Wetenschap - 7 november 2002

Student deans are there for everyone

Student deans are there for everyone

Whatever the problem, whether it's about grants, childcare, RSI, finance, complaints or just some advice, international MSc and PhD students can always go to the two student deans. Jan van Bommel and Carla Haenen encounter a colourful variety of people and problems during their office hours. "That's what we like about the work," they both confirm.

Originally a lawyer, Jan van Bommel has been a dean in Wageningen for ten years now. "My legal background comes in useful here as a lot of the work is related to regulations. What I like about my work is the individual contact with students. That's what the deans are for and I am open to what I hear."

Haenen studied agricultural engineering here, but has worked for over ten years now in education and student affairs. She has been dean for international students for the last two years. "I really enjoy advising and helping MSc and PhD students, especially working with people from so many different cultures."

If you encounter problems of any kind during your study in Wageningen you can go to the student deans. Van Bommel: "International students seem to come more for practical matters, but you can always come if you just want to talk to someone. Sometimes it helps to have a listening ear if you are finding it difficult to settle down." Carla adds: "Sometimes I notice that if people are having difficulties they bury themselves in their study. But students don't have to do that. If you can't concentrate because you are homesick or a relative is seriously ill, it can help just to come and talk about things with us. When students come to us with problems we always try and work out a solution together."

The deans can also help to find financial support for childcare, and give advice if a student is considering a change of study. They can also help students who run into difficulties. Haenen "Sometimes through no fault of their own, students cannot finish their study on time. In this case there may be extra funds available. We always look at the personal circumstances." Van Bommel: "We approach each case individually, but equal cases are treated equally. For this reason we always communicate with colleagues about what we have advised and the action we take."

In recent years Van Bommel has noticed the tendency of international students to keep on working even if they become ill. "Students work very hard when they are writing up their thesis. Even if they develop RSI or something as serious as a lung infection they keep on going. Usually they think, 'oh, it's only for a few months', without realising that this can make the problem even worse." Students who develop RSI should contact the student doctor, and Haenen advises them to work fewer hours each day, and spend less time at the computer. "But we always discuss the matter with the student doctor, as well as the consequences for the student's study."

Yvonne de Hilster

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