OAY on UTour: ‘Back together’

| Michaela Nesvarova

Under normal circumstances, about 800 people would now be gathered in the Waaier, celebrating the Opening of the Academic Year (OAY). But just like everything else, this year’s OAY was quite different. Instead of live speeches in front of an audience, the UT prepared a digital ‘OAY on UTour’ which was broadcasted this afternoon.

It’s precisely 15:00 CET and, according to YouTube, 505 people are already waiting to start watching the first ever online OAY. Two minuter later, this number quickly jumps to 650, as we are welcomed by the host Lieven Scheire standing in front of the Hogekamp building on the UT campus.

‘Due to the corona crisis, we still cannot have any big events. Which is why I will open this Hogekamp square in a small but exquisite company.’ He is referring to rector Thom Palstra, vice-president Mirjam Bult and the beadle Wim Koehorst. A ribbon is cut, the newly reconstructed square is officially open and we quickly move on.

President of the Executive Board, Victor van der Chijs, is also present, waiting on the new blue stairs next to the Vrijhof. ‘This Opening of the Academic Year marks that we are back together. We are here to show that we are ready again and fit for a challenge.’

'We are ready again and fit for a challenge' 

The digital event is named ‘OAY on UTour’ for a reason. As soon as all members of the Executive Board make an appearance, the ‘tour’ begins. We move from one prerecorded video to the next, each one shot on a different spot on campus and featuring various members of the UT community.

We begin in DesignLab with UT scientists Edwin Dertien and Wouter Eggink, as well as a fashion designer Hellen van Rees. They are all part of an upcoming TV show ‘Wij gaan het maken’, in which they will work on innovations for people with disabilities. Afterwards we go to Incubase to meet the UT students and founders of the successful company CodeSandbox.

Then researcher Christina Bode gives us tips on how to stay mentally and physically healthy. ‘Move a bit during the day. Don’t just sit and sit, change your posture. Exercising in the evening does not make up for sitting for eight hours,’ she says. ‘How about your mental health? What makes you passionate about your work? When we are stressed, we tend to forget it. If you remind yourself of why you enjoy your work, your mental health also improves.’ To ‘work on our happiness and physique’ a song is included. After all, music is always part of the OAY in Twente.


Traditionally, the OAY is the occasion to hand out a number of awards and this year was no exception. Below you will find the full list of prizes and winners, all announced during the online event today.

Twente Graduate School (TGS) Award went to Ana Ortiz Perez for her project which aims to develop a tumor-on-a-chip platform that mimics liver cancer. You can read an interview with the winner here.

Brinksma Innovation Grant (BIG) for testing an ‘innovative didactical concept’ was given to Judith ter Vrugte. Her educational project will focus on the development of students’ collaboration skills. Find more details in our interview here.

The winner of the Education Award is professor Serge Lemay (Faculty ET).

Last but not least, five Graduation Awards (one per faculty) were handed out to excellent Master students. The winners are: Tim Velthuis (ET), Kasimir Alexander Orlowski (ITC), Niels Mendel (TNW), Meike H. Berkhoff (EEMCS) and Laura Stegemann (BMS).

A few more videos await us. On top of interviews with the above listed prize winners, lecturer Jurnan Schilder talks about online teaching. From the TechMed Center, Richard Schasfoort explains how his research can help fight the corona crisis, and in the ITC building professor Menno-Jan Kraak describes how to map corona infections.

And that is pretty much it. Unlike the digital ‘closing of the academic year’, the ‘opening’ doesn’t offer any space or time to interact and ask questions. We get a wish of ‘happy new academic year’ from partner ECIU universities and, in front of the Carillon, rector Thom Palstra officially declares the academic year 2020/21 open.

Missed it? You can rewatch the OAY on UTour here.

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