Our Fellows of 2023

Tom Naegels

Tom Naegels studied Germanic languages at the University of Antwerp. He began his career at the Antwerp newspaper De Nieuwe Gazet in 1999 and today he is a well-known author, journalist and columnist on the themes of identity, migration and journalism. His work appears in De Standaard and he covers areas that are relevant to the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.

Willem Bongers-Dek

Willem Bongers-Dek studied Dutch language and culture in Utrecht, Antwerp and Sheffield and has been general manager of the Flemish-Dutch House deBuren since 2019, taking it to the top of its field in Brussels, Flanders and the Netherlands. He has worked for several literary journals and is active as a guest lecturer at foreign universities. Today, he holds a number of positions on councils and boards. This experience can complement the existing cooperation with VUB through activities that contribute to developing students’ talent.

Our Fellows of 2021

Ans Persoons

Ans Persoons studied contemporary history at Ghent University and European studies at Sciences Po in Paris. After graduating, she joined the Brussels-Europe Liaison Office, an organisation that welcomes expats and informs them about what it means for Brussels to be the capital of Europe. Since 2012, she has been Deputy Mayor in charge of urban planning, public space and Dutch-speaking schools.

Persoons can be a valuable link between the Faculty of Languages and Humanities and the city of Brussels. She is an example of political and social commitment to a pluralistic, participative and inclusive urban community. She will encourage students and researchers to engage with Brussels policymakers and reflect on the metropolitan challenges of Brussels both past and present. As a Fellow, she may give guest lectures and organise a guided walk of the North-South connection as part of the courses Global City Region Brussels and the History of Urbanism.

Ruud Hendrickx

Ruud Hendrickx studied Germanic philology and Dutch and general linguistics at KU Leuven. For years he has been one of the driving forces behind VRT’s current language policy. He advocates for a nuanced view of standard language in Belgium compared to the Netherlands, in which care of language and language variation go hand in hand. He has an extensive network, both inside and outside linguistics as an academic discipline, within the wider language sector in Flanders.

Hendrickx has often worked with the faculty on initiatives on language, policy and variation and has been a guest lecturer. Through his Fellowship, this partnership can grow, via guest lectures within the series on Dutch linguistics. He can also work with VUB on the vulgarisation of linguistic research results via VRT Taal and various other outreach and publicity activities.

Els Keytsman

Els Keytsman is director of Unia, the Interfederal Equal Opportunities Centre. She studied applied economics at VUB but has always been interested in language. In her current function, she deals with linguistic-pragmatic effects in all forms of communication.

Keytsman will get involved through guest lectures in the faculty’s various master’s programmes and particularly in the master’s in journalism. Her expertise will be useful for research into discriminatory language use. Students operate better in a multicultural society where they can recognise and avoid discrimination.


Sandrien Mampaey

Sandrien Mampaey studied law at VUB from 2002 to 2005. She began her career at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law & ICT at KU Leuven, which studies all aspects of data protection in projects relating to e-health. In 2006 she joined Vlaamse Nieuwsmedia as a legal counsel and in 2010 she became Administration Manager. From December 2015 till August 2021 she was Director. Since August 2021, she has chosen to broaden her expertise in companies and organisations on a self-employed basis.

Mampaey is known for her passion. She enjoys explaining new developments in the media landscape and the faculty wants to build a partnership with the master’s in journalism.

Bambi Ceuppens

Bambi Ceuppens holds a PhD in social anthropology from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Before joining the Royal Museum for Central Africa, she lectured and did research at various universities in the UK and Belgium. She works at the RMCA as Senior Researcher and curator of contemporary African art and teaches at KASK School of Arts (Ghent) and Sint Lucas School of Arts (Antwerp). Her current research focuses on Belgo-Congolese history, Congolese in Belgium, Congolese culture and art, restitution and the need for the RMCA to decolonise itself. She has curated exhibitions on Congolese independence and Congolese popular painting.

Ceuppens is known for her many years of experience and active participation in debates and research on Belgo-Congolese colonial history and its impact on Belgian society. As a Fellow she will hold panel discussions and give lectures on this topic. She will be invited to work on the VUB diversity plan.

Our Honorary Fellows

Many Fellows of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities become Honorary Fellow of our faculty after a period of time: a token of appreciation for their commitment to helping spread the mission and values of our faculty. 

Eva Smets

Eva Smets is Executive Director of Oxfam-Solidarity. She says: "I see a university as a critical haven. I expect academia to focus on turning our young people into world citizens, always one step ahead of the society of tomorrow and the day after. They should be a place that doesn’t shy away from radical criticism, offers innovative ideas and encourages social engagement."

Kader Abdolah

Kader Abdolah is a writer. "For me, this is a special way of putting students into contact with the real world. Normally it takes a long time before students make contact with the tough world outside the university, but in this way you bring representatives of that tough world into the university. As far as literature is concerned, I’ll do my best to make this contact possible."

Hans Alma

Hans Alma is Professor of Cultural Psychology and Spiritual Counselling at the University of Humanistics. "As former vice-chancellor of the University of Humanistic Studies, I collaborated with humanist organizations both in Belgium and the Netherlands, committed to meaningful life in a humane society. By building bridges to these organizations, the VUB's commitment to work for a better society through academic research and education can be strengthened."

Stefan Blommaert

Stefan Blommaert is Foreign Correspondent at VRT. "In their daily work, journalists can be a natural bridge between academia and society, by trying to explain in simple words the highly valuable but often complicated content of scientific work. Through my Fellowship, I hope to broaden this task, by offering my experience in ‘exploring society’ to VUB students and collaborators."

Frans Boenders

Frans Boenders is member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. "All universities today, apart from making and teaching pure science, technology, and the humanities, have a responsibility to constantly and wisely widen their scope. In this view, VUB has taken a great initiative in building yet another bridge between academia and society at large. VUB Fellows can, in more than one way, contribute to a better interaction between scientists, artists, and decision makers – but also between ordinary citizens and committed intellectuals."

Dirk Brossé

Dirk Brossé is composer and conductor. "I see the Fellowship as a permanent dialogue between enterprising, playful, creative and critical-thinking people. It’s an exciting confrontation at the crossroads where old and new thoughts complement, challenge and reinforce one another."

Kristine De Mulder

Kristine De Mulder was one of the first to get the degree of art history and archeology from the starting VUB in the early 1970’s. She worked as academic assistant at the department of Art Studies & Archaeology of the VUB until 1984. She was also text writer for radio 1. Between 1984 and 1999, she became the head of communication of Axa Belgium. She combined this with the function of assistant commissioner of Europalia. From 2002 onwards, she is director-general of the international arts festival Europalia.

Sophie De Schaepdrijver

Sophie De Schaepdrijver is associate Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University. "Historical arguments tend to be used and abused; it is historians’ privilege and duty to enter that conversation. This is a civic task, for which there is a demand from civil society. All the more so as enlightened values – rationality, civil dialogue, choice – remain, sadly, embattled."

Paul Dujardin

Paul Dujardin obtained a Master’s degree in Art History and Archaeology at VUB in 1986 and a degree in Sciences of Governance at VLEKHO Brussels in 1987. He started his professional career at Jeugd en Muziek and collaborated with Bernard Foccroulle at Jeunesses Musicales. In 1988 he founded Ars Musica, which he coordinated until 1993. In 1992 he was appointed CEO of the Filharmonische Vereniging. He coached the National Orchestra of Belgium and became a member of the famous European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO). Since 2002 he is the CEO of the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels (BOZAR), which he turned into one of the most prestigious art institutions in Europe. Paul Dujardin recently became a senior advisor for several high-ranking European institutions.

Ilke Froyen

Ilke Froyen is general Director Passa Porta. "Writers are unique thinkers, not tied to the interests of others. The university wants to be a similarly independent space for free thinkers. A rapprochement of both groups of free thinkers, with ‘free’ in the sense of ‘independent, radical, innovative’, can increase engagement and commitment to use this free thinking in a targeted and meaningful way."

Yves Goldstein

Yves Goldstein is Project Leader at Stichting Kanal. "It’s always important that universities do not stay in their ‘tower of Babel’. This special relationship with society is fundamental if we are to advance shared thinking on the future of our societies."

Farouk Özgünes

Farouk Özgünes is journalist at VTM Nieuws. "As a journalist, I have a profound knowledge of the functioning of the media. Media literacy is a skill of ever increasing importance in our society, for all its members but especially also for university students and staff. I am willing to put my experience at the disposal of the university community."

Hendrik Pinxten

Hendrik Pinxten is Professor Emeritus at Ghent University. "Academia is part of society. Research and the transfer of knowledge should be free of political constraints, but should also give feedback to society itself. Recent developments of ‘corporate science’ are a mistake. Short-term economic interests should never uncritically dictate the course of scientific research planning, career opportunities, etc."

Claire Tillekaerts

Claire Tillekaerts is CEO of Flanders Investment and Trade. "Building bridges between the academic, the economic and the governmental levels is key to the further development of an open, innovative and future-driven society. Exchanging experiences, getting to know each other with an open mind and no boundaries, discovering new shared paths to follow... all this can enrich our joint efforts to the benefit of all our fellow world citizens."

Nic Van der Marliere

Nic Van der Marliere graduated from VUB as a Master of Law. He started his career as an advisor in the domains of education, training and scientific research for the Flemish liberal party. In 1999, he became deputy head of cabinet and spokesperson for Marleen Vanderpoorten, the Flemish minister of education, scientific research and training. From 2002 to 2008, he was a representative of the Flemish government in the UK. After an interval of representation in France, with Unesco, with the OECD and in the Council of Europe from 2008 to 2014, he returned as general representative. He was a member of the board of directors of VUB and a member of the municipal council of Blankenberge, where he was also chair of the liberal group. He was chair of VLD West-Vlaanderen and bears the title of Commander in the Order of the Crown of Belgium.

Katleen Van Langendonck

Katleen Van Langendonck is the the person responsible for the artistic direction of Kaaitheater, Brussels. "During my fellowship, I hope to bring together artists and academics to contemplate and take a position on a society that has become increasingly difficult to understand. If nowadays opinions seem to be superseding reflection, one of the core tasks of both an art institution and a university is to slow and deepen a fast moving world. Therefore, the VUB fellowship is an important structural initiative: it encourages and channels oppurtunities from both sides."

Christina Von Wackerbarth

Christina Von Wackerbarth is Leadership Executive Coach at INSEAD. "As my Fellowship is for the Arts department of the university, I hope I can contribute by embodying different career possibilities in one lifetime. Openness to change, other cultures, team work, and learnability are becoming tomorrow’s biggest assets, together with Emotional Intelligence. I hope to embody these values, which I also believe to be anchored in VUB’s societal mission."

Every faculty of our university has its Fellows and Honorary Fellows, as does the VUB as a whole. All of them are dedicated experts and leaders in their field who help us in creating better links to society and business.

Take a look at all VUB Fellows