The honorary supervisors who presented them wrote that, even though Ien Ang and Ann Masten come from very different fields, the two academics are being honoured for the same reason: they are role models who put research at the service of society.
Professor Ien Ang of the University of Western Sydney is one of the most prominent cultural scientists. Ang, who grew up in the Netherlands and earned her doctorate from the University of Amsterdam, is a pioneer in various fields such as reception studies, in which she asked the media audience directly for their opinion.
Honorary supervisor Susanne Janssen, professor of Sociology of Media and Culture, describes how groundbreaking that was. “Ang did not judge viewers but wanted to speak to fans herself so she could understand them better. At the time, media research often still consisted of interpretative text research in which academics decided from their desk what the viewer sees or should see. Ang realised that you should mainly listen to the audience and also inspired many other researchers to work in this way.”
In addition to this pioneering work, Ang is also regarded as an example because of her interdisciplinary approach. Janssen: “She has not ended up stuck in a single field or type of research. This makes her work very strong. For example, her book On not speaking Chinese is about identity in times of globalisation and diaspora.” Ang is currently working with a large museum in Sydney to actively involve residents in the development of the new Powerhouse museum, in which Janssen recognises the EUR philosophy: making an impact through collaboration with social partners.
The second recipient of an honorary doctorate is Ann Masten from the University of Minnesota. According to honorary supervisor Loes Keijsers, as a professor at the Institute of Child Development, she makes an ‘extraordinary contribution’ to research into the development of resilience in children and families facing adversity. Loes Keijsers is professor of Clinical Child and Family Studies at the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Studies (ESSB).
Keijsers can mainly see optimism in Masten’s work: all children have resilience, and they need encouragement and opportunities to succeed during their development. “A child who experiences something traumatic at home, for example, is not immediately ruined for life but can bounce back stronger.” But Keijsers can also identify a mission: by Masten’s statement that it is immoral not to invest in the next generation, ‘she means that, as the adults of today, we are responsible for providing young people with an environment in which they can grow up well’. Keijsers: “She views the world from the needs of a child. I am very inspired by this in my work, and many others feel the same.”
What the honorary supervisor appreciates most in Masten is how she views her role as serving the world. “Although she is one of the biggest names in our field, she is always approachable. When I told her about her honorary doctorate, she immediately said: ‘That’s great. When I come to Rotterdam, I’d really like to talk to young researchers’. It’s truly rare to find someone who is on a pedestal and yet remains so approachable.”