Livestream New Year's Gala 2021


Festive VU Amsterdam New Year’s Gala 2021 via live stream

At its New Year’s Gala, Thursday 28 January, VU Amsterdam rolled out the red carpet for its most outstanding teachers, students, educational innovators, graduates, entrepreneurs, and employees. During the online musical interactive game show, the public was introduced to the nominees and cheered on the winners. The public itself was tested on knowledge, skills, and clothing style in the big New Year’s Gala quiz. The Gala was changed into an online event because of the coronavirus situation. 

Students, employees, and other invited guests raise their glasses to what everyone has achieved and to the future. The New Year’s Gala was presented by writer Ernest van der Kwast and actors Bart Sietsema and Emma van Muiswinkel. It this way the second half of VU Amsterdam’s Kuyper Year got off to a lively and festive start.

Gifts for the guests 

The guests could win prizes as well. They got their chance in the New Year’s Gala quiz, in which participant 'Fizz' not only secured eternal fame but also the much-coveted ‘Slimste Mens-spel’ (smartest person award). The quiz was compiled by the nominees for the prizes, each of whom had to submit a question about their field.

For the fashionistas there was also a public vote to decide on the best gala outfit. To be eligible, the participants submitted a picture of themselves in their best gala outfits. The five best entries were shown to the guests during the programme, who then voted. Winner Aisha Malik, general counsilor of the University Student Council and student Econometrics and Operational Research, received the fashion cheque.

Admire this year's award winners below! 

The Van der Duijn Schouten Teaching Award is presented to an outstanding teacher who has worked at VU Amsterdam for at least ten years and who has made a major contribution to improving teaching. The winner receives a €7,000 prize. Winner of this year's Van der Duijn Schouten Teaching Award is Marleen de Moor. 

The nominees 

Marleen de Moor

Marleen de Moor
Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences  Just from the high scores for the evaluations of her teaching, it is clear that Marleen is an excellent and enthusiastic teacher. However, her passion for teaching goes beyond her own courses. Marleen coordinates the entire method line for psychology and education science, and was closely involved with the setting up of a method helpdesk. Marleen regards the sharing of teaching experiences as the best of way of improving education. In doing so, she is always on the lookout for the best ways of encouraging students to actively engage with their course material.
Frank Kamsteeg

Frans Kamsteeg
Faculty of Social Sciences 
Frans is a true teaching all-rounder. He enjoys a reputation as an innovative teacher, Director of Studies, and active member of the Examination Board. He has played an active role in internationalizing teaching and consequently in helping diversify the student population. During the coronavirus restrictions, Frans saw opportunities rather than obstacles for applying his ideas on education science by organizing coronavirus-proof practical lessons, in additional to the theoretical ones. VU Amsterdam’s core values - open, personal, and responsible - are Frans to a tee: open to students, innovation, and experimentation, and to the world beyond the university. 
Remco ZwinkelsRemco Zwinkels
School of Business and Economics  Remco’s programme evaluations were always excellent, but during the coronavirus crisis they exceeded all expectations. His qualities are also widely recognized outside VU Amsterdam. He was nominated for the Erasmus School of Economics Best Teacher Award in 2010 and 2011. In addition, he is much sought-after for masterclasses and in-house lectures at renowned financial institutions. With these links to the outside world, Remco has introduced fresh initiatives to teaching, such as a collaborative partnership with Deloitte. He is also involved with projects in Bhutan and Indonesia, together with the Centre for International Cooperation.
Jacqueline Luijlwijk

Jacqueline van Muijlwijk-Koezen
Faculty of Science 
For more than fifteen years, Jacqueline has been invited to give lectures and workshops, both in the Netherlands and beyond. Her knowledge, experience, and vision for the field of educational innovation are key aspects of these meetings. In many cases, it concerns innovations in the field of active learning. Various publications have appeared on some of these topics. A prominent feature of the teaching that Jacqueline develops is that students are challenged at every level to learn to research and to use their talents to the full. Examples include the medication innovation project and the PhD course on academic integrity.

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. Winner of the Student Talent Award this year is Jardo Stammeshaus. 

The nominees
Jardo StammeshausWINNER
Jardo Stammeshaus
Master's student of Science, Business & Innovation, and Physics
  Jardo has set up a gym with a special group for women and others with the aim of teaching self-defence and self-confidence. Together with a teacher, he launched a series of lessons for secondary schools about nutrition and exercise. At Partners for Innovation, a firm of consultants working in the field of sustainable innovation and a circular future, he advised on making the brick industry in South Africa more sustainable. Jardo has been described as positive, vivacious, and engaged. One of Jardo’s priorities is to persuade others to join him in his positive attitude.
Yasmine AtefYasmine Atef
Master's student of Medicine 
Yasmine has been extraordinarily active on both academic and social fronts, from supporting a refugee student and organizing a debate on taboos, to the setting up of a foundation for challenging primary school children with lessons about medicine. Yasmine has also shown her commitment to education at VU Amsterdam on the faculty student council. She was very active academically during her studies too - away from the curriculum, she took part in various academic research projects. This resulted in an international academic publication, with another two in the pipeline.
Christiaan GriffejoenChristiaan Griffejoen
Bachelor's student of International Business Administration 
Christiaan has combined his experiences at the highest echelons of the sport of sailing with such subjects as organizational theory. On top of that, he is making a considerable contribution towards the VU Amsterdam A Broader Mind programme by creating an innovative project about mental health. Also, Christiaan’s passion for nature has sparked a particular interest in theme of sustainability. He is now studying the subject in his minor. In six months’ time, he will be playing an active part in Norwegian waters, in what will be the ultimate combination of his sailing experience, his study experience, and his VU Amsterdam experience.

The Teacher Talent Award is a prize for the best young teacher. The candidates, from each faculty, are nominated by students. The nominees have a chance of winning the €4,000 prize, to be spent on teaching at VU Amsterdam. This year's winner is Johan Lievens. 

The nominees
Ella HafermalzElla Hafermalz
School of Business and Economics, Knowledge, Information and Innovation  Ella is a very approachable lecturer who also encourages her students to ask questions outside of class hours. She has a refreshing way of encouraging critical thinking, and she is innovative in her teaching methods. During the lockdown, Ella’s expertise in distance education proved to be a tremendous benefit. She excelled in the ease and good humour with which she dealt with the sudden change, and she was sure to add a personal touch to her teaching, for example by giving her students a tour of her own private zoo.
Johan LievensWINNER 
Johan LievensFaculty of Law, Constitutional and Administrative Law department Johan is a highly motivated lecturer who is always looking for interaction and who is tremendously engaged with current events. He is a gifted orator in front of both large and small groups, because he always takes an unorthodox approach to keeping his students’ attention. Students say that Johan makes the tough subject of constitutional law interesting and dynamic, partly through the use of interactive presentations and physical assignments in the faculty.
Siri NoordermeerSiri Noordermeer
Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Science, Clinical, Neuro- and Developmental Psychology Students praise Siri in their evaluations of her: she is passionate, knowledgeable and engaged. She is always willing to invest extra time and effort to ensure that everyone understands her lectures through mock tests, refresher lectures and Q&A sessions that she continued to hold via Zoom during the lockdown. She is also easily approachable outside of class hours, and she responds to questions by email almost instantaneously. She combines all of this with a positive attitude and a good sense of humour.

Thousands of students sweat over thousands of theses every year. But whose theses are the best? There is a prize each for a Bachelor’s and a Master’s thesis. The winners of both are chosen by emeritus lecturers. The winners each receive €2,000. Winner of this year's Bachelor thesis award is Robin Weiler. The Master thesis award was won by Leonardo Nunes. 

Bachelor thesis award

Barend SpanjersBarend Spanjers A Framework for Fair Regression in Machine Learning and Econometrics
Daniëlle Graman
Daniëlle GramanHealth and Political Trust: How the global pandemic of COVID-19 has influenced levels of political trust in the Netherlands
Robin WeilerSequence-To-Sequence Neural Networks Successfully Identify Artifacts In EEG Data

Master's thesis award

Gaia RietveldGaia Rietveld When innocence and violence collide - Exploring the lives of children born of conflict-related sexual violence among the Rohingya community
Marte SiebingaMarte Sievinga Forecasting forage scarcity for index-based livestock insurance in Northern Kenya
Leonardo Nunes
Leonardo NunesParking policy: Evidence from Amsterdam

VU Amsterdam could not manage without the dedication of its support staff, who all keep the university running through their own expertise. Arjen Heijstek en Selma Muhammad, two very special members of the support staff were put in the spotlight by writer Ernest van der Kwast during the New Year’s Gala. Arjen Heijstek is advisor in the field of educational development, particularly with the aid of ICT, at the Education Quality Assurance and –Development at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Selma Muhammad is student-assistent Canvas at the Education Office of the Faculty of Social Sciences and, like Arjen, succesfully supports teachers at VU Amsterdam. 

The nominees for the Kuyper Challenge, a contest for the best business plan by VU students, PhD students, or alumni, will be announced during the Gala. After the Gala, the three nominees will compete for the Kuyper Award, which will be presented during the Kuyper Night in June.

The nominees are:

Mr. Mind RealityInsan Firdaus and Finde Xumara have combined their expertise in biological psychology and software development to develop Myndful, a virtual reality app for people with addiction problems. Myndful creates a virtual environment where people are trained to control their impulses and build resilience. The process can be monitored remotely by professionals. “As a therapist and a former addict, I know that seeking help is not as easy as people think,” Insan explains. “Our goal is to make treatment as easy as pushing a button.” 

  • Insan Firdaus is a cognitive therapist and PhD candidate at the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences. 
  • Finde Xumara obtained his Master’s in AI in 2016 and works as a 3D developer.
Sonoptic Sonoptic offers visually impaired people opportunities for greater social and professional integration. The device consists of a pair of glasses fitted with a 3D camera and a wristband that picks up information about objects in the surrounding space when the wearer points at them. The Sonoptic also translates written texts into Braille and enhances the user’s spatial awareness. “One in three Europeans has a visual impairment,” says Cristian Dragomir. “It is our civic duty to give them better tools to find their way in society.” 

  • Cristian Dragomir is a Master’s student in Computer Science at VU Amsterdam
Team HuskkiHusski is a monitoring system and activity tracker designed to aid fall prevention in the elderly. Every day in the Netherlands, at least thirty elderly people die or suffer serious physical injury as the result of a fall. Husski is suitable for use in nursing homes and care institutions. Not only does the application promote fitness among the elderly, but it also identifies risks and provides applied feedback on a daily basis. Through Husski, Harshil Paliwal and Saurabh Jain want to invest in a community where the elderly can live happy, active and independent lives. 

  • Saurabh Jain is a Master’s student in Artificial Intelligence at VU Amsterdam, specializing in Cognitive Science and Machine Learning. 
  • Harshil Paliwal is a Master’s student in Business Informatics at Utrecht University.
Emma van MuiswinkelEmma van Muiswinkel is an actrice. She performed in plays like Bär and Onze Kersentuin. She also acted in plays produced by the Haarlemse Schouwburg, like Hemels Haarlem and Kenau.
Bart SietsemaBart Sietsema is an actor. He performed in musical stage shows like Orfeo and Illias. He also played a role in the series Hollands Hoop. Besides acting Bart also composes music for several theatre companies.
Ernest van der KwastErnest van de Kwast was born in Mumbai, India. He has his breakthrough as a writer with the autobiographical novel Mama Tandoori (2010), that became a bestseller in the Netherlands and Italy. In 2015 the novel De ijsmaker was released, which won the Dioraphte Literatour Prijs, and in 2016 Het wonder dat niet omvalt. In 2016/’17 he was Free Writer at the VU Amsterdam. Photo: Stephan Vanfleteren
Emma van MuiswinkelEmma van Muiswinkel is an actrice. She performed in plays like Bär and Onze Kersentuin. She also acted in plays produced by the Haarlemse Schouwburg, like Hemels Haarlem and Kenau.
Bart SietsemaBart Sietsema is an actor. He performed in musical stage shows like Orfeo and Illias. He also played a role in the series Hollands Hoop. Besides acting Bart also composes music for several theatre companies.

Kuyper Year

The New Year’s Gala 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. You are also warmly invited to participate in all the other anniversary activities scheduled for the 2020-2021 academic year. See for more information.