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Dies Natalis 2023: The power of hidden networks

On Thursday, 23 November, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam celebrated its 143rd anniversary during the Dies Natalis. This year, we focused our attention on the power of hidden network. Evolutionary biologist, VU professor, and recently awarded Spinoza Prize winner Toby Kiers delivered the Dies lecture.

Our contemporary challenges, such as the influence of digitalization, increasing polarization, biodiverisity loss, and climate change, affect the relationship between our university and society. How can the VU Amsterdam community adapt and respond to these changing dynamics? And how can we be a university that aligns with current societal needs and forms a dynamic, responsive academic network? 

Toby Kiers is at the forefront of this discussion. She took us into the intriguing world of underground fungal networks and their unexpectedly large influence on our aboveground world. She did not only share the secrets of these fungi but also illustrated how, with support of VU Amsterdam, she has set up a global team of locals, ’myconauts’, to map these fungi all around the world. 

Using inspiring examples from within the university, we will explore to what extent these networks can serve as a model for our VU community. How can we organise such sustainable and flexible networks around complex societal issues and collaborate with partners from both inside and outside the university? 

Dies Natalis is traditionally also the occasion when honorary doctorates are awarded. This year, Management Scholar Tima Bansal was honoured. She knows better than anyone how to build above-ground, sustainable networks between academia and the business world. Additionally, Nina Polak, the Vrije Schrijver of 2023/24, delivered a column, and networks were depicted in a dance performance by Avalon Brown, AfroMix dance instructor at Griffioen, with VU alumni. 

Programme (language: English)  

15:00 - Reception in the VU main building foyer (De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam)  

15:10 – Cortège around the campus  

15:15 – Aula open  

15:30 – Programme:

17:00 - Closing and drinks