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The Graduation Ceremony for the Amsterdam University College Class of 2022 took place on Wednesday 13 July at Koninklijk Theater Carré in the heart of Amsterdam. The first large-scale celebration since 2019, more than 220 graduates and their guests attended the afternoon ceremony.

Photos by Maarten van Haaff

Their accomplishments were honoured with motivating speeches, personal musical performances by AUC students and the ceremonial reading of names.

Looking forward and resilience as themes  

The Class of 2022’s ceremony was the first graduation event in Carré since the outbreak of the pandemic. After two years of online and hybrid ceremonies, the impact and challenges faced by students finishing their degrees in such unusual circumstances and how they successfully adapted to the rapid changes in education were prominent themes to be celebrated.

Hosted by graduating students Elena Kissiova (AUC Student Council) and Rein Bernard (AUC Student Association), the ceremony opened with the entrance of students and the AUC Procession, which including 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.

Commencement Address given by Marina Broeva

This year AUC was honoured to welcome Marina Broeva (mental health advocate & founder of non-profit organisation Braive) to deliver the Commencement Address for graduating students and their guests. In her speech, Ms. Broeva shared ten life lessons with students as they embark on the next steps of their studies and careers. These lessons included dedicating time to develop themselves, paying attention to their emotional and physical well-being, and to not let perceived failures or setbacks determine their paths or successes. Intertwining personal experiences with her work at Braive, Broeva continued her address by highlighting how graduates can shape both positive and negative experiences into moments for learning, personal growth and empowerment that can be used to create change in their own lives and in their communities.

Photos by Maarten van Haaff

Musical interludes from AUC students add to atmosphere

Following Broeva’s message of strength and resilience, the first of four interludes provided a segue into the ceremonial conferring of degrees. Putting a spotlight on the talent of the AUC student body, four musical performances throughout the evening allowed for graduates to give the event a more personal and atmospheric touch. The first interlude featured singer Bella Bourgeois and piano player Maya Zaidan performing their rendition of I was here by Beyoncé.

The second interlude saw second-year student Mirthe van Veen perform her ukulele-accompanied take on Edith Piaf’s classic La Vie en rose, while the third interlude was a return to the piano when Sara Jelijs (also in her second-year at AUC) offered her melodic version of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. The series of performances ended on a high note with the choir, consisting of Mateo Abrahmi, Tanuj Arora, Cathelijn Gelderloos, Vera Zonneveld, Lesley Spedener, Lynne Mathies and director Beth Aggett, covering an original arrangement of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

Photos by Maarten van Haaff

Ceremonial reading of names & tutor speeches

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. Minou Schraven, Dr. Melvin Schut, Dr. Daan van Schalkwijk and Dr. Forrest Bradbury. Dr. Schraven gave an upbeat, humorous speech that discussed the journey of students’ academic and self-discovery at AUC as part of a community. Dr. Schut discussed the importance of critical thinking at the core of a liberal arts and sciences degree and how this is essential to a free society founded in reason, character development and mutual understanding.

A reminder of the ongoing pandemic, both Dr. van Schalkwijk and Dr. Bradury were asked to step-in at the last minute to give their speeches. Van Schalkwijk skilfully delivered a rhythmic poem he wrote about personal growth and experiential nourishment, while Dr. Bradbury shared an emotional and reflective speech that looked back at the massive changes these students faced and how such experiences, while difficult, foster independence, flexibility and will allow them to thrive in the future.

Photos by Maarten van Haaff

AUCAA, Valedictorian and reminders of community

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

The ceremony concluded with a speech by the 2022 AUC Valedictorian, Didi Spelbos. Spelbos reflected on how AUC, for her, became more than a study programme and was truly a community and home, especially in the turbulent times caused by the outbreak of the pandemic. She continued by mixing humorous anecdotes with more serious musings about learning from critical debate while underscoring the importance of three essential communal values: respect, responsibility and openness.  Spelbos finished her speech by emphasising how difference within AUC is a source of strength and, regardless of distance or physical location, that this diverse community provides support and feelings of belonging.  

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, gave speeches and made the ceremony possible.