Isabelle Duyvesteyn, new programme chair of International Studies: ‘I want to do things that will benefit students’
Professor Isabelle Duyvesteyn will be the new programme chair of International Studies. As of 1 September, she will be at the helm of the largest programme of the Faculty of Humanities.
Duyvesteyn succeeds Giles Scott-Smith, who is the new dean of Leiden University College. ‘Our programme really is a reflection of the faculty, so I was honoured when the position was offered to me,’ she says. ‘The education we offer is incredibly diverse and multidisciplinary. Moreover, we have a fantastic team of staff members who are so well attuned to each other, it’s like a well-oiled machine.’
Digitisation during lectures
As a result, Duyvesteyn currently has no plans to propose major changes to the programme. ‘I don’t have any grand plans for redevelopment, no. But there’s always room for improvement, of course.’ For example, she plans to strengthen the position of digital humanities in the curriculum. ‘Eighteen-year-olds live in a world where visual culture plays a prominent role. I think that the gap between their perspective and that of the university is often still too wide. I’d really like to incorporate digitisation into the lecture hall more to try to bridge that gap.’
The gap between the perspective of eighteen-years-old and that of the university is often still too wide.
That could be done by expanding assessment methods, for example. ‘We’re mostly focused on reading, analysing and writing, but students have an incredible variety of talents. They might also want to record a vlog or other digital products to add substance to their assignment,’ says Duyvesteyn, who is also working on digitising lecture material for the World History course. ‘We’re writing a new textbook, with a digital platform where the historical material is offered in an activating way. Students can view sources from all angles and consult additional material. Ultimately, we want to incorporate these sources in other aspects of the programme as well, so the visual and material play a role in the students’ learning experience.’
Education and research
Duyvesteyn hopes to launch the new digital platform at the start of the academic year. It will be her last major project for the time being. ‘When you become programme chair, your range of duties is judged more critically. ‘I’d like to try and keep my personal research agenda alive, but I won’t be taking on any more major book projects for the time being. In my new role, I want to do things that will benefit the students. With so many new students, I like the challenge of making them enthusiastic about the fantastic programme that is International Studies.’
At the same time, the structure of the faculty sometimes makes it hard to be of service to all students. ‘I think that’s a sore point. The university has a vision of research-led teaching, but International Studies is an education programme. it doesn’t have a clear research profile, because the research time of most of our professors lies with their own institution. I want to actively present that as an aspect we should rethink. How do you translate the research-led teaching ambition of the university into this study programme, if that research time is so fragmented?’