Blog and opinion
16 January 2018 • Juul Gooren
Hi there Denise,
So good to hear from you! I hope you have enjoyed your vacation in Spain. That must have felt a bit more like home with that huge hispanic base in Denver. I feel I should have warned you about that odd tradition of fireworks during new years eve. It is a very strange Dutch phenomenon indeed. It ranks up with the tradition of Black Pete. We are approaching the end indeed. I am really going to miss the MSU students.
Overall I have the impression the student engagement at US universities is great since you have smaller classes of about 25 students (the minor you are now teaching is a Dutch exception as many courses I teach have at least a 100 students). The smaller size implies more students dare to speak up and a lot of times discussions unfold in a very natural way. What also works is that you have way more examinations along the way (think mid-term exam) and that is a great way to ensure students keep up with studying. In The Netherlands this is virtually impossible due to the mandatory resit for every single unit of examination. It would be killing for lecturers.
What also struck me is that in the US there is a substantial number of students who aim for the highest grade which is an A. They are willing to go the extra mile in order to stand out. As I am not used to giving students the highest grade possible which is a 10 in The Netherlands I had to adjust my grading practices since my top students got very anxious once receiving 85 out of 100 for exams. I was surprised as an 8.5 is an awesome grade in The Netherlands. In the US this comes down to a B. I am a pragmatist so I got used to ‘curving’ grades so I would have a reasonable grade distribution.
I am also going to miss your lovely colleagues. They seem to work very hard. I guess in The Netherlands we are very lucky with more job security, vacation and pay. It is so odd you do not get paid during the summer break! On the other hand you have more autonomy when it comes to designing courses and exams. At THUAS we tend to create a lot of committees and invite educational specialists overseeing and interfering with the art of teaching (typically just before an accreditation). I guess you have other sources generating administrative burdens.
Although there is a lot of segregation in the US as in suburbs and ethnic neighborhoods I am really going to miss the encounters with various outsiders in public space. I think it is very healthy we keep in touch with those who have been less fortunate in life. The colorful people I am referring to are the homeless, beggars, hobo’s etc. They are banned from public view in The Netherlands as it is assumed they would compromise the city experience of visiting middle class people. Whether I go to a park, a library or a huge store in Denver the outsiders will be there and they should. I believe MSU refers to Denver as a diverse and vibrant city and as such it should be a place for everyone.
Good luck these last few weeks. It was a great pleasure being here. Thank you so much for the exchange!
Read Denises previous blog.
Juul Gooren is a visiting scholar from The Netherlands teaching at MSU Denver for the Fall semester. This is part of a lecturer exchange between THUAS and MSU Denver. He has a MSc in Criminology and a LLM in Criminal Law from Erasmus University Rotterdam. Juul writes this blog to his counterpart from Denver, Denise Mowder who currently works at THUAS. Denise answers Juul in a blog of her own.