Organisation - January 30, 2014

Happy it’s Fresco

Roelof Kleis

The appointment of Louise Fresco as the chair of the executive board has hit the bullseye. This is clear from a range of responses throughout the organization.

‘I must congratulate Job Cohen (chair of the supervisory board, ed.): this is the biggest fish he could catch,’ says Fré Pepping, managing director of the VLAG graduate school.

Nico Lenis, secretary of the WUR council, calls Fresco a ‘leading light on the global issue of food safety and food security’. He says Fresco has a good overview of most of Wageningen’s domain. And, no small matter, Fresco has an eye for the subtle details, in Lenis’s opinion. ‘She also has an eye for the practical bottlenecks in food production, and the limitations on it. She is the team player who can forge the scientific link between DLO and the university.’

Test case

Professor of Plant Production Systems Martin van Ittersum is happy to have a colleague at the top. In the nineteen nineties, Fresco was the first incumbent of his chair. He is particularly curious about Fresco’s leadership style. ‘I have never worked with her as a leader. I think forging links is important and I expect that she will keep the different voices heard in Wageningen singing from the same page. She has a good feel for the academic world.’

Ex-chair of the WUR Council Cees van Dijk is ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the choice of Fresco. Van Dijk, who was on the confi­dential appointment committee, speaks here in a private capacity. He praises Fresco’s academic and management experience. ‘That is important for both the university and DLO. She will be dealing with a DLO organization that gets less and less work from the ministries and must increasingly earn money on the market. That demands strategic choices. I am very curious how they are going to go about that. The new strategic plan will be her first big test case.’

The student council, repre­sented by chair Anneloes Reinders, expresses the hope that Fresco will give priority to maintaining the quality of the education provided at the university. ‘We see her as someone who values small scale and high quality in education and who is not afraid to express her innovative vision.’


Everyone is very pleased that for the first time, a woman will be at the helm in Wageningen UR. ‘It is fantastic, of course, that it’s a woman,’ responds Ellis Hoffland, personal professor of Soil Fertility and one of the initiators of the Gender Action Plan. ‘Definitely a good signal, although I am sure she was appointed on her merits.’

‘It is good that we now have a woman on the executive board,’ agrees Nico Lenis. ‘And especially someone of her standing.’ Fré Pepping feels sure that Fresco will do things differently to her predecessor. ‘She has a very different style. They do have one thing in common though: responding fast to emails. I congratulated her this morning at 08.12 and I got a reply three minutes later.’