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University of Humanistic Studies

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3512 HD Utrecht, the Netherlands

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University of Humanistic Studies Graduate school Testimonials of PhD students

Testimonials of PhD students

Carla Kolner (53), senior advisor in the DSP group, the institute for policy research and innovation

'After 25 years of work experience in the field of sport, welfare and public health, I was faced with a massive change in the field of health care and social provisions. Professionals from municipalities and related organizations have to deal with complex and ambiguous questions in the social domain nowadays. So I started looking for the new answers to the rising questions as well.

It was a long time ago since I completed my university education - Master in Health science, and Culture, Organization and Management (prop). That is why I decided to refresh and extend my education. At the LESI institute (2010 - 2011), I met prof dr. Harry Kunneman. He inspired me to continue my study. Since 2014 I am working on the thesis ‘The complexity of multidisciplinary cooperation in the triangle of local authority, social welfare- and (health-) care-systems in neighborhoods’.

Since last year I am able to combine work and research, which is very beneficial for both domains in my life. Of course it is still a daily challenge to find the time and peace of mind  in order to make progress in my research, next to a busy job, a family and social life. But I can really recommend this inspiring combination, i.e. working and studying at the same time. It adds quality to my work and enriches my life'.

Peter Hendriks (60), researcher in the group Innovative Social Service Provision at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht

'Until a few years ago I had no aspiration to pursue a PhD, nor could I imagine what such a project would entail. When my employer offered a chance to apply for a voucher, I saw it as a unique opportunity. Besides, it was a noble way to escape the daily pressure of educational practice. I was in my mid 50s when my application was accepted. It was almost funny to see how many people questioned my motives to commence a PhD project at that age. After all, it is often seen as a preparation for a career, so why invest in someone at the end of it? 

I hoped to contribute to education in order to increase diversity of our student population and the inclusiveness of the profession. I have been involved in international education in the field of social work for almost 25 years now, and the connection between international and the intercultural dimensions of the work has always intrigued me. In my qualitative research I decided to focus on the Turkish and the Moroccan Dutch students studying social work, who represent the two largest minority groups in the  Netherlands.

For me, all stereotypes about a PhD are true. It is a solitary, exciting process with many insecurities, which can even become obsessive from time to time. I have just started working on my fourth publication, and to my own surprise I have discovered that reading and writing during all those years have also become a rewarding experience'. 

Angelien Steen (52), psychiatrist / psychotherapist

'I studied medicine first, and philosophy afterwards, due to my interest in philosophical anthropology and philosophy of life. I became a psychiatrist because human interaction and the combination of physical and mental aspects of life are most important in this profession. I conducted research and published the results, but it didn't lead to research of my own. It has always been my dream and ambition to produce something in an intellectual and academic field.

Since 1998 I am working as a psychiatrist / psychotherapist. Recently my focus has been on young people, who struggle with issues of meaningful life and identity. The research will have practical and theoretical implications for treatment of the patients who have personality and sense-making problems. In order to reach this goal I am conducting empirical research, which is based on analysis of questionnaires as well as on the qualitative analysis of the life stories.

The topic of the research was my own choice, but it had to match the research fields of the University of Humanistic Studies. The first supervisor is also a psychiatrist, which makes our cooperation very productive. It is both informative and inspiring to do this at the Graduate School because of the small-scale and tailor-made educational programme, the intensive personal supervision, the peer-group learning, as well as the structure of the PhD project. For somebody who works outside the academic environment it is rewarding to have an educational framework, whereby one is expected to present a thorough research proposal at the end of the first year. And it is possible to combine the Graduate School with a part-time job as psychiatrist'.

Jimmy Spire Ssentongo (36),  lecturer in Ethics and Research Methodology in Uganda Martyrs University

Jimmy has successfully defended his PhD thesis on the 26th of October 2015

'I come from Uganda in the Eastern part of Africa, where I work with a Catholic-founded private university as a lecturer in Ethics and qualitative research. On a part-time basis, I also teach at Makerere University (Uganda’s biggest public university) and draw editorial cartoons for a tri-weekly paper called The Observer.

This journey started in 2010 due to my involvement in the Pluralism  Knowledge Programme. The Programme was funded by Hivos through the Kosmopolis Institute at the UvH and spearheaded by the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda in Uganda. All along I had a strong interest in doing a PhD, but opportunities were not forthcoming. I had preference for a programme that was flexible enough to allow me to continue with my other work and to remain close to the family. When I eventually found this opportunity, I had little knowledge of the shape it would take. Because I was based in Uganda, most of the interaction with the supervisors had to happen online. I would only visit the university once a year for conferences and short workshops. Sometimes the journey became very lonely, and online engagement had its own challenges. You could not benefit as you would if the interface were in person. However, when one gets supervisors as supportive as the ones I had, all becomes tolerable. It was such an enriching exercise. What is very clear to me at this point is that it takes a lot of self-discipline to get to the finish line - the discipline to work well with supervisors, to steer away from distractions, to strike a balance between studies and other commitments, to avoid the habit of procrastination, and to respect deadlines. I must thank all those who accompanied me in this journey.

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