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Dies Natalis 2020

On Friday, 6 November, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam celebrated its 140th anniversary. To mark this unique day, there was a unique programme of events to match.

This year’s Dies Natalis Lecture was given by a very special speaker: Her Majesty Queen Máxima. She discussed promoting entrepreneurship. 

Entrepreneurship is the very foundation of our prosperity and employment market; it is what gives our society its resilience and optimism about the future. Now that large sections of the business community are being badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the SME sector, we face a double challenge. Not only do we need to ensure that healthy businesses can survive the crisis, but we also need to maximize our capacity for growth in the longer term. As a member of the Netherlands Entrepreneurship Committee, this is a subject that Her Majesty Queen Máxima is particularly committed to. How can we ensure we have a dynamic business sector, both now and in the future? How can we finance the investment that is necessary for education, innovation and growth? Which management style and forms of business have the most potential? And how can we as (future) entrepreneurs and employees continue to get the best out of ourselves and continue to take pleasure in our work? Queen Máxima shares her perspective with us.

Read Queen Máxima's speech in its entirety on the website of the Royal Family.

At this celebratory gathering, honorary doctorates were also awarded to three individuals who have made their mark in the public domain at home and abroad in recent years: Khadija Arib, Ernst Fehr and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

The actor and speaker Bright Richards (New Dutch Connections) gave a performance, and our Writer in Residence Maxim Februari shared his thoughts with us in the form of a spoken column. Read the column here (in Dutch)

More information

  • The guests

    The Dies Natalis Lecture:

    • Queen Máxima has campaigned for inclusive finance on behalf of the UN and is a member of the Netherlands Committee for Entrepreneurship.

    Honorary doctorates:

    • Khadija Arib is the president/speaker of the Dutch House of Representatives. She will receive an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Social Sciences for her contribution to the integration of migrant groups in our society, and for her commitment to democratic values.
    • Ernst Fehr is Professor of Microeconomics and Experimental Economic Research. He will receive an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences and the School of Business and Economics for his research into important social phenomena, such as equality, reciprocity and social norms. 
    • Anne-Marie Slaughter received an honorary doctorate in 2019 from the Faculty of Social Sciences for her ground-breaking research into official and informal networks among citizens and organizations, and for the way in which she has forged links between the university and political practice. The conferral of the honorary doctorate had to be postponed until this Dies.

    Speakers:

    • Bright O. Richards is an actor. He fled the civil war in Liberia in 1993. Richards graduated from the Arnhem Theatre Academy after which he went on to play in various productions for many different companies, including Ro Theater. In 2004 he started New Dutch Connections, a foundation to help young asylum seekers and refugees build a future.
    • Maxim Februari is a novelist. As a columnist, he is also a regular contributor to de Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad. In 1991, he obtained his doctorate from Tilburg University with a thesis on economics and ethics. Februari has been VU Amsterdam’s Writer in Residence since 1 June 2020. Earlier this year he won the P.C. Hooft award.
    • Mirjam van Praag has been president of VU Amsterdam’s Executive Board since 1 March 2018. Alongside the rector magnificus and vice president, she is responsible for the university’s daily management. Mirjam’s scientific research examines the economic role and significance of entrepreneurship. She is also the founder of the Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship, which provides assistance to startups and scale-ups.
    • Vinod Subramaniam studied electrical engineering at Cornell University. He received his PhD in 1996 from the University of Michigan (USA) in applied physics. He served as Rector Magnificus and member of the Executive Board of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam since 1 September 2015. His focus is on creating the ideal conditions for excellence in research and education. 
  • Programme
    • 15.00 Opening speech “With the knowledge of today” by the Rector Magnificus, Professor Vinod Subramaniam
    • 15.15 Dies Natalis Lecture by Queen Máxima
    • 15.30 Word of thanks from the President of the Executive Board and Professor in Entrepreneurship, Mirjam van Praag
    • 15.35 Performance by Bright Richards, New Dutch Connections
    • 15.45 Conferral of honorary doctorates 
    • 16.00 Column by Writer in Residence Maxim Februari
    • 16.05 Closing speech by the Rector Magnificus, Professor Vinod Subramaniam
    • 16.10 End of programme
  • Kuyper Year

    This special Dies Natalis celebration is part of VU Amsterdam’s Kuyper Year, in which we are marking our 140th anniversary with various activities, and by highlighting themes that are as important to us today as they were to our founder, Abraham Kuyper: democracy, diversity and social entrepreneurship.