'Because Marette is such an open lecturer we feel encouraged to be ourselves'
That one student and lecturer
Sooner or later you’ll run into them: that one lecturer who kindles your interest or inspires you to go your own way. Lecturers, for their part, are lucky to be able to develop such bonds with many students. In this series we home in on the special relationship between lecturers and students. This time: lecturer Marette and students Nabila and Jordan of the Business Innovation degree programme.
Marette Ebert is a lecturer in Cultural Awareness at the Business Innovation programme of Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Diemen campus. ‘When I studied Communications at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam years ago, I had a part-time job as a student assistant. I enjoyed teaching so much that I decided to become a lecturer. My main passion is to provide education to students with a variety of cultural backgrounds. I’m drawn to diversity. I myself lived in Suriname and Aruba for many years. That international atmosphere is clearly present in the Business Innovation classrooms.’
Marette really took the time to coach me. Her commitment really made me feel acknowledged.
Nabila Lourens and Jordan Hilario are both second-year students of Business Innovation. They first met Marette last year. ‘It was in the Multicultural Teamwork course’, Jordan recalls. ‘There were some problems in my group, and as our coach Marette was quick to recognise the difficulties I was grappling with. When I rang her on a Sunday afternoon she really took the time to help me. Try to put yourself in the other’s shoes, she said. Her commitment really made me feel acknowledged.’
Nabila has a similar experience. ‘One evening I sent Marette a message because I had a problem, and she responded right away. I like it that Marette is very open. She also shows things about her own life. For instance, that she and her Surinamese husband have two beautiful daughters and that she’s fascinated by Caribbean cultures. She shows her love for music through the work of Bob Marley. That’s when I thought: Marette gets it.’
Jordan calls Marette ‘professionally wacky’. ‘I like that. It’s very inviting that she’s so personal and open.’ Nabila: ‘It encourages us to be ourselves, just like her. Do you know what’s typical about Marette’s lectures? When they finish, instead of leaving straight away students hang around and walk along with her.’
Listening and counselling
Marette beams. ‘That’s the kind of appreciation you aim for as a lecturer. You do this job because of the connection with your students; to help them grow by coaching and supervising them. It helps them along.’
The open and personal approach suits Marette, but it also has a specific goal. ‘Business Innovation attracts students from all corners of the globe. For them, this is home. That’s why we’re building a community together and learning about each other’s backgrounds. It’s also because this range of perspectives helps upcoming professionals ahead. Diversity increases your creativity.’ Jordan and Nabila have an important role in this, Marette emphasises. ‘If it weren’t for their active attitude, their creativity and their willingness to collaborate and reflect on what students need, there would be no community building going on at all.’
You do this job because of the connection with your students; to help them grow by coaching and supervising them
At Business Innovation, community building also involves the taste buds. ‘In the introduction weeks we organise a community dinner’, says Marette. ‘Students bring dishes from their home countries.’ For Nabila and Jordan this worked out very well. ‘Eating brings people together. You learn about each other and each other’s backgrounds. It starts up a whole new dialogue.’ Jordan: ‘It immediate made me feel that international vibe that I thought was missing from a different university of applied sciences.’
Stepping outside your bubble
Although they’re only still in the second year of their programme, Nabila and Jordan have already learned personal lessons from Marette. ‘About stepping outside your own bubble as a person and as a professional’, Nabila points out. ‘Not just saying whatever comes to mind to someone, but being open, listening attentively and responding from a point of view of equality and inclusion.’ Jordan agrees: ‘Better interaction between people comes about if you take the trouble to learn about the other and also give them an opportunity to express themselves. I try to do that every day in our large, diverse group of students.’
Taking the positive as a starting point
Marette, in her turn, learns a lot from her students. ‘For my generation diversity is an issue, a difficult question. But my students show me that it’s fun and valuable. They just tackle things together.’ Jordan smiles: ‘That’s also because of Marette’s way of teaching. She always takes the positive as a starting point.’ Nabila seconds this: ‘Instead of asking us to write a report about cultural diversity, Marette invites us to engage in a dialogue with each other, to stand in the other’s shoes in order to feel diversity. It’s from this feeling that knowledge emerges.’
Working from the heart
Marette is grateful for these compliments. ‘As a lecturer, coach and supervisor you do this job from the heart. If you don’t, you can be there for your students five days a week as well as evenings as well as weekends. If you’re open to them, you get two-way communication and learn a lot from your students. We’re each other’s role models. And the personal contact is what makes the job fun.’