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People behind the scenes: Annemieke van der Kolk

She is the copy editor of a part of the new University of Groningen website, has been intimately involved in the development of the new website and has been writer and editor for the worldwide newsletter for a long time. An interview with Annemieke van der Kolk.

Annemieke van der Kolk

What is your role within the University?
I am copy editor of the ‘corporate, research, and operations management’ editorial team within the central Communication Office. This involves editing part of the public website and part of our own intranet – My University. In addition, I coordinate the functional-technical management of the website. My colleagues and I are responsible for technical changes to the website or adding new functionalities.

How did you get into this work?
After graduating, I started teaching Arabic and Hebrew. I then became a study advisor for international students in the Faculty of Economics and Business, and after that I spent a period working on a project for Saudi students studying Medicine. This job steered me towards the Communication Office, where I started as an editor for international target groups. I suppose you could say that I’ve always focused on international students.

So you've focused on the international side; I gather you were also responsible for the worldwide newsletter?
Yes, I did that fairly soon after I started. The University wanted to improve its service to our international alumni. Compiling a newsletter focusing on international alumni and other international relations was one of the instruments we came up with. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, although my latest position means that I’m not as involved as I used to be. But it’s a job I always enjoyed doing as it gives you lots of creative freedom. You get to interview all kinds of people. One of my favourite interviews was with the carillonist, Auke de Boer. The photographer and I had to climb to the top of the Academy Tower for that interview!

So now you’re focusing on other things. You were involved in revamping the University of Groningen website; what was your role in this process?
Together with a colleague, I was in charge of the project for the public part of the website. I mainly concentrated on the content and my colleague focused on the navigation and accessibility aspects. This took around 18 months and it was an intensive period. But we had a great team and we had a lot of laughs too. I learned an awful lot from the project and got to know the organization inside out. You have to keep asking yourself what the target group wants to read. What is it they’re asking and what’s the best way of giving them the information they want? Visitors to the website often leave positive reactions, which is very encouraging.

Is the web project really finished now?
There comes a point when you have to go live, even when you know that certain aspects need more work. We had to keep the public website on air while it was under construction, together with the intranets we were constructing and the ‘old’ website (the website that worked ‘old style’). All this, along with a high-pressure construction period, put a strain on the organization. We’re still working hard on developing the new website. A university is a dynamic organization where something is always going on, so you’re continually modifying the website to keep up with the latest developments. That means that there’ll never be a point when the website is ‘finished’.

Has the new website affected the editorial work?
One of the main differences is that we’ve divided the people dealing with content into two categories. We have the people who write well, the editors, and the people who are good at the technical side, the webmasters. We also put more effort into training our editors. We have divided the central editorial office into three main areas: news, education for students and prospective students, and finally the area in which I work as copy editor, corporate, research and operations management.

How do you envisage the future of the website?
I hope that we can continue in much the same way – less emphasis on what we think is interesting and more attention for how we can serve our users. We’ll conduct regular user surveys and I hope that these will help us to make the site more visitor-oriented with shorter, up-to-date articles and correct information that is easy to find.

And how do you see your own future at the University of Groningen?
I’ve just started as copy editor. It’s a great job, which I hope to do for many years. We’ve done the hard part of constructing the new website and sorting out the teething problems, so I’d like to explore some of our more creative ideas for the site now, such as more effective ways of posting information. We’re currently working on a project designed to shine the spotlight on the University of Groningen’s contribution to society. We talk about this a lot, but we really need to make things more explicit, show people concrete examples. And we have numerous other ideas like this, which I’m looking forward to developing.

Last modified:19 March 2020 09.40 a.m.