Opening speech of the academic year on the theme of personal growth

The Hague University of Applied Sciences has been a UNESCO school for the past ten years, one of ten thousand schools around the world committed to international unity, tolerance and solidarity. At the inauguration of the 2019-2020 academic year, chair of the Executive Board Leonard Geluk explains why it’s important to be a UNESCO school and the role of personal growth.

A packed auditorium of the Hague University of Applied Sciences welcomes him with a loud applause. Not only as chair of the Executive Board, but also as a member of the Dutch UNESCO committee, a function to which he was recently appointed by Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven of Education, Culture and Science.

“I believe it’s very valuable to teach our students skills. To teach them to engage with the world around us. If we want to make a difference, we have to look beyond our borders. We are one of the most diverse universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands. We need each other. Working at The Hague University of Applied Sciences means a desire to invest in the world around us. It all begins with personal growth. For ourselves and for our students.”

Borderline experience

He quotes professor Frans Meijers who passed away in November of 2018: “Learning begins with a borderline experience. This can be painful, because we cannot deal with it the old way.” Leonard Geluk: “Are we the type of university of applied sciences where each one of us can gain these borderline experiences? Where we face ourselves and learn how to grow?

“Last year I was told twice that I wasn’t visible enough at work; this became my personal borderline experience. My natural instinct is to fight back. ‘Do you know how busy I am …?!’ Then I realised that we sometimes get so stuck in our own system and our own structure that we barely have time to do the things that really matter. I cannot empty my schedule, but I can try to find a good balance.”

“I’m proud of that”

He describes the university of applied sciences as a community where we are able to achieve things by being united. “In March we were worried because our enrolment of new students was 12 percent lower than the academic year before. All of us worked really hard to change that. Now it seems that the enrolment numbers are as high as last year. I’m proud of that.” The same applies to student satisfaction. “We have gone through a difficult period. Now our 100-day survey shows that first-year students are more positive about our university of applied sciences than in the year before. I’m proud of that.”

The last sentence is almost like a refrain in his speech. He is proud of the impact that internationalisation has in the degree programmes. Proud of the open accommodations that provide a lot of ways to interact and meet people. Proud that THUAS is now a financially healthy university of applied sciences. Proud of the research conducted at the university of applied sciences that is contributing to the formation of six or seven Centres of Expertise, in which we cooperate with governments and organisations in the region. Proud of the university’s visibility in social media. “Good stories should be shared.”

The Hague Relay

To share those good stories, Leonard Geluk launches the Hague Relay Race during his speech. In this relay race colleagues tell each other about their passion, what connects them to the university of applied sciences, to their colleagues and the students. Anita Premchand, a lecturer in Educational Theory, kicks off the relay race by sharing her passion for The Hague University of Applied Sciences in a video-recorded conversation with Leonard Geluk. “To me global citizenship means that you can connect with people who are different. It would be wonderful if we can bring this energy to the classrooms of the university of applied sciences at the beginning of our new academic year. That is where higher education really takes shape.”

At the end of the video Leonard Geluk hands her the relay race H. Anita will pass the ‘baton’ in the next video conversation with a colleague about their passion, ambition, commitment and engagement. Once the focus of the audience is back on the stage, the chair of the Executive Board wishes everyone a wonderful year, “full of energy, attention to personal growth and engagement with the world around us”.