Louise Fresco’s eight years as president of the executive board are up. She left quite a mark on the university, building further links between WUR and the agri-food industry and pushing the growth of WUR as a high-profile agricultural technology university.
Sjoukje Heimovaara (Ciao-kyeh Hai-mov-ahrah for all you Italians) will be the new president of WUR from July 2022. She is a plant breeding researcher by trade. Unlike Louise, she has no TED talks to her name and no high-profile positions on boards of multinational corporations. Instead, she has worked mainly in the research and development sector of the Netherlands.
Besides having a name that is almost impossible to pronounce, Sjoukje has other achievements. As part of the Advisory Council on Science, Technology and Innovation (known by its Dutch acronym AWTI) she advises the government on policies concerning science, technology, and innovation. Next to that, she was the head of research and development and later the CEO at Royal van Zanten up until 2019. And for the past two years, she was the Managing Director of the Agrotechnology & Food Sciences Group (AFSG).
What does this mean for WUR?
It seems that WUR has chosen a less controversial figure, who may have a stronger focus on internal affairs at WUR. After ten years of accelerated growth for WUR, this pivot in strategy toward more internal reflection and reform may be a clever move. Many students and staff are just coming out the other end of almost two years of ‘hybrid learning’ and many are feeling overworked. The next years could see some much-needed internal changes.
Although the supervisory board had shown intentions of seeking around the globe for a new female candidate, they have stuck closer to home—a familiar face, with first-hand experience on being a bachelor’s student at WUR, and a strong familiarity of the Dutch research and science sector. We are curious to see what she will bring in the next eight years, and how she will (re)direct some of Louise’s long-lasting legacies.
Are you interested in what the president actually does at WUR? OtherWise and RUW are organising an evening talk and discussion all about governance and power within our university. You can find more information and sign-up here.