Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Opening of University of Applied Sciences Year

29 Aug 2014 00:00

Nowadays you can find a superfoods section in every supermarket: more and more people are eating healthily and consciously. Therefore food was the theme of the opening of the HvA’s academic year 2014. The chairman of the day was none other than Teun van de Keuken of Dutch consumer television programme De Keuringsdienst van Waarde.

HvA rector Huib de Jong opened the afternoon. Things are good at the HvA, stated the rector. Of the 6000 HvA students who graduate each year, an average of 80% find a job within six months; the University of Applied Sciences has received a positive assessment from the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO); and the Study Check – a gigantic operation – is proceeding according to plan.

Cooperation in the region, professional chain and business community

“But being good means you have to stay good,” says De Jong. He is calling for investment in talented senior secondary vocational education (MBO) students. “We are going to reach out to these ambitious young people from the MBO,” said the rector, “for instance by working with regional MBO schools, by offering two-year Associate Degrees and by providing follow-up training to talented individuals in the ICT sector.”

Food in films

Huib de Jong’s opening speech was followed by the theme ‘Food in films’. Dan Hassler-Forest, lecturer in media and culture theory at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) showed and interpreted clips from the small, independent film Big Night and the Pixar blockbuster Ratatouille. Hassler-Forest: “In these films food is used to represent the tension between art and commerce. You can make art that is not for everyone, but for a small minority, or you can make something simple really well, so that everyone enjoys it.”

Vegetables amongst concrete

Meanwhile, President of the Executive Board Louise Gunning sat down at the large round table to join Teun van de Keuken in interviewing several HvA staff members and students. Professor of Innovation Inge Oskam sat down with a small neon pink greenhouse. “It looks like a little herb garden,” said Teun van de Keuken. This is vertical farming in miniature, explained Inge Oskam. A student used LED lamps to transform a desk drawer into a miniature greenhouse. Companies like Philips are already using this LED technology. HvA Cleantech is experimenting with it and is developing a flexible cultivation system so that vegetables can also be cultivated in vacant buildings.

Overweight children in Amsterdam

Lecturer Viyan Rashid talked about her doctoral research in the context of the ABCD study of the AMC birth cohort, a study that follows a large group of children from birth and measures their health. What are the causes of the – sometimes significant – differences in health between the different population groups in Amsterdam? It turns out that children of Turkish and Moroccan origin are considerably more often overweight as early as the age of two. This in turn is related to their average lower birthweight. As an example, Viyan describes grandmas crumbling up biscuits into their grandchildren’s bottles. “This leads to very young children being overweight.”

Viyan Rashid and Louise Gunning
What students eat

Following a musical intermezzo, two cookery book authors sat down at the table. Interactive Media alumnus Leonie ter Veld is the author of the blog ‘gewoonwateenstudentjesavondseet’ (‘simply what a student eats in the evening’) in which she provides simple and easy recipes, attracting some 10,000 views a day. Lisa Steltenpool, student of Nutrition and Dietetics, eats a completely vegetarian diet and wants to encourage others to take a more sustainable approach to food. One of the ways in which she does this is through her book Vegarevolutie, of which the second edition will soon be published.

Choices in the canteen

Sustainable food is also the mission of Natascha Kooiman’s company Smaackmakers. Smaackmakers assigned Applied Psychology student Tim Rijnshoeven the task of encouraging healthy choices in a canteen for blue-collar employees. Quite a challenge, explains student Tim, because this target group often views ‘sustainable’ as synonymous with expensive and lacking flavour. But by providing samples and giving people the opportunity to contribute their own ideas, they were persuaded to give sustainable food a chance.

Interactive health map of Amsterdam

The last person to join the table was Professor of Nursing Wilma Scholte op Reimer. Her professorship’s areas of study include cardiac patients recovering from surgery. “Food, which is perfectly normal for us, becomes complicated for them. They receive stacks of folders warning them about being overweight, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. We see that, although we are capable of preventing a second heart attack through medication, we are not as successful through lifestyle changes.” The professorship wants to improve this, by working with parties such as Weight Watchers for example. Scholte op Reimer would also like to see an interactive health map for Amsterdam. Louise Gunning suggested that Interactive Media students would be able to help create such a map, in response to which dean Geleyn Meijer seated in the front row nodded enthusiastically. Multidisciplinary cooperation is needed in order to achieve innovations. A positive end to an afternoon full of education and cooperation.