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The Graduation Ceremony for the Amsterdam University College Class of 2023 was held on Thursday 13 July at Koninklijk Theater Carré. Over 230 graduates and their guests attended the event, which featured motivating speeches, musical performances by AUC students and the ceremonial reading of names.
View on students throwing hats at Carré
Photo by Vere Maagdenberg

Hosted by graduating students Alexandra von Vultejus (AUC Student Council) and Eva Ebbers (AUC Student Association), the ceremony opened with the presentation of the graduating class and the AUC Procession, which included academics and invited guests from the AUC community. Once students and guests were seated, Prof. Dr. Martin van Hees, Dean of AUC, took the stage to kick off the ceremony’s series of speeches, conferring of degrees and various musical performances.

Mirjam van Praag delivering the Commencement Address
Prof. dr. Mirjam van Praag (Photo by Vere Maagdenberg)
View on Carré showing audience members
Photo by Vere Maagdenberg

"Be bold, stay open and follow your heart"

The Class of 2023’s ceremony was characterised by inspiring messages encouraging graduates to remain true to themselves while approaching new challenges and changes with an open mind. The sentiment was best captured by Commencement Speaker, Prof. dr. Mirjam van Praag (President of the Executive Board, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). In her Commencement Address, van Praag recounted her own path to becoming President of the Executive Board and how this trajectory was rather unexpected, but resulted from following her passion and interests with a curiosity and openness for new opportunities. She encouraged graduates to accept that life may not fully go as planned and to embrace these moments of imperfection in order to see them as chances for learning and discovery. This experience of allowing space for personal growth and evolution of character while retaining a core personal integrity was her advice for graduates to take with them as they embark on the next phase of their lives. 

Van Praag concluded by emphasising not only how much students have already accomplished, but how much they stand to accomplish. While learning to overcome adversity, embrace diverse perspectives, display resilience and hone their creativity, graduates have the foundation and tools needed to envision new possibilities, take risks and create a better world for themselves and future generations. 

Lucas Serralta singing on stage at Carre
Lucas Serralta performing (Photo by Vere Maagdenberg)

Musical interludes from AUC students

The ceremony included four musical interludes showcasing the talent of AUC students. The first interlude featured Kimber Zonneveld playing Yann Tiersen's beautiful and uplifting piece "Penn ar Lann" on the piano. The second interlude showcased Lucas Serralta's emotional rendition of Billie Eilish's "My Future," accompanied on the piano by Edwin Smits. For the third interlude, an all-AUC band consisting of Alex Karatsz (guitar), Jeremy Vial (bass), Nico Antunez (cajón), and Etienne Villa (lead singer) delivered a captivating and energetic cover of Nico Play's "La Ciruela." The series of interludes concluded with the AUC choir consisting of Mateo Abrahami, Amelie Fehler, Luna Molenaar, Mirthe van Veen, Sam Ringeling and Beth Aggett performing a reflective, stripped-down medley of “Forever Young” by Alphaville and “Rise Up” by Andra Day.

AUC student walking on stage and receiving ceremonial certificate
Photos by Vere Maagdenberg
AUC student waving to the audience

Ceremonial reading of names

The focal point of the afternoon remained the four rounds of the reading of names where each student walked the stage to receive their yearbook and ceremonial certificate from Prof. Dr. Martin van Hees (Dean of AUC) and Dr. Anco Lankreijer (Chair of the AUC Board of Examiners). Each round began with a brief speech by an AUC tutor: Dr. Hilla Dayan, Dr. Daan van Schalkwijk, Dr. Emma Cohen de Lara and Dr. Cor Zonneveld. Dr. Dayan delivered an upbeat, humorous speech recalling memorable moments from the era in which she graduated in the 1990s and the changes that have occured since then to remind graduates to cherish their own memories of their university experience. Dr. van Schalkwijk used a Les Misérables-inspired speech to highlight playful parallels between the student journey starting with COVID-19 to eventually emerging a transformed, wiser individual by seeing, finding and embracing the metaphoric light in dark times.

Dr. Cohen de Lara began by using German philosopher Hannah Arendt as a starting point for a contemplation on the roles of student and teacher, and how education should not only analyse the world as it exists, but also the agency we have in actively shaping it, and that we should do so with compassion. As the final tutor speaking, Dr. Zonneveld reflected on the changes students underwent during their three years at AUC and assuaged the fear that accompanies making choices, whether that be for future studies or careers, in the context of an increasingly complex society. As well-trained interdisciplinary thinkers, Dr. Zonneveled quipped, there should be no reason for “post-AUC stress syndrome”.

AUC Valedictorian Ingrid Sommer delivering the Commencement Address
Ingrid Sommer delivering the Valedictorian Speech (Photo by Vere Maagdenberg)

Welcoming new alumni and the Valedictorian speech

After the final name was read, Ms. Gerylaine Campos (AUC Alumni and External Relations Officer) welcomed the newest members of the alumni community to the AUC Alumni Association (AUCAA) and explained how they can help graduates in finding opportunities, networking and staying in touch with classmates.

The ceremony concluded with a speech by the 2023 AUC Valedictorian, Ingrid Sommer. She began her speech with an anecdote about working with children, and the untamed honesty and curiosity with which they view the world. Sommer expanded on how similar feelings of assuredness, insecurity, worry and wonder fluctuated over their time at AUC – from coming together in the pressure-cooker situation of dorm life under COVID-19 restrictions to using this newfound community to advocate and produce real change. Referencing this development, much like that of a child, she encouraged her fellow students to embrace this way of being. To understand that at times, they will undoubtedly feel anxious and insecure in life, but that these moments can be transformed into opportunities for learning and strength, and to use their training to approach challenges with that same childlike wonder and determination. Ultimately, they will need to embrace the responsibility that their knowledge comes with and use this with kindness and confidence to lead their generation through the challenges ahead.  

Closure and hat throw

The ceremony officially came to a close with the traditional throwing of hats and the ordered exit of the AUC procession, new alumni and their guests. AUC would like to congratulate all the graduates on their accomplishments and thank all those who attended, offered words of wisdom and made the ceremony possible.