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10 years of Humanities Lab celebrated in style at Capstone conference

Last week, Humanities Lab honours students presented their research through creative posters and pitches at the Capstone Conference in PLNT Leiden. It was a special edition, where alumni and teachers reminisced over the programme’s 10-year history.

You can always count on Dutch rain to upset your plans: the 10th Capstone Conference was supposed to feature a reception on the PLNT’s rooftop terrace, but the weather gods decided that it was to be held in the conference bar. Not that this news affected the atmosphere, from the beginning there was sense of excitement and enthusiasm among the 62 students who were to complete their Humanities Lab after years of arduous work.

The conference started at 14:00 hrs, but most of the students arrived earlier to discuss the plights of student life – papers, deadlines, exams – over some coffee and tea. Then, to kick things off, the students pitched their ideas to their peers. For the last couple of months, they dived deep into a wide array of subjects – sustainable investment, decolonization, AI – and addressed them from a humanities perspective. Even students who researched related topics, used differing approaches. This made for a fascinating hour of pitches. 

Professor Jan Sleutels reminiscing on 10 years Humanities Lab

Yoda masks and sleeping on campus

Next, attendees were invited to a trip down memory lane by Professor Sleutels who reminded the audience of the special occasion: the 10th anniversary of Humanities Lab, the Honours College track at the Faculty of Humanities. Sleutels held a touching presentation on the history of the programme, showings students and employees where it all began and how it has developed into the vibrant track it is today, but not without also thanking the people involved in creating it. 

Despite the value of the occasion and the sincerity of the speech, there is room for laughs as well. When showing pictures of the lengths Professor Sleutels went to recruit students for the programme – which included teaching in a Yoda mask and sleeping on campus – one cannot help but smile. It has been an eventful 10 years! 

'What makes Humanities Lab stand out'

After this intermezzo, the second part of the conference could begin. Students now had the chance to explore each other’s research in a more interactive way through posters. It created exactly the lively and warm atmosphere one would hope for. One student noted: ‘It’s really amazing how casual and relaxed this all feels, while at the same time clearly being the result of lots of energy and motivation. That’s what makes the Humanities Lab stand out to me, it’s all about curiosity and wanting to know more.’ 

For this year’s edition, alumni from previous years were also invited to the poster presentations. This led to more than just a nice chat and exchange of experiences. The alumni gave the students tips on how to improve their work. One alumnus, who is currently working at the Dutch Ministry of Finance, gave the students who work on sustainable investment new angles for their research. They gladly accepted the advice.  

And the winner is…

The poster round was concluded with a speech by Floor Peeters, who is currently working for the European Union, but was once a Humanities Lab student herself. She seemed surprised by the high-level of the students’ presentations: ‘There were many things that I wanted to say, but it seems that many of you already know so much.’ She did, however, use her own experiences to remind the students that ‘humanities matter’ and are a fundamental driver of policy and knowledge.

After this, it was time for the closing, where the students were rewarded for their hard work with delicious snacks and drinks. But, more importantly, the winner of the pitch- and poster competition was announced. In the end, the group working on sustainable investment won the vote for best pitch, while the group working on AI took away the award for best poster. They each received a prize that couldn’t be more humanities: a 20-euro book voucher.

Humanities Lab alumna Floor Peeters

Text: Stan De Feyter 
Photography: Eric van den Bandt

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