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Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences 
As dean of the faculty, I am responsible for research and education that is organized around six disciplines (anthropology, communication science, organization science, political science, public administration, sociology). As joint research theme we focus on “Societal Resilience”. Social sciences by definition concentrate on social problems, the mission to contribute to their scientific clarification and explanation as well as to reflect on how to contribute to solving those problems. 


The research programme of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam focuses on analyzing innovative configurations that are needed to deal with the far-reaching challenges that our current societies are faced with. A resilient society not just tries to respond to disruption and crisis by trying to bring the system back into balance, but rather tries to develop solutions that bring a system in a new state that is capable of dealing with present and future challenges, thus making society less susceptible to future disruption. Societal Resilience van be subsumed under the VU Amsterdam themes “governance for society” and “Connected World”. The faculty hosts 6 Bachelor's programmes and 7 Master's programmes, a center for post academic education (VASS) as well as a graduate school for PhD's (GSSS). 


Chief Diversity Officer 
Diversity is a key element in the new strategic plan of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. As Chief Diversity Officer I am responsible for the diversity strategy of our university. In a world that is becoming more diverse we want to educate students to become academics who are able to use their unique talents to contribute to a society where differences are encountered with confidence, appreciated and utilized for the benefit of society. We believe that this constitutes the basis for social stability and innovation. The university aims to grow towards a community that is a model for how society can achieve these goals. We also want to foster academic knowledge that is not biased by our cultural context, but that does justice to pluralism. We want an inclusive learning and working environment that through the differences, stimulates creativity and talent. 


In my role as Chief Diversity Officer I am be responsible for developing an inspiring diversity strategy and for translating this strategies into concrete activities related to education, research and community service. As part of our diversity strategy we will focus on expertise development on diversity and inclusion as well as the external profile of VU Amsterdam. In realizing our ambitions on diversity we collaborate with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Leiden University.


Chair in intercultural competence 
Intercultural competence is of increased importance, at the international workplace, in diplomatic circles, in board rooms of major worldwide companies and organizations, in schools, counseling clinics and hospitals (Chiu, Lonner & Matsumoto, 2013). Intercultural competence at work can be approached in terms of the interplay between individual characteristics of employees (e.g., openmindedness, cultural empathy) and characteristics of the organization (e.g. organizational structure, climate, HR-approaches). Up till now, scientific work on intercultural competence is rooted in different research traditions (cross-cultural psychology, personality psychology, HRM, management, organizational psychology/sociology) that have focused on isolated aspects of the construct. In my research, I try to integrate those perspectives into explanatory models that help theory building in the field and that can provide a useful basis for organizational policies. 


Professional experience

  • 2014- Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences, VU Amsterdam. In addition to leading the faculty of Social Sciences, VU University has appointed me as its Chief Diversity Officer. As full-professor  hold a Chair in Intercultural Competence.
  • 2012-2014 - Dean of the faculty of Behavioral Sciences University of Twente.
  • 2005-2012 - Director of institute for Integration and Social Efficacy, University of Groningen.
  • 2001- Full-professor in Organizational Psychology, Cultural Diversity and Integration, Unviersity of Groningen (since 2012 converted to an honorary chair);
  • 1998-2001 - Associate Professor Personnel Psychology, University of Groningen.
  • 1997-1998 - Assistant Professor Personnel Psychology, University of Groningen.
  • 1995-1997 - Researcher in social psychology and health, RuG.
  • 1993-1995 - Social Oncological Fellowship, Dutch Cancer Society.
  • 1992-1993 - Researcher at the Northern Center of Health Care Research, University of Groningen.
  • 1990-1992 - Assistent Professor Personnel Sciences, Tilburg University.


Other professional activities

  • Member of the World Connectors
  • Board member of the Nederlandse Stichting voor Psychotechniek (NSVP)
  • Full-member of the Kurt Lewin Institute
  • Member of the association of Work and Organizational Psychology
  • Member of the International Academy of Intercultural Research




I have been teaching courses at the bachelor, master, phd and postacademic level on the following topics:

  • Management of cultural diversity at work
  • Identity and inclusion
  • Conceptual frameworks of intercultural traits
  • Immigrant and expatriate adjustment
  • Dealing with cultural differences
  • Organizational and personnel psychology
  • Communicative and diagnostic skills
  • Personality psychology
  • Psychometrics
  • Health psychology



  • 1996 - Phd, department of social psychology, University of Groningen
  • 1990 - Doctorate diploma in Personality Psychology and Work and Organizational psychology, University of Groningen, Cum Laude
  • 1985 - Grammar School (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Latin, English, Dutch), Heerenveen


Ancillary activities

  • Stichting Oranje Fonds | Bestuurslid | Bestuurder | 2022-04-01 - 2027-04-01

Ancillary activities are updated daily

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities


Dive into the research topics where Karen van der Zee is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
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