Digital Society Programme Manager
Sjoerd Meihuizen is Programme Manager for the Digital Society. This joint programme of the Dutch universities intends to create a new and appealing international profile for the Netherlands as a pioneer in the field of human-centred information technology. Our country can transform itself into a living ‘testing grounds’, enabling a rapid exploration of how we can optimally tailor new technology to suit the needs of individuals and society as a whole. Research plays a key role in this respect. A delta plan of this type for the new ‘digital society’ will give the Netherlands major social, scientific and economic opportunities.
Sjoerd worked for the Dutch Research Council (NWO) for ten years in the field of Computer Science research and for Nuffic (Diploma evaluations). He has keen interest in the Digital Humanities. Sjoerd graduated with a MA in Art History from the University of Groningen and did an exchange year at the University of Minnesota and PhD work at UCLA.
Head of Communications and Public Affairs
Patricia Heerekop (b. 1971) is VSNU’s Head of Communications and Public Affairs. Patricia’s objective is to help bolster the academic support base. Her stakeholders range from politicians to the general public and the resources that she employs are diverse. Recent activities included organising the Twitter debate on knowledge and innovation which saw VSNU share the soapbox with the Dutch Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MKB-Nederland), VNO-NCW, TNO, KNAW, NWO and the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. This debate turned into a trending topic on Twitter. The importance of research was personally advocated by politicians, CEOs, representatives of advisory bodies and famous scientists. When the Members of the Lower House checked their pigeonholes the following day, they found a newspaper with background information and summaries. Patricia also engages in other initiatives surrounding the Sector Annual Report of the Dutch Universities and the development of the VSNU fact sheets (A4 sheets outlining the Dutch universities’ stance on issues). These fact sheets contain bite-sized information for politicians and journalists.
Patricia studied design and communication at the Ichthus University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam, and holds additional professional diplomas in senior communications advisement. Previously, she developed public campaigns at an advertising agency. She was also active as a Communications Adviser at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the National Innovation Forum. At the moment, Patricia is taking a Master’s in Corporate Communications at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Her role at VSNU is to stimulate collaborations and contacts between people. For example, she ensures structural communication between academics and Parliamentary Committees through the Parliament and Science project, which includes breakfast meetings among other things. Patricia: ‘This project allows scientists to share their knowledge with politicians and show them the relevance of their research. Conversely, politicians can enhance their contribution to the debate by using academic insights. It is a win-win situation. My drive is to discover and realise such opportunities for collaboration. In this way, science is awarded its rightful position and prominence.’
Suzanne (b. 1989) acts as Communication Specialist to ensure that VSNU’s work is visible, accessible and attractive to its target groups in order to raise support for its lobbying and programmes. To this end, she takes the initiative to arrange discussions or brainstorming sessions with policy staff on policy objectives and the advantages of communication in this regard. By subsequently translating this information into an action plan, Suzanne designs and directs the implementation of what to communicate when and how.
Following up on her Bachelor’s in European Studies at The Hague University of Applied Sciences and her Pre-Master’s in Public Administration at Leiden University, she obtained her Master’s in Crisis and Security Management at the latter institution in 2013. Suzanne was previously employed at PR and communications consultancy Smith Communicatie, where she took care of public relations and communications for multiple clients in addition to the organisation of events.
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