11 December 2019 • Content team
‘Sometimes you have those dreams that keep you awake until you fulfil them’
On 19 November, the municipal council of Wijk bij Duurstede decided to nominate Iris Meerts as its new mayor. Iris Meerts is expected to be confirmed as mayor on 16 December by the Royal Commissioner. This is of course wonderful news, but unfortunately it does mean that Iris Meets will no longer be our colleague.
Iris Meerts, you are currently manager of the Centre of Expertise Cyber Security (CoE Cyber Security), and will suddenly leave The Hague University of Applied Sciences in three weeks. Why?
It’s all happening a bit fast, but when the king calls, you cannot let him wait! Just kidding: the position of mayor will be the realisation of my longtime dream. Although I have been working hard in recent years to make this dream come true, I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. But I had some pleasant conversations with a delegation from the municipal council and it turned out that we were a good match. And then suddenly things happened very quickly.
Is the position of mayor something you had been secretly dreaming about or did this happen unexpectedly?
I have always dreamed of this. As a child I once interviewed the mayor of my city and later I studied Public Administration with the intent of pursuing the role. I also worked for and with a number of mayors. Becoming a mayor was a dream that has kept me awake until I fulfilled it, as Loesje so eloquently says. Over time I was increasingly reassured that my childhood dream could also become an adult dream. And that I could make it happen. When I decided to seriously pursue this goal, I also experienced a generous portion of luck. I participated in a national programme for people transitioning from other sectors and there were many people willing to help my dream come true. I am very grateful for that.
How do you look back on your last five years at the Hague University of Applied Sciences?
I started here in 2015 as an external contractor, to organise the Third Hague Peace Conference on behalf of former professor Joris Voorhoeve. It was a great adventure: we had five months to organise an international event and an essay competition. That’s when I noticed that anything is possible at THUAS. Over the last few years I have had great interactions with many colleagues, especially in my current role as manager of the Centre of Expertise Cyber Security. In this capacity I manage a wonderful team of international professionals who are able to combine quality and production with fun, both on and off work. We will shortly be celebrating Sinterklaas with a group of 28 people, including putting our shoes by the ‘chimney’, exchanging gifts and self-made poems. Great fun!
There have also been many changes in the field of research. When I started in 2016 as platform coordinator for Good Governance for a Safe World, research was relatively unexplored territory. We first had to agree on clear rules for research approaches, results and the exchange between education and the professional field. We were very successful. Today, a much larger number of colleagues and students participates in research, the image of research has improved, there is much more cooperation and we are able to achieve a lot more with the limited resources we have. Cooperation, joint efforts and focus have already resulted in great outcomes. I expect that things will only get better.
What will be your legacy at CoE Cybersecurity and what are you taking with you in your position as new mayor of Wijk bij Duurstede?
I will leave a great team that is conducting research on an essential part of our society: digital security. I will be taking that with me to our local administration as there is a great need for practical and applicable knowledge. But the most important thing I’m taking with me is the warmth, the friendship, working together on ambitious plans (and have them come to fruition), and the great fun we had together. I will dearly miss my own team and many other colleagues.
How do you feel right now?
I’m happy I did it. I’m honoured to have this opportunity. A bit sad about the people and projects I’m leaving behind. Happy that my dream has come true. And curious to see what it will be like. Everything at once.
You can also read the article about the announcement of Iris Meerts’ nomination as the new mayor of Wijk bij Duurstede.
What will leading professor Henno Theisens write on Iris’ goodbye card?
Iris, how amazing that you are fulfilling your childhood dream, but we will really miss you at the Hague University of Applied Sciences. You had enough energy to light up the entire building, and let’s be honest, every now and then also blow off the roof. You combine passionate motivation, speed and intelligence and those characteristics have made a real difference in the developments that have blossomed into seven Centres of Expertise. One of the greatest things about you is that with all your speed and drive, you also have a feeling for what the people around you need. You care about people.
I think they can really use your drive in Wijk bij Duurstede, but I also think that they will cherish you because of your sensitivity. All the best in your endeavours!