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Lara Hofstra new Student Diversity Officer

She says she fought for years for the position to be created and "wanted to make cartwheels through the streets" when she heard that she’ll be the one fulfilling it: Lara Hofstra will be the first Student Diversity Officer at TU/e. Although she sees this primarily as a victory for the students, especially for those who have been committedly working in a very positive way on diversity and the well-being of the Eindhoven student community.

Two of those students, who have also fought to get a Student Diversity Officer, are Naomie Amsing and Arthur Nijdam of Groep-één|ESR. In May 2019, questions were raised during the university council meeting, says Nijdam, former member of the University Council and former fraction member of the student party. Groep-één|ESR already consulted TU/e's Chief Diversity Officer Evangelia Demerouti at that time, for example about the possibility for more initiatives for diversity among students, welcoming internationals, policy for gender-neutral toilets, and so on.

“We found out that she was only responsible for employees, mainly doing research for policy purposes, rather than working on concrete projects for students. That's where our question for a Student Diversity Officer came from. Nicole Ummelen of the Executive Board said that she was open to this idea and so we wrote a concrete proposal,” Nijdam says.

Fraction chairwoman of Groep-één|ESR Naomie Amsing emphasizes once more that this new Diversity Officer is really there for the students. “That ambition is also reflected in TU/e's Strategy 2030. We noticed that for example Compass (aimed at the LGBTQ + community, ed.) and Cosmos (international community), were also hoping for this. And we as a party think this is really a very important topic, so we wanted to take action. There is a policy on diversity at the university, but mostly aimed at very specific groups such as students with a disability. Our goal is to include inclusivity and diversity in the general policy. Everyone should feel at home here.”

Link between students and the Executive Board

The Student Diversity Officer is an important link between the students and the Executive Board to draw attention to inclusivity and diversity. Hofstra sees multiple sides to her new role: someone who collects information and knows what is going on, but also someone who advises. “Many people have been working at TU/e for a long time and have not all grown together with the students, consequently, they do not always know what’s going on with them. That is why it is important as staff to get advice from students, because we really need to know what is going on in order to help them. Students want to give room to student well-being and diversity. We have to listen to that and we have to guide them in this, so that they can achieve their goals,” Hofstra says.

In the twelve years she has been working for TU/e already, she has talked with a lot of students and therefore knows what they are going through. “In my position as internationalization coordinator at the Student Sports Centre (SSC), I was only able to help them to a very limited extent. I can do much more with this title.” Hofstra will have a 0.5 FTE job as a Student Diversity Officer and will also continue to work at the SSC for 0.5 FTE, in order to focus on community building and diversity. The content of the new position still needs to be discussed further, but as a Student Diversity Officer she will for sure focus on student well-being, social safety, internationalization, gender equality, LGBTQ + and loneliness among students.

In addition, Hofstra will also work on existing diversity initiatives such as the Diversity Week and the Diversity Fund, for which ideas can be submitted again from August until October. Last year, among others, the rainbow crossing was chosen as a project to be executed. Hofstra is excited to get started and to turn diversity into policy. “I consider this new position a success if every student feels seen and heard and when students know where to go when they are struggling with something,” Hofstra says. “At the moment there’s some ambiguity about this. I want students, but also associations, to easily find me.”

Happy with Hofstra

It is clear that the students are happy with the appointment of Lara Hofstra for this position. Amsing: “Hofstra may not be a student herself, but she can easily put herself in the student’s shoes, and is good at talking and listening as well. Maybe Evangelia Demerouti can do that as well, but then you have to explain your ideas more and she’d have to focus on students in addition to employees. Lara was actually doing the job already without having this position. Now she has more opportunities to get things done.”

Nijdam complements her: “What we find important about a Student Diversity Officer is that it is really something different than a Diversity Officer for employees. Where the latter focuses on research and policy advice, Lara works on visible projects. That is what we need: ​​creating visible and tangible changes as soon as possible. So when you walk around the campus, you’ll notice that a truly diverse and inclusive environment has been created. I think Lara is able to make that happen.”

In the main photo from left to right: Naomie Amsing, Lara Hofstra and Arthur Nijdam.

I consider this new position a success if every student feels seen and heard

Lara Hofstra
TU/e's Student Diversity Officer

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