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On Friday 21 September 2018 VUB proclaimed the Student Engagement Awards for the first time. This honorary certificate wants to put activism and extracurricular volunteering in the spotlight. Every VUB student could nominate a fellow student and pitch this nomination. A jury with representatives of VUB Student Affairs, the student council and student body BSGgtgv picked six laureates: Carmen Mazijn, Jimmy Hendry Nzally, Nelke Ramael, Mohamed Lamrani, Naomi Stocker and the team of party hall managers BSGas. All in their own way, these VUB students crossed boundaries, swimming against the stream if needed.
Let it be clear that VUB stimulates and values student engagement of any kind and of any size. Whether you are an inspiring orator in the spotlights or you anonymously wear out your jeans in a dusky keg cellar, it all matters in making our campus life special. The Student Engagement Awards want to give a face to these students and acknowledge the university’s appreciation for their dedication this typical engagement. In the margin of Redelijk Ongeregeld?!, the student congress for active students, six VUB students received a litho by Willy Vandendorpe and a certificate by vice-rector Education and Student Policy, Jan Danckaert.
Tearing down the walls
The first one to receive an award was student representative Carmen Mazijn. Over the past few years she has strived for the integration of international students in an unprecedented manner. As a ‘local’ she played a key role in the remarkable emancipation of international students on our campus. Also the ever enthusiastic Jimmy Hendry Nzally made a difference. As president of the International Student Platform, founder of the African student platform ASCOM and inspiring power in the first ever International Student Conference he played a substantial role in the breakthrough of international student engagement. With their efforts both pioneers tore down the symbolic wall between the world of Belgian and international students brick by brick.
Also the engagement of Mohamed Lamrani fits this set of bridging personalities. For five years he was a leader and inspirator in student organisation Auxilio! on Campus Jette. This platform of volunteers offers accessible study guidance from student to student and helps new students to overcome the threshold of secondary to higher education. Auxilio! plays an important role in the integration and study success of students of diverse backgrounds.
Activism by word and action
With her article on ‘sexism in student life’ journalist Nelke Ramael triggered a debate, long before “#metoo”, that shook the university to its foundations, or at least the white party tent. Under her leadership as a chief editor student magazine de Moeial delivered a year of quality. With her critical view the magazine challenged the university to strive for permanent improvement. Despite the sometimes sharp teeth the student magazine approached difficult topics with dignity, respect and humour.
Naomi Stocker gave activism a face on the barricades. As a vice-president of student movement Comac she took action on campus and in the streets, including a March for Human Rights. She also weathered the storm for her engagement and did not avoid any public debate in the fight for her beliefs.
Hard work behind the scenes
The last award honoured a different kind of engagement: the anonymous, hard work behind the scenes. Vzw BSGas, the managers of party hall BSG, restructured their finances under the leadership of president Dominiek Stroo. A special mention was made for that other silent force, Jorre Bilsen, who, despite the previous tug-of-war, managed to force the breakthrough of reusable cups.
By their engagement and persistence these six laureates proved to be worthy ambassadors of our university and the activist ideals they represent. We hope that these student volunteers, also as alumnui, keep on inspiring the active student community.
A new tradition?
We hope to meet a new generation on stage next year, of what might become a new tradition. VUB wants to keep on appreciating extracurricular engagement.