Photo: Ivar Pel

PhD candidate Maranke Wieringa wins 2022 Diversity & Inclusion Award

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Maranke Wieringa (29), PhD student in the Faculty of Humanities, has been announced as the winner of this year’s Diversity & Inclusion award for their work raising awareness about ableism.

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“I honestly didn't expect this with such great contenders in the mix”, Wieringa told DUB in an e-mail. They* are one of the founders of the platform Accessible Academia. “While I am very grateful for the award and the recognition, it is a bittersweet thing as the award itself signals already that though the intention is there the university is still far from inclusive”.

Next month, Wieringa will be leaving UU as an employee and carrying on as an external PhD candidate. In a recent interview with DUB, they explained that the repeated instances of ableism at the university contributed to this decision as they felt like “a thousand papercuts”.

Throughout their years at UU, Wieringa was very vocal about issues such as the shortage of lecture halls that are accessible for both students and lecturers in a wheelchair. “For me, the recognition of the work is very healing in a way. But simultaneously the award also underlines that I had to do extraordinary amounts of labour just to be able to do an ordinary job. While validating, it also emphasises that sad reality”.

Wieringa adds that they hope UU will see both this award and their decision to leave the university as a “wake-up call” to improve things for future generations of disabled students and staff.

In addition to the award, Wieringa received 2,500 euros which can be used to finance activities promoting diversity and inclusion at Utrecht University. The PhD candidate still doesn’t know exactly how that sum is going to be spent, but they would like to organise something with Accessible Academia “which would have a lasting effect either in facilitating others to connect to experiences of disabled employees and students or on the level of advocacy”. They mentioned a podcast series and a workshop for all the faculty and university administrators as two possible ideas.

The other nominees were Hamed Noori, founder of the Online Coaching Centre, and the student of Economics & Business Economics Kinan Alajak, one of the students on DUB’s annual Promising Fifteen list. Alajak founded the English Academy for Newcomers and the Refugee Wellbeing and Integration Initiative.  Last year, the Diversity & Inclusion award went to lecturer Louise Autar.

*Wieringa identifies as non-binary and prefers to be addressed by the pronouns they/their

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