Our fellows of 2023

Ingrid De Jonghe

Ingrid De Jonghe has a master’s in criminology and law. After 15 years of law practice, she began studying pedagogy and psychology and in 1996 started working as a behavioural and systems therapist. She founded the non-profit TEJO in 2013, which provides accessible therapeutic support to young people between the ages of 10 and 20, anonymously and free of charge. Besides therapeutic counselling, they also offer other trainings to empower young people, such as the HOU VAST movement.  In 2020, she received an award from the Filson Steers Mariman Fund, part of the King Baudouin Foundation, for her work.

Akira Hiruma

Akira Hiruma graduated from Rutgers State University of New Jersey and has headed six companies. He holds several directorships and now leads Japanese photonics company Hamamatsu Photonics. He is also co-founder of the Hamamatsu Applied Photonics Innovation chair, which enables exchanges of students, researchers and professors. This can serve as an example for creating links with innovative Japanese companies. 

Koen Vermout

Koen Vermout obtained a degree in civil electronics engineering from VUB and an MBA from UHasselt. After a career at Alcatel and Nexans, where he held various operational and general management positions in Europe, Asia and Africa, he is now co-founder and CEO of Azteq. He brings expertise in operational excellence, developing operations in high-growth environments and leading high-performing international teams.

Ilse Ooghe

Ilse Ooghe graduated from VUB as a bioengineer and then obtained a master’s in educational sciences. She worked as a bioengineer in the private sector and held management positions at Janssen Pharmaceutica. In 2009, she joined CVO De Oranjerie, where she worked as coordinator of internal quality assurance, teacher training and HBO-5 courses. After a second master’s, she worked in secondary education as policy officer and director, then became general manager of RVO-Society.

Stefaan Verhulst

Stefaan Verhulst obtained his PhD from VUB and is co-founder of Govlab at New York University, a research centre that transforms decision-making using data and collective intelligence. He has extensive experience in using data and open science to create social impact and is a pioneer in creating data collaborations in various fields, including scientific research and humanitarian aid. He is also co-founder and chief scientific advisor of the Brussels-based Data Tank, which promotes the responsible use of data for the public good. 

Our Fellows of 2021

Alicja Gescinska

Alicja Gescinska is a Polish-Belgian philosopher, writer and poet. She studied moral science at Ghent University, after which she carried out research at the University of Warsaw. She did her PhD in Ghent on freedom and personhood in the thinking of Max Scheler and Karol Wojtyła. She worked at Princeton University and Amherst College, and is now the director of the Philosophy by Research programme at the University of Buckingham.

Gescinska is an important voice in contemporary social and philosophical debate. Her publications testify to a great humanistic engagement and, especially, to a great belief in the value of free thinking and free speech. In this way, she represents and personifies the intellectual attitude that VUB wants to instil in its students. Under her Fellowship, Gescinska can act as a guest speaker and lecturer, and as a member of the PACT initiative.

Clement Hiel

Clement Hiel is a VUB alumnus and a world-renowned expert in advanced materials. After graduation from VUB, he worked for NASA, developing hardware and scientific instruments for orbital, deep-space and manned spaceflight. Subsequently, he founded companies that developed engineering innovations for NASA, Boeing, the US Air Force and clean energy systems worldwide. He is currently managing director of CSSI. He has received many prestigious innovation awards, including the 2016 Tibbetts Award for Innovation from US President Barack Obama and the 2021 George Lubin Award from the Society for Advanced Materials and Process Engineers.

Hiel continues his engagement with VUB and has a natural ability to impart his passion for learning and for science and technology to young people. He has played an important role in the context of STE(A)M initiatives and is eager to share his expertise and his extensive US network with VUB students and researchers.

Kristof Pitteurs

Kristof Pitteurs graduated in communication sciences at VUB in 1991. He joined Woestijnvis in 1997 and for years was a driving force behind numerous programmes such as De Laatste Show, Man Bijt Hond, De Rechtbank and De Ideale Wereld. He was also a reporter with TV Brussel. Today, he is editor-in-chief of the Brussels city news organisation Bruzz.

Pitteurs has great expertise in his field and his appointment as Fellow will strengthen the existing cooperation. He will give guest lectures to communications students, among others, and through him there are very interesting internship opportunities.

Stefaan Van der Borght

Stefaan Van der Borght completed his medical studies at VUB in 1985 and obtained a master’s in public health in developing countries at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He obtained a doctorate in medical sciences from the University of Amsterdam. Van der Borght has broad expertise in medical and health systems and is globally recognised as an HIV expert.

After a career with Doctors Without Borders, he worked at Heineken for 16 years, the last five of them as director of health and safety. He then worked as a scientific officer at the European Commission in the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation before becoming head of global health at the mining company Anglo-American in London. Since 2018, he has been on the board of the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp. His role there can help VUB in various research and strategic collaborations. He can also contribute to the new BRIAS light initiative, where the link between nutrition and his experience as a health expert can lead to interesting insights.

Our Fellows of 2020

Hassan Al Hilou

Hassan Al Hilou is a born entrepreneur. Aged 15 he launched the digital discussion forum YouthTalks and a year later he started his advice bureau AGE Consultancy to promote diversity in Belgian businesses. Today he is one of the driving forces behind CAPITAL, which aims to become the IKEA of youth development. CAPITAL organises, with various companies and advisory groups of students and teachers, the INDUSTRIAL FLOOR: a “phygital” experience that inspires and informs young people about the labour market. Phygital is a fusion of physical and digital, and refers to bringing together the physical aspect of the visit and digital, high-tech tools.

With his Fellowship, VUB can improve the preparation of its students for the job market. Students with a migration background often lack the right networks, contacts and soft skills to successfully apply for jobs. Al Hilou will contribute to arming these students for a strong start to their career.

Sammy Mahdi

Sammy Mahdi is the president of the Flemish political part CD&V. Before that, he was the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration in the Belgian government. Mahdi is a born-and-bred Brusselaar. He spent his youth and his student days in Brussels. As the son of a political refugee from Iraq he has always been interested in politics. He studied political science at VUB, complemented by a master after master in international and European law. In 2014 he started his political career as a parliamentary assistant to Joris Poschet of CD&V. In 2017 he became chair of JONGCD&V and in 2019 he was elected as city councillor in Vilvoorde.

Mahdi shares the humanist values of VUB and defends them in his dialogue with diverse communities. He has been a guest speaker at VUB and is happy to share his insights about national politics, migration, diversity and integration. Within the weKONEKT.brussels network, he is engaged in a number of VUB’s social projects.

Fatima Zibouh

Fatima Zibouh studied political science at ULB. She then obtained an advanced master’s in human rights at UCL/Saint-Louis in Brussels. Finally she gained a PhD from the University of Liège. After her training she began working at the Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies at the University of Liège and the Institute for European Studies.

She has been engaged in the Brussels community for 20 years. Today she is responsible at Actiris Inclusive for the integration of jobseekers facing discrimination. She is chair of the think tank Aula Magna and of the Foyer des Jeunes in Molenbeek, and is co-founder of W100, a leading network of women in Brussels.

Zibouh is a networker who is committed to diversity in Brussels. She can expand that engagement with her role as a VUB Fellow. During her Fellowship, she may help VUB to expand its diversity policy as a role model for students and an expert on diversity, discrimination and inclusion.

Rudi Vranckx

Rudi Vranckx works as a journalist for VRT News. He mainly covers international conflicts (Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria). Since 2008, he has had his own television programme, Vranckx (reportagemagazine) on Canvas. After his studies, Rudi Vranckx started as a researcher at the Centre for Peace Research at K.U.Leuven. In 1988, he started working as a journalist at the then BRT, first in the radio news service and then in the television editorial department. His first major assignment as a war reporter started in 1989 in Romania during the fall of dictator Ceausescu. This was later followed by the Gulf War, the wars in Yugoslavia, the major conflicts in the Middle East, Congo, Egypt and Libya.

Rudi Vranckx is the author of several books and received several awards for his work as a journalist: "Ambassador for Peace" (annual recognition of Pax Christi Flanders), "Journalist for Peace" (biennial honorary award of the Humanistisch Vredesberaad), Carnegie Wateler Peace Prize (biennial award of the Carnegie Foundation).

Our Honorary Fellows 

Many VUB Fellows become Honorary Fellow of our university after a period of time: a token of appreciation for their commitment to helping spread our mission and values. 

Dalila Hermans

Dalila Hermans is a Flemish journalist, columnist and public speaker with Rwandan roots. In 2014, she rose to prominence after writing an open letter that was published in De Wereld Morgen, about her experiences of racism in Flanders. Since then she has immersed herself in the subject, making it her mission to overcome polarization and create dialogue between people. In 2017, she published the book ‘Letter to Cooper and the World’, in which she tells her life story to her eldest son. In the same year, she became more widely known when she reached the final of the TV quiz show ‘De Slimste Mens ter Wereld’. In 2018, she contributed to the book Black, edited by Vamba Sherif and Ebissé Rouw, and published a children’s book, ‘Brown Girl Magic’, illustrated by Fatinha Ramos. She is a regular columnist in De Standaard and an editor at Charlie Magazine.

Pascale Van Damme

Pascale Van Damme joined Dell EMC Belux in 2004 as sales director and worked her way up to become vice-president and managing director. In 2017 she was named Digital Woman of the Year during the European Ada Awards, which honors women who have distinguished themselves through their leadership, creativity, entrepreneurship, social focus and innovative discoveries and who have a positive influence on the number of women and girls in a digitally driven environment. In 2018 she won the Wo.Men@Work Award for her commitment to achieving diverse teams at all levels in the IT sector.

Christophe Busch

Christophe Busch studied criminology at the University of Ghent and gained his master’s in Holocaust and genocide studies at the University of Amsterdam. He is currently finishing his PhD research into offender behavior in collective violence. In 2001, he began working as a criminologist in the newly created forensic psychiatric unit for the treatment of medium-risk detained persons and was later responsible for developing the forensic care circuit in Zelzate. In 2012 he moved to Kazerne Dossin, where he became operational director and then general director. He founded the non-profit Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Education in 2007 and started in 2015 to establish a network of experts in radicalization and extremism. In 2020 he started as Director at Hannah Arend Institute He gives training courses for professionals in the police, judiciary and prison system on violent extremism and collective violence.

Paul van Gysegem

Paul van Gysegem is a musician and a plastic artist. He studied painting, sculpture and graphic arts at the Royal Academy for Fine Arts in Ghent (now K.A.S.K) – where he later taught sculpture and is now an honorary professor. Then he studied at the National Higher Institute of Antwerp, where he has also given guest lectures. In 1982 he became a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. He has been honored with a number of prizes and awards for his painting, sculpture and graphic art, including the Flemish Community’s top culture award in 1989. Today his work can be seen in the public spaces of many cities and towns and in important museums. A remarkable facet of his personality is the way he is able to intertwine his experimental jazz compositions with his work as a visual artist.

Els Ampe

Els Ampe studied Engineering Sciences at VUB and Integrated Management at ULB. She was active in various student organisations and sat, as a student representative, on the Board of VUB. Els Ampe was elected in the Brussels Parliament in 2004 and in the City Council of the city of Brussels in 2006. Since 2012 she is in charge of the city of Brussels’ Mobility and Public Works, facing the biggest changes in the city’s public space in over a century.

Bilal Benyaich

As a student at VUB, Bilal Benyaich was very engaged in organisations such as the Student Council and Kif Kif, an NGO battling inequality and racism. After completing his Master’s in Political Sciences, he started working at the SERV, Flanders’ socioeconomic council, where, as an adviser, he handled employment and social economy issues. Simultaneously he carried out research on radicalisation as a volunteer research assistant in the political science department at VUB. Based on this, he published, among other things, the following books: Islam and Radicalization in Moroccans in Brussels (2013), Twelve Twelve, Time for Another Migration and Integration Policy (2014) and #Radicalism #Extremism #Terrorism (2015). He is currently working as a diplomat at the Belgian ministry of foreign affairs.

Bob Elsen

Bob Elsen is the founder and managing director of Joker Tourism. The successful travel company grew out of the travels that he organized as a young man with his fellow students. He is co-founder of 18 ViaVia travel cafes on four continents – meeting places for travelers and locals. These cafes are the seeds of social-economic and cultural development with 300 employees worldwide. To give these various training projects structure and continuity, in 2001 Elsen set up the Living Stone Dialogue initiative. His aim was to use tourism as a lever for sustainable development in the fight against poverty and for a more inclusive and tolerant world. In 2005, the initiative was succeeded by Living Stone Intercultural Entrepreneurship, and in 2012 the two organisations merged to become ViaVia Tourism Academy. In 2016, Elsen was appointed strategic director of Flemish Masters, an initiative of Tourism Flanders.

Farida Lamkanfi

Farida Lamkanfi was born in Belgium. A doctor, she did the first two years of her studies at Antwerp University, followed by five years at VUB. After she qualified, she spent 10 years working as a general practitioner in Brussels; for four of those years, she was attached to the Diabetes Clinic at UZ Brussel. Since 2013, she has been working for Eli Lilly, where she manages a portfolio of diabetes research projects. She is also a VUB ambassador for children in Brussels with a migration background, encouraging them to use their talents and continue studying at VUB.

Pamela Peeters

Pamela Peeters launched her first environmental magazine, Grab the Green, at the age of 12. Between 2007 and 2008 she prepared a state visit of the Prince of Belgium to India. She identified bilateral trade opportunities in the environmental technology sector. Driven by the desire to dedicate her time to mainstream sustainable development, she moved to the USA in 1999 and completed a research Fellowship at Columbia University. Here she drafted the design of a TV show that promotes sustainable lifestyles. The ‘Our Planet’ TV series launched in 2001. Since then, Pamela Peeters produced and hosted more than 200 episodes. In 2005 she worked for UNESCO, launched the Sustainable Planet Film Festival and wrote her first book, Urban Ecology that was published in 2007.

Claire Tillekaerts

Since 2006, Claire Tillekaerts has been the general manager of Flanders Investment and Trade, and in 2012 she was appointed CEO by the government of Flanders. She has been an independent barrister at the Ghent Court of Law for two decades, along with various academic teaching commissions at Ghent University. In 2001, she was commissioned to establish the Law Department at Hogeschool Gent in a bid to bring about a merger with other centres of higher education, an assignment combined with her role as advisor on the creation of the Ghent University Association and with establishing international research funding streams. She holds a master’s degree in law and a postgraduate degree in management studies.

Ajit Shetty

Ajit Shetty joined Janssen Pharmaceutica Belgium in 1976, where he held various positions. He was Managing Director from 1999 until 2008 and Chairman of the Board of Directors from 2004 until February 2012, when he retired. He was voted Manager of the Year in 2004 by Trends, Kanaal Z, and the Flemish Management Association. In 2007 Ajit Shetty received the title of Baron for his exceptional merits. In 2008 he was conferred an Honorary doctorate by Manipal University. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in India in February 2010. In 2018 he became board member of Saama.

Guy Vanhengel

Guy Vanhengel graduated as a teacher in Brussels and taught until 1981. From then until 1995, he was a spokesperson for the liberal political party (now Open VLD). In 1995, he became a member of the Brussels Parliament, later minister in the Brussels government (2000), the Flemish Community Commission and the Common Community Commission. In 2009, Vanhengel became vice-prime Minister and Minister of Budget in Belgium’s federal government. From 2011, he returned to the government of the Brussel-Capital Region as Minister of Finance, Budget and External Relations and became President of the Board of the Flemish Community Commission responsible for education, training, budget and communication.

Koenraad Van Loo

Koenraad Van Loo served as the Head of the Cabinet of Belgium from May 2003 to November 2006. He joined the Office of the Belgian Minister of Finance as an Expert in September 1999 and also is an Advisor to the Cabinet since November 2000. He holds the position of Chairman of Fedimmo. He has been a Director of Dexia Crédit Local Société Anonyme since May 10, 2012. Furthermore, he also serves as a Director of Société Belge d´Investissement International, Fonds de réduction du coût global de l'énergie, Belgian Corporation for International Investment, Capricorn Health Tech Fund, Bel to mundial ASBL, Ginkgo Fund SICAR, Zephyr FIN, Zilver Avenue Participatiemaatschappij NV, Certi-Fed, SA and SN Airholding. He has been a Non-Executive Director at Dexia SA since 2008. Mr. Van Loo was also the Deputy Advisor to the Conseil Central de l’Economie.

Raymonda Verdyck

Raymonda Verdyck holds a Master’s degree in Ethics from Vrije Universiteit Brussel. After her studies, she taught non-confessional ethics for 15 years. In 1994 she became a civil servant at the Department of Youth of the Flemish Government. She became General Administrator at the Educational Centre for Higher and Adult Education (Onderwijsdienstencentrum Hoger en Volwassenenonderwijs) in 2006. After a short interlude at the Tourism office (Toerisme Vlaanderen), Raymonda Verdyck became Managing Director for Community Education in 2008.

Felix Van de Maele

Felix Van de Maele is co-founder of Collibra. Worth more than $1 billion, Collibra can call itself the first “Belgian unicorn”: an impressive achievement by Van de Maele, who studied applied informatics at VUB from 2002 to 2006. A collaboration between VUB and the Ecole des Mines in Nantes gave him the chance to gain a master’s in software engineering in Nantes and La Plata, Argentina. In 2008 he obtained his master’s in general management from Vlerick Management School.



He is a born entrepreneur. During his studies, he was a part-time researcher at VUB’s STARlab. That was the basis for VUB spin-off Collibra, which he launched with three fellow researchers in 2008. Collibra is a data intelligence company. Thanks to its software, businesses can better manage and understand data about their clients and employees.

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