News - April 5, 2012

‘I realize it is special'

Laan van Staalduinen, the new SSG director, has been in her job for three weeks. She is the first woman in Wageningen UR to have such a senior position and she faces the tough task of turning LEI around.

You are the first female director of a science group. Does that feel special?
‘I realize it is special but it's not something I really think about. I can see from the reactions of people around me that my female colleagues in particular are pleased, and that is nice.'
Recently, the Labour of Love section featured you sailing on the open sea. You used to row competitively with Argo. Is it a coincidence that you made it to director?
‘I think there is a connection. It is all about ambition and having the guts, standing up for what you believe in and persevering.'
What is up with LEI?
‘LEI depends on the Ministry of Agriculture for 72 percent of its work. There is now a threat of it losing some of that work due to the top sector policy. Assignments that used to come from the Ministry of Agriculture will now have to be funded by the private sector. This work will probably fall through the cracks as companies see it as a government task.
What does that mean?
‘It will have a big impact. In the worst-case scenario it will mean a reorganization. The initial results of the top sector policy don't look promising.'
What needs to be done?
‘We are losing our traditional market so we need to reposition ourselves. We need to raise our profile in the areas we excel in. I cannot imagine us not being able to market the expertise we have in global issues such as food security and sustainability. I am convinced this is possible. Our golden triangle is our socio-economic knowledge, our data and models, and our sector know-how. We just need to tell clients other than the Ministry.'
A challenging job. So why did you apply?
‘I have a passion for this organization. I thought long and hard before applying because I realize what a huge responsibility it is to manage SSG. But it allows me to concentrate on the things that matter to me: food, nature, sustainability.'