The preamble of my PhD project

My project started a lot earlier than the official start at September 2019. The preamble to the project was actually very important! It was the time where I created the basis for the project, and searched for the right research team and stakeholders.

Already ten years ago I wanted to do a PhD, and had conversations with possible promotors. They were interested in my ideas, but thought my project could not meet the conditions needed for a PHD project according to the standards of science.

In 2016, my work as a trainer and coach within my company Kernvraag fell completely silent, and I had to do something else. I wanted to work with students, and after many attempts, I met Michaela Hordijk at a meeting of Stichting Dialoog. The Dutch organization for the fostering of Dynamic Judgment Formation.  I told in the sharing that I was stuck in my work biography and was searching for a job in higher education where I could work with students on their question-development.  This was spot on for Michaela, who worked at that time as program director for the research master International Development Studies. Two and a half years later, we would have our first meeting with her as my co supervisor. Something we did not even dream of at that moment. Our common research started nonetheless. We created a couple of workshops on existential questions, judgement formation, cooperation to empower the students to create their own study career path within and after the research master International Development Studies. My first steps to discover the space within higher education for student’s existential questions.

After the first year, I realized that this was my path, my calling, and I wanted to continue. I wanted to change higher education from the inside. I felt that I had to try to start a PhD project. This moment was the one and only chance of my life. I started looking for possible promotors and began to write a proposal that would enable me to acquire money for the project. Then something special happened. It felt like the universe was helping me to make things happen.  In my search for a supervisor, I first asked Gert Biesta. He was interested in my theoretical framework I developed from my practice as a trainer.  (Un)fortunately,  Gert had no space left for PhD’s. Via Gert advised me to  ask Doret de Ruijter from the Universiteit voor Humanistiek. Before I contacted her, someone in my network, that was growing quickly, advised me to ask Arjen Wals. His goal is to engage students in the big questions that arises in the climate crisis. That is for me a great match with my aim to help students to relate to their existential questions. Arjen wanted to be my promotor under the condition that I would get enough funding for my project, and helped me with my  proposal to increase my chances.

My proposal was based on the work I have done with Dynamic Judgement Formation, based on the thesis of Lex Bos which was further developed in the Netherlands and abroad. This focused my search for funding to the organizations that I have worked with before and have supported the impulse of Lex Bos before. I started with the Iona Stichting. I had a very constructive conversation there, and they wanted to finance a part of the project and we discussed how to finalize the budget.

My second fund was the Triodosfoundation. Lex Bos was one of the founders of the Triodos bank, and because of that, Dynamic Judgement Formation is used throughout the organization. The Triodosfoundation wanted to finance the project costs. My budget was almost finalized. Their condition for funding was that my budget would be finalized.

The last fund was the cloverleaf foundation. This found covered also a part of costs for the project. But my budget was incomplete, so I needed more money for my living maintenance.

When Michaela heard that I already had covered the biggest part of my budget, she gave me a job at the bachelor of Interdisciplinary Social Science, so I would be able to investigate my own job. This job would be for two days a week.

My PhD could start!

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