The confidential advisors of the Kurt Lewin Institute
Two “confidential advisors” (vertrouwenspersonen) are associated with the KLI, to whom students can turn to confidentially ask advice about problems they may encounter with their supervisor or host institution. Both are social psychologists.
Why confidential advisors?
PhD students are mainly dependent upon one or two persons to guide them through the development from student to independent researcher, to judge their work, and give them feedback: their daily supervisor and their official supervisor (in Dutch: promotor). Sometimes these two roles are combined in one person. Such a rather intense contact with one or two persons, for four years, implies a realistic probability of some problems or conflicts arising along the way. Problems with others, for instance administrators, may also occur. That’s why the KLI has installed two confidential advisors, to advise PhD students when they need help to solve some of these problems.
Which problems can be brought before the confidential advisors?
The problems submitted to the confidential advisors mostly concern some form of conflict, or an expected conflict, or an uneasiness, with a promotor or daily supervisor. Some problems have to do with the commitment or involvement of the supervisor. Interestingly, both too little and too much involvement may occur. A different kind of problem relates to unwanted behavior by a supervisor or other faculty or staff member. These are all examples of situations that can be discussed with the confidential advisors.
The confidential advisors cannot help with problems regarding the research project itself. However, if discussing these matters with a supervisor seems impossible, then it might be useful to talk this communication problem over with one of the confidential advisors.
What can the confidential advisors do?
Essentially we have two methods of problem solving: help the PhD student solve their problems themselves, or help them solve the problem through mediation. In both cases we start with a meeting between advisor and student.
To help someone solve their problems themselves we use conflict counseling and advising. Advisor and student together decide upon the best strategy for the student to tackle his or her problems. The other method, mediation, can be so-called shuttle mediation, when the confidential advisor talks separately with the student, then with the supervisor, then again with the student, and so forth untill a solution has been reached. Or it can be a mediation session in which the student and the supervisor(s) talk with each other in a structured way, under the advisor’s guidance.
Do not hesitate to contact a confidential advisor before an uneasy situation has escalated into a conflict. Meetings between a PhD student and a confidential advisor are strictly confidential. As confidential advisors, we will never discuss anything with a supervisor or other third parties that may be involved, without the explicit approval and consent of the student. It is up to the PhD student to decide whether a supervisor or others will be contacted or not.
The confidential advisors are:
Dr. J.A.M. (Jose) Heesink
Assistant Professor Organizational Psychology, University of Groningen
T: 050 - 363 6424
E-mail dr. Heesink
Prof.dr. T.M. (Tineke) Willemsen
Emeritus Leiden University
T: 06 - 2505 8346
E-mail prof.dr. Willemsen