At the opening of the academic year of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies on 7 September, Dr Mathilde van Dijk was elected Lecturer of the Year by the Faculty’s students. The other nominee was Prof. Marjo Buitelaar. A tough choice between excellent lecturers.
Students elected Dr Van Dijk for her flexibility, her ability to make all subjects interesting by relating them to society and popular culture, the diverse skills she teaches her students, and her all-roundness.
Mathilde Van Dijk is lecturer of History of Christianity and Gender Studies . She i s an expert in the history of late medieval reform movements and the appropriation of the medieval religious past in contemporary popular culture in connection to gender studies. She specializes in immaterial heritage: how Christian ideas are used and re-used time and again in past and present cultures. Her course units are both research-driven and student-oriented . At the start of a course unit, she asks her students what they find most interesting, and she then uses this feedback to adjust her curriculum. She considers this kind of flexibility to be an advantage both for the students and for herself. ‘One of the most amazing things about teaching is how students can surprise you by making connections you would have never thought of yourself.’
One of Van Dijk’s great strengths is her ability to make seemingly ‘boring’ subjects interesting. She considers it her mission to show students that far from being useless, the past has great value for today’s generation. By using examples from everyday life and especially from popular culture, she stays close to her students’ knowledge and perception, thus making it easier for students to understand the subject. ‘Students need to get that ‘aha moment’, when things just click into place,’ says Van Dijk. For example, in Gender Studies she uses examples from TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), movies (Star Wars), video games (Tomb Raider) and famous musicians (Madonna).
Van Dijk is applauded by her students for her ability to look at all her students as individuals. She sees university as a place where excellence can mean different things to different students. She challenges excellent students with additional assignments, but she also helps students who struggle by stimulating them to become their best self . As a teacher she sees it as her task to keep changing her teaching methods, to try out new ideas, and to see what works for the new students. Because every new generation needs a different approach. What remains constant is her hope that her students grow to become critical citizens, unafraid of challenging existing frameworks.
In January 2017, Mathilde van Dijk will represent the Faculty at the University of Groningen Lecturer of the Year elections. Since this competition was first launched, nine years ago, our Faculty has already won twice, an exceptional performance.
Previous winners within the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies include:
The Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Heritage in Contemporary Europe
Editors: Todd H. Weir and Lieke Wijnia
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