On Thursday 13 June, Prof. D. Strijker was appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau. The Mayor of Aa en Hunze T. Baas presented the award in the Blue Room of the Duisenberg Building.
Dirk Strijker (Hoogeveen, 1953) is Professor of Rural Development (by special appointment) and holds the Mansholt Chair in the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen (UG). For many years, he has been a highly sought-after, well-respected expert in the field of both rural development and European agricultural policy. He has made huge advances in putting academic and social rural issues on the regional, national and international agendas.
Dirk Strijker was originally an agricultural economist. Over the years, he has conducted much research into this field in the Faculties of Spatial Sciences and Economics and Business at the UG. He is universally praised as an expert in the field of the economic aspects of agriculture, agricultural politics and transitions relating to rural areas. As a professor by special appointment, he set up a research group to look into rural issues, focusing on ensuring that rural populations would have (and retain) access to employment and facilities, providing them with the same living conditions and development opportunities as people living in urban areas. The main focus of his group is on farmers and farming concerns, part-time entrepreneurship in rural areas (mainly among women) and self-reliance among people living in rural areas. He wants to use insights from research to generate extra support and prevent isolation. His efforts have done a lot to improve the interaction between government bodies, market parties and citizens’ initiatives, as well as extend the boundaries of self-reliance.
Thanks to a broad network that enables him to exchange knowledge and cooperate with various ministries, institutes and regional governments, Strijker has carried out a remarkable number of research projects. An example of this is the in-depth, interdisciplinary study of inheritable poverty in the peat colonies of Groningen, which his research group is currently conducting. The question they are trying to answer is: How is it possible that poverty in this area has been passed from generation to generation for so many decades? He is also a pioneer in research into digital accessibility in rural areas via high-speed internet, and innovative communication and transport technologies. High-speed internet is particularly important in sparsely populated areas: take farmers who need the 5G network to operate drones for organic arable farming, or people who need to access healthcare facilities from remote areas, or entrepreneurs who work from home.
Over the years, Strijker has managed to draw international attention to research into the rural areas of Groningen by taking an active part in international collaborations (both individually and via research consortia), and by actively participating in numerous major European conferences as a presenter, supervisor or co-organizer. Thanks to his glowing international reputation, he has maintained a steady flow of research projects, including within several European programmes in which he works with partners from the field and government organizations in the Northern Netherlands. In addition, he works closely with various universities and research institutes in countries including Germany, Great Britain and China, is a member of several international advisory committees and has been appointed as visiting professor of Rural Development at the University of Lincoln in the UK.
As a lecturer, Strijker has always been deeply committed to developing the Bachelor’s degree programmes in the Faculty of Spatial Sciences. For example, he set up and designed the course unit in Rural Geography. During this course unit, students visit farms or carry out fieldwork in rural communities. His passion and commitment also means it is important to him that students acquire a thorough understanding of the numerous research methods available and are able to apply them during their professional careers. For this reason, he takes an active part in devising the Methods for Academic Research and Bachelor's project course units. In another move, he has standardized and structured student supervision.
Although the position of professor by special appointment does not usually involve management duties, Strijker also excels in this area. He is a considerate manager, who is able to motivate people to think carefully about their careers. He sees the balance between the work and private life of his staff as a priority and is able to sense when work pressure becomes excessive. PhD students and young researchers see him as a charismatic, engaged mentor and coach, who provides outstanding supervision, support and advice during their academic careers. He is still in contact with many of them.
As holder of the Mansholt Chair, Strijker has always been able to bridge the gap between academia and society (and vice versa). On the one hand, he has found a way to translate his research into policy and for public audiences; the parties involved often convert his research findings into strategic interventions without question. On the other hand, he is known for his ability to translate socially relevant topics into academic research subjects. He takes an active part in public debate in the Northern Netherlands about the future of agriculture and the landscape, the development and improvement of the quality of life in villages and the strengthening of the region. He is happy is discuss his views in the lecture hall and with the media and does not shy away from controversy. The general public knows him as an expert who regularly appears in the media to clarify rural issues, such as the outcry during the scandal after fipronil was found in hens’ eggs. Strijker writes an influential column in a weekly magazine called De Boerderij, a leading journal for professional farmers, in which he presents new ideas and innovative concepts in an expert, independent manner. His columns in the Dagblad van het Noorden newspaper give people with little knowledge of agriculture and rural areas an original peek behind the scenes. He is also more than happy to roll up his sleeves. For example, he is helping Eexterzandvoort with its plan to manage the verges within the built-up areas of the village and is lending support to a local fibre-optic network consortium.
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