2019 Student Award nominees announced

Utrecht University is proud of its students who achieve something remarkable, either as part of their studies or elsewhere in their lives. Each year during the opening of the academic year, the Rector Magnificus therefore presents two Student Awards: the Student Award for the Best Master’s Thesis and the Student Award ‘Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2019’. The names of the students who have been nominated for these prizes have now been announced.

All nominees

The nominees for the Best Master’s Thesis are: Marcel Robeer, Laureanne Willems and Laurie Treffers. The nominees for the Student Award ‘Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2019’ are: UtrechtInc Students, Dalal Ghanim and ‘Studying Without Limitations - Peer-to-peer group for students with a disability’.

Nominees Best Master's Thesis 2019

Laureanne Willems (fotograaf: Erik Kottier)
Laureanne Willems, nominee Best Master's Thesis 2019 (photographer: Erik Kottier)

Laureanne Willems, Faculty of Humanities, Comparative Literary Studies. Thesis title: 'What is Normal, What is Healthy? A Comparative Study of Anorexia Nervosa Through the Lens of Autobiographical Illness Narratives'.

Through an analysis of three carefully selected autobiographies written by women who have recovered/are recovering from anorexia, Laureanne explores the variety of the lived experience of anorexia nervosa. Her discussion proceeds along three axes: how the authors respond to and challenge the different discourses around anorexia (medical, academic, societal and cultural), how they employ different strategies of representation to depict the experience of anorexia and what role memoirs such as the ones that she discusses play in fostering a better understanding of anorexia. Laureanne’s thesis exhibits a critical and in-depth approach to primary, secondary and theoretical source material. She has also been able to design an original theoretical and conceptual framework.

Current position: Academic Skills lecturer at the Bachelor’s programme in Information Studies, Faculty of Science.

Marcel Robeer (BETA), genomineerd voor Beste Masterscriptie 2019 (fotograaf: Erik Kottier)
Marcel Robeer, nominee Best Master's Thesis 2019 (photographer: Erik Kottier)

Marcel Robeer, Faculty of Science, Business Informatics. Thesis title: 'Contrastive Explanation for Machine Learning'. 

An important aspect of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is Machine Learning: a model that uses big data to learn, after which the model can be deployed to gain insights or take decisions. These models are often invisible, and hence intangible, for people. In his thesis, Marcel explores the new domain of Explainable AI (XAI). Current methods that generate explanations of decisions based on these models are often experienced as alien by people. Humans prefer to use contrastive examples when taking decisions. This process allows you to weigh up options and explain your choice: I have made this rather than that decision. Marcel Robeer developed and validated a method on this basis in his research. He has clearly and accurately described this intangible material as well.

Current position: PhD candidate at both UU and Politielab AI.

Laurie Treffers (GW), genomineerd voor Beste Masterscriptie 2019 (fotograaf: Erik Kottier)
Laurie Treffers, nominee Best Master's Thesis 2019 (photographer: Erik Kottier)

Laurie Treffers, Faculty of Humanities, Conflict Studies and Human Rights. Thesis title: '(Un)veiled bodies of resistance: How women in the Occupied West Bank village of Budrus oscillate organized and everyday resistance practices against the Israeli occupation since the ending of the Second Intifada in 2005'.

So far, organised public resistance and ‘everyday’ resistance have always been investigated separately, as though people always get involved in just one form of resistance. With her analysis of the resistance of women in the village of Budrus, which is located in the occupied West Bank, Laurie’s thesis bridges this academic void. These women practise both forms of resistance and Laurie has identified ten forms of resistance in her field work, demonstrating how both open and hidden resistance can work in unison. She innovatively combined an empirical and theoretic approach. This approach has produced a number of new concepts, which will provide valuable input to the ongoing debate on this subject.

Current position: Communications Officer at the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Nominees for the Student Award Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2019

UtrechtIncStudents, genomineerd voor Bijzondere Bestuurlijke en Maatschappelijke Verdiensten 2019 (fotograaf: Erik Kottier)
UtrechtInc Students, nominee Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2019 (photographer: Erik Kottier)

UtrechtInc Students: Rick Bonants, Gerry Coen, Manon de Lijster, Dimitra Mousa en Martijn Wiarda, from various faculties. UtrechtInc Students aims to encourage and facilitate the entrepreneurial efforts of students from all faculties. To this end, they have organised numerous events, programmes and initiatives. UtrechtInc Students aims to maximise the impact of academic knowledge by translating innovative research projects into commercial applications for society. Due to effective regional collaboration, UtrechtInc Students was able to give the valorisation of research originating from Utrecht a national and international boost.

portrait picture Dalal Ghanim
Dalal Ghanim, nominee Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2019 (photographer: Erik Kottier)

Dalal Ghanim, Faculty of Science, student of the Bachelor’s in Pharmacy. Dalal draws attention to human rights, in particular the rights of women and a minority group in Iraq: the Yazidis, to which she belongs. As an expert, Dalal helps refugees to integrate and build a future in The Netherlands. She organises meetings with politicians and shares experiences as well as best practices about studying and working in The Netherlands on social media. For this reason, she is an important role model.  

Platform Onbeperkt Studeren - Voor en Door studenten met een functiebeperking (fotograaf: Erik Kottier)
Studying Without Limitations - Peer-to-peer group for students with a disability, nominee Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2019 (photographer: Erik Kottier)

Studying Without Limitations - Peer-to-peer group for students with a disability​, Sophia Bats, Macy Jane Bouwhuizen, Annemarijn Douwes-De Groot, Richard Horenberg, Eline Kruithof, Denise Langreder, Soete Meertens, Britt ten Bergen and others. A survey by student researchers showed that there was a great need for an accessible place where students with a disability can go for help and advice. To this end, the student researchers decided to set up Studying Without Limitations - Peer-to-peer group for students with a disability themselves. Their efforts concern every study stage: from open days to start and from advancement to improving the accessibility of work placement as well as workspaces. The wide variety of ideas and activities make an important contribution to a more diverse and inclusive Utrecht University.


Directors of Education or research directors can nominate a student in their programme for the Student Award for the Best Master’s Thesis. The student must satisfy the set criteria. Anyone, regardless of their relationship to Utrecht University, may nominate a student for the Student Award ‘Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements’. See the criteria and procedure.


Rector Magnificus Henk Kummeling will announce the winners during the Opening of the Academic Year ceremony in the Dom Church on Monday 2 September 2019.

More information

Drs. Manon Sas, sr. Communications Consultant, J.M.Sas@uu.nl, 06 28831442.

More information
Student Awards