VU New Year’s Gala 2019

Awards for students and lecturers at the VU New Year’s Gala 2019

VU lecturers and students were put in the limelight this afternoon with the presentation of the Van der Duijn Schouten Education award, the Teacher Talent Award, the Student Talent Award, the thesis awards and, for the first time, the Student Initiative Award.

The recipients

The Van der Duijn Schouten Education Award 2018 went to Ellen Bal, associate professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology. ACTA lecturer Beatriz Gimenez Gonzalez received the Teacher Talent Award. Joyce Sombroek, medical student and goalie of the Dutch women’s field hockey team, was presented with the Student Talent Award.  Bachelor’s student Birgit Henrich and Master’s student Inken Kröger won the thesis awards.

The Student Initiative award was presented for the first time this year. The University Student Council nominated student initiatives that connect VU Amsterdam students with each other and with the university. The popular vote went to Zakaria Laaraj for his StudeerSamen (‘StudyTogether’) project.

Alle prijswinnaars

Het openen van de gouden envelop

The name of the winner is in the golden envelope.


Joyce Sombroek, the goalkeeper of the Dutch women's field hockey team and student in medicine won the Student Talent Award.


Chairman of the jury, Joke van Saane, and Birgit Henrich, student in Science, Business and Innovation.

uitreiking masterscriptieprijs

SBE-studente Inken Kröger won the award for the best Master's Thesis.


Beatriz Gimenez Gonzalez won the Teacher Talent Award.

uitreiking studentinitiatiefprijs

Zakaria Laaraj’s StudeerSamen (‘Study Together’) project won the popular vote for the Student Initiative Award. Marjolein Jansen, vice president of the Vice-President of the Executive Board, handed over the price to the chairman of the USR, representing Zakaria Laraaj.

Van der Duijn Schouten onderwijsprijs 2018 uitgereikt aan Ellen Bal

Ellen Bal received the award for senior lecturers who excel in teaching and who have given an impulse to the quality of education at our institution.

Ernest van der Kwast brengt een ode aan de verliezers

Host Ernest van de Kwast honours the winners and the losers with and ode (pdf, in Dutch).

Rector Vinod Subramaniam op de rode loper

All visitors walked across the red carpet. As did VU-Rector Vinod Subramaniam.

de borrel na afloop van de prijsuitreiking

After the ceremony, all visitors enjoyed an informal drink

Watch more pictures of the event via

pictures: Vu/Riechelle van der Valk

Location: Auditorium, Main Building Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

15:45Venue open to guests
Opening speech by Rector Magnificus Vinod Subramaniam

Introduction by host Ernest van der Kwast

Nominees are introduced, and the StudenTalent Award, Bachelor's Thesis Award and Master's Thesis Award are presented by chairperson Joke van Saane

Presentation of the Teaching Talent Award

Student Initiative Award, A talk by chairperson Ruard Ganzevoort

Musical tribute to the winners

Van der Duijn Schouten Teaching Award presented by Vinod Subramaniam
Closing words, DJ and drinks

A prize worth €7,000 is awarded to a remarkable teacher who has worked at VU Amsterdam for at least ten years and who has made an outstanding contribution to improving teaching.

The nominees:

Ellen Bal
Ellen Bal
Director of Studies for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences

Ellen is a strict teacher who demands a great deal from her students; in return, she gives them her genuine attention, feedback and help as they develop their skills. She would never want to be put on a pedestal – she believes in working with her colleagues to get things done – but it must be said: Ellen is the face of our Anthropology programmes. She radiates an energy that motivates and inspires her colleagues to renew their efforts, and as a result the Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology is now the faculty’s first programme to achieve international success. She is currently helping other programmes to follow Anthropology’s example. Ellen has greatly strengthened the position of anthropology at VU Amsterdam, both at home and abroad.

Brian Tjemkes
Brian Tjemkes
Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management at the School of Business and Economics

Students describe him as enthusiastic and dedicated: ‘The best teacher I’ve ever had.’ Brian’s goal is to help students become curious, creative, independent thinkers. He believes that the standard learning environment needs to be transformed into an environment in which students take the initiative and take responsibility for their own personal development. Brian is enthusiastic about a learning environment in which students challenge their teachers’ authority, as opposed to one in which their main focus is on working out what teachers want to hear. Together with his colleagues, he applied for a grant to make this ‘courseless learning’ a reality. That application was unsuccessful, but Brian’s not giving up.

Annemie Halsema
Annemie Halsema
Lecturer in Philosophy in the Faculty of Humanities

She is known for the way she combines a calm teaching style with tenacity, as well as for her knowledge of the latest developments in philosophical thinking and her engagement with the feminist movement. Annemie encourages students to ask their own questions and has an amazing ability to help them answer those questions in a well-founded, structured way.
She has played an important role in the university-wide Academic Core: a cluster of modules that are compulsory for all Bachelor's students. She has also made a key contribution to the Diversifying Philosophy initiative, which focuses on attaining greater gender parity in the mandatory philosophers on the syllabus. Annemie is in tune with the spirit of our time.

The Student Talent Award is presented annually to a student who not only achieves great marks, but who also demonstrates an ability to put the concept of ‘academic development’ into practice in a ground-breaking way. The winner receives €4,000.

The nominees:

Dico Baars
Dico Baars
Recent graduate with a master's in Theology and Religious Studies

His professionalism and self-reliance sometimes makes you forget that he’s a student rather than a colleague – that’s how lecturer Peter-Ben Smit has described Dico. He is politically active, not least as a local councillor for the ChristianUnion party. Dico focuses on linking academic knowledge to topical questions about religion, law and society. He has been active both in tackling child abuse and in a movement for renewal within the Protestant churches. His greatest drive is to encourage others.

Ivar Maas
Ivar Maas
Master's student in Social Psychology

Ivar founded an honours module with the aim of increasing our understanding and awareness of sustainability. He is keen for this module to stimulate dialogue between students from different disciplines, so it is clear why he contributed to the A Broader Mind programme, a supplementary Bachelor’s programme that aims to increase students’ engagement with society. Ivar also puts his own engagement to good use in his research. He is currently investigating whether companies in the Zuidas business district that have a competitive culture might also have the potential to stimulate competition between employees when it comes to sustainability.

Joyce Sombroek
Joyce Sombroek
Recent graduate with a master’s in Medicine

As the keeper for the Dutch women’s hockey team, Joyce Sombroek has won both gold and silver at the Olympic Games. Showing outstanding creativity and cooperation, she scheduled her modules around her sporting career and even organized her own clinical internship outside the Netherlands. She has also helped to draft specific regulations for top performance both within her faculty and for VU Amsterdam as a whole. Another area where she puts her talents to good use is in working for the benefit of ill and disabled children and young people, giving clinics at sports clubs

Esmee Visser
Esmée Visser
Bachelor’s student of Pharmaceutical Sciences

At the Olympic Games last February, in Pyeongchang, she won gold in the five-kilometre speed-skating competition, winning a great many Dutch well-wishers along the way. Esmée approached her academic advisor straight away to discuss alternative schedules, because training placements and competitions don’t always match up with the timetable of a science degree that includes a lot of practicals. While the other people on her training placement took a well-earned break after the morning training programme, she was busy doing sums.

Students from each faculty have nominated their best young teacher for this prize. The nominees have a chance of winning the €4,000 prize, to be spent on education at VU Amsterdam: .

The nominees:

Beatriz Gimenez Gonzales
Beatriz Gimenez Gonzalez (ACTA)

She constantly asks questions during her lectures to keep everyone engaged. Beatriz Gimenez Gonzalez supervises many students individually, using her unique, dedicated method to teach them to think outside the box. For two years now, she has coordinated the Restoring Function with Crowns and Bridges block. She has also incorporated the most cutting-edge innovations in dentistry into the second- and third-year Bachelor’s degree curriculum.

  Thijs Bogers
Thijs Bogers (FSW)

Examples from the practical field, as well as from films and TV series, make his History of Political Thought module tangible and down-to-earth. The Facebook group Thijs Bogers created for the module has attracted some great input from students. If there’s not enough time for all the questions students ask during lectures, he takes extra questions afterwards. His students find his passion for his subject infectious, and he even managed to get former minister of finance Wouter Bos to give guest lectures.

  Babs Zonderhuis
Babs Zonderhuis (VUmc)

She uses MentiMeter to get entire lecture halls thinking and to spark discussions, and after lectures are over she loves to continue those discussions on the forum in Canvas. Babs Zonderhuis is one of the coordinators of the subject Peri-operative Patient Care and Anatomy. She inspires her students by bringing in the most enthusiastic experts to give lectures, and she loves to see the fruits of those efforts, like students approaching the doctors afterwards to ask for internships or thesis assignments.

Thousands of students sweat over thousands of theses every year. But whose theses are the best? Emeritus lecturers at VU Amsterdam choose the winner from three nominees for each prize. The winners each receive €2,000.

The nominated Bachelor’s theses:

NieuwjaarsgalaDomiziana Turcatti (Amsterdam University College)
Major in Social Sciences

Peer Culture as Moroccan-Dutch Youths' Space of Resistance:
'We're Kinda Creating Our Own Little Thing As We Weren't Accepted in the First Place'
Birgit HenrichBirgit Henrich (Science)
Science Business & Innovation

An Entry Strategy into the Aircraft Industry.
Recommendations for Qlayers to penetrate the market
Kim StarreveldKim Starreveld (Behavioural and Movement Sciences)
Special Education

Depressie, omgang met stress en opvoedvertrouwen ('Depression, dealing with stress and confidence in parenting')

NieuwjaarsgalaSofie Bollen (Law)

Terugkerende Syriëgangers: Het zekere voor het onzekere? (‘Rebel fighters returning from Syria: erring on the safe side?’)

The nominated Master's thesis:

Mieke WesterhausMieke Westerhaus (Bètawetenschappen)
Environment and Resource Management

The Role of Water in Migration:
Qualitative and Quantitative Evidence from Africa and the Middle East
Mike VinkMike Vink (Social Sciences)
Public administration

Jonge raadsleden: elke stem telt even zwaar (‘Young councillors: all votes are equal’)
A study of the influence and risks of young councillors in small and medium-sized local authorities in the Netherlands
Inken KrögerInken Kröger (School of Business and Economics)
Accounting and Control 

The Triangle of Life, Family and Career for Women in the Big Four

Student initiatives are essential to the work of VU Amsterdam; the Green Office is a prime example of a concept that began as a student initiative. That’s why the University Student Council celebrates student initiatives that connect VU Amsterdam students with each other and with the university. The jury nominates three initiatives, then from 14 January the public – that’s you! – votes for the winner. The winner will receive €1,000 to develop the winning idea further, plus advice from  VU-alumnus Joep van Gelder.

The nominees:

Silja Kelleris
Silja Kelleris
The Free Stage for Storytellers, Poets and Songwriters

Creative writing projects, a monthly poetry slam and other activities make it clear that lots of students are also writing original texts. We bring these creative writers together to celebrate the literary culture at VU Amsterdam.

Jouke Fleegen en Menno van Kicken
Jouke Fleege, Menno van Kicken

The university’s plastic is being given a new lease of life, making VU Amsterdam greener and getting our students and staff thinking. EERF makes it possible for students to join the discussion about products we could be making from recycled plastic.
StudeerSamen (‘Study Together’)
Zakaria Laaraj
Zakaria Laaraj
StudeerSamen ('Study Together')

Too many students are suffering from burnout or other stress-related issues. With StudeerSamen, we are building a community where students help each other to grow by learning from each other’s ideas and working together.

Vote now for the best student initiative!