The OpenUp of… Wilma

19 Nov ‘20
5 min
Editorial Board OpenUp

In the section ‘The OpenUp of …’ someone openly tells about his or her life. Topics such as meaning, awareness, doubts and insights all pass by. We basically ask how psychology plays a role in their day-to-day lives? In this episode, we’ve asked Wilma Franchimon, President of the Board of university of the arts Codarts Rotterdam.


Wilma, how are you really doing?

“I’m doing well. I mean it. The business keeps on going, even at times like these. Luckily, I can still go to work since education is a vital sector. I have a team around me all the time and together we keep everything going. We all have an enormous passion and are used to being busy 24/7. With all the online possibilities, education must be made able to continue.


In addition, I’m not afraid of a crisis situation, it makes my brain work even faster. In a normal situation I’m already always on, but in times like these, with extra challenges, I also get a lot of energy from organizing everything together with a team. Don’t get me wrong: this situation is terrible, but these are the moments we should not back off from taking important decisions. No matter how inconvenient, the safety of all our people and students is the most important. And in order to arrange that, we have to make difficult decisions.

I think we should use all the tools we have at our disposal to keep everyone standing and staying positive.

We’ve arranged everything well with good protocols and we’re very quick when needed, but it does require other things from people. It’s not easy and it also causes stress among students, teachers and staff. We work fully dedicated, we work together a lot, also physically, within the rules and possibilities – something that creates barriers. If, for example, someone a teacher has a cold and he or she comes to Codarts anyway, you risk a chance of sending an entire class home with symptoms. Still, it seems that we framed it tightly and are controlling everything proactively, everyone does their best. That feels great.


For our students we have the high-quality support programme Student Life, which gives them access to a physiotherapist, psychologist and mental coaches. We also have an enormous sense of responsibility here. I think we should use all the tools we have at our disposal to keep everything and everyone standing and staying positive. A low-threshold outlet with good professionals is very nice, especially now. That’s why OpenUp here is a great addition for all staff”.


Where do you get satisfaction from in your life?

“It makes me very happy to be around busy people. It is something that keeps myself going as well. I am someone who likes to think and work in a solution-focused way. I can change gears quickly and it’s great when you can do that with a team and move forward together.

“By sharing ambitions with everyone, the outcome always gets better.”

I find outside-the-box solutions the most challenging and I prefer to work with a team as diverse as possible. All people think differently, and put together that makes you move forward, you need each other to complement each other. How can I help another person to take a step further, or how can another person help me take a step further? We also involve the students in many subjects, they often have very good ideas, often less obvious. I find that very inspiring to work with”.


When was the last time you cried?

“I don’t cry a lot, but for example last week there was a moment. We said goodbye to three colleagues in the canteen, for many students seen as the ‘Codarts mothers’. Due to the crisis, they were let go from their company. It was a beautiful farewell, although it was with only a few people because of the rules.


There were performances, movies and some speeches, it all went very well. Until there was a movie in which we saw images of students, of happenings in the canteen, but also a part of an ‘ordinary’ day during lunch at Kruisplein. A full canteen, with music, dancing and pasta. It really impacted me deeply. This was less than eight months ago. This was normal.

Because of the difference with that moment, of that farewell, it suddenly felt like saying goodbye to an era. A shocking moment. Fortunately, we were able to share this with each other and for days afterwards. There was no one in the room who hadn’t felt the same emotion”.

What do you do yourself when you’re not feeling well?

“In that case I do practical tasks in my home. In this work and especially now with Covid-19 I am sitting in a chair for the majority of my time. My days are filled with a lot of meetings, both physically and via zoom. When I want to clear my head, nothing works better for me than working with my hands on something practical.

It is either that, or I’m going to watch the film series Lord Of The Rings for the eightieth time.”

For example, I am now laying cast floors in the bathroom and toilet. My house is a changing ‘palace’ (laughs). My partner sometimes says: ‘fortunately everything can be painted over again and floors can be changed. It doesn’t always have to be my taste, it changes anyway’. Being physically busy with my hands works very well for me, it is also creative and I can express my builder mentality in it. It’s either that, or I’m going to watch the filmseries Lord Of The Rings for the eightieth time”.


How do you calm down?

“The beauty of this job is that it’s in the art sector. Normally someone might say: ‘I’ll calm down when I go to a concert’, but I have that opportunity here, starting at 9:00 in the morning, every morning. If I want to experience a dance performance, I just go to the ninth floor. I can see music theater, I can go to the circus venue, that’s all a fantastic part of my job.


With all the drawbacks, this is really a huge advantage of my job, we more or less have a luxury problem. Of course, I don’t want to make anyone jealous, but I do cherish this aspect of my work. It creates a sense of balance.”


What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“There are actually two pieces of advice. First of all, someone once said to me: ‘there’s no problem so large that it doesn’t get smaller when you look at the problem from a height’. That’s what I often say to people: look at the situation from a distance, zoom out. In fact, every problem then becomes smaller.

“I want to do things that feel good. Life is worth living.”

The other advice comes from the period around 1993 / 1994, when I lost twelve people in one year to cancer. Since that time I regularly say to myself and when asked also to others: ‘You only live once’.


That statement has caused several people to make different choices in their lives. And that goes for me as well. Since that time, I haven’t said sorry for the choices I made. Of course, I listen to feedback, I take it with me and then do the things that feel right, things that suit me. Life, no matter how difficult it may be sometimes, is worth living. And in certain periods, like now, when it is more difficult, there is nothing wrong with asking for some help. A listening ear. That’s what I appreciate so much about Codarts: the door is always open.’’