University

Man? Woman? Scientist?

Who will point the RUG in the right direction?

A few months from now, the era of RUG president Sibrand Poppema, will come to an end. Who will be his successor? A man? A woman? A scientist? A manager? Take this quiz to find your ideal candidate (some of them are real, others a little tongue in cheek).
By Rob Siebelink, Thereza Langeler, and René Lapoutre / Translation by sarah van steenderen

00 start

 Who’s your candidate?

1.1

The RUG is over 400 years old and has never been run by a woman. Should the new president of the board be a woman or a man?

A. Man
B. Woman

A
B

2.1

A man. Kind of a traditional choice, to be honest. Speaking of traditions: for four centuries, the board president has always come from within the RUG. Should we continue this, or should we recruit someone from outside the university for a change?

A. The new president should come from within the RUG
B. A new perspective from outside the RUG would be great

A
B

2.2

You think the new president should be a woman. Down with the patriarchy! Speaking of traditions: for four centuries, the board president has always come from within the RUG. Should we continue with this, or should we recruit someone from outside the university for a change?

A. I would prefer a woman who knows the RUG well
B. A new perspective from outside the RUG would be great

A
B

3.1

You picked a male president who knows the RUG like the back of his hand. What should his background be? Should he be a scientist or not?

A. This is a university, so we need a scientist! He would know how everything works and what the place needs
B. Not a scientist. A board president should be a manager first and foremost

A
B

3.2

You picked a male president, but not someone from within the RUG. What should his background be? Should he be a scientist or not?

A. This is a university, so we need a scientist! He would know how everything works and what the place needs
B. Not a scientist. A board president should be a manager first and foremost

A
B

3.3

You decided on a female president who knows the RUG like the back of her hand. What should her background be? Should she be a scientist or not?

A. This is a university, so we need a scientist! She would know how everything works and what the place needs
B. Not a scientist. A board president should be a manager first and foremost

A
B

3.4

You’ve picked a woman to lead the place, but you don’t want someone from within the RUG. What should her background be? Should she be a scientist or not?

A. This is a university, so we need a scientist! She would know how everything works and what the place needs
B. Not a scientist. A board president should be a manager first and foremost

A
B

4.1

You’ve picked a man from within the RUG who is a scientist. Where should he hail from? Should he be a native Dutchman, or an international?

A. A Dutchman, because the new RUG boss should know how our country works
B. An international person would be good, especially considering the continuing internationalisation at the university

A
B

4.2

You’ve decided on a man from within the RUG, with a view of the world that exceeds the scientific view. Where should he hail from? Should he be a native Dutchman or an international?

A. A Dutchman, because the new RUG boss should know how our country works
B. An international person would be good, especially considering the continuing internationalisation at the university

A
B

4.3

You picked a male scientist from outside the RUG. Where should he hail from? Should he be a native Dutchman or an international?

A. A Dutchman, because the new RUG boss should know how our country works
B. An international person would be good, especially considering the continuing internationalisation at the university

A
B

4.4

You’ve picked a man, but he should be from outside the RUG and have a view on the world that’s wider than just the scientific view. Where should he hail from? Should he be a native Dutchman or an international?

A. A Dutchman, because the new RUG boss should know how our country works
B. An international person would be good, especially considering the continuing internationalisation at the university

A
B

4.5

So you’ve picked a woman from within the RUG, with a scientific background. Where should she hail from? Should she be a native Dutchwoman, or an international?

A. A Dutchwoman, because the new RUG boss should know how our country works
B. An international person would be good, especially considering the continuing internationalisation at the university

A
B

4.6

You’ve decided on a woman from within the RUG, but not a scientist. Should she be a manager or a politician?

A. A manager; running a place with 5,500 staff and 30,000 students is not easy
B. A politician, because we need someone who knows her way around The Hague

A
B

4.7

You’ve picked a woman with a scientific background, but you want her to come from outside the RUG. Where should she hail from? Should she be a native Dutchwoman or an international?

A. A Dutchwoman, because the new RUG boss should know how our country works
B. An international person would be good, especially considering the continuing internationalisation at the university

A
B

4.8

You’ve picked a woman from outside the RUG with a view of the world that exceeds the scientific one. Where should she hail from? Should she be a native Dutchwoman or an international?

A. A Dutchwoman, because the new RUG boss should know how our country works
B. An international person would be good, especially considering the continuing internationalisation at the university

A
B

5.1

Jasper Knoester

Jasper Knoester is a physicist and dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE). According to insiders, his chances of becoming Poppema’s successor are high. Knoester knows the RUG through and through and has a great track record as dean. He has shown great tact, is amiable, and is both a scientist and a manager in many ways.

Knoester, who is also prorector (deputy rector magnificus), was sorely disappointed when it turned out that his own faculty, which was central to the RUG’s plans for a branch campus in Yantai, was the cause for the plans falling through.

5.2

Nasser Kalantar

RUG professor of experimental nuclear physics Nasser Kalantar-Nayestanaki has been doing groundbreaking research into the forces at work between extremely small nuclear particles since the ’90s. In the run-up to King’s Day in April, he was awarded the title of Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Kalantar is originally from Iran and is a committed scientist. In 2009, he sued the Dutch state for banning Iranian citizens from learning anything about nuclear power. He won and the enactment was repealed.

5.3

Prins Maurits

Prins Maurits is the eldest son of Princess Margaret and Pieter van Vollenhoven. In the ’90s he studied economics at the RUG, and worked at gastropub Soestdijk, which means he is familiar with Groningen. After graduating, he worked at Schiphol and Philips before becoming an independent entrepreneur; all business qualifications that he could use at the RUG (and the name Royal RUG doesn’t sound too bad either).

The RUG has ambitions to be a sustainable university. Prins Maurits can help with this as well; he has been an ambassador for electric cars since 2011. Interestingly, current board president Sibrand Poppema drove a gas-guzzler for years.

5.4

Kader Abdolah

Kader Abdolah may originally have been a scientist (he studied physics at the university of Teheran in the ’70s), but today we know him as a talented writer who depicts life in the Netherlands with a pleasant sense of wonder.

His friend Kader was executed under the regime of sjah Pahlavi, and his friend Abdolah was murdered when Khomeini ruled as ayatollah. To honour them, he took their names (his real name is Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemmaghami Farahani). He later fled to the Netherlands.

Abdolah is a paragon of ‘inclusivity’ (no one is excluded, everyone is part of the club) which is a policy the RUG favours as well.

5.5

Robbert Dijkgraaf

Robbert Dijkgraaf is a professor at the University of Amsterdam (theoretical physics) and director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Before that, he was the president of the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences.

Dijkgraaf played an important role in the popularisation of science, especially by appearing on several television shows (such as De Wereld Draait Door, Hoe?Zo!, and The Mind of the Universe). In short, he would make the perfect university ambassador. We also think he’d be able to get the business world to invest a few extra million euros without the RUG becoming a ‘Coca Cola university’.

5.6

Kris Verburgh

Kris Verburgh is a Belgian physician and researcher and wrote three books about science, health, and philosophy by the time he was 25 (the first was published when he was 16). Verburgh aims to answer the Big Questions of Life and inspires people to do the same. Could people ever become immortal? How did the universe come to be? What is life?

He introduced a new field of study, nutrigerontology, which studies the role of food in the process of ageing. This means he has a great connection to the RUG and UMCG’s Healthy Ageing project.

5.7

Sander Schimmelpenninck

Sander Schimmelpenninck studied law in Rotterdam and Milan. If you think his name has a noble ring to it, you’re right: he hails from the noble family of the same name.

He worked as a lawyer at the Zuidas in Amsterdam, but the work didn’t suit him so he decided to change directions. He started a pizzeria and later became editor-in-chief for Quote magazine, which publishes the Quote 500, a list of the 500 richest people in the Netherlands.

With Sander Schimmelpenninck in charge, Vindicat would have a great time, as he is particularly fond of the tradition of fraternities.

5.8

Ahmed Aboutaleb

Ahmed Aboutaleb was appointed mayor of Rotterdam in 2014. He won’t be available until 2020, although he could leave the harbour city a little bit earlier. Aboutaleb has a reputation for being a competent manager (‘He can be tough, but it’s always clear why’, said Elsevier magazine, which named him Dutch person of the Year in 2014).

He is a truly self-made man: as a young boy who had just arrived in the Netherlands he worked hard to get an education, become a journalist, spokesperson, alderman, and state secretary. In 2008 he became the first Moroccan mayor in the Netherlands. He would be the most ‘inclusive’ board president the RUG has ever seen.

5.9

Gerry Wakker

Gerry Wakker is a dean at the Faculty of Arts, which is probably the most plagued faculty at the RUG. Financial deficits, accreditation processes that were nothing but criticism, a divided educational sector, complaints about extreme work pressure, rebellious professors (Runia-gate) – the arts faculty has seen it all.

Something needed to be done. Wakker, who is one of the so-called Sleutelvrouwen (a group of women whose aim is to have more women in important positions) as well as a prorector (deputy rector magnificus), oversaw the infamous  move to clustering, the faculty’s new organisational model. She did this calmly, resolutely, and humbly. She was both criticised and praised for her work. She is a popular internal candidate for Poppema’s job.

5.10

Petra Rudolf

RUG professor of experimental solid state physics Petra Rudolf is a figurehead of science. On top of that, she is a true ‘international European’: she was born in Germany, moved to Italy, and worked in Belgium and the US before coming to Groningen. She is fluent in German, Italian, French, English, and Dutch. ‘It helps when you can talk to people in their own language’, she once said.

Rudolf has international clout when it comes to science. She will become president of European Physical Society (EPS) next year. The EPS represent physics organisations throughout Europe (including Turkey and Israel). Her list of extracurricular activities is practically endless.

5.11

Marjolein Nieboer

Marjolein Nieboer may not be a scientist, but she is a learned woman. She went to the Academy of Library Sciences and Documentation and studied history and documentary informatics.

Nieboer has been president of the University Library since 2010. There, she has been through some things: right before she started, the library went through a serious reorganisation; in 2013, the library had to make more budget cuts (although no one was fired); and the UB was renovated between 2015 and 2017.

She puts great stock in connections, collaboration, and including everyone in radical changes. These are all characteristics that would make a good board president. And she’s a true feminist: Nieboer is one of the so-called Sleutelvrouwen, a group of prominent RUG women who champion emancipation at the university.

5.12

Sharon Dijksma

Dijksma was born in Hoogkerk and is familiar with Groningen and the RUG. Her academic career has not been great: she started off studying law at the RUG and then switched to social administration in Twente, but didn’t finish either of her degrees.

This didn’t stop her from starting a successful academic career, however. At 23 years old, she got a seat in the Lower House for the Labour Party, making her the youngest member at the time. She has been state secretary of Education, Culture, and Science; Economics; and Infrastructure and the Environment.

So in addition to Groningen, Dijksma is also familiar with politics in The Hague. This could be a great asset for a board president – especially when more educational and research funds are needed.

5.13

Ionica Smeets

Ionica Smeets, also known as ‘the maths girl’, studied at the Delft University of Technology, got her PhD at the University of Leiden and has since been working there as a professor of science communication. She made a name for herself by appearing on television shows such as De Rekenkamer, De Wereld Draait Door, and De Nationale Wetenschapsquiz, and by writing columns for De Volkskrant.

She’s good with numbers and clearly loves them. One of her calculations involved figuring out how much the water in the IJsselmeer would rise if a single drop of water were added to it. Jan de Jeu (the financial man on the RUG board): eat your heart out.

5.14

Andrea Maier

Andrea Maier, born to an East-German father and a West-German mother, is professor of gerontology at the VU University Amsterdam, as well as professor of internal medicine – geriatrics at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

This brilliant scientist graduated with honours in 2008 from the University of Leiden and became head of the department of geriatrics and gerontology at the VU Medical Centre. In 2012, she became the youngest professor of internal medicine in the Netherlands, at just 33 years old.

5.15

Lilianne Ploumen

Lilianne Ploumen is the former head of the Dutch Labour Party, former minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, and the motivator behind She Decides (an international fund that ensures safe abortions, sexual education, and maternity care in impoverished countries).

Ploumen (pronounced ‘Ploomen’) is also affectionately referred to as Superploumen. In March of this year she was awarded the Alleta Jacobs Prize, an award the RUG gives every other year to academic women who champion emancipation. In an interview with the Universiteitskrant, she said: ‘I’ve always been a feminist. Even when it wasn’t popular to be one.’

5.16

Khadija Arib

Khadija Arib chairs the Lower House. She moved from Morocco to the Netherlands when she was fifteen and studied sociology at the UvA.

Arib is a woman who cares about social issues: she worked at welfare institutes and the Institute for Social and Economic Studies at the Erasmus University. She is also a true emancipator: she has fought for the rights of women and children her entire career.

As chair of the Lower House, Arib has demonstrated more than once that she can navigate the boys club of politics – so the RUG boys won’t be a problem for her. Finally, she would present a triple diversity threat: she’s a woman, a Moroccan, and a Muslim.

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