Annelies, The Hague University of Applied Sciences
11 November 2022
By Eva Schouten
Teaching students more than just their major is a red thread through the work of Annelies van Rosmalen from The Hague University of Applied Sciences. ‘You want students to develop a broad perspective, empathy and a sense of responsibility for the world around them. To become global citizens.’ Annelies and Justice & Peace have been collaborating for years to realise this.
‘We both think in possibilities’
Annelies van Rosmalen initiated The Lighthouse at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, a platform that organises events about contemporary civil and societal issues for students, employees and others. The atrium where it is located transformed into a central meeting place in the university. When Justice & Peace reached out to her, Annelies was immediately open to collaboration. ‘From the start, the director of Justice & Peace, Sebastiaan, and I had a good connection with each other. He brims with enthusiasm and is very driven. We both think in possibilities.’ Together with Annelies, Justice & Peace organised several editions of the Martin Luther King Lecture and even more lectures by human rights defenders. They also co-created the Mural of Change, a large graffiti painting on the side wall of the school, “a real highlight”. The next Martin Luther King Lecture, titled ‘Civil Disobedience’, will take place on December 7th, 2022 at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.
The bright light from the dome and soft murmur of conversations drift towards you as soon as you enter the central hall of the main building of The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Groups of students are working in the cafeteria or talking to each other in the atrium. Towards the back of the hall, a ping-pong match is in full swing. This place is the beating heart of the university. But it has not always been that way.
’There was nothing here before the renovation,’ Annelies van Rosmalen says. ’People would come in and rush to their office or classroom.’ In 2015, the atrium transformed into a place that would encourage interaction and connection, including a cafeteria, art, a Speaker’s Corner and Innovation Playground. ’That was my job – they asked me to develop a programme with events for these areas.’ At that point, Annelies had already worked at the university for 15 years as a Communications and Marketing manager. She needed a change and committed herself to the task, being on her own at first and with a growing team of staff around her later on. It completely transformed her role in the organisation. She used to work in a different building on campus for services only, but now she is a part of the buzzing life in the central hall. ’I got to know the university in a completely different way, that was so amazing!
‘Now I am in the midst of it all, talking to students and teachers. That was a true revelation.’
Focus on global citizenship
’At that time, the university was also working on a new strategy focusing on global citizenship. You want students to develop a broad perspective, empathy and a sense of connection with and responsibility for the world around them. We made topics such as sustainability and human rights more important.’ They organise lectures, discussions and other activities on varying topics. ’We also listen to the input of students and employees, what they find essential for example, gender-based issues and sustainable fashion.’
Considering the topics, it might seem straightforward to collaborate with an NGO. But the collaboration between The Lighthouse and Justice & Peace was prime. ’Usually, an external partner approaches us first,’ Annelies explains. ’I am quite spontaneous and intuitive. If someone approaches us with an idea that fits well with our programme and benefits our students, I tend to go for it. ’The communication with Justice & Peace was good from the start. Annelies and Sebastiaan van der Zwaan, director of Justice & Peace, are both driven and have a positive mindset. As programme manager of The Lighthouse, Annelies has a fairly independent position and much freedom in the university. ’I get enough space, literally, and a decent budget. That is quite nice, so I cherish that.’
’If someone approaches us with an idea that fits well with our program and benefits our students, I tend to go for it.’
Martin Luther King lecture and human rights lectures
Together they organised the first Martin Luther King lecture in The Hague in 2018, a conversation with four different speakers about discrimination, racism and social injustice. ’That first MLK lecture was very special,’ Annelies recalls. ’It was busy, with a beautiful line-up. And I remember that we got completely off-schedule.’ Even though the 2020 edition took place in Beeld & Geluid because of Covid-19, The Lighthouse was still closely involved in the event organisation.
Another result of their collaboration is the human rights lectures for the majors “International Law” and “Dutch Law”, and the minor “Peace Building, Justice & Human Rights”. A human rights defender, who is at risk in their own country and stays temporarily in the Netherlands through the Shelter City programme of Justice & Peace, gets invited to speak to students. ’The stories of the human rights defenders are beautiful because they are very real and can be quite confronting. That is engaging and informative for students; it leaves an unforgettable impression.’
Mural of Change
The crown on the work between The Hague University of Applied Sciences and Justice & Peace is the Mural of Change created on one side of the main building. Artist duo Karski & Beyond created a stunning mural with the portraits of three human rights defenders: Greta Thunberg, Berta Cáceres and Vitali Safarov. Justice & Peace developed the idea for the theme of the mural, environmental rights, during a brainstorm with students. ’The idea for the mural was brought up by the students and more specifically, the idea to include Greta,’ Annelies notes. The actual realisation of the mural is symbolic of their impactful collaboration. ’In hindsight, I wonder, how did we manage to do this? But we just did.’
‘In hindsight, I wonder, how did we manage to do this? But we just did.’
On December 7th, 2022, Justice & Peace and The Lighthouse organise the Martin Luther King Lecture 2022 with the theme ‘Civil Disobedience’.
Annelies van Rosmalen is the Programme Manager of The Lighthouse, the art, culture and debate platform of The Hague University of Applied Sciences. She has been collaborating with Justice & Peace since 2018.