“Universities are important change-makers; I believe we are the only networked institutions that can truly solve global challenges,” said our Vice-Chancellor. “Our alumni have a big role to play in this mission, as our ambassadors in the UK and around the world.”
In September, Simone Buitendijk became the first female Vice-Chancellor in the University’s history, joining Leeds following four years as Vice-Provost (Education) and Professor of Maternal and Child Health at Imperial College London. She previously held a senior leadership role as Vice-Rector at Leiden University in the Netherlands, with responsibility for education, student affairs and diversity.
“I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to come to Leeds. It is research intensive and comprehensive, which I like – and when I first visited, I could sense the pride people had in this great community. The sense of social responsibility, locally and globally, truly matches my values.”
Simone’s ambition is reflected in the University’s upcoming new strategy, which has culture, community and impact at its core, with an emphasis on digital transformation. “Together, I want us to address important world problems. We will focus on cutting-edge research and training the next generation of global citizens, strengthening links between research and education. We must also look to become more collaborative and inclusive, both within the University and between universities globally.
“I really do want to change the world. I think the University is the best place to do that, and I think together we can make it happen.”
She sees alumni playing an active role. “Our 270,000-strong alumni community helps to make us globally visible.
“By sharing expertise and mentoring talented students, particularly those from different cultural backgrounds and outlooks, you are truly making a difference. Despite the pandemic, our sense of community between staff, students and alumni is stronger than it has ever been in the way we have come together. I am grateful for that and I can’t wait to meet our alumni in person as soon as I’m able to do so.
“Starting this role during a crisis was a little different,” Simone added, “but it is also an important time to reflect on the future and what we want it to be. One of my immediate actions has been to look at things we are doing now in a digital environment that work well, and how to keep or adapt them for beyond the crisis. Digital learning brings the world together. For our alumni, it gives even greater opportunity for learning and sharing in classrooms all over the world. Combining this with local and global research and collaboration opens up huge opportunities for students, for research and for the communities we serve. There is huge potential in digital transformation, which is truly exciting.”
Since her arrival, Simone has been making the most of living in Leeds – whether cycling to campus from Headingley or exploring the surrounding countryside. “There is something about Yorkshire. I’ve been enjoying the nature and the trails. Every weekend I try to do a long walk following community recommendations on social media. When we’re able to, I’m looking forward to exploring the city – the theatres, the museums – and meeting more of those who have been so welcoming.”
Follow Simone on Twitter at @SEBuitendijk and read her blog at simone-buitendijk.medium.comFollow on Twitter