8 June 2017 • by Marieke Linn
Gert de Ruiter, Dean of the Faculty of IT & Design to retire: ‘The combination of content, people and innovation suits me perfectly’
Gert de Ruiter, Dean of the Faculty of IT & Design, was either a student or working in a school almost all his life. He will be retiring and leaving our university of applied sciences on 1 July. Well, in part, since he will be showing up here in a different role now and then. One thing is certain: Gert de Ruiter has a wealth of experience. H|Nieuws interviewed this mild-mannered lecturer who became a dean.
Gert de Ruiter (1951) graduated from a university of applied sciences with a degree in analytical chemistry in 1972. He immediately began teaching at the predecessor of The Hague University of Applied Sciences while earning his teaching certificate to teach mathematics which he received in 1977. He began here as a lecturer. Later, he became a programme manager and, still later, a dean: a whole life of following the academic calendar.
How does it feel now that the big date is getting closer?
‘OK by now. At first, I could hardly imagine it. I’ve worked long days all my life, and now I’m expected to do nothing at all? I’m not giving up work entirely, though. I’ve been talking with our school about still being involved in activities like the Dutch Innovation Factory in Zoetermeer, but then in a more advisory capacity.’
Clemens Berendsen will be succeeding you as acting dean. What are some of the important tasks he will be assuming from you at this time?
‘The faculty’s business administration that includes its finances, budget and HR management. I’ve been very much involved in these aspects. This continuity, especially at the end of the academic year, is important. The degree programmes are growing, so it’s essential to have the staff formation in order. The accreditation of the HBO-ICT degree programme is another important issue. Not to mention all the ins and outs of the Zoetermeer campus and its Dutch Innovation Factory.’
Bringing people and organisations together: that’s what you enjoyed for all those years…
‘I once started out as a lecturer. That sounded interesting: working with young people. Very soon, however, I was also working on organisational matters… making sure that everything ran smoothly and that people were working well together. Actually, it’s this interaction with people that leads to interesting things. I also enjoy discovering new solutions, so the Dutch Innovation Factory is the perfect challenge for me. It’s nice to see the Dutch Innovation Factory flourishing. Its combination of content, people and innovation suits me perfectly.’
And if there’s one specialisation that’s always on the move, it’s ICT. How do you keep up with it all yourself?
‘I know what you mean; information carriers are just one example. What used to be big, black, bendable disks are today’s little memory sticks. Isn’t that great? As for myself, I keep up to date by reading, learning and reflecting. From 2002 to 2007, for example, I was in charge of reorganising the faculty. We had to create five degree programmes out of just one. When this was done, I looked back on it. What motivates people, I wondered? If they want something themselves, people don’t mind investing a lot of energy in it. I wanted to know more about power and politics and how a culture changes, but I needed a scientific basis. That’s when I decided to get a master’s degree in Management and Organisational Science. It was a way of discovering a little more about myself.’
Our school gave you this freedom to explore?
‘Yes. I’ve always felt I had these kinds of opportunities open to me. Many people might think that working for a single employer for 45 years would be boring. But I’ve often felt that I was getting a brand-new job. Plus the freedom to make my own mistakes.’
And what are you less satisfied with when you look back now?
‘The rate of academic success isn’t high enough. This is a problem facing all universities of applied sciences, but I sometimes take it personally. We’re working really hard on this. This is one of the reasons why we’ve now switched from five different degree programmes to a single comprehensive HBO-ICT programme. Students can then decide on a specific direction later in their programme. And it seems as if this is working.’
Forty-five years in education: that’s a long time. Is there a common thread running through it all? Has much changed?
‘We still have the same teaching situations with one teacher teaching a class. But what you see now are lots of interactive teaching formats. Schools are larger; a small-scaled approach isn’t an option anymore. It’s become a big business. Students aren’t the same either: they’re more mature and not afraid to say what they think. When I started out, young people had had a very protected upbringing and their world was more clearly defined. Now, for example, it’s not an easy task to choose from 4,500 degree programmes in a world that’s changing from one day to the next.’
What will you miss most?
‘Working together with everyone. Fortunately, I won’t be leaving entirely. I have mixed feelings about my retirement. It will be nice to be able to take more holidays, of course. For the first time in my life, I won’t be limited to the school holidays. I’m also pleased that the Mayor of Zoetermeer will speak at my farewell event. Now that doesn’t happen very often. I’m also proud of this faculty. People get along well here, and we’re satisfied with our teaching. I’ve always enjoyed working at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.’
The farewell event in honour of Gert de Ruiter will be held on 23 June from 1 pm to 7 pm and will include a mini-symposium: ‘Teaching ICT and Design to tomorrow’s professionals living in a digital society’.