‘Having an eye for cross-fertilization of theory and practice’

Interview: Rutger de Graaf, UvA Communications lecturer and former director of Communicatie Netwerk Amsterdam

During our telephone conversation, he shares his passion for and knowledge of communication with the outside world.

Rutger de Graaf: “University education must be alert to what is going on in society and what the needs of the business community are. An optimal connection with the work field is important.”


What ambition manifests itself in you as a communication teacher?

“A good practical example is the integration of students with the Amsterdam communication community. The sector plays a significant role in terms of social contribution. Communication Network Amsterdam is a shining example as a platform. A great match for students to increase their knowledge and network with experienced communication professionals in an informal way. Every month we organize inspiring and educational meetings and networking drinks. At the beginning of February, the Zoom seminar ‘Jump out on Linkedin’, be seen and found online’, is on the agenda. Hence my commitment to increase the intake and retention of our students and young communication professionals in our communication network. This also demands something from the association. We see in more and more studies that the language of instruction is English due to the internationalization of education. Breaking the language barrier is a serious task for our communication network!”


The outside world is full of praise for the Communication Sciences program at the UvA. How do students experience this study?

“The UvA trains scientists. Communication Sciences studies the content, applications and consequences of media and communication. Both the bachelor’s and master’s programs offer a broad orientation in communication sciences: from intercultural communication to advertising, public relations and journalism. They are conducting follow-up research into its impact on our lives. Students often wonder why they have to learn so many theories. All those abstract theories sometimes seem to have little to do with professional practice. Reflection from theory on practice is a link that could receive more attention. Guest lecturers from professional practice can strengthen the relationship between science and practice.”


Despite corona, lectures continue online as usual. How flexible are students during this special period?

“The lockdown ensures that my education is only offered digitally. This naturally enhances the autonomy of students. At the same time, students are more often alone and miss the informal social contacts. We are learning more and more about the importance of our formal and informal meetings and are developing more and more digital solutions. It is often not ideal, but the development rate is very high at the moment!


By: Miriam van Coblijn