she was succeeded by Huan Hsu.
“I’m delighted that Dr. Willemsen is our new Head of Studies for Humanities”, said AUC’s Dean, Prof. Dr. Murray Pratt. “She brings experience and expertise, together with remarkable insight and a caring attitude, to the position. While she will be missed in her previous role as Senior Tutor, we have found a first-rate replacement for this important position too”.
Janna Schoenberger, who has experience in working together with Dr. Willemsen both as a tutor and as a Humanities core faculty member, said she was very happy to hear about Dr. Willemsen’s new position. “In her leadership roles at AUC, such as the Capstone Coordinator, and later Senior Tutor, [Dr. Willemsen] was dedicated to developing AUC, and helping all the students and her colleagues do their very best work. She has always been excited to experiment with new projects, and first considers their inherent value, which is motivating and inspiring”, Schoenberger said.
AUC has a Head of Studies for each of the three disciplines, as well as for the Academic Core. “One of the main concerns of the HoS is to make [the curriculum] work, and to make sure that there is a fine, consistent, coherent and also stimulating program”, Dr. Willemsen explained. “As a head of studies, I am taking part in discussions with other EMT members”. The EMT (extended management team) at AUC consists of Dean Murray Pratt, Managing Director Belinda Stratton, Director of Education Ramon Puras, all the Heads of Studies, and the Senior Tutor.
Additionally, Dr. Willemsen will stay in close touch with AUC’s core faculty, as well as staff from AUC’s parent universities: the University of Amsterdam and the VU University. “It’s a big difference”, Dr. Willemsen said. “I used to have a lot of conversations with students [as a Senior Tutor]. Now I will work more with staff than with students”.
However, Dr. Willemsen does intend to communicate with students and actively engage with them. She deems it important to “see things from a student’s perspective”, and plans to work together with the focus group(s) led by the Student Council. “One thing I would [also] like to do after next week is to sit in with courses to also have experience from within”, she said. “Especially with courses that are a bit more far away from my expertise”.
Although she now oversees the content and future of AUC’s Humanities curriculum, Dr. Willemsen does not feel the need for any drastic changes. “I think it’s a good program — otherwise I would not have applied”, she said. “That is also what I said at some point in those interview rounds, if you are looking for someone to change everything then I’m not the right person. That’s just not me”.
Dr. Willemsen attended her first Humanities staff meeting as the new HoS last Friday, 14 October. It was “a good conversation, an exchange of thoughts about all sorts of things going on right now, ranging from the [timetable] for next semester to our peer-review procedure”, she said. “It is stimulating to see how dedicated [the Humanities] staff is.”