Veronique Schutjens appointed professor of Experiential Education in Geography from 1 November

From 1 November 2022, Veronique Schutjens is appointed professor of Experiential Education in Geography. Schutjens currently works as associate professor in Geography & Education at the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning. Wilco Hazeleger, dean of the Faculty of Geosciences, is pleased with her appointment: "Due to her extensive experience in researching national and international (educational) projects, she is pre-eminently the person who can start shaping this chair."

Veronique Schutjens. Photo: Femke van den Heuvel

As associate professor, Schutjens has a diverse and extensive range of duties: "One day a week I chair the Youth Education & Life Skills research domain of the UU strategic theme Dynamics of Youth. I also work as a Senior Fellow at the UU Centre for Academic Teaching and Learning. Furthermore, I’m chair of the examination committee and active in projects of the Utrecht and Faculty Education Incentive Fund. I also teach in the Human Geography master and the Human Geography and Spatial Planning bachelor. My remaining time is spent on research: I study entrepreneurial strategies, both within small businesses and among students."

As head of the 'Experiential Education in Geography' chair, the brand-new professor will set up and promote research projects on student self-regulation and, more specifically, learning from (outdoor) experiences in Geosciences. "In particular, I focus with on 'distant learning spaces' (such as fieldwork, excursion, exchange programs) and on 'expert learning spaces' (such as internships, the field, society). I also want to inspire and support lecturers faculty-wide to investigate the learning processes in these 'outdoor' learning environments, understand the mechanisms behind them, develop interventions, and adapt support accordingly (scaffolding). My aim is to increase the learning effect for students in this way."

Step into your learning zone

Schutjens brings with her a wealth of relevant experience: "I did research at Utrecht University and the University of Amsterdam on the development of businesses and entrepreneurs over time. I studied not only their spatial behaviour, but also their cooperation, networks and success. In parallel, I have a lot of experience following students over time - within courses, but also across academic years. And even after their studies, in their life path as alumni. What crossroads do entrepreneurs and students encounter along the way? How do they experience them? What (spatial) strategies do they choose? And do they encounter any barriers there? These questions fascinate me. Especially when it comes to experiences in learning environments outside the university or the traditional classroom. Because as teachers know, not all students self-manage their learning. They may lack autonomous motivation, sometimes formulate no or unrealistic learning goals, or they may have inefficient learning strategies. How do we get a grip on what our students actually learn 'outdoors', and how can we enhance the learning effects of all those great field trips, fieldwork, learning investigations, observations, internships and exchange projects? My chair explores, analyses and enhances students' learning experiences 'outside the classroom'; because exploration begins exactly where spatial or cultural boundaries are crossed. And learning - but only if a student is actively challenged to reflect on it. So basically under the motto: 'step out of your comfort zone into your learning zone' (What is Experiential Education - Association for Experiential Education ( To enhance self-directed learning and the learning effect of experiences, in addition to encouraging individual reflection I want to stimulate interaction (and peer feedback) between students. I am looking forward to it!"

Wilco Hazeleger, dean of the Faculty of Geosciences, is looking forward to Schutjens' professorship: "In our GEO faculty, we study the environment we live in and are part of. Our research and teaching is grounded in that environment. Experiencing the complexity of our environment and the multitude of interactions in it is of great importance for the entire faculty. It is also reflected in our teaching, such as in field trips and fieldwork. That is why I am also very happy with the Experiential Education in Geography chair and Veronique Schutjens’ chairmanship. Through her Centre for Academic Teaching and Learning project, her knowledge and experience have been deepened. Her extensive experience in researching national and international (educational) projects makes her the ideal person to shape this chair."