A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
On Thursday November 7, I had the chance to attend the “Excellence through Diversity” Symposium in Leiden at the Faculty of Law.
On this conference, the participants could “discuss the contribution that diversity and inclusivity can make to research and education, and to the university as an organization.” (http://news.leiden.edu/news-2013/annual-excellence-through-diversity-conference.html)
The afternoon program started at 1.30 pm with some words of welcome by Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Rector Magnificus of Leiden University. Mrs Buitendijk opened the conference, by illustrating with a very personal touch how the topic diversity – despite our biasedness – can be (more and more) implemented at Leiden University. “Diversity and inclusivity in our staff and student body will lead to a change in our organizational culture, will position us globally and will provide excellence in teaching and research.” (http://news.leiden.edu/news-2013/annual-excellence-through-diversity-conference.html).
Her speech was followed by the input of Tomas Brage, Professor in Physics, Study director and International Coordinator at the University of Lund (Sweden). He reported about projects on Gender Certification at the Physics Department in Lund University (SWE) and the Gendered Innovation project of Stanford University (USA). His speech was very entertaining, as he presented the topic in a very interesting way and with a lot of humor and funny examples of how gender topics are seen in some ares, such as quotes from other researches such as “We don´t have any gender problems in our department, as we don´t have any women”.
After the break Maurice Crul continued at 3 pm. He is working as a professor at VU/Amsterdam (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). Mr Crul spoke about chances and challenges in super-diversity in bigger cities. Education was mentioned as one of the key factors to gain positive outcome of the multicultural communities.
Mr. Crul´s speech was followed by the Introduction to the new Diversity Officer Dr Isabel Hoving, who will shape the diversity policy of Leiden University in collaboration with all faculties. Mrs Hoving introduced herself and listed several steps and measures she aims to implement into her work, towards a greater diversity in the coming years in Leiden. (This webpage introduces her briefly: http://www.hum.leiden.edu/news-agenda/isabel-hoving-nieuwe-diversity-officer.html)
Now the official part was over and the following evening program started with some snacks and very entertaining Speed date rounds. At 6.00 pm the Award Ceremony for the Joris van Bergen Fund started, where the 3 winners of 2013 were honored. The prize was awarded to group presenting a great project aiming to link Dutch and International Students. For instance, one of the winning projects suggested that students from all over the world work voluntarily together to create something or help other people – a very nice idea!
Afterwards the last part of the evening started – the workshops. We could choose between 4 different topics: Gender roles, sexuality, cultural diversity and multicultural dance.
I picked the Gender workshop, where we discussed the very surprising issues of snow being a gender problem (The Swedish government decided to plough the streets in a more family and women oriented way, in order to support mothers bringing their children to school). We also spoke about how few female professors are employed in Dutch universities and we tried to find reasons for these very low numbers.
This very exciting and interesting conference was closed at 8.30 pm by some concluding words by Simone Buitendijk. On this conference I learned a lot about gender and cultural diversity at Leiden University and in other contexts.