Under one roof: residents tell all with Gerrie Zwartjes of Fontys College of Journalism

20 September 2022

Just a little while longer and MindLabs will be moving. Our ecosystem will then move into a brand new building in Tilburg's Spoorzone. And not just any building; education, where it's all about human-centered AI. Because we're not going alone; our partners are moving in with us. So that we can always meet, inspire and motivate each other. In the "Under One Roof" section, we introduce all our new neighbors to you. They talk about their work, their reasons for moving and the plans they want to carry out from our new location. In this edition: Gerrie Zwartjes, director of the Fontys Hogeschool voor Journalistiek (FHJ).

Gerrie, to start at the beginning: what kind of work do you do exactly? 
Since March 2021, I have been a director at the Fontys College of Journalism (FHJ). Previously, I gained a lot of innovative teaching and management experience at Fontys Hogeschool ICT. I apply that knowledge in my current job. Indeed, the focus of my job is now on the transition to renewed education in a new building: the new MindLabs building. 

FHJ is currently still operating out of Professor Gimbrèrelaan. Why the decision to pack up your things soon and move into the MindLabs building? 
The previous director - my predecessor Marjo Spee - stood at the cradle of MindLabs. Shaping a media hub was the idea back then. Eventually, that initial concept grew into what is MindLabs today. So that we, as the College of Journalism, should be located in the new building seems natural to me.

Are you moving alone? Or with colleagues? 
The entire program is moving with you. That's 85 employees and about 850 students. They are very much looking forward to studying in the Spoorzone; the prime area of Tilburg. And for us as a program this is also very important. Journalism has to be in the heart of society. At the moment we are still hidden in a residential area. After the relocation you will find us in the epicenter of the city. 

Has FHJ worked with other MindLabs partners in the past? Or have you pinned your hopes on the new building? 
As one of the founders of the ecosystem, we obviously work a lot with other MindLabs parties. In March, for example, we joined with several regional media platforms, including MindLabs partner DPG, to sign a new "Partners in Education" covenant. This gives students direct access to the field. Another example is the Factory; a place in the media library where Tilburg residents can have statements, photos and videos that seem too good to be true checked out by students. 

What in particular is something FHJ will add to the whole? 
MindLabs' slogan is not without reason "Where Minds, Media and Technologies meet. FHJ, together with partner DPG, is responsible for the 'Media' part. And in addition, we are adding a lot of excitement. All critical journalism students will be knocking on the doors of the various MindLabs partners with their ideas and beliefs. We will regularly use the Bruisend Hart; the auditorium of the new building. To hold knowledge sessions. Or to report live on a newsworthy event. So FHJ cannot be missed in the new building! 

How does it feel when you walk past the construction site now? Does it itch yet? 
I get to walk around the building under construction again tomorrow. It's going to be so cool. You can see that even while it's still one big construction site. 

Where will you sit? What will be your view? 
Our students are actually scattered throughout the building. That way we really hope to keep that collaboration threshold as low as possible. Our television and radio studios and newsroom are located on the first floor. The FHJ classrooms are on the first, second and third floors. And we no longer use a lecture hall because it no longer suits our idea of education.

What plans do you hope to realize from your new home? 
Our focus is on the new way of teaching that we are going to implement. We are actually completely moving away from teaching as we know it today. Teachers will have the role of coach and will not only transmit, but also engage in conversation with upcoming journalists. Those students, in turn, will participate, as if they were already in working life. Thus, they will make the connection with the working field much earlier. And perhaps even with a future employer. 

Are the first boxes packed yet? 
There has been a "packing protocol" here for quite some time waiting for the time when we can actually move over. Unfortunately, the completion has already been postponed several times so our plan ended up back in the drawer. Fortunately, we don't have to take everything with us. The furniture is almost completely renewed, as are the studios. What we do have to say goodbye to is the 'Herman Brood wall'. That is one of the supporting walls in our current building, on which the artist once painted a life-size mural with his own hands. That wall has become an icon. Something that belongs to our education. Unfortunately, moving with us is too expensive. However, we will have a replica on canvas in our new building, with exactly the same measurements. 

It's time to wrap up. What's in the pipeline for you today? A little daydreaming about your upcoming workplace in the new building? Or are you too busy for that? 
Today I have a somewhat dull day, with lots of meetings about finance. But that has to be done, too. Tomorrow I will be walking around the new building again. So then I will have plenty of time to think about the period we will be teaching there!