A living room where everyone feels at home

"This is a dream job," says club manager Sandy van Heerde! "In many ways. I have the most beautiful workplace in the university and I contribute to the bond between alumni and staff, across disciplines and generations."

"My heart still beats a little faster when I walk through the Faculty Club and the Utrecht University Hall. Everything here is about meeting people: students collecting their degrees, a PhD or inauguration with proud scientists, cosy dinners and interesting lectures or an academic ceremony like the Dies Natalis. There is something for everyone. And everywhere you feel the connection with the university. It doesn't matter what position you hold or how old you are. And that makes the Faculty Club a happy, vibrant place."

Lonely in the tower room?

Portret Sandy van Heerde
Sandy van Heerde studied Law and Dutch at Utrecht University. She has been the Faculty Club's club manager for several years.

"Whether it's not a lonely job up there in that tower room? I often get that question. That is absolutely not the case. My day usually starts between eight and nine o'clock. Then I do indeed bring my things to 'my tower room' and notify the reception that I am in the house. After I have answered my first e-mails, updated the membership records or prepared meetings, you will often find me downstairs again. Then it's time for meetings with caterer Vineyard, for introduction talks, event arrangements or building maintenance. I often take another walk around and chat with guests in the Faculty Club or colleagues in the Utrecht University Hall. And then when I have been back in the bustling life downstairs for a while, I love to work quietly upstairs in my tower room. Just that combination is so nice."

It feels like a gift that I get to organise such wonderful activities.

"The manager is the only person employed by the Faculty Club. For the rest, all the work is done by volunteers. My work is very varied: from policy and strategy for the Faculty Club to concrete plans for actions and making sure they are also successfully implemented. It runs from long-term plans to communication tools, so to speak. Luckily, I work intensively with the super active programme committee. They think up the best activities for members and I, in turn, make sure they can be implemented. On these evenings, I am indeed sometimes home late. So yes, sometimes the days are long, but it's certainly not lonely."

What are your dreams for the Faculty Club?

"With the Faculty Club, I would like to connect people. Especially our activities contribute to making contacts and meeting each other: the core business of the Faculty Club. The club's living room is in the slightly quieter part of the building and is therefore sometimes less easy to find. So it is good to literally and figuratively throw the doors open more for all the monthly meetings, cultural events, living room debates and special dinners, also by programming less conventionally. Our activities are becoming more diverse by the year and, as a result, our audience is becoming more international and younger. A good example is the online Escaperoom 'Het spookt in het Academiegebouw' which I organised in corona time. It sold out three times and I even got questions from all over the university whether others could buy it, borrow it or let us organise it for them. This also attracted many new, young and international members whom I had never seen in the Faculty Club until then. It feels like a gift that I get to organise such great activities.

"I also try to join forces and cooperate with others. Like with Studium Generale, International Neighbour Group and PhD Network PROUT. After all, together you get further. Since two years, we also support substantive activities by students, our future alumni. Think of the cooperation with Utrecht Union, who organise an interview series with well-known Dutch people. But also Utrecht Entrepreneur Group, which connects students with young entrepreneurs. That works tremendously; it has also helped us attract many young alumni. The Suriname evening in the summer of 2022 was a highlight in terms of atmosphere. Exactly as I see it: there were people of all ages, disciplines, nationalities and cultures. Everyone enjoyed good food, a wonderful interview, good conversation and an exhibition organised by different members. The turnout was great, there was dancing and world artist Denise Jannah played live. That's when I felt giant pride in this place!"

What is it with you and Utrecht?

"Utrecht has a very special place in my heart, and so does the university absolutely. I enjoyed studying here, I met my husband here, my children were born in Utrecht and in turn live and study in Utrecht, and I have been working for the university for 20 years now. I have already left quite a few footprints in Utrecht and still enjoy our beautiful city immensely."

What do you see in the crystal ball?

"My personal ambition is for the Faculty Club to be the vibrant meeting place of Utrecht University in 2030. To create even more a living room where people from all sorts of different generations, disciplines and nationalities meet and feel comfortable. I also hope that the Faculty Club will eventually have more space at its disposal. For example, I would like to separate the bar and the restaurant so that we can accommodate more people and organise even more activities. I can also imagine a programme on location, for example in the Science Park or on the University College campus. It would be nice if the Faculty Club moved more into the university! I sincerely hope that the club becomes a place where everyone feels welcome and where people like to go to meet each other, to learn something, to work or to socialise. Just like a living room actually."

About Sandy van Heerde

Sandy van Heerde studied Law and Dutch at Utrecht University. After her studies, she first worked for a while as a spokesperson and communications advisor at the Dutch Railways. Since 2000, she has worked for the university, first as a communications advisor and later as team leader of corporate communications. "But one place really stood out to me: the Faculty Club. This is where everything comes together for me and where I can combine my knowledge and experience with my love for the university community."