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New YAL board: ‘Make sure young academics’ voices are heard’

Young Academy Leiden (YAL) will change its board this month and welcome seven brand-new members. We spoke to outgoing chair Sarah Giest and incoming chair Julia Cramer about what the platform has achieved for young academics over the past year and what the plans are for the future.

Hi Julia, what made you want to become chair of Young Academy Leiden?

Julia: ‘First and foremost because the Young Academy Leiden members are such a special and inspiring group of people. I also like how we are currently positioned within the university: we work well with Administration and Central Services and have the opportunity to sit on various committees. For me, it’s really important that we keep that seat at the table this coming year and make sure that we as a community of young academics are heard.’ 

How are you going to achieve that?

Julia: ‘I will be the YAL chair alongside vice-chair Rachel Plak and project manager Suzanne Brinkman. Our main focus is going to be on increased engagement. We don’t want to be a closed group but instead to increase the interaction between our members, with the university board and among young academics. Also as play is that the first members of the platform will soon be leaving. They are no longer starting researchers but are now academics who are in strategic positions at the university and are very fond of YAL. The question is how we can maintain that connection with these alumni.'

Hi Sarah, how does it feel handing over to the new chair?

Sarah: ‘Good! I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved together this past year. As a platform, we have greatly increased our visibility and our community has grown. We have also advocated for topics such as dignity and respect, and diversity and inclusion, among others by talking to the management of HR. It’s crucial that young academics feel safe at work and can express any worries they may have. Another milestone is our joining the university’s Academia in Motion team, which means that young academics’ voices are also being heard within this growing movement.’

What challenges do you see for YAL?

Sarah: ‘Lack of time remains a problem. Not all of our members are allocated hours for their contribution to the platform. And many young academics want to contribute to YAL or take part in our events but don’t manage to because of teaching and research duties.’

Julia: ‘The high workload makes it important to know what topics are relevant to our target group. If people feel that YAL is useful to them, this will benefit our engagement. Our goal after all is not to organise as many events as possible: we want to do things that really do benefit young academics.’

Sarah: ‘And we really do want to get the message across that YAL is for all young academics. You don’t need to have a Veni or Vidi grant to join: as a community, we represent and support all academics at the start of their careers.’

Julia: ‘Exactly. Most important to us is that the group is diverse, with members from different faculties and disciplines. Young academics can express their interest in a support letter. Each year we select between five and eight new members. But you can always join our YAL community. There’s no application procedure or waiting list for that.’

Anything to add?

Julia: ‘I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with Rachel and Suzanne! It’s great to have been able to gain experience as vice-chair last year with Sarah. That really did make it a soft landing. And YAL members are warm, enthusiastic people who are always willing to help.’

Sarah: ‘I’m proud to be handing over the baton and have every confidence that you will achieve great things next year.’

Seven new YAL members

YAL was founded in 2019 and serves as a platform to bring together enthusiastic young academics (post-PhD). The majority of the members are lecturers or assistant or associate professors who received their PhD less than ten years ago. The new YAL members are: Janet Connor, Julie Hall, Nienke de Graeff, Milena Schönke, Anne UraiJochanan Veerbeek and Sanne Willems.

Text: Evelien Flink
Banner: Patricia Nauta

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