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The winners of the AYA 2023 Recognition & Reward Awards have won the prizes for their work on improving education quality, organizing events that are aimed on to involve more women and to make recruitment procedures more inclusive.
Photo: Bastiaan Heus

On Tuesday, 7 November, the rectores of VU and UvA handed out the second AYA Recognition & Reward Awards during the inauguration of the new AYA cohort in the Hortus Botanicus. The awards are intended to reward VU and UvA academics who perform exceptionally in the fields of Teaching, Social impact or Academic Community Support. These are activities that often get insufficient recognition in academia, while they are vital for a well-functioning university. AYA would like to change this, not only by making a critical contribution to the debate on recognition and rewarding, but also by actively and directly contributing to this greater appreciation by means of these awards.

AYA has received around 50 nominations, more or less equally distributed among both universities and spread across the different faculties. For many nominees, the nomination alone seems to have energized them and constituted a genuine peer recognition. Among the three sections (Teaching, Societal Impact, Academic Community Support), the category of “Academic community care” received the most nominations. Many nominations in this category highlight how the respective colleague acted generously and empathically in difficult situations, be it during the covid pandemic, during departmental restructurings or individually challenging times.

The winners of the second edition of the AYA Recognition & Reward Awards are dr. Nicos Starreveld (Teaching), dr. Katja Tuma (Societal Impact) and dr. Abbey Steele (Academic Community Support). See below for the jury report.

Category Teaching: Dr. Nicos Starreveld 

Lecturer, Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics, UvA

The Jury was very much impressed by the dedication and commitment that Nicos has toward improving the quality of the education within the mathematics institute at the UvA. The nomination praised his tireless efforts in a variety of different aspects, ranging from student support, curriculum development and the design of new courses that have greatly contributed to the innovative character of the bachelor programme. Nicos has always creative ideas and he has often initiated collaborations with partners outside of the mathematics institute, such as the Nederlandse Forensisch Instituut for joint student supervision or with the Universitaire Lerarenopleiding Amsterdam for a teacher program. Finally, it was stressed in the nomination how Nicos has crucially contributed in strengthening the sense of community in the institute organizing many activities that bring together staff and students. All of these activities are way beyond the scope of his role as academic skills coordinator and we are happy that this award will help to recognize his outstanding efforts but also provide him with a platform and support to continue his transformative work in the realm of education.

Category: Societal Impact: Dr. Katja Tuma

Assistant professor, Computer systems and Network Institute, VU

Katja has been organizing for two years the women-only hackathon Hack4her. It was comprised of a multitude of social, learning and skill-practice events where women could engage in a safe space in a discipline that is often male dominated. Katja was the only staff member involved in this initiative and, with the help of two students, managed to successfully secure funding for the event. In the nomination it was stressed how the event was really self-organized and how remarkable was the incredible success despite the little external financial support. The jury really liked this initiative and agreed that Katja’s efforts were exactly matching the scope of the societal impact award, as well as embodying in practice the values that the Amsterdam Young Academy stands for. We hope the award will help to bring visibility and support for Katja’s future activities.

Category: Academic community support: Dr. Abbey Steele

Associate professor, Political Science, UvA

This year we received the largest number of nominations in this category. Abbey stood out from the beginning given the multiple nominations she received from many colleagues that praised her numerous efforts to improve the academic community in her department. The nominations described her active involvement in anti-discriminatory and racial justice including innovating the recruitment procedures for both staff and students to make the programmes more accessible to visible minorities as well as her consistent efforts to generate data on racial demographics within the staff and student body. In addition to inclusive hiring, Abbey is currently working on an accessibility checklist for professors that makes clear what accommodations are expected for students with disabilities. The nominations also mentioned that she has organized a colonial heritage of Amsterdam tour for staff and her dedication toward mentoring young scholars new to the institution. It was stressed how she is not looking for public recognition and how she demonstrates a ‘unique and rare brand of practical generosity’. The jury was unanimous in selecting Abbey has the winner, we hope that the award will contribute to recognize her tremendous efforts.