Amsterdam Cardinal visits nest to complete journey for her Ed.D.

A Cardinal from the Netherlands is flying across the ocean to walk the stage at the Lamar University Summer 2022 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, completing her journey in obtaining an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.

Born and raised in the Netherlands, Renske de Groot currently lives in Amsterdam. She is trained as an art educator at Fontys University for Fine and Performing Arts and worked mainly in art museums. De Groot also completed a master’s degree in museum studies at Amsterdam University of the Arts and taught about her practice in art museums, working with underrepresented communities and using technology in art education. She is now the director of fine arts at Utrecht University of the Arts.

With her background, it was only natural for her to pursue her Doctorate in Global Educational Leadership with a thesis examining the perceptions of art museum educators on technology enhanced learning. It was just by chance, however, that she would end up studying at a university in Beaumont, Texas — 4,951 miles away from her home in Amsterdam.

De Groot said she first heard about Lamar University after attending a conference and meeting Dr. George Saltsman, who told her about the program and inspired her to apply for a place in the online cohort.

“I was very nervous and excited to join the program and work with so many talented people and professors. Also, going back to school was interesting and inspiring,” she said. “I used what I learned in the program to redesign the Master of Education course I was leading, so I could put the things I learned directly into practice.” 

De Groot added that she decided to enter the program for herself, primarily.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of writing a doctoral thesis in learning and technology,” she said. “And I am very happy that I managed to do just that. I would love to continue to work on projects that use technology to make art and education more accessible and empower as many people as possible.”

De Groot admits that the first two years were challenging, as she works full-time and is a single mother of three. Renske de Groot

“Life did get in-between me and my research project,” she said. “Balancing study, work and taking care of my three young children was challenging.”

There was also the time difference.

“I used to get up at 3 a.m. to attend online sessions. Luckily, the course was carefully designed for asynchronous learning and live session were mostly recorded so that I could look at them later as well,” she said.

It was her cohort, de Groot noted, that kept her going.

“I was very proud to be a part of a cohort of talented hard-working professionals and learned so much from them and our professor,” she said, adding that one of the best moments of her time at Lamar University was when she passed the statistics test, as she did not do a lot of mathematics in the last 20 years. “That was a steep learning curve, to say the least. And I was very proud that through hard work and perseverance (and some tears), I managed to get through it.”

As an educator herself, de Groot said that the experience made her more empathetic toward her own students.

“It is so easy to forget how hard it is to master something you are not naturally good at,” she said. “This experience reminded me to be more patient with my own students. Learning requires bravery and perseverance.”

Defending her research project, however, was de Groot’s proudest moment of all — what she had been working toward during this entire journey. It was this project that made her decide to fly to the U.S. to walk the stage at the Montagne Center on Saturday.

“This research project has taken blood, sweat and tears and I have not yet had the opportunity to physically visit the university I studied at all these years,” de Groot said. “I want to savor the moment, learn a bit about culture here and take the opportunity to celebrate. It is also a moment to meet my professor in person and thank them for their support. I am immensely proud and grateful that I was able to finish this study, so I expect to feel proud (to graduate) and also a bit relieved that I finally made it.”

After graduation, de Groot plans to continue her work as a director of fine arts at Utrecht University of the Arts in the Netherlands, but she will never forget LU and how it will aid in her continued success.

“I have met many inspiring people and am never short of ideas for projects,” she said. “Having finished a doctoral course might just allow me to put what I have learned into practice and help make education and art more accessible. I am always open to discuss ideas.”