All nominees, pictures: Erik Kottier

Nominees student awards 2019: from entrepreneurship to empirical research

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A study on how former anorexia patients respond to different discourses around the eating disorder; a model that explains computer decisions; and the ten types of women’s resistance in the Occupied West Bank. One of these three topics, that all resulted in excellent Master’s theses, will be crowned best of 2019, on September 2.

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Aside from the theses of Laureanne Willems, Marcel Robeer, and Laurie Treffers respectively, the nominees for ‘Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2019’ were also announced: Dalal Ghanim, UtrechtIncStudent, and platform Studying Without Limitations. The winners will be announced by the rector during the start of the academic year on September 2, 2019.

Social relevance
Dalal Ghanim is nominated because, the jury says, she’s an important role model. The student of the Bachelor’s in Pharmacy fights for human rights, especially for the female Yazidis in Iraq, a minority she herself belongs to as well. She fled her country, and in the Netherlands, she helps other refugees integrate. She also organises meetings with politicians, and shares her experiences of studying and working in the Netherlands on social media.Rick Bonants, Gerry Coen, Manon de Lijster, Dimitri Mousa, and Martijn Wiarda of UtrechtIncStudents stood out this past year because of their efforts to encourage entrepreneurship amongst students. The group wants to turn academic knowledge into commercial applications.Platform Studying Without Limitations, which already on the UU’s diversity award, is nominated because within a short period of time, they have not only improved the information for prospective students with disabilities, but also ensure improvements for these students within the UU. The nominated students are Sophia Bats, Macy Jane Bouwhuizen, Annemarijn Douwes-De Groot, Richard Horenberg, Eline Kruithof, Denise Langreder, Soete Meertens, Britt ten Bergen, and a number of others.

The Master’s For her Master’s thesis for the programme Comparative Literary Studies, Laureanne Willems studied three autobiographies of authors who have struggled with anorexia. She analysed how these authors, in their books, responded to the different societal discussions about the eating disorder, on medical, academic, social, and cultural levels. Willems  now teaches Academic Skills at the UU.


Marcel Robeer, student of the Master’s in Business Informatics, studied the consequences of decisions taken by computers. These are often hard to comprehend for humans. He developed a method that helps people understand why a computer made a certain decision. In his thesis, he proves that his model works. Robeer is now a PhD candidate at both the UU and the Police Lab AI.

Lastly, Laurie Treffers, student of the Master’s in Conflic Studies and Human Rights, spent time in the West Bank to study the way women are resisting the Israeli occupation. She shows how open and hidden opposition can work in unison. Treffers has also found a job, as communications officer at research financer NWO.

The student awards were established in 2007; the first prizes were awarded in 2008. The winners receive 1,500 euros and a university plaque. Along with all other acknowledgments of promising students, the awards are no longer uncontroversial: highlighting the extraordinary achievements of students could in fact cause more stress in other students.

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