How do we look to the future? Are we optimistic? Or are we pessimistic? What makes us confident about what it will bring us? And what role do we play in it? The opening of the University of Twente's academic year 2022-2023 was a fine reflection of the UT's position in society and the contribution it makes to it.
In his contribution, UT President Vinod Subramaniam outlined a somewhat bleak worldview: a complex crisis in several areas that are closely interrelated. "Moreover, there is a growing lack of trust in our society and in our communities. It is trust that is one of the foundations for a resilient society that sees perspective in difficult times like these."
But Subramaniam certainly did not express gloom. "Today is also a day full of perspective and opportunity, full of stories of connections that give hope, and a day of future generations making a difference. What strengthens me most in that thought are the 2,000 bachelor's and 1,400 master's students who begin their studies at UT today. Eafer, and confident of contributing to a sustainable and safe future, for which they may feel the need even more than my generation."
Subramaniam also pointed to successful collaborations such as UT's partnership with the Centre for Digitalisation and Security in Apeldoorn, and the involvement of UT scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global think tank in the battle against climate change. "A university is not going to end the war in Ukraine. Nor does a university have a quick fix for climate change. But we can make strides in our communities, with our local, regional, national and international networks by contributing with relevant knowledge and expertise, in close cooperation with our partners."
In line with the theme (every connection has a story), host Brahma Ramsodit welcomed on stage three guests who all told their personal stories in their own way. One of them was Hanneke Scholten, assistant professor at the Technology, Human and Institutional Behavior department of the BMS faculty. "Every young person has his or her own journey to discover who they are and what they want. I want to help them on that journey," she says of her passion for her work.
Jimmy Faria, associate professor in the Catalytic Processes and Materials (CPM) department at the faculty of TNW also gets the stage. He explains how his early drive for a sustainable world eventually led him to his current research: developing green chemicals that can play a role in energy storage, and finding ways to turn plastic waste into useful new raw materials.
The last of the three speakers is Mats van Dalen, Master of Business Administration and Philosophy of Science, Technology & Society. His message: everything starts with sharing individual experiences. By bringing them together, innovation really gets off the ground.
Musician Hendrik-Jan Bökkers provided the musical backdrop for the afternoon. A nice contrast with the international crowd in the hall - Hendrik-Jan sings in the Lower Saxon language - who expressed the feeling of the region in three songs, and got the laughs when he sang in his song Duutse grens (German border) about 'de mooiste deernties goat studeern in Utrecht, wi'j moetn hier met de restjes doen' (the most beautiful girls go study in Utrecht, we have to do with the leftovers here).
A festive occasion like the opening of the academic year should also include honouring various fine achievements. For example, Nelly Litvak, Professor of Algorithmic Complex Networks and winner of the Lecturer of the Year Award, was given the stage to talk about successful teaching. The five students who received the Graduation Award for the best master's thesis were also put in the limelight.
Finally, Brahma Ramsodit welcomed Laurens Spoelstra, winner of the TGS Award. He submitted a research proposal for the development of a 'joint-on-a-chip-technology', which should improve the design of a preclinical model for osteoarthritis treatment, without the use of laboratory animals. At U-Today, Laurens tells us more about his proposal.
Before rector Tom Veldkamp officially opened the year, the members of the board went to the foyer to unveil the new diversity artwork. Two years ago, PhD candidate Anouk Geenen took the initiative for the artwork. "Mainly to stimulate the discussion on diversity", she explains. President Vinod Subramaniam unveils the first portrait from the series of portraits; it is the portrait of Henny Kramer-Pals, who in 1963 was the first female staff member of the then Technische Hogeschool Twente. Henny herself was also present at the unveiling. The series of portraits made by artist Mieke de Roo will be displayed in the foyer of the Waaier, forming an interesting contrast with the photographs of all the rectors of the University of Twente since its foundation. Not exactly a diverse group: until now, this position has always been held by a man.
The entire celebration of the opening of the academic year can be viewed online on the UT-Live platform. Prior to the OAJ, an exhibition was held in the hall of the Waaier in which all the Shaping Expert Groups of the UT provided an insight into the developments that are important to the UT in areas such as educational innovation, diversity and inclusion, recognition and appreciation, sustainability, digitisation and citizen science. U-Today reported on this market.