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Room for experimentation

As the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, we believe it is important to give students and faculty room to experiment with groundbreaking education. That space was fortunately put to good use again in 2023.

Students who participated in the Create a Course Challenge tackled topics that really matter, as winner Annika Iselhorst did with "Decoding our Future. This module explores the opportunities and threats of the digital revolution from different disciplines. Scholarships were again awarded to UvA teachers and staff with ideas for improving education. And with educational initiative Placemaking, we won the Higher Education Prize - an enormous recognition of which we are of course super proud.

Below is a concrete overview of our activities in 2023, including news about further concretization of our strategic agenda "shaping transitions", the launch of the new interdisciplinary student magazine INTER, and news from the programs. Happy reading!

Lucy Wenting, general director of the IIS
Luca Bertolini, scientific director of the IIS

Placemaking wins Higher Education Award

On June 29, 2023, UvA education initiative Placemaking received the Dutch Education Award; the highest award in higher education. With this, Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf awarded the initiative a sum of 1.2 million euros during the Comenius Festival. The jury praised the "great social and societal added value for the campus areas around the university, which thereby makes learning meaningful for students".

During Placemaking, students join hands with local parties to improve areas around UvA campuses and address local problems. They pass on the lessons they learn to new student teams and the community.

In 2017, Placemaking began with a small-scale pilot. It was then incorporated into the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences (ISW) curriculum and the Urban Studies minor, among others. In total, more than five hundred students have now taken Placemaking on various campuses. This has involved some forty local principals.

UvA rector magnificus Peter-Paul Verbeek

"Inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration is essential when we as a university are working on today's great societal and scientific challenges. But it is not self-evident. IIS provides a platform where students, faculty, researchers and community partners work together to cross the boundaries between disciplines and between science and society. Together they contribute to current social and scientific issues, because they go hand in hand. This space for experimentation and innovation is invaluable if we want to make a difference as a university. Winning the Higher Education Prize for the Placemaking project further emphasizes this importance."

Peter-Paul Verbeek, rector magnificus and member of the Executive Board of the UvA

Create a Course Challenge

Each year, the Create a Course Challenge invites UvA students to come up with a course to help think about education. The winner gets the chance to develop his or her idea together with curriculum developers at IIS. 

Annika Iselhorst won the 2023 Future Change edition of the Challenge with the course "Decoding our Future: Opportunities and Threats of the Digital Revolution," which zooms in on tech topics such as AI, Big Data, Superintelligence, Surveillance Capitalism and Neurotechnology. Students will also be taught by tech professionals.

Michaela Hordijk

"IIS is an important strategic partner for the Interdisciplinary Social Science program. With IIS, we share the educational ideal of not only educating students academically, but also giving them the opportunity to develop as human beings. A transdisciplinary subject like Placemaking does just that. Once developed in the education lab at IIS, it has become part of the curriculum of ISW, among others, and awarded the National Education Premium 2023. 'Having taken this course, when I look around me I see what I can change in the world,' one student shared with the assessment committee. That is the education that both IIS and ISW want to make possible."

Michaela Hordijk, program director Interdisciplinary Social Sciences

Umberto Olcese new program director Brain & Cognitive Sciences

In early 2023, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies welcomed Umberto Olcese as the new program director of the Research Master "Brain and Cognitive Sciences," bidding farewell to Harm Krugers, who had enjoyed the position for 10 years: "I enjoyed every minute of it."

Launch of interdisciplinary student magazine Inter

February saw the launch of 'Inter'; an English-language magazine created by budding young critical thinkers, scientists and artists. Based on themes such as Heat, Future Change and Platformization, Inter takes an interdisciplinary look at social issues.

Interview with Gerda van Roozendaal, Head of Studies Interdisciplinary

After 17 years at the RUG, Gerda van Roozendaal joined IIS in September 2022 as Head of Studies Interdisciplinary, a place that attracted her because of its unique and innovative teaching. How does she look back on the past academic year and how does she see the future? "The need for interdisciplinary education is only ever increasing."