11 December 2018

Interview with Ad van Dommelen

Meet the new Managing Director of Pathways to Sustainability

‘Maybe this is partly a specific trademark of our strategic theme, but I consider it a privilege to be among people who are so strongly dedicated to their work,’ says Dr Ad van Dommelen about Utrecht University's strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability. Last November he started as the programme's new Managing Director. We interviewed him about his background and ambitions.

Who are you and what is your background?

My academic background is in engineering, philosophy and environmental science. This combination makes me inclined to look out for profound developments with real impact for sustainability. If we consider the current state of global challenges, it seems to me that we see a lot of sympathetic and positive initiatives, but that the bigger picture is still not changing sufficiently yet.

Ad van Dommelen

My work experience in the sustainability sciences with an international community of PhD researchers from a wide range of disciplines (as brought together in the research school SENSE, for which I will continue working), has been a great source of inspiration and optimism to me: they are just so committed and so smart, it brings a smile to my face to think of it.

 

What is your role in Pathways to Sustainability and what can we expect from you?

The rich diversity of sustainability scholarship offers huge potential for Utrecht University’s strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability and at the same time poses a challenge to harvest its impact and to make it really effective to its cause. A first priority is always to make sure that the talented researchers can bring their focus and acceleration as much as possible directly to their integrating projects, so it makes sense to have someone such as myself helping to hold up the umbrella under which the Pathways community can further develop and thrive. An added value that we will actively seek is to initiate and facilitate collaborative endeavours that would otherwise not occur.

One of the attractive aspects of the Pathways programme for me is in the shared mission of ‘scientific rigor meets societal relevance’.
Ad van Dommelen
Dr Ad van Dommelen
Managing Director Pathways to Sustainability

What are your ambitions with respect to Pathways to Sustainability?

One of the attractive aspects of the Pathways programme for me is in the shared mission of ‘scientific rigor meets societal relevance’. Being involved in matters of sustainability is obviously highly relevant for society. But another strong motivation for this approach lies in the belief that it requires the best of minds and cooperation to get anywhere and to make real progress in transdisciplinary research. If I can help turn up this fire and bring the Pathways community closer to its goals, then I would really be pleased. Sharing pleasure and enthusiasm is a productive way to keep focus and to be a winning team together.

What is your impression of Utrecht University (so far)?

Maybe this is partly a specific trademark of our strategic theme, but I consider it a privilege to be among people who are so strongly dedicated to their work. This generates an energetic working atmosphere that makes it easier to get things done, even if the required steps forward could seem rather daunting at first – I am really impressed to experience the joint commitment for this theme at Utrecht University. The societal and scientific challenges are enormous, but so is the spirit to get things done and to bring the best possible science to places and issues where it matters.

The societal and scientific challenges related to sustainability are enormous, but so is the spirit at Utrecht University to bring the best possible science to places and issues where it matters.
Ad van Dommelen
Ad van Dommelen

And finally: what do you hope to achieve in the next year?

One of the university ambitions is to make all students benefit from sustainability education. I see an important role in this ambition for the Pathways programme too: being involved in sustainability challenges is just so inspiring academically, it would be really selfish of us if we were not fully committed to sharing this with everyone at Utrecht University [another big smile]. Considering the encompassing nature of the Pathways to Sustainability programme, our intended outreach obviously also lies nationally and internationally – but Utrecht is a great place to start this ambitious journey.