The Side job: Kristina advises

‘I love community building, building partnerships.'
Kristina Smieskova (left) speaking to the president of Slovakia, Zuzana Čaputová, at COP28 in Dubai. Photo Presidential Office of Slovakia

Who: Kristina Smieskova (23)
What: member of the Advisory Group on collaborations with WUR
Why: I love building communities and advocating for a more sustainable and just future
Wage: no pay, but an allowance per meeting

You’ve got to make ends meet somehow. We can all borrow from Uncle DUO, but there are also students who earn money from unusual side jobs, like Kristina Smieskova (23), a Slovakian Environmental Sciences Master’s student. She is helping to draw up a framework to guide future collaborations between WUR and fossil-fuel companies.

‘You might remember the recent protests and discussions about WUR’s ties with the fossil fuel industry. The Executive Board has established an Advisory Group to come up with a framework with which to weigh up the potential pros and cons of an individual research project against the company’s commitment to the climate. I’m the only student among the 10 members of the group. I was invited to become a member partly because I could represent concerned students. I was outspoken in the discussions during the Let’s Explore sessions, and I’m involved with the Green Office and the Green Active Network.

If you’re on the frontline, you come in for a lot of criticism

In the past few months, the work consisted of a few meetings a week and the preparations for them. In order to articulate a framework, we talk to various boards, bodies and relevant people. During these meetings, I raise a lot of questions and I make suggestions of my own. We discuss things within the Advisory Group and we try to reach an agreement. We have drafted a proposal, which we are sharpening with the feedback we got from the WUR community. We hope to send our final recommendations to the Executive Board before Christmas.’

‘I love community building, building partnerships. Standing for something gives me energy, but if you’re on the frontline of a community, you also come in for a lot of criticism. Within my Master’s programme, I’m specializing in diplomacy. I’m challenged to put my knowledge into practice in this side job. Understanding each other’s perspectives is very important. I also learned that other members of the board can feel less inclined to speak their minds than me. As a student, I’m not inhibited to express myself freely. But for WUR employees in certain positions, it can be more complicated. After realizing this, I learned that some people were more on the same page as me than it seemed at first sight. This realization made collaboration with others members of the group easier.’

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