Interview: Trui ten Kampe
To kick off the web edition of Magazine One, we sat down with Trui ten Kampe (previously director of MAMDT) in the gym on a sunny and rather hot Monday afternoon somewhere late June. When Trui closed the door behind her a few months ago, she left behind something special. This online publication is a dedication to her: to chaos and order operating in a perfect symbiosis.
June, 2017 – MAMDT Gym
“Society is becoming more and more complex. It’s no longer possible to just have one specific skill and use that to solve the big challenges of the world. That time is definitely over.”
At MAMDT, students are trained to be designers for the world of tomorrow. A world that isn’t here yet. Both teachers and students are motivated to excel and to find their way around in the rapidly changing landscape of technology, arts and geopolitics. But, by extension, also in the way that people and businesses themselves are trying to cope with these developments. The traditional ways of teaching, where the teacher stands in front of a classroom, no longer suffices. “The last couple of years we’ve built the academy in such a way that teachers arrange their classes and assignments with other parties. Co-creation”, explains Trui with the typical clarity and candor we have come to expect of her. “The first year, year and a half, students spend most of their days at school. But after that, we want to leave the confines of the building. We want to walk around in the world around us and we want students to work with real parties and real professionals, in the real world.”
Preparing students for the real world
The aim behind organising the educational program around co-creation is to prepare the students for the real world, the field of work they might end up in. But does it work? “Well”, starts Trui carefully, “we do a lot of surveys, in which we ask for feedback from the students. The question ‘Are you well prepared for the professional environment?’ actually doesn’t score that well. However, I think a lot of students only think about their internships when they answer this question.” Trui continues to explain that it’s a matter of communication and semantics. “We should try to show the students that their whole 3rd and 4th year are almost fully focused on preparing them for the real world, as they solve real problems from real parties in a co-creational setting.” Trui shows herself to be as reflective as always, regardless of her retirement.
She continues to explain that being well prepared for the field of work is also up to the students themselves. Some students are intrinsically motivated to gather new knowledge and skills and to explore new environments. Studying abroad and doing internships at less than obvious companies. But other students are hesitant to leave the safety and comfort of their own environment. “It can also be a matter of age, that you start doing these thing as soon as you get a bit older. That’s something that we have found to have little influence over as an academy. Either way, we are convinced that we are actually preparing our students very well for their future.”
The catch-22 of the truly engaged student
Continuing the dialogue as sharp-witted as always and without showing any sign of being bothered by the summer heat, the retired headmaster continues to talk about the challenges that MAMDT will face in the future. “Getting all of the students truly involved and engaged is a challenge that we continually have to face.”
A relatively small group of students spends a lot of their time at school, developing their skills and working together, while the majority goes home right after class ends. “That’s something you see at other academies in the Netherlands as well. So MAMDT is no different in this respect, when compared to others. Regardless, we would like to know what the underlying problem is and how we can change it. We don’t witness as much of a learning community at the level that we were hoping for. Is it the building? Is it the atmosphere, or the education? We use the surveys to ask the students and we try to act on their remarks as much as possible. We are willing to give financial support, for instance with field trips, or by investing in film productions. But, you know, the youth of today is changing. There is a part of our students that are eager by nature, I am sure they will turn out fine. But there is also a sizeable group that we don’t see around so much, they are harder for us to reach. It’s quite a puzzle”, reflects Trui in all her honesty.
“We do and try a lot of stuff. We have several events, like a knowledge-café, film-café and makers-café. The knowledge-café is a great way to inspire and engage students, but the real challenge is found in getting the less-than-motivated student to actually start going to events like these”, Trui explains the catch-22. “We keep on trying. The knowledge-café will move from the evening to during the day, so practical issues like being home in time for dinner or catching the last train are resolved. We pay for everything, food and drinks. But you know, getting more students here is something that my successor should resolve”, Trui jokes.
The world of today and the world of tomorrow
Speaking of intrinsically motivated people, a quick glance on Trui’s impressive resume shows us that we are dealing with a highly-motivated person right here. Educated in what she calls ‘adult pedagogy’, public administration theory, change management and leadership, Trui is the living and breathing example of a lifelong learner. “I completed my last formal education in 2011 and I am currently in the middle of another two-year program. You often see that people that end up in a management position stop educating themselves and stop reading, that is really a bad thing”.
She is clearly someone with a broad worldview and Trui explains that exactly this was lacking in the programs when she started her work as the head of MAMDT. “Students just learned about the subjects they chose. But I immediately realised there was far too little focus on the problems and developments that manifest themselves on a global scale. In a geopolitical sense. That is something we definitely changed for the better. We get students to think about what they learn. Why am I learning this? What is my contribution to the bigger picture? That helps a lot!”
Solving today’s problems is one thing. Designing for the world of tomorrow also implies that one requires a clear image of the future holds. So, what does the future look like? “Well, six more weeks and then I am going home”, Trui laughs. “All joking aside. You are addressing me with this question as the head of the academy, right? But that’s not how I see myself. I think of my part as someone who looks at a community of people: knowledge workers who share an ambition. And yes, this ambition must be realised within the context of an educational program, be it CMD (Communication and Multimedia Design) or VisCom (Visual Communication). For the future, I want there to be a well-oiled academy, in which teachers can fulfil their ambitions, where they can grow and are able to design new programs. And, by extension, students can fulfill their ambitions as well.”
Well Trui, thank you for everything. We will continue to work on that mission to the best of our ability.