Erasmus University’s Opening of the 2019-2020 Academic Year: creating a positive social impact
Engaged with society, global citizen, connecting, entrepreneurial and open-minded. These are the keywords informing Erasmus University’s Strategy 2024, which is all about having a positive impact on society – in the ‘Erasmian way’, as befits a knowledge institution rooted firmly in society. The President of EUR’s Executive Board, Kristel Baele, presented the strategy during the official opening of the new academic year. For his part, the Rector touched on student wellbeing. Furthermore, several people (including the Rotterdam mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb) handed out academic awards. The ceremony was presented by two talented student hosts, Charlotte and Tal.
Creating a positive social impact
Kristel Baele kicked off the opening ceremony with Erasmus University’s Strategy 2024 in a nutshell. The strategy calls for problems to be addressed the Erasmian way, in accordance with the legacy left by ‘the man our university is named after, Erasmus’. The university seeks to train its students to become socially engaged thinkers – real Erasmians, who will become the leaders who will resolve tomorrow’s issues. For this reason, societal challenges such as climate change, the energy transition and urbanisation will be incorporated into the curriculum more prominently. In addition, Baele emphasised that Erasmus University should be unified in its attempt to create a positive social impact: ‘One university, one community, one goal!’
Guest speaker: Donna L. Dickenson
In her presentation, Prof. Donna L. Dickenson (a philosopher and Emeritus Professor of Medical Ethics and Humanities at the University of London) touched on the controversy surrounding hereditary gene processing. What can be considered a positive social impact, and what can’t? She also discussed new biotechnology, which she said represents both our greatest hope and our greatest fear.
Academic awards ceremony
The Rector, Rutger Engels, presented this year’s academic awards. Together with the student hosts, Engels handed out awards to the following persons:
- Teaching Award: Prof. Han Smit, Professor of Corporate Finance.
- Prof. Bruins Award: Student Maeve van den Aakster, who is doing a research-based Master’s degree in Infection & Immunity.
- Research Award: Dr Carlos Riumallo Herl, assistant professor at the Erasmus School of Economics.
- Prof. H.W. Lambers Award: Silvan Licher, a Master’s student in Clinical Epidemiology who was awarded a cum laude degree.
- Rotterdam Thesis Award: Public administration student Myrthe van Delden.
This award was presented by Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb. Van Delden conducted research on a particular method employed to tackle corruption and crime in Rotterdam Zuid. The jury complimented Van Delden on the academic quality and originality of her thesis and its relevance to the city of Rotterdam.
Student in the Spotlight
This year’s ‘Student in the Spotlight’ was Ruud Verbraak, because of his ‘Big Little Thinkers’ project. Triggered by the question ‘What do you think?’, he embarked on this project, in which he engages in philosophy with primary school pupils so as to introduce them to science. He received help in doing so from Rowan Huijgen of Erasmus University’s Wetenschapsknooppunt (‘Science Hub’), which develops teaching programmes and offers them to primary schools and secondary school pupils, because ‘science is cool’!
Lastly, the Rector, Rutger Engels, formally opened the new academic year by giving a presentation on student wellbeing – a subject after his own heart, since he is a professor of psychology. A study conducted by the World Health Organization showed that 20 per cent of students suffer from mental health issues such as mood swings, anxiety, burnout symptoms and addiction. The Rector said this was a worrisome trend that would receive his ‘full attention in the coming period’.