11 September 2018

Alumni revisit Alma Mater

On Saturday 8 September, UM welcomed back more than 200 alumni and guests for its annual Alumni Day. Visitors to the afternoon event were treated to a varied programme of activities at several university locations in Maastricht's city centre.

In his welcome speech, the President of Maastricht University, Prof. Martin Paul underlined how instrumental alumni are for the university. 'You are our ambassadors, both at home and abroad', he stressed. Next up was UM Senior Lecturer Dr. Roy Erkens, who in his keynote speech zoomed in on the similarities between the Alma Mater and the role of mothers in nature. In a breezy mix of scientific insights and cheery information, Erkens answered the question whether all mothers are equally concerned over the welfare of their offspring.

After a brief intermission, several faculties opened their doors in the city centre to host interactive activities. At the School of Business and Economics, the newly appointed dean, Prof. Peter Mollgaard, opened the afternoon programme, which included a well-attended talk by Associate Professor Paul Smeets on ‘Money and Happiness’ in the Tongersestraat auditorium. Capping the afternoon at Tongersestraat was a lively pub quiz, with Christian Kerckhoffs, senior lecturer in Economics and Quantative Methods, presiding as quizmaster.

In a parallel programme over at the Law Faculty building on Bouillonstraat, alumni could attend a lecture by Paul Breitbarth, visiting fellow at the UM European Centre on Privacy and Cybersecurity, and then shimmied to the toe-tapping tunes of live band Happy & the Two Tones.

Meanwhile, the university's administration building on Minderbroedersberg hosted a series of UM Talks. In this spin-off of the well-known TEDx series, Professor of Imaging Mass Spectrometry Ron Heeren, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience of Language and Literacy Development Milene Bonte and UM Diversity Officer Dr. Constance Sommerey held short, inspiring talks. Afterwards, visitors could roll up their sleeves at the Innovation Experience.

Among the activities on offer at the Innovation Experience was a CSI stand, where Christine Spronkmans, a forensic researcher at the TMFI, guided alumni around a bona fide crime scene and then suited them up in protective gear to try to crack the case themselves. In the auditorium, Dr Nynke de Jong gave audience members a first-hand look at the use of virtual reality to experience a real caregiving situation, and how this can be implemented in teaching. The afternoon wrapped up with the 'Brightlands Roadshow', featuring a genuine robot who playfully informed visitors about developments at all Brightlands campuses in the region.

After a full day of activities, alumni gathered at various locations for drinks and networking, and from there could visit the PAS festival into the early hours. Plans are to organise the Alumni Day and PAS festival to coincide next year as well.

This year's homecoming was a perfect opportunity for alumni to rediscover Maastricht and their Alma Mater. Strolling around the historic city streets, attending lectures by their former professors and catching up with old friends made for an afternoon of equal parts nostalgia and inspiration.