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Board change during turbulent times: 'I have the utmost confidence in Suzy'

On 1 September, Menno Tuurenhout handed over the position of Director of Operational Management in the Faculty Board to Suzy Sirks-Bong. How does he look back on his time as Director? And how does Suzy see the future? A double interview.

Menno, five years ago you started as Director of Operational Management, how have you seen the faculty evolve from then till now?  

Menno: 'Five years ago I was asked by Willem te Beest to switch from Social Sciences - my workplace at the time - to Humanities. My assignment was to bring peace, relaxation and trust. Bringing people together is something I like to do, and something I am committed to. I'm very happy to see that this has improved over the past five years. People drop by each others offices more than before and I believe there is more dialogue and more respect for each other. I am glad that I have been able to contribute to this, although of course it has been an achievement of the faculty as a whole.'

What are your plans after September 1st?

Menno: 'After September 1, I will be working as a board advisor for the faculty for seven months. This way I will remain available for NIMAR and the Humanities Campus project, among other things.  In addition, I will start working at the Leiden Law School, to assist the Director of Operational management there, one day a week. That is where I started, as a student, so I'm really looking forward to that. After that, I will work as an advisor to the Executive Board.'

Suzy, what is it like for you to start this job during these strange times?

‘These unforeseen circumstances have strengthened me, and I consider them to be an extra dimension to the challenge. Luckily, I already started working with Menno a couple of months ago, even before corona, so I feel very well prepared. And I know that I do not have to do it alone. In addition to a rich palette of research and education, the Humanities faculty also has a very rich palette of support staff. During the pandemic they have shown that they are excellent.'

During the official handover, Menno gave Suzy a symbol of the task that lays ahead. A small figurine of a thinker represented the responsibility of a Director of Operational Management to be thoughtful and to make decisions.

Menno, what do you think are the biggest challenges the faculty currently faces?

Menno: ‘Specific to the faculty, the biggest challenge is: more cooperation. If we really want to maintain that rich palette of study programmes and expertise, in my view, there has to exist a better collaboration between the various disciplines and departments. In addition, the economic situation we are in as a result of the pandemic is, of course, a major challenge. One that the entire academic world faces, and which will have financial consequences for us in the years to come. Something positive, however, is that the faculty is in good financial shape. The budgets for 2021 and 2022 are slightly positive. This financial buffer ensures that Suzy and the Faculty Board have two years to anticipate the financial consequences of the crisis.'

Suzy, how do you see the challenges that Menno mentions?

Suzy: 'I recognize the challenges Menno mentions. The most important thing, I think, is that we will move forward together in the challenges we face. I have a lot of confidence in the colleagues at the faculty. I also think that the pandemic has exposed many things. Negative, but also positive. It has brought tremendous solidarity, especially in the first few months. But we don't know how long this situation will remain and we have to figure out how to proceed. I see that as an opportunity. We have to look for creative solutions. And I would like to help with that, together with the suport staff. It will be a challenge, but at the same time I am positive. Last year, the university celebrated its 444th anniversary, its value has been proven, so in that respect we will stand our ground.'

Menno, what advice would you like to give Suzy?

Menno: 'What I would like to say is: the situation one day at the faculty can be completely different the next day. So don’t let that drive you crazy. The second thing I would like to say is that here, you are never alone. The support staff of the Humanities Faculty is very good. From left to right you have loyal people of a high professional level. You do this work together, so that is of great value. But every now and then, in the roller coaster that this job can be, you have to think to yourself: 'it's just work', and take a step back. But I've been working with Suzy for a while now and I have the utmost confidence in her.'

Suzy, ready to go?

Suzy: ‘Absolutely. First of all, I'd like to thank Menno very much for what he is leaving behind. I'm going to benefit from the hard work he's done over the past few years. A word that suits Menno is the word 'together', and that word also suits me very much. I don't do anything alone, I do everything together. I'm proud to take over the baton from you, Menno!’

Photography: Stefanie Uit Den Boogaart

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