On Monday, 1 September, the University of Amsterdam celebrated the opening of the 2014-2015 Academic Year. Various speakers reflected on this year’s theme: 'Amsterdam in the wider world: Africa’.
Prior to the opening, Louise Gunning, president of the UvA’s Executive Board, led a moment of remembrance for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines (MH17) disaster, which also claimed the lives of two of the UvA’s researchers, Joep Lange and Jacqueline van Tongeren, UvA student Sascha Meijer and UvA alumnus Laurens van der Graaff.
In her speech, Gunning threw light on the university as an ‘academic community’. How does one define such a community, and who forms part of it? Elaborating further on this topic, Gunning explained how an academic community is shaped by the concepts ‘student experience’ and ‘internationalisation’. Her reference to the latter acted as a bridge to this year’s theme: Africa.
The UvA has an enduring relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa, and closely collaborates with various African partners in the fields of teaching and research. Latching on to the UvA’s strong links with Africa, Rob de Vos, consul general of the Netherlands in New York and former Dutch ambassador to South Africa, used his address to highlight the beneficial role that science can play alongside commerce and diplomacy in advancing international collaboration.
Following De Vos’s address, a Central Student Council (CSR) delegation provided an interactive intermezzo in which UvA student Jessica Endert recited her poem ‘Share your dream with me’, and invited all those attending to share their own hopes and dreams for the UvA. These were later presented by the CSR to the UvA’s Executive Board (CvB).
The opening was concluded with short presentations by four young researchers from the UvA-aligned Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD) and the PharmAccess Foundation. In their presentations, the researchers highlighted their Africa-related research, which included projects aimed at strengthening the healthcare sector in various African countries, but also the collaborative endeavours between the UvA and its African partners in the field of mobile health technology.
To mark the opening, the UvA also issued a commemorative booklet Progress through Partnership: The UvA and Africa, which provides a detailed overview of the UvA’s collaborative partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa. Before his death, Joep Lange – who was the driving force behind this special publication.
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