Stijn van Gils

A fun degree

I gulp. This is not a good moment to get annoyed. Her comment was frank and no doubt it wasn’t meant personally. In fact, I don’t think she even realizes I did Forest and Nature Management myself. And perhaps she does have a point. Maybe Forest and Nature Management really is Wageningen’s ‘fun degree’.
Stijn van Gils

I certainly hear it said quite often, especially by people I hold in high regard. They say biologists are more scientific and perform better, right from the start of their degree programme. ‘Forest and nature managers enjoy their degree, but that’s about all you can say about it,’ a professor confided to me recently. ‘It’s different with biologists.’

His remark keeps coming back to me as I cycle up the hill in Wageningen with a bunch of first-year biologists and a soil drill. ‘We’ll stop here,’ I call out, and a circle of sleepy young people forms around me and my soil drill. ‘And, anyone got any questions about the last field trip?’ I ask hopefully.

The students give me glazed looks. Silence reigns. ‘Okay,’ I say. I try not to show my disappointment and decide to ask a few basic questions about the previous field trip. The glazed eyes avoid my gaze. Can this group really be so much smarter than the forest and nature managers I’ll teach tomorrow?

The next day, the forest and nature managers give me glazed looks. I take a deep breath and begin: ‘Now, before we start, any questions?’ Nearly half the group put up their hands. I can’t suppress a satisfied smile, and point enthusiastically at a student, picked at random. ‘Yes, I have an important question,’ he says confidently.

‘When exactly will you mark our folders?’

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