ECHO Award 2021 nominees Hema and Houda: a track record in diversity

Hema Venugopal, Master student Medicines, and Houda Al Kalaf, Master student Intercultural Communications, are this year’s nominees at Utrecht University for the annual ECHO Award. On 7 October they had a warm reception by Diversity Dean Janneke Plantenga and the teachers who nominated them.

genomineerden ECHO Award 2021, hun docenten, Diversity Dean en programmamanager EDI
In the front, with flowers, Hema Venugopal and Houda Al Kalaf. Behind them are Gisela van den Velden, Brigitte Prieshof, Janneke Plantenga and Jan ten Thije.

ECHO is a national expertise centre for diversity policy in higher education. The centre has three annual prizes for students with a non-Western background, who excel in promoting diversity and inclusion in society. The goal is to generate positive attention for individual student success from the multicultural society. Next to above average academic results, the candidates distinguish themselves by active social engagement and leadership.

Medicine student Hema Venugopal, nominated by Berent Prakken, Gönül Dilaver en Gisela van der Velden, has an Indian background. Next to excellent academic results, Hema has participated in the Honours programme both during her Bachelor’s and Master’s studies, and she was in the board of Avicenna. Presently, she is member of the Faculty of Medicine student board. From this position, she founded a student platform for Diversity & Inclusion in the Faculty of Medicine. Furthermore, she is engaged in promoting research and health innovations, such as developing new courses for the new Master’s programme Medical Humanities.

Houda Al Kalaf studies Intercultural Communicationsand was nominated by Professor Jan ten Thije. Houda, born in Syria, arrived in the Netherlands three years ago and has a refugee status. She received her Bachelor’s diploma at the university in Damascus and continued her studies in the Netherlands. Next to her studies, Houda volunteers at Unicef. In the past, she contributed to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria. Her ambition is to contribute to social change through raising awareness about the negative consequences of excluding people and societies.

During a festive lunch, Diversity Dean Janneke Plantenga expressed her appreciation for both students.

The ECHO Awards 2021 will be awarded on 7 December. In both 2018 and 2019, a Utrecht University student won the award for university students.