This is Dr. Etienne Augé, nominated for the Education Prize
Meet one of the three nominees for the Education Prize 2017, awarded to a member of the academic staff who has made a particularly commendable contribution to education at Erasmus University. This is Dr. Etienne Augé from Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication. Dr. Augé was also nominated last year, with good reason. He is constantly striving to improve his education and course material. Students praise him for his vision and his educational effectiveness and regard him as a very inspiring tutor.
Congratulations! Are you happy to be nominated?
‘I’m super honoured.’
This is not the first time you’ve been nominated and you have won comparable prizes before. Why do you think that is?
‘I don’t want to be arrogant… You should ask the students who evaluate me.’
But I’m sure you’ve seen evaluations yourself.
‘The evaluations are usually between 8.2 and 9.3. But those are numbers. What do they say? Good evaluations really make me feel rewarded, but when I get a 9.6 I worry about that 0.4 I didn’t get. The point is not to say, "yes, I’m awesome," but to ask myself what I can do better. Good ratings are great, but it’s about interaction with the students and about feeling they’ve learned something.
‘I wanted to become a professor because many of my professors were really bad. And I was a very bad student, some courses I just didn’t attend. But I would go, listen, read, and take notes when the teaching was good. It would be terrible if my students were bored in my courses. And I’m bored very easily myself, so I’m also trying not to bore myself.’
In academics, research is usually considered the most important, not teaching. What do you think about that?
‘Research is what shows in the rankings, and many academics focus on that. But I don’t care what the system says, teaching is super important. And if you do a good job, teaching is very rewarding.
‘I’m lucky to have a contract tailored around teaching. I teach eight courses, which is a lot compared to others. And I do it my own way. By presenting things from different points of view, I want to encourage students to go beyond appearances, to not be happy with black and white but to try and understand the nuances.
‘I’m never being pushed within a certain mould, and that’s because I have a great, open-minded boss and this is an innovative university. It’s great to have someone who believes in you, I’m very thankful for that to my boss Susanne Janssen. She has also made sure there are a lot of diverse personalities within this department, and that works super well. We complement each other and it motivates me to do better, because I’m not pushing alone but with other people.’
You mentioned teaching is rewarding. Why is it rewarding to you?
‘I’m getting paid to think and talk and I can share what makes me passionate. I’m not sure I can teach, but students can learn from me. I teach because I am curious, I love to discover things and share them with students. And that sometimes makes them enthusiastic too, which is great. I always say yes when I’m asked to teach a course, even if I’m not sure I’m able to. I think it’s fun to try.
‘All my classes are without smartphones and computers, they are forbidden. First I thought I would be heavily punished for that, but students are happy about it every time because they say it helps them focus. And by helping them to focus, I also have to deliver. And I really enjoy that.
‘Besides that, students are under a lot of pressure and sometimes fear. They don’t have enough money and free time, and don’t have a network. Professors also need to help them get ready for the world, tell them it will get better. So I also convey the experiences I’ve had in the courses I teach.
‘Besides, students really don’t need to be afraid. There are a number of people here who care a lot about students and are great teachers. When I didn’t get the award last year I of course felt sad, but when I heard all the speeches, most of all I felt so proud to be part of this university. It’s actually pretty sad for me at my age to already have found my place. There’s no reason to leave here.’
The Education Prize will be awarded during the opening of the accademic year, September 4. Check out all 3 nominees here.