Heads of University Management & Administration Network Europe

Utrecht University Study Visit Speakers & Abstracts

Annetje Ottow

Vice-President Utrecht University 


Joachim Ninaus

Assistant of the vice-rector for study 

Graz. Since 2015 he has been Director of the Central Service Facilities of the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz and responsible for the areas of personnel department, financial accounting, stage technique, event-management, computer applications and systems, facility management and law. Prior to that, he had seven years as CEO of a regional management company with the goal of climate protection and awareness raising. 

From 2000 to 2007 he was Assistant of the management body (university council, rector, vice-rector for study, senate) and in 1997 he started to build up the study “environmental system sciences” at the University of Graz. 

Julian Skyrme

Director of Social Responsibility, University of Manchester


Jeroen Vanden Berghe

Chief Logistics Administrator, Ghent University


Bert van der Zwaan

Former Rector Utrecht University, Former Chair of LERU

After 800 years the state of the university should be reconsidered very carefully. In the English-speaking world there is an increasing chorus of voices  that comment on the “crisis of the research university”, and that predicts a troublesome future based on the sky-high tuition fees, the increasing privatization and the decreasing government support. The first reflex to this is to react from an inward-looking perspective, and to start the narrative that pleads for increased funding to preserve the university in present state. However, instead of reasoning from within, it seems wise to consider the question whether the university is still well positioned in a changing society. A central element in this debate concerns the question whether the university shows enough leadership in the mass of pressing problems that society is facing: dwindling resources, mass-migration and a sustainable future of the planet, all form great challenges. Increasingly students and faculty ask their university to address these problems and be a role model for society. It is therefore unescapable that universities put this at the top of their agenda, to point the way to solutions, including transforming their own organisations accordingly.

Bert van der Zwaan is emeritus professor of Biogeology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Trained as a paleontologist, his main research interest involved the impact of climate change on the extinction of marine faunas. Early in his career, he initiated many interdisciplinary research programs and later was director of the Darwin Center for Biogeology. Through this work he became interested in the (regional) impact of universities on innovation. He has been lead-PI and CEO of Climate KIC, one of the first Knowledge and Innovation Communities of the EU, dealing with adaptation to climate change. He became dean of the Faculty of Geosciences in 2006, and was Rector Magnificus (Vice Chancellor) of Utrecht University from 2010-2018. He recently stepped down as president of the European League of Research Universities (LERU). Bert van der Zwaan has held numerous positions inside and outside of the academia, and (co-)authored many research papers, including more recently on Higher Education. He is the author of the book, “Higher Education in 2040” (2017).

Maren Rühmann

Director of the Division of Academic and International Affairs, University of Konstanz

Eventually, we got there!: “sustainability” is now firmly on the University’s agenda for the development of the strategic plan 2019 – 2024. In our session we will describe the beginnings of the discussion at the University of Konstanz around 6 to 7 years ago. Not surprisingly – it has been a student-led initiative from the start, which has now made it to the strategic and senior management level of the University. We will explain the steps that were taken on this journey, from the founding of the first Green Office in Germany. We will share our experiences of the ups and downs that we faced: What worked, what did not work in Konstanz? Together with the participants we will reflect on the process of achieving meaningful change and try to find out what could be “universal” wisdom, i.e. what could be likely to work elsewhere, what might work at an other university which did not work for us in Konstanz? Which structures, which practices were helpful, which windows of opportunities opened up – e.g. a change in the leadership position of the rector. As for Konstanz the student activities in combination with stakeholders in the administration played a crucial role. Our session will be delivered as workshop by a staff and student mixed team.

Maren Rühmann has been part of the University of Konstanz since 1993. She studied English Linguistics and Spanish Literature with a one year stint each in Portland, OR, and Granada, Spain. She started her professional career in 2000 supporting the University of Konstanz in the Bologna process. Since 2006 she has been the Head of the Division of Academic and International Affairs and thus leads the Directorates of Academic Staff Development, International Office and Equal Opportunities and Diversity. Maren is also responsible for preparing the meetings of the University’s governing bodies, the Rectorate and the Senate. Her division plays an active role in supporting the university’s strategic planning and is responsible for implementing the university’s strategic aims and measures in close collaboration with the departments and other divisions and institutions. The student-led Green Office is also being supported by Maren’s team. Convinced that students’ creativity is a great contributor to the university’s development she works closely together with the student members of the Senate and the Student Union

Ilmari Thömmes-Jeltsch

Green Office, University of Konstanz

Ilmari Thömmes-Jeltsch is currently finishing his masters in psychology and is completing his thesis at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI about communication processes within the energy transition. He has been involved in the founding of the Green Office at his University in 2015, has accompanied its development and since 2017 he has been the Community Projects Coordinator. Besides his involvement in the Green Office he is an active member of the student union and currently a member of the senate as well as vice president of the student parliament.

Dick Jager

Program manager for Institutional Sustainability, University of Groningen


Anjelle Rademakers

Manager of the Green Office, Utrecht University

A Green Office is a student driven university department that informs, involves and empowers students and staff to act on sustainability. During this session you will be guided through the ins and outs of the Green Office Model and how it has been adapted at Utrecht University. What obstacles has Green Office Utrecht faced in its five year existence, which ones did we overcome and which ones are we still struggling with? What pitfalls can be avoided when setting up a new Green Office? There will be room as well to introduce challenges and obstacles faced by other institutions with regards to community engagement to see whether together we might find a solution! 

cultural anthropology and international development studies in Nijmegen and Utrecht. Afterwards she’s worked at a small variety of NGO’s and foundations such as FairFood and Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie). While working for the SustainaBul, a student led project aimed at ranking the sustainability level of higher education institutions, she found how contagious the energy and motivation of students can be, and how keen many students and staff are to change their working environment. She jumped on the opportunity to develop and lead the Green Office of Utrecht University and has been doing so since September 2013, building it up from scratch with the help of rootAbility, the founders of the Green Office Model. l. 

Mark Doggett

National Manager Sustainability, Australian Catholic University


Miriam Maes

Co-Chairman Energy Transition Forum, Chairman Supervisory Board - Port of Rotterdam

This presentation will outline 4 key topics, based on actual experience and real-life examples: 

  1. The processes and approach in companies and organisations to implement successfully a Sustainability programme. 
  2. The importance of tackling Climate Change and realising a responsible Energy Transition in the context of Sustainability.
  3. The role of Universities in the transition to a more Sustainable future.
  4. How to engage teams and change behaviours to overcome barriers to sustainability? 

Miriam Maes has worked over 35 years for multinationals, including more than 20 years managing national and international P&L’s. After managing international food, foodservices and beverages businesses for Unilever, ICI and the Marmon Group, in 2002 she entered the energy sector, first with Texas Utilities as a member of their European Executive and subsequently with Electricity de France (EDF) in the UK, as COO of their non-regulated distribution networks' business.


In 2007, Miriam became CEO of Foresee, an energy and climate change strategy consultancy. Between May 2010 and April 2012, she was Advisor to the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change. In 2012, Miriam became a Senior Fellow on the Climate and Energy Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States ("GMF"), a Washington-based transatlantic think tank, and became Chairman of GMF's “Energy Transition Forum”. In 2015, Miriam took ownership of the “Energy Transition Forum 2.0” and partnered with the United Nations Foundation. 


Until May 2017, Miriam served for 6 years, first as Member and then as Chairman of the Board, of the Euronext-listed company ELIA Group, comprising “Elia”, the Belgian national grid operator and “50Hertz”, the German Transmission System Operator. She is currently serving as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Port of Rotterdam and as a Non-Executive Director on the Board of URENCO, a joint venture between the UK, German and Dutch governments for the manufacture of enriched uranium for nuclear power utilities worldwide. She is also serving as a Non-Executive Director on the Boards of three Euronext-listed companies in France: Eramet (mining), Vilmorin & Cie (agricultural seeds), and Assystem (Energy Engineering). 

George Parsons

Green Office, Utrecht University

In this presentation George will try to calculate your personal CO2 footprints, from the first step you took on the way to Utrecht to the last bite you took at dinner. All this information will go towards counting the carbon impact of the Humane conference and finding out where all our emissions are made. We will first explore the biggest contributions to the Humane Footprint, and then take a look at the ways knowledge institutions can tackle their CO2 footprints and find out how each of us can progress towards a low-impact lifestyle. 

George Parsons is a student coordinator within the Green Office Utrecht. He works to tackle sustainability challenges, with the help of colleagues, within Utrecht University across the domains of mobility, circularity, food, green campus, and visibility. His passion lies in making sustainability accessible and fun to the whole UU community and providing ways for everyone to make those small but significant changes to their lifestyles and attitudes. 

Joop Kessels

Study Visit Host and Convenor

Joop Kessels (1953) was Head of Administration of Utrecht University until January 2017. Prior to this his other positions at Utrecht University included, among others, director of Education and Research, director of Communications and Marketing and spokesman of the Executive Board. Joop studied biochemistry and received PhD in fundamental protein chemistry. Joop was involved in the creation of a sustainability programme and the foundation of a Green Office at his university.

Presently he is active in several projects, mainly concerning organisation change, both at Utrecht University and other universities.

Ian Creagh

Study Visit Convenor

After serving 10 years as King's College London's Senior Vice-president Operations & College Secretary, Ian now holds a portfolio of roles including Strategy Consultant for HUMANE.  Prior to King's, he held similar chief operating officer roles at City University London and before that, the University of Adelaide.  The first part of his career was in the Australian Public Service where he rose early on to become a member of the Senior Executive Service.  Ian is also an experienced non-executive having served on the Board of King's Health Partners, the Council of Governors of an NHS Foundation Trust, and the audit committee of the British Academy.