Summa director De Vries to retire

Laurent de vries retiring summa executive Pic credit: Summa college

Due to his health, Laurent de Vries (64) is stepping down as director at Summa College. After more than 33 years in various administrative positions, De Vries is retiring. “I get to think about the choice between an espresso or cappuccino in the morning, instead of solid files,” he says.

Summa College Chairman

Laurent de Vries quits as chairman of the Board of Governors at Summa College

Why are you quitting as director at Summa College?

“My health comes first. After 33 years as a director, which I consider top sport, it is now time to stop.”

You have to quit?

“It’s difficult and not just a decision. I would like to continue, but my body is signalling that enough is enough. As a director, you carry ultimate responsibility and you feel that constantly. You wake up with all sorts of dossiers in your head, while in the morning I want to be allowed to think about whether I’m having an espresso or a cappuccino.”

Managment during Corona crisis

“I started in this position at the end of 2019. The start had just been made and then the corona pandemic broke out. That was a special time that required a lot of improvisation from the organisation. It was challenging, but also very rewarding.

In a previous position, I was director of GGD Nederland. In that role, I was asked by the Ministry of Public Health whether I, together with the RIVM, would make a ‘plan of approach for pandemics’. The knowledge I gained then came in handy during the corona crisis.”

What impact did Corona have on education?

“Almost all our classes and open days had to take place online. Nevertheless, we got through it. It was tough, especially the first period. But I am proud of how we responded as an organisation. We just have to remember the mental impact of those lockdowns. Still, that cannot be underestimated.”

Emphasis on student happiness and work happiness

“Good learning performance only comes when students are mentally well off. Summa College is a safe environment where students and staff can discover and develop their talents. That’s what we work for every day.”

What changes have you implemented at Summa College?

“I have worked to further improve the quality of education. We have also expanded Summa’s name recognition and network in the Brainport region and the Netherlands. As a Mbo institution, we sit at the right tables where decisions for the society of the future are made. We have also established a strong student welfare structure. That structure is now an integral part of our strategy for 2030 and beyond.

MBO seems to have an increasingly prominent place on the map, is that true?

“I call it the emancipation of the MBO. The Corona crisis has highlighted how indispensable some professions are. We need a re-evaluation of craftsmanship, something I have always pursued. Our students are the future workers of this region. They are the supporting force of our society.

We work hard to ensure that everyone can participate in society. So, we also provide educational opportunities for lateral entrants, re-entrants and adults who want to change jobs or sectors. Our students are in the capillaries of society and play a crucial role.”

What role does Summa play in the region?

“We have built strong cooperation with various partners over the years. That cooperation is with other educational institutions such as Fontys and TU/e, but also with the business community. Our students are valued by the companies. We also increasingly develop special education programmes in consultation with the business community. In this way, we contribute to growth in the region.”

“The aim is to train more than ten thousand new MBO graduates in the next five to six years. We will not do this alone, but together with other MBO institutions in Brabant.”

What does Project Beethoven mean concretely for Summa College?

“It means hard work, both within Summa and with our partners. We must deliver a plan jointly drawn up by all participating educational institutions by 1 July. It’s a challenge but also an opportunity to make a big impact on the future of this region.”

What other challenges have you encountered in the past five years?

“One of the biggest challenges is dealing with the administrative and financial aspects of education. We need to ensure that the system works efficiently and remains student-centred.

But more importantly are the challenges on a personal level. We are a huge educational institution with over 17,000 students and more than 2,000 employees. That’s when you go through tragic events. Personal suffering. Moments that stay with me most are conversations with parents when a student dies. You take that home with you.”

Teaching is all about development. How have you developed?

“I have learned to show vulnerability and open up further to others. As an administrator, you carry responsibility, but it’s about exploring together what is right and following that. Having a moral compass and not just following the rules, but doing what is really good for the students and staff.”

What do you think your legacy will be?

“I hope the appreciation for craftsmanship continues to grow and that Summa College continues to contribute to the development of talents, that is my greatest wish. Summa should stand for high quality education and safe environment for talent development.”

What makes you most proud when you look back on your time at Summa College?

“I am most proud of the moments when students discover they have talent and are allowed to be there. Being a safe environment in which a student can develop and develop their talent. I am also proud of the impact we have on people’s lives, such as a 53-year-old care worker who completely blossomed thanks to our programme. Or take our oldest student: a man in his nineties taking digital courses.”

A new school year starts in September. Will you also take a course at Summa, or what are the plans?

“I want to focus on voluntary work, such as helping refugees with language lessons or supporting elderly people in nursing homes. I will also remain available to advise educational institutions should they wish to do so. But I am going to travel as well.


Translated by: Anitha Sevugan


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