Dies Natalis 2024

On Friday 22 March 2024, Ghent University awarded an institutional honorary title to Mr Ish Ait Hamou. In addition, Ghent University awarded six honorary doctorates for scientific merit.

Rewatch the official ceremony

Dies Natalis 2024: fotoalbumPhoto album

Relive Dies Natalis in some atmospheric images: the ceremonial parade from the Ufo through Ghent, the formal session in the Aula Academica and reception.

View photo album

Highlight: welcome address by vicerector Mieke Van Herreweghe

Highlight: closing speech by rector Rik Van de Walle

Rector Rik Van de Walle closed the ceremony with messages on Artificial Intelligence, Flanders Technology & Innovation, and inclusion.

Read the closing speech

Meet the honorary doctors 2024

On Dies Natalis we award seven honorary doctorates.

An institutional title for: Mr Ish Ait Hamou

Promotor: Professor Rik Van de Walle, Rector

 Ish Ait Hamou started his career as a dancer; his talent was noticed by the German Adidas, which signed him as a choreographer at the age of 18.

In the 2010s he became known to the general public through his work for television (including as a choreographer and jury member in the Dutch-Flemish version of the international show program 'So You Think You Can Dance') and gradually also as an author, screenwriter, director and theater maker.

Because he combines his love for performing arts with that for words, he prefers to describe himself not as a dancer, choreographer, writer or director, but as a storyteller.

The stories of Ish Ait Hamou testify to the often difficult search of the individual for their own identity and place in a complex society. He knows how to reach a large and young audience with the vulnerable yet powerful message of life that emerges from his work. Based on the belief that we can change our society and that we can improve it, he succeeds in making difficult topics discussable, setting things in motion and maturing minds in order to change and improve society.

    Professor Ülo Mander

    Professor Ülo ManderInstitute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Tartu (Estonia)
    Promotor: Professor Veerle Van Eetvelde, Faculty of Sciences

    As professor of physical geography and landscape ecology, Professor Ülo Mander has built an impressive academic career in which he has made a substantial contribution to the international development of landscape ecology and the scientific approach to this discipline in Europe. In his interdisciplinary research he integrates geography and ecology and focuses mainly on wetlands, their role in climate change and the associated solution-oriented approaches. The large number of international publications and numerous awards are characteristic of his groundbreaking and socially relevant research. During his impressive academic career, he has promoted and applied the landscape ecology approach worldwide and Professor Mander remains a source of inspiration in the field.

    Professor Paul Hodges

    Professor Paul William HodgesSchool of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences – Director NHMRC Centre of Clinical Research Excellence in Spinal Pain, Injury and Health,
    The University of Queensland, Brisbane (Australia)
    Promotor: Professor Lieven Danneels, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

     Professor Paul Hodges is a senior principal research fellow and director of the NHMRC Center for Clinical Research Excellence in Spinal Pain, Injury and Health at the University of Queensland. He leads groundbreaking research into movement control, pain and rehabilitation and is the most cited researcher in rehabilitation and physiotherapy worldwide. His innovative approach, ranging from basic research to clinical trials, has led to effective treatments for back pain. Professor Hodges has received numerous national and international research awards, including three times the ISSLS Prize – the most renowned award for spine research. A former president of the International Society for Electrophysiology and Kinesiology, he has led international consortia to advance insights into pain.

    Professor Bert Weckhuysen

    Professor Bert WeckhuysenInstitute for Sustainable and Circular Chemistry - Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University (The Netherlands)
    Promotors: Professor Veronique Van Speybroeck and Professor Kevin Van Geem, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture

    Professor Bert Weckhuysen is a leading professor in Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis at Utrecht University. He is considered one of the founders of in-situ spectroscopy of heterogeneous catalysts. His research focuses centrally on the development of structure-activity relationships in the field of heterogeneous catalysis and materials science. This research also plays a major role in the path towards more sustainable chemistry. Professor Weckhuysen is strongly convinced that chemistry is the key to transforming towards a more sustainable society. Professor Weckhuysen's work has been awarded many scientific prizes and distinctions, including the Spinoza Prize, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands.

    Professor Thomas Hellmann

    Professor Thomas HellmannSaïd Business School, Oxford University (United Kingdom)
    Promotors: Professor Sophie Manigart and Professor Mirjam Knockaert, Faculty of Economy and Business Administration

    Professor Thomas Hellmann is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. He is a leading expert in the field of entrepreneurial finance, entrepreneurship, innovation and government policy. With a PhD from Stanford University under the supervision of Professor Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Prize winner in Economics, 2001), he has taught at renowned institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, and the Sauder School of Business. His multidisciplinary research, spanning economics, corporate finance and entrepreneurship, resulted in groundbreaking publications in top journals such as the American Economic Review and the Journal of Finance. He is the author of the textbook “Fundamentals of Entrepreneurial Finance” and a sought-after advisor for the World Economic Forum, Barclays Bank, as well as for numerous start-up entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial initiatives such as The Scale-Up Institute, the Creative Destruction Lab and EnSpire in Oxford. He was the academic director of Saïd Business School Entrepreneurship Center, and the founder of the prestigious NBER Entrepreneurship Research Boot Camp.

    Professor Paul Michael Garrett

    Professor Paul Michael GarrettSchool of Political Science and Sociology, University of Galway (Ireland)
    Promotor: Professor Rudi Roose, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences

     Professor Paul Michael Garrett, of the University of Galway, was recently labeled by the International Journal of Social Welfare as 'probably the most important critical theorist of social work in the English-speaking world'. The only Irish scholar in the 'top 100 most influential global contributors to social work journals', his influential work focuses on neoliberal capitalism, social work and critical social theory. In 2002, Garrett obtained his PhD from the University of Nottingham. In 2020, he received a DLitt (Higher Doctorate) from the National University of Ireland and was elected a member of the prestigious Royal Irish Academy (RIA). His recent book “Dissenting Social Work: Critical Theory, Resistance and Pandemic” confirms his position as an authority in the field of social work.

    Professor and filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha

    photo credit: Jean-Paul Bourdier © Moongift FilmsDepartments of Gender and Women's Studies, and Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley - filmmaker (United States)
    Promotors: Professor Daniël Biltereyst and Professor Sofie Van Bauwel, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences

    Trinh T. Minh-ha is a world-renowned independent filmmaker, an influential feminist postcolonial theorist, a writer, music composer and a Distinguished Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. Trained in music, French, and comparative literature, she received her PhD from the University of Illinois with a dissertation on the art of anonymity in poetry, painting and spiritual practices (Un Art sans oeuvre or "An Art without Masterpiece"). Her work features feminist theory, cultural politics, postcoloniality, contemporary critical theory, film and art.

    In addition to publishing eleven books, including the groundbreaking Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism, she has taught at leading universities and made films for more than forty years, including “Surname Viet Given Name Nam,” and most recently, “What about China?” She is the recipient of numerous awards for both her books and films.

    • Film screening 'What about China?', followed by Q&A with professor Trinh
      • On Saturday 23 March at 14:00, a screening of "What about China?" will take place in KASKcinema in collaboration with the university film club Film-Plateau. After the film there will be time for a Q&A with Professor Trinh.

    Dies Natalis at Ghent University

    Every year, on the penultimate Friday of March, Ghent University celebrates its Dies Natalis or birthday with a solemn session in the Aula and the presentation of honorary doctorates. Contrary to what you might think, this celebration is a fairly recent ritual.

    Read more about the history of our Dies Natalis (in Dutch)