Who: Marloes van Wagtendonk (1986)
What: Policy adviser on location/relocation of the UvA/AUAS library
Studied: Bachelor of Sociology and Master of Social Geography
First job: Waitress in a Greek restaurant
Favourite place at the UvA: The courtyard garden at the Oudemanhuispoort
Essential: My laptop.
Marloes van Wagtendonk (1986) is a policy officer who deals with the relocation and accommodation of the UvA/AUAS Library. Marloes grew up in Purmerend, and after visiting an Open Day at the UvA, she knew one thing for sure: she was going to study in Amsterdam. When the time came, she chose Sociology at the UvA and then continued on to the Master's programme in Human Geography. She drifted around a bit after graduation before finding just the right place at the UvA/AUAS Library. Marloes loves the constant hustle and bustle, and her job involves close interaction with students. She enjoys thinking outside the box and also established the Young UvA network, which keeps her constantly informed of developments within the UvA.
You clearly have a strong affinity for students. What kinds of things do you do on their behalf?
‘When designing our buildings, I always try to create spaces where students can not only concentrate on their work, but also collaborate with others or simply spend time together. This variety brings a sense of balance and also ensures that every student can feel at home and find his or her own favourite spot. I try to incorporate input from students in everything I do. We now have a UX team to actively solicit that input from students, but even before that, my work often involved distributing surveys. Recently, for instance, we received an interior design for the study places in LAB42, a new building at the Amsterdam Science Park. We presented that design to students, after which a great many students responded and provided comments and suggestions that were extremely helpful to us. While such tips often involve wall outlets, they sometimes address issues I wasn't even aware of yet.’
Out-of-the-box thinking makes my job really fun.
But this isn't the end, right? You also have an important role in connection with the realisation of the new University Library.
‘Yes; that's a fantastic but lengthy process and it's finally beginning to take shape. The Library will consist of three buildings: two former hospital buildings and one newly built structure. Students had a hand in creating the design for this University Library as well. We also hope to strengthen the connection with education in the new Library. There will be three seminar rooms and a central hall that will also be used for lectures. The former anatomical theatre, where anatomy lessons used to be taught, will become a lecture hall; below it we have designed a space in cooperation with Faculty of Humanities lecturers, intended solely for active learning. Lecturers will be able to give a lecture in the upper section, for instance, after which the students can break into groups and work on their assignments together in the lower level. Whenever the classrooms are not reserved for teaching, they will be available as study spaces. With these plans, we're attempting to respond to the ways education is changing. If you ask me, the new University Library will become the bustling heart of the University Quarter. Every floor of the building will feature a special room: one that is completely offline; a room in which all the walls are lined with whiteboards, so you can write everywhere; and a “green room” with a tree in the middle. I always get really excited about developing ideas in such an extreme way, which is why I do everything I can to get people on board. This type of out-of-the-box thinking makes my job really fun.’
I try to incorporate input from students in everything I do.
You and a colleague also founded Young UvA together. How did that come about?
‘When I took a job here at the age of 26, I noticed that my young colleagues and I had very little contact because we were all working in different departments. I mentioned to a colleague that at my previous employer, we had an association for young employees. Together, we decided to try and set up something similar at the UvA. Our idea was enthusiastically received. The Maagdenhuis gave us the green light and our first brainstorming session attracted a big crowd. We ended up with ten new board members and a long list of exciting ideas. Our first board was a really active group; two of those members are still my best friends. We divided the activities into four different themes: sports, fun, knowledge sharing and professional development. Every month, we organised an activity in connection with one of those themes. We actively invited new employees to join us, to help them quickly settle in at the University. It's nice to feel a connection with a group of people at the place you work and it helps you make new contacts. The association benefits your network as well, because it helps people from different departments learn who to get in touch with and set up new collaborations. Through Young UvA, you can keep track of the goings-on across the entire University.’
The UvA is a great employer. I've been given an incredible degree of freedom.
Sounds like there is plenty of freedom for individual initiative. Do you have room for further personal development?
‘Absolutely. The UvA is a great employer. I've been given an incredible degree of freedom, good terms of employment and opportunities for education and training. Sometimes I think: I've been working here for seven years, is it time for me to go do something else? But because the work is so varied, it hasn't become monotonous to me at all. There's a great energy in the air at the university; it's a leading institution and there are plenty of smart young people walking around. I try to interact with students because I think it's important in connection with my work to see what they are being asked to do and whar facilities they need. That's why I take a course every semester: we employees can follow Open UvA lectures. The Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies offers many classes in the evening, which makes it easy to combine with my work. It's good for my personal development, too, as the courses are fun and interesting. In the course “Dangerous Lunatics”, for instance, I learned about world leaders and whether they are dangerous or mad. The topic was addressed from perspectives including psychology and sociology. Another course dealt with complex systems, such as how you can calculate the movement of a flock of birds, or the best place to start if you want to take down a drug cartel. I'm about to start “The Eternal Pursuit of Happiness”, a course about humanity's search for happiness. So fun – where else could you do things like that?’