In her commencement speech at Vesalius College’s Graduation Ceremony 2016, Iverna McGowan (Advocacy Director and Head of Amnesty International’s EU Office) appealed to graduates and faculty to address global injustice and to make a difference in the world. McGowan praised Vesalius College’s Honours Class of 2015 and their project of ‘Btogether’ that sought to address the challenge of integrating refugees and migrants in Brussels. The 2015 interdisciplinary Honours Class, guided by Professor Willy Scholz, sought to build a website and app that would allow newly arriving refugees and migrants to connect to locals. The project was presented to key policy-makers, business leaders and nobel laureate at the Global Economic Symposium in Germany in October 2015 (Click here to read more details).
McGowan stressed that:
‘Our own freedom is diminished by the reality of lack of freedom faced by others in our world. I was touched and very impressed to see that this is a concept already understood by students here. Your ‘btogether project’ which focused on how to welcome refugees aslyum seekers and migrants is a testament to this and displays already strong leadership. My appeal to all here today is whatever you end up doing that you retain a sense of that responsibility. That you remain concerned about what happens in our broader world. Perhaps you might not work directly in a field relating to humanitarian work or human rights but maybe you will become CEO of a multinational company and your concern about the ethics of that companies supply chain could change the destiny of 100s of families lives for the better forever. Perhaps you will entre public service through politics or the civil service. You will not pander to the easy fearful narratives of attacking the other and instead would instigate a national if not EU programme following btogether project principles.’
Jan Jambon, Deputy Prime Minister and Belgian Federal Minister of the Interior and Security, added his official congratulations to the Vesalius College’s Honours Class of 2016, who – under the mentorship of Prof. Serge Stroobants, built a news verification website and training programmes for challenging radicalisation (www.newsworthy.eu). The group won the second place in a global university competition organised by the US State Department (Click here for more information). In his letter, Jambon praised the students’ initiative:
‘The way you organized the “Newsworthy” campaign in such a short time, is truly impressive. The concept you presented – critical investigation, analysis and verification of statements in relation to different forms of extremism – has been formulated in an innovative and original way.’
Vesalius College promotes the Interdisciplinary Honours Class: Bringing together the brightest and most motivated students from all four majors to address pressing global challenges with creativity, innovation and policy-oriented impact.