2 September 2019

Student Awards for Laureanne Willems and Studying without Limitations

During the opening of the Academic Year, Rector Magnificus Henk Kummeling presented the Student Awards. The Award for Best Master's Thesis went to Laureanne Willems and her research into anorexia nervosa. The Award for Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements was awarded to Studying without Limitations, a peer to peer group for students with a disability.

Laureanne Willems (fotograaf: Erik Kottier)
Laureanne Willems, winner of the Best Master’s Thesis Award. Photo by Erik Kottier

Best Master’s Thesis Award

Among the 34 theses that were submitted for the Student Award for Best Master's Thesis this year, Laureanne Willems’ thesis immediately drew the jury's attention. In the laudation (pdf), the jury indicates that the research is remarkable and original. Willems, former student of Comparative Literary Studies, analysed how the lived experience of anorexia nervosa is illustrated in different autobiographical illness narratives. The research clearly illustrates the role these personal histories can play in the medicalised discourse on anorexia, in turn facilitating efforts to understand and define the disease. What's more, the study compels the reader to deeper and interdisciplinary reflection on what is normal and healthy.

The jury praises the smooth, well-considered and the compelling writing style. The handling of not only literary sources, but the theoretical and conceptual secondary literature as well, is quite deftly done. The thesis has proven to be extremely easy to follow and comprehend even for academics outside the Humanities sphere, without making any concessions to the depth of the work.

The jury also thinks that Willems’ personal engagement with the topic is exceptional: the personal notes reveal a human vulnerability that touches the reader, yet at the same time, the appropriate academic remove is never endangered.

 

Platform Onbeperkt Studeren - Voor en Door studenten met een functiebeperking (fotograaf: Erik Kottier)
Studying without Limitations, winners of the Student Award for Exceptional Extra-curricular Achievements. Photo by Erik Kottier

Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements Award

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. Their efforts concern every stage of studying: from open days 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.

Members of the Platform include Sophia Bats, Macy Jane Bouwhuizen, Annemarijn Douwes-De Groot, Richard Horenberg, Eline Kruithof, Denise Langreder, Soete Meertens, Britt ten Bergen and others.

In the laudation (pdf), the jury indicates they were touched by the dedication, ingenuity, involvement and perseverance shown by these pioneers. They serve as an example for other students of how inspiring and activating studying can be. In addition, the pioneers carried out this project in their free time, outside their studies.

Another aspect that appealed to the jury was that the Platform has fairly quickly become a fixture within the university. Not only the survey, but the Platform itself as well, are generating enough ideas to keep Utrecht University occupied for years to come – and therefore contribute to efforts to realise a more inclusive and diverse university. The Platform has the potential to develop into a valuable think tank for students, lecturers, policymakers and the Executive Board.

Like previous years the potential for expansion will be supported in part by the K.F. Hein Fund: together with the Fund, students will explore ways to take their initiatives public and give their plans concrete form.

About the Student prizes

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.

This year, besides prize winner Laureanne Willems, Marcel Robeer and Laurie Treffers were nominated for the Best Master’s Thesis. Other nominees for the Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2019 were Dalal Ghanim and UtrechtInc Students. Read more about these nominations.