Veerle Dijkstra wins Humanities prize for best research master’s thesis

Uitreiking scriptieprijs aan Veerle Dijkstra. Foto: Vanessa Los-Van Oostrum
Photo: Vanessa Los-Van Oostrum

During the opening of the GW faculty year 2022-2023, the prize for the best research master’s thesis was awarded. Veerle Dijkstra (RMA Religious Studies) received the prize for her thesis ‘Going Digital: Corona as a Lens onto the Dynamics of Religious Mediation in Four Christian Church Communities in The Netherlands’. “I’m really glad”, Dijkstra reacts. “Especially since the time of the pandemic was difficult and now something good came from it.”

Digital media

Veerle Dijkstra voor een rode achtergrond waarop in grote letters 'COVID-19' staat. Screenshot uit het filmpje waarin alle vier de genomineerden over hun scriptie vertellen.
Veerle Dijkstra

In her thesis, Dijkstra examined how four Christian church communities in Utrecht used digital media during the COVID-19 pandemic. How did they ensure that they could continue their religious practices and worship, while it was not possible to meet physically?

Dijkstra attended a large number of (online) church services and spoke with dozens of people involved. In the analysis of her findings, she reflects on the role media play in the practices of religious communities, but also on the role of mediation in general.

A crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic can serve as an opportunity to rethink ‘self-evident’ practices and ideas, Dijkstra concluded. For example, many members of the four religious communities experienced a sense of lack while attending worship services online. This caused them to look at religious experience from a new perspective.

Outstanding academic research

“In looking for a favourite among the strong nominees, the jury was guided by a combination of trends: relevance and personal commitment that leads to new insights,” the jury writes in its report. Of the four nominees, Dijkstra met these standards most.

The four nominees on their theses

Curious to hear what Veerle Dijkstra and the other nominees have to say about their research? Watch the video in which they tell more about their theses here.

The jury writes that Dijkstra shows that participatory research provides insights that reach far beyond the specific situation itself. She has not only carried out outstanding academic research, the jury writes, her research has also become a valuable time document.

The jury also wishes to emphasise that Dijkstra’s research “is an ode to all students who were forced to tread new paths during the pandemic in Utrecht and who did so energetically and with splendid results.”

Prize for best master’s thesis

This year, only the prize for the best thesis written within a research master’s programme was awarded. Due to the effects of the corona pandemic, it was not possible to include theses written within other master’s programmes. Next year, both prizes will be awarded again.