Maarten Frens: ‘It was a great adventure’

Maarten Frens is handing over the baton for the new dean of the Erasmus University…

Hafkamp will embark on his job on 1 September and has been tasked with developing a vision on the future of EUC, which opened its doors at Nieuwemarkt Square in Rotterdam’s city centre five years ago. “Strengthening the school’s ties with the city and the university and increasing its level of professionalism – those are some of the things we will have to do this year,” explained Victor Bekkers, the dean of EUC’s mother faculty, the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

The new dean is to serve as a successor to Maarten Frens, who founded EUC in 2013. Frens stayed on for a year longer than originally planned, but announced a while ago that he wished to resign as of 1 September in order to return to Erasmus MC. “Therefore, we had to find a replacement quickly, while at the same time letting things ride for a while before recommencing our search,” stated Bekkers.

‘Sometimes things just don’t go your way’

Bekkers did not really wish to go into the reasons why the college’s second extensive application procedure in over a year failed to result in the appointment of a suitable candidate. All he wished to say was that there were two different reasons for the two failures.

“Sometimes things just don’t go your way, and you find yourself unable to find the right person with the right qualities that match the exact qualities you’re looking for,” said Bekkers.

Victor Bekkers
Victor Bekkers Image credit: Wilma van de Hel

Staff are concerned

Bekkers knows EUC’s staff are concerned about this second unsuccessful attempt to find a new dean. “Of course our staff were hoping they would get a new dean, and of course they are disappointed. However, I have noticed a high level of engagement in our employees. They really feel like buckling down and getting things done again.”

Asked why Hafkamp is the right interim dean, Bekkers said, “He oozes calm and wisdom and is skilled at connecting people. Furthermore, he has sufficient management experience and is very much in favour of the kind of interdisciplinarity provided by EUC.”

Wim Hafkamp, hoogleraar Mileukunde

‘Win people over’

Hafkamp was asked to serve as EUC’s interim dean last week, and did not visit the building at Botermarkt Square until last Thursday. “I have always had a thing for interdisciplinarity, and I promoted a comprehensive Bachelor’s degree as far back as the early years of this century. Back in those days, the time was not yet right for it, but I’m happy to see that EUC is now offering exactly that kind of degree.”

Hafkamp understands that he will ‘have to win a few people over’, being an outsider who has been appointed dean. “But I’ve already been invited to present the first guest lecture, so that’s great,” said Hafkamp.

According to Bekkers, there are advantages to having an interim dean who hails from outside EUC. Although Hafkamp is not an unknown quantity at the university (he has been a professor since 1994 and served as the Faculty of Social Sciences’ dean from 2001 to 2005), he is new to EUC. “He has a fresh and open-minded perspective, and he does not share any history with EUC, which is handy in certain respects,” said Bekkers. “He will be able to decide for himself what course EUC is to steer.”

Bekkers also said he mainly wanted EUC to focus on better ties between itself and EUR’s faculties at the Woudestein Campus. In this way, EUC’s staff, who currently focus mostly on teaching because EUC is primarily an teaching institute, would be able to focus on research more.