Societal impact after the hype: Unpacking experiences in diversity and inclusion scholarship

Thursday 24 Nov 2022, 13:00 - 18:00
Spoken Language
Erasmus Pavilion
Campus Woudestein
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Acknowledging the centrality that impact has gained in the strategic visions of our universities, as well as the hype and ambiguities surrounding the notion of societal impact, we invite scholars to enter into a debate about societal impact, based on their own experiences and insights.

The kickoff keynote will be delivered by professor Davarian Baldwin, author of In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower. How Universities Are Plundering Our Cities (2021). Baldwin will discuss his influential work, (historically) tracing the complex relations between universities and urban development.

Creating societal impact has become a key part of Dutch universities’ mission. According to EUR’s 2020-2024 strategy, positive impact “serves as a compass” for all kinds of decisions within the institution. Under its “impact” page, the University of Leiden explains that research and teaching should “make the world a better place,” while researchers at the University of Delft are meant to create “solutions to impact for a better society.”

The drive for impact oriented education and teaching seems to be particularly obvious in fields addressing societally relevant and topical issues, such as  social in/exclusion, migration and diversity. Precisely this taken-for-grantedness of orienting our research towards societal impact and what that impact means is what this event will query. Whilst some researchers may consider societal impact as a natural element of their work, others may be at unease with its current formulation and/or relate it to potential negative ways in which academic work affects society. 

Some questions we would thus like to debate: What do we mean by impact today? What kind of impact do we, as researchers, seek to achieve? What and whom do we mean to impact and with what effects? 

The programme

Keynote and roundtable

Professor Davarian Baldwin will open the symposium with his keynote “Beyond Diversity and Inclusion: Rethinking the Societal Impact Mission of Our Universities.” Professors Rosalba Icaza and Willem Schinkel will then join him in a roundtable to reflect on the implications of Baldwin’s work and its translation into European and Dutch contexts.  


  • Davarian Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies, Trinity College, Hartford; author of In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower. How Universities Are Plundering Our Cities (2021). 
  • Rosalba Icaza: Professor of Global Politics, Feminisms and Decoloniality, Institute of Social Studies (ISS), EUR 
  • Willem Schinkel: Professor of Social Theory, Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, EUR

Parallel sessions

Session 1: Nice idea, complex practice: Obstacles and opportunities of coordinating impact-geared university initiatives that cross boundaries between institutes and disciplines

This parallel session brings together academics from Delft, Leiden, and Rotterdam. They all (co)lead inter-disciplinary (and, in most cases, inter-university) initiatives, which are particularly promising in their possibilities to contribute to the well-being of local communities. What are the challenges and risks they encounter and what are their efforts to overcome them? How does their view on “impact” change as projects develop? Speakers’ brief impulse statements about their daily engagement with the impact ambitions of our universities will be the starting point of a broader and open conversation. There will be ample room for other participants to (also) share –and learn from—each other’s experiences, questions, and concerns.


Session 2: Influencers in impact: Which actors and theoretical underpinnings shape how we (can) think about impact?

This parallel session brings together some of the key architects of impact and transformative approaches to academic research and teaching at Erasmus University. Their approaches have been successfully formalized in, for example, the DIT Platform, the Rotterdam Arts and Science Lab (RASL) and the infrastructure of a European University (UNIC). How do these “avant gardists” reflect on their specific efforts to institutionalise impact, interdisciplinarity and inclusion? How do they negotiate the stabilities and instabilities of their academic premises? And how do they navigate their positions of power? Based on short impulse statements from these three architects, we explore with all participants the politics of “doing impact” at our universities.    


  • Derk Loorbach (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Professor of transition science, and director of the Research institute DRIFT
  • Liesbeth Noordegraaf-Eelens (Erasmus School of Philosophy), Professor of Transformative Academic Education ESPhil, Founding member RASL (Rotterdam Arts and Science Lab). 
  • Peter Scholten (LDE, Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences), Professor of Migration and Diversity Policy, EUR; coordinator of IMISCOE, and alliance coordinator of the European University of Post-Industrial Cities (UNIC). 

Closing plenary




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    The organisers

    This event is co-organised by the Inclusive Cities and Diversity theme of Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens and the LDE Governance of Migration and Diversity research center.


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