I want to mold students into critical academics, who can contribute something that society needs
"I get a kick out of molding people into high-quality professionals' Colette Cuijpers works at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT), and is currently involved, among other things, in interesting multidisciplinary research projects. These include a project on how Law can increase people’s trust in e-health, and one on how digital technology influences our democracy. But her heart is in teaching. “I want my classes to yield students that bring added value to society.”
“When I was a young girl, my passion was the theater. These days what I like to do most alongside my work is to marry young couples who are in love. That tells you something about me: I value personal contact, and telling stories gives me energy. So teaching is right up my alley.”
“After my Law studies, I very much wanted to teach at Tilburg University. At the time, teachers were appointed only if they had a PhD. So for me that meant I would have to get my PhD before I could teach. Sitting in a corner working on a book is not really my thing, but it was worth it getting to where I wanted to be, and besides that I was allowed to do things alongside it.”
“This whole business of ‘research first, teaching second’ typifies how the academic world is structured. Research is at the top of the list; that is where you have to get your credits. While society sees universities primarily as educational institutions. Not such a strange thought, because after all, what is more important than nurturing a new generation with knowledge and building their character? That at least is what gives me the most satisfaction. It is great to get a card from a student who’s made the grade in society, and who you used to think of as being rather wet behind the ears.”
“I am Program Director of the Law & Technology Master’s program. I always address students at the start of their program. They will ask me: what kind of jobs does this Master’s train us for? I tend to turn that round, and ask them: what kind of job are you looking for in doing this Master’s program? I try to help them make a choice, which has become rather more difficult because of our program’s increased popularity.”
“My mission is to improve and innovate education in such a way that we can supply society with the talent that is needed in the future and that the field calls for. This is something that requires attention in our field of Law & Technology. Regulations and jurisprudence are subject to radical and rapid changes in the wake of our advancing technology. As a result, we need to innovate our courses. We are constantly adjusting courses to the latest developments, and we are not only focused on positive law, but also pay attention to other regulating modalities, such as free-market processes, social values and technology, because in our present-day society rules and regulations are increasingly embedded in new products and services.”
“It is extremely important for us to keep in touch with society. We owe a lot in that regard to our network of alumni, in business, for instance, in public service, and in the legal profession. They give guest lectures, offer traineeships, and help us innovate our courses. One such innovation is the ‘Law Clinics’: practical projects in which students do societally relevant research. In these Law Clinics, we work together with companies like ASML, Brinkhof, Louwers Advocaten (‘Louwers Attorneys’), and Privacy International. On our website, we show the interesting results achieved in these Clinics, hoping that this will prompt other parties in the field to commission us to conduct a research project.
“In the Clinics, we are connecting theory to practice. Besides this, they are an opportunity for students to learn to work together. They provide good simulations of the kind of things they are likely to encounter in their jobs later on. And our contacts with these companies are keeping us abreast of developments in the organizations that our students are going to be working at. This keeps us from supplying them with armchair experts with outdated knowledge. I want to mold students into critical academics, who can contribute something that society needs.
Colette's story is a good example of the Tilburg Educational Profile: Students are taught to think critically about and work on complex problems in a changing society. As a young professional, they will be able to use their knowledge, skills, and character to contribute to society.