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Faculty prizes & New Year's speech

At the FSW New Year’s reception 2020, the Faculty honoured prize winners Claire Vergerio, Shirley van der Maarel and Camila Espinoza Chaparro raised a glass to a new year with energetic education and research in an open and trust-based academic culture together with Dean Paul Wouters and his FGGA counterpart Erwin Muller.

Dean's new year's speech

In his annual New Year’s speech, dean Paul Wouters reflected on the new strategy and vision that will be put together by the end of 2020, open and slow science, interdisciplinary research, various collaborations and the recent response to the breach of scientific and academic integrity. ‘We will need to improve the ways of working, especially when human subjects are involved, but we need to put this in the perspective of an open and trust-based academic culture.’

Next, Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs dean Erwin Muller joined the celebration with enthusiastic words of collaboration and shared ambitions.

Master’s Thesis Prize: Shirley van der Maarel

The Master’s Thesis Prize 2019 was awarded to Shirley van der Maarel for her thesis ‘Lost as Belonging in Terra Incognita. Life as a Refugee in Depopulating Villages in Italy’. She was praised by the jury for her ‘rather unusual’ thesis that not only consists of a scientific report or draft article ‘that could be submitted to a serious journal’. In addition, it ‘also includes a documentary film as well as a guide book, that illustrates the world as created by asylum seekers who are slowly making sense of the area that they were discovering as a kind of Terra Incognita in Italy.’.

The Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology student could not collect her award in person, as she was embarking on another, very personal, celebration; her wedding in New Zealand. Thesis supervisor Mark Westmoreland did the honours, stressing his admiration for the creativity of the research design and the beautiful and impressive image of the way migrants try to organise their lives.

Research Master’s Thesis Prize: Camila Espinoza Chaparro

The Research Master’s Thesis Prize 2019 was awarded to Camila Espinoza Chaparro for her thesis ‘Parenting Practices, Socialization Goals and Co-parenting in Bicultural Families of the Netherlands’. The jury was impressed by the way the Education and Child Studies student collected her information, analyzed the data and described the results. ‘The thesis provides important new insights about this relatively new type of families while focusing on both mothers and fathers and looking at parental variables in bicultural families.’

Coming from Chile and being a migrant herself drew Camila to the subject of multicultural families. But the choice to come to Leiden two years ago was because the top authors in parenting and attachment research at the Institute of Education and Child Studies. Especially, supervisor Judi Mesman. ‘She is a rockstar in research of parenting!’ Research on parenting and migrants was largely focused on migrant parents from the same cultural background. When Camila found there was a gap in the literature about mixed cultures in families, she found her focus. Yet, as with many observational studies the big challenge was to find enough participants. ‘Especially fathers were a bit more reluctant. They also matter in children's development but are underrepresented in research compared to mothers, thus future studies should encourage their participation.

From February on Camila will focus on a very different project with her PhD research on emotional development of children who experienced natural disasters. For this, she will return to Chile for fieldwork, to assess the mental health outcome after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami and studying the early exposure and long term stress impact. The prize for her thesis has given her great encouragement. ‘I have more confidence now, with this acknowledgment.’ What she will do with the prize money? ‘I’m not sure yet, this came as a surprise. Maybe a nice holiday contribution.’

Casimir Prize: Claire Vergerio

The Casimir Prize 2019 was awarded to Claire Vergerio, assistant professor of International Relations at the Institute of Political Science. The jury found her ‘a source of inspiration for her students and an important example for young women’ who, according to the evaluations ‘truly changed the way her students see the world.’ Her teaching is aimed at making students think critically about different interpretations of world history. She also shows students the interaction between academic literature and her own research findings. ‘In summary, Claire stands out because of her enthusiasm towards students.’

Vergerio sends out a huge thank you to her students in return for this honour at this stage of her career. ‘It’s only been 2,5 years that I received my PhD, so teaching here in Leiden and The Hague for classes of 500 students was a steep learning curve. I was nervous speaking in public and worried if my ‘old school’ approach – letting the students think about storytelling, questioning the stories they hear or took for granted – would work out.’

‘This prize really encourages me. I’m grateful to hear female students see me as one of their role models. For me it was important too, to have women academics as my mentor. I’m also happy that students know where to find me. The 15 minutes in between my classes and my office hours are well visited. One student ended up talking for an hour and told me afterwards it was his first time ever to visit the office hour of a lecturer and that he had never known it could be so helpful.’

‘These interactions are also very important to me and my view on the field. It’s energising. Students are very creative, bouncing ideas and initiatives and they collaborate with each other. To me, that’s the silver lining. In a world where there’s so much going on and which is not in such a great shape, you have this new generation keen to learn and try new things. It’s great to have a feeling to have some impact on that.’


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