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100 years of education at WUR (+video's)

Gepubliceerd op
23 april 2018

One hundred years ago, the National Agricultural College was officially given academic status. While a lot changed in the century that followed, the Wageningen atmosphere remained the same according to lecturer of Hydrology and Water Quality Management Roel Dijksma. He created a video series about 100 years of education at WUR to celebrate the university's centennial.

The series includes interviews with WUR alumni who studied in Wageningen during noteworthy times. There are fourteen in total, beginning with Thijs Noordhoek, who started his studies in 1937. There were 400 male students at that time, all of whom lived in rooms rented out by landlords. They were known as 'the gentlemen' of Wageningen. The Second World War broke out during Noordhoek's student days. He was forced into hiding and could not complete his studies. "Unless you signed a document," he says, "which no one would do because then you'd be in German hands."

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Women and associations

In the 1960s, it became increasingly common for women to enrol in agricultural programmes. "The girls sat in the first few rows," says Hanke van Dam, who enrolled in the National Agricultural College in 1954. That was the only way to prevent the boys from looking back constantly to sneak a peek at the girls. According to Van Dam, students in those days were very obedient. "We consumed the information they fed us and asked questions every now and then. We were critical, but really only towards other students." Times have changed, says Van Dam, who worked at WUR for nearly thirty years after graduating.

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Gerrit Meester came to Nijmegen in 1962 and became a member of the Ceres student association. In those days, traditional student associations were coming under pressure in the Netherlands. Towards the end of his studies, Meester was a member of an association committee that abolished the head-shaving and hazing of first-year members on grounds of inequality. "I'm shocked at what some associations tolerate today, fifty years later," he says.

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WUR goes digital

For more than 65 years, WUR lecturers taught without the aid of computers. They wrote on blackboards and students hastily took notes, as lecture notes had not yet been introduced. Gerrit Hiemstra experienced the transition to computers at WUR, where he studied from 1979 to 1986. The first computer he saw had a huge monitor and a rounded screen. "Very few people remember those things. It was really unique to have a computer on your desk," says Hiemstra.

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Free travel

When he first started his studies, Ronald Loeve hitchhiked to and from Wageningen. The free public transport card for students was introduced in 1991, giving all WUR students the opportunity to travel for free on weekdays and weekends. The public transport card was met with some resistance from students. "They wanted the freedom to make their own choices," says Loeve. "The card was forced on us." Loeve has since had a change of heart. "Looking back, it was a good thing; a brilliant move to get more young people to use public transport."

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Wageningen culture

Current students will be able to identify with the memories of Imme Benedict, who graduated in 2017. She studied and lived with international students in Wageningen, sharing her student flat in the Dijkgraaf complex with seventeen housemates. One of those housemates included a thirty-something Afghan student. "He always wore a long white robe," recalls Benedict. Even when he took part in a knotsball competition with several housemates. It was a sight to behold, she remembers. "He would run after the ball in a long white robe with trainers underneath."

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Dijksma's academic films are available online. They are also projected on a pillar in the Forum building and will be played at various events, such as the Month of Education, which starts on 24 April. To take your own stroll down memory lane, join us at the World Wide Wageningen alumni day on 23 June.

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