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Karin van der Zeeuw: ‘I find our Faculty very diverse, unique and open’

‘My name is Karin van der Zeeuw, I’m 56 and I’ve been working in the Faculty of Humanities for 39 years now, in various positions. Alongside a full-time job as the Head of Educational Support and Educational Logistics, I also care for my mother-in-law, who’s 87, and my 76-year-old sister, who lives on a dyke in Zeeland.’

Two days with a nursery class

‘I do my mother-in-law’s administration and I’m her named contact for various organisations. I also make sure she gets a fresh-cooked meal every day. That’s no trouble for me – I really like cooking. I talk to my sister every day on the phone; I help her with all kinds of things. She lived in Germany for a long time and she was recently widowed, so she needs a bit of help. Caring is in my blood and always has been. When I finished HAVO [higher general secondary education] I went on to do PABO [teacher training] because I wanted to become a teacher, but after a few months, I’d had enough. My first teaching experience placement was with a class of nursery school children, and after two days I knew: this is not the job for me.’

Working for the English study programme

‘After those few months of PABO, in 1979 I started work as a member of the secretarial staff for the English study programme, the equivalent of what is now the Education Administration Office. Both of my parents worked in University cafeterias, my mother for the Dutch study programme and my father for German/French. I hadn’t told them I’d replied to the job advert in the newspaper – they wanted me to finish my PABO – so it was funny when the English programme’s administrator asked my father to let me know I’d got the job! He’d had no idea. I had to promise to get my VWO [pre-university education] diploma, which I did, alongside my work. After that I did all kinds of courses and training programmes, as well as training in Management and Fiscal Economics. Later I was appointed Office Manager for English, and then Coordinator of Studies. In 2010 I started working part-time as Deputy Head of Teaching and Student Affairs (OSZ), and I’ve been working since May 2017 as Head of Educational Support and Educational Logistics.’

Putting students first

‘I’m still fascinated by the world of education because there’s always something happening. Maybe that’s because I find our Faculty very diverse, unique and open. You can say what you think, although you also have to be nuanced because all kinds of things are discussed in Humanities. Having so many different people and so many opinions makes for a very special dynamic. Over time, I’ve taken on more and more projects. Right now I’m working on the programme to harmonise educational logistics processes at the University-wide level, and for that, we want to approach educational logistics from the student’s perspective. All the support we offer has to run as smoothly as possible, which is why we involve students whenever possible in all our projects, and listen to their comments. It’s a two-way process.’

Football fanatic

‘Until two years ago, I was the team manager for both the first and second teams at the UVS football club in Leiden. I was in that role for 28 years. UVS used to play at the top amateur level. I also managed the club’s technical matters for many years. I can’t play football to save my life, but I can certainly say that I know a lot about the game! You can learn something from every trainer: I know how to coach people, what running lines are and how footballers’ physical strengths can best be used. I was also involved in appointing trainers, and I reported live on matches on Unity FM. On Friday nights I used to cook for the whole team, for about 30 people, and at Christmas, we would prepare a full five-course dinner for the team, coaches, sponsors and all their entourage: almost 100 people. That was fantastic.’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.

Femke Wouters
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