Short Story

Lecturer and researcher at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool Utrecht)

I came to know the Roosevelt Study Center during my MA in American Studies at Utrecht University during 2003. During the courses that I took, the RSC was often referred to as a unique research and study environment, and that was exactly what I experienced when I visited Middelburg. Both the staff and the medieval surroundings of the Abbey provided a warming and inspiring academic environment.

Later, as an intern, I contributed to the RSC’s photographic exhibition on the ‘Prairie Schoolhouse at the Frontier’ by John Martin Campbell. In this way I discovered that I like creating historical narratives on cultural, religious, and political subjects. This insight was confirmed when I was awarded the RSC’s Theodore Roosevelt American History Award for my MA thesis. I knew then that I really wanted to continue studying American and Dutch history and culture.

This ambition had to be postponed for a few years, because after graduating I needed to first find a job. This took me to the University of Applied Sciences in the lovely city of Utrecht, where as a lecturer I focused on subjects like research, social development and social sciences. As a result, my ‘historical’ ambitions were pushed into the background, but they did not completely disappear.

Fortunately, the Hogeschool Utrecht started to provide for research-time for lecturers, and I took my chances by writing a research proposal. The subject of my research had to fit into the policy aims of the Hogeschool, and their national orientation meant it was dicult for me to keep my main focus on the United States. Nevertheless, my proposal was accepted, and a new research path opened up. I had become very interested in the historical development of the Dutch welfare state and how this affected society. In order to connect this subject with the interests of my faculty, I chose to put the Salvation Army at the center of my PhD research. The Salvation Army is one of the few Dutch social service providers that has been able to maintain a faith-based identity, along with maintaining a close relation with the Dutch government. Its social work is subsidized for more than 90 percent. This surprised me – how was it possible that the Dutch state subsidized a faith-based organization? And even more interesting – how was it possible that this relationship did not result in an undermining of the faith-based character of the Salvation Army, as had been the case with various other Dutch social service providers? On 17 October 2013 I successfully defended my results and received my PhD. I had fulfilled a long standing ambition: to continue doing research on historical and social subjects – an ambition that had sprouted thanks to the RSC.