Willem van Hoorn | internationalization policy official at DPO
Willem van Hoorn is a cautious, though enthusiastic talker. He is not easy to keep up with while writing. It soon becomes clear that he puts as much passion into his work as into his words.
What exactly is it that you do?
“My job description is ‘internationalization adviser ’. I initiate all kinds of activities focusing on the embedding of the almost one thousand international TU/e staff members, making them feel at home. Think of the introductory days. In the past year, for example, I set up the buddy system (coaching system whereby a new foreign staff member is shown the ropes by someone who has worked here for longer, ed.), fitted out the common room in the Bunker together with colleagues of the STU, helped organize the Brainport International Weekend and developed a ‘teaching across cultures’ course.”
Is there not a risk of international staff members being singled out as a separate community as a result of all those special initiatives?
Van Hoorn ponders for a bit. “Positive discrimination is not good. Indeed, it is not necessary at all for this group, as they are extremely privileged, highly educated people. Still, this does not mean that they cannot benefit from a leg-up. We often see that someone who moves abroad for a longer period ends up in low spirits. Their colleagues in the host country already have their own social networks. I often hear people say that they consider their Dutch colleagues to be very helpful, but this tends to stop at 5 p.m.”
So that attention is really necessary?
“I think it is. It is also to do with being a good employer. Expressing that it is good to have that other person here. We have a dire shortage of knowledge workers, and proper embedding is the best recruitment.”
Anything to add?
“I think this job is great fun and I am learning new things every day. It is fascinating to look at yourself and your country through the eyes of international colleagues. Without being aware of it you think that your own values and habits have a universal validity, when this is only partly so. That awareness is very enriching for me.” (SK)
Willem van Hoorn. Photo | Bart van Overbeeke