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The first commencement address in the Netherlands

In order to give graduates a festive welcome to the UT alumni network, the Alumni Office organized the first EVER Commencement Address in the Netherlands in collaboration with Studium Generale and the DesignLab.

Normally, graduation involves parties and ceremonies. That unfortunately was not possible for students receiving their diplomas in this period. And the last few months have also not been so easy in this time of Corona. That is why the Alumni Office took the initiative, together with Studium Generale and the DesignLab, to organize a Commencement Address. In the United States, universities organize such an event for graduates every year. The idea of such a Commencement Address is that the graduated students are welcomed as full academics in the community! An experienced speaker, often an alumnus, gives the new graduates wise advice as they begin this new chapter in their lives. This may be the start of a new tradition. The University of Twente is the first university in the Netherlands to organize such a Commencement Address.

New alumni and all other members of the UT community can now be inspired online by two former UT students who are fully involved in society and embody the university’s 'High Tech, Human Touch' motto: science journalist Diederik Jekel (TN '10) and diplomat Tony Agotha (BSK '95), member of the cabinet of Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the European Commission. In their Commencement Address, recorded on June 26, they focus on three themes: the Twente DNA, their sources of inspiration and what advice they would have liked to receive themselves on the day of their graduation.

Twente DNA

In the first part of his speech, Diederik Jekel talks with great humor about how people tend to think that their own group (or study) is better than another group. Because he did a lot of activities on campus outside of his studies, he also met people from other fields. They challenged him to take a critical look at his own ideas. If he had stayed in his own little world and hadn't had those encounters, he would never have been able to do the work he does today. That is why he urgently calls on new alumni: "If you’re high tech, go for human touch, and vice versa"

Tony Agotha also advocates a wide field of view. It is important not just to look at a problem from a technological perspective, because the social, economic, ethical, legal and political sides are equally relevant. Those who are prepared to do so can make an important social contribution with their technological knowledge. Tony advises all graduates to take the typical Twente DNA - the look of the outsider, the unconventional way of thinking, being yourself - into society. Because that is of added value, wherever you come and who you work with. 

Inspiration and advice

In the second part of their speeches, the speakers talk about their sources of inspiration and their compass in navigating (working) life. Diederik Jekel's compass is a starting point that he always tries to adhere to: realize that no one, including you, has the solution. We need to make the world a better place together, and that starts with listening better. He shares insightful insights into how we can communicate better.

Tony Agotha is inspired by the people around them. He admires them for their bold, unconventional decisions, because they follow their hearts, are patient or critical, and for their strength. He also reveals the secret of a friend of his, who remains resilient despite endless misfortunes in his life.

The two speakers completed their Commencement Address by advising the virtual audience that they would give their younger self on the day of their graduation. Diederik Jekel takes his inspiration from a chicken coop and has the following wise advice: “Be no chicken.” Tony Agotha's advice comes from an equally surprising corner, namely from the baseball field: “Don't always try to hit a homerun, because then you will get cramped. "

For those who want to know exactly what these oracles said about chickens and baseballs, one last piece of advice: pour yourself a festive glass of champagne, sit back in your armchair and enjoy the video!