Join a VU Dream Team!

About the VU Dream Teams

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At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, we not only want our students to become ‘something’, such as an economist, doctor or biologist. We also want our students to become ‘someone’. We think it is important that you develop yourself both academically and personally, cultivating the broader qualities within yourself. This includes improving communication skills, fostering an enterprising spirit or learning to develop activities that have social impact.

That is why VU encourages students to think and work beyond borders and in doing so contribute to our world in a meaningful way. This ideology is embodied in VU’s 'A Broader Mind for Students'-programma. The VU Dream Teams fall under this umbrella.  

What do these Dream Teams do?
In the 2021-2022 academic year, VU will assemble four Dream Teams, each consisting of 12 to a maximum of 18 Bachelor’s and Master’s students from various programmes. These teams will independently work on an assignment that is formulated by VU academics and deliver a concrete and tangible end result. The skills you develop by participating in these innovative teams contribute greatly to your personal and professional growth. Together with your team, you will write a business plan, set up a website, brainstorm with people from various disciplines, and translate your ideas and expertise into prototypes. The team will also engage in interesting collaborations with companies and institutions. You will learn to network, maintain relationships with stakeholders and pitch creative ideas in a professional context. 

Dreamteams studenten

Support and resources 
Each team is supported by a VU ambassador and receives a standard amount of funding for facilities and setting up activities. Beyond that, the team operates completely independently and is responsible for attracting sponsors and generating additional financial resources.

In the section 'Dream Teams and ambassadors 2021-2022', you can read about the specific challenge each team will take on.


VU profile themes 
Each Dream Team is linked to one of the four VU profile themes: Human Health & Life Sciences, Governance for Society, Science for Sustainability and Connected World. These themes reflect the essence of our approach to carrying out the VU mission as it relates to education, research and knowledge transfer (impact). 

Previous Dream Teams 
In previous years, several VU students have achieved great successes by participating in Dream Teams such a Human Power TeamWasub and PULSE-racing. The PULSE team is still in operation today. 

Birgit Kaman MA Movement Sciences and former Dream Team member of PULSE:

Birgit Kaman

“Working within the PULSE Dream Team is a very valuable experience. The translation of theory into practice is educational and also a lot of fun. I’m using my scientific knowledge in a different way, but I’m also learning how to manage and organize a company. PULSE has given me insight into what is possible with my education. I have also learned that it’s important to have good contacts within VU so that you become a truly multidisciplinary team—with your manager from the Business Administration programme, a team member from Communication Sciences, and so on.”

Recruitment and selection dates 
From 16 April to 27 May, you can apply for one of the four Dream Teams using the application form on this website. The selection interviews will take place in June. The Dream Teams will officially kick off in September 2021. 

Here, you can read about the four Dream Teams that VU is assembling for the 2021-2022 academic year, the assignment each team will receive and which VU ambassadors will assist the teams: 

Dreamteam 1: VU ProFit! for customised lifestyle advice
This team is linked to profile theme Human Health and Life Sciences
  
Not everyone lives a healthy lifestyle and COVID-19 has deteriorated healthy life styles even more. Dream team VU ProFIT! develops a novel approach to improve the lifestyle of VU staff and students. The team employs innovative measurements and methods with regard to nutrition, movement, sleep and psychosocial factors (for instance stress and motivation) and translates the collected information into made-to-measure recommendations using optimal communication techniques and practical applications. Measurements are performed in the labs of the departments of Human Movement Sciences, Health Sciences and Psychology to test the new approach and to monitor and quantify the lifestyle improvement of VU staff and students. If successful, the developed approach can be expanded to target groups outside VU.

Read more background information regarding this challenge. 

The VU ambassadors of this dreamteam are prof. dr. Hein Daanen and prof. dr. ir Marjolein Visser

Prof. dr. Hein Daanen
Hein is human movement scientist and professor in Exercise Physiology of the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences. His research focuses on human adaptations to heat and cold. The last five years he was involved in the management of three dream teams of TU Delft and VU: Human Power Team (fastest cyclist of the world), Wasub (fastest human powered device under water) and Pulse-Racing (fastest cyclist using muscle electrostimulation in spinal cord injured athletes).
Hein Daanen
Prof. dr. ir. Marjolein Visser
Marjolein is nutritional scientist, epidemiologist and professor in Healthy Aging at the department of Health Sciences of the Faculty of Science. Her research focuses on lifestyle in relation to healthy aging and more particular the role of nutrition, human movement, sedentary behavior and under- and overweight. She prefers to work with other disciplines to enrich her research and is challenged to improve the lifestyle of VU staff and students in joint effort with the Dream Team ProFIT!    

Marjolein Visser
Dreamteam 2: Newcomer Entrepreneurship
This team is linked to profile theme Governance for Society

As part of this Dream Team you will explore the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Netherlands to see where your ideas can contribute the most and co-create solutions with newcomer entrepreneurs with a refugee background. You will learn about social entrepreneurship, intercultural work, and the process of ideation and implementation to contribute to interdisciplinary societal challenges. The entrepreneurial ecosystem presents unique challenges for newcomer entrepreneurs, such as difficulties accessing finance and legal expertise, discrimination and exclusionary practices. This may inhibit the development of startups by newcomers and affect the psychological wellbeing of people from refugee communities in general. This Dream Team will work on developing innovative ideas to address this complex social problem by collaborating with a leading incubator in the field and with newcomer entrepreneurs who aim to address these challenges. 


The VU ambassador of this dreamteam is Asma Naimi, PhD in social entrepreneurship. 

Phd Social Entrepreneurship Asma Naimi 
Asma's research focuses on the role of social entrepreneurship in tackling large scale societal challenges that span borders, such as migration, poverty, inequality, and injustice. She studies the direct actions of social entrepreneurs to create impact and their communication practices to create awareness and mobilize support. She also works as an advisor in the field of international development, social entrepreneurship, and corporate social responsibility. She will be your key contact at VU throughout the year. 
Asma Naimi 

Dreamteam 3: Empathic robot / The Iron Man
This team is linked to the profile theme Connected World.

In a world in which robots and people live together, robots need to be able to ‘read’ people. This reading consists of:

  • recognising emotions through facial expressions, gestures, voice and content 
  • understanding and explaining emotions in a given situation 
  • showing empathy and understanding 

This team is charged with teaching a robot these communicative aspects for various people with different backgrounds, cultures and social groups. In this way, the empathic robot can become everyone’s friend.

Currently, a small group of students is engaged in preparatory activities that will last through the summer of 2021, upon which the new team can build from September 2021 onwards. 

The VU ambassador of this Dream Team is prof. dr. Piek Vossen

Prof. dr. Piek Vossen
Piek is a linguist and professor of Computational Lexicology. "I’m interested in how language works, how empathy works and how bonding occurs. The interpersonal communication between people is highly personal and extremely fascinating. That is the ultimate challenge for a robot and therefore also for this Dream Team.”    
Piek Vossen  

Dreamteam 4: Planet-friendly food for a sustainable future
This team is linked to the profile theme Science for Sustainability 

The Dream Team Planet-friendly food has the task of developing a toolkit tailored to the wishes and needs of young people from all walks of life. This toolkit will make young people more aware of the impact of their eating behaviour on the environment and social climate and enable them to make choices that will make the world a little bit better, one step at a time. The team will collect data from various groups of young people to identify their wishes and needs. Based on this data, the team will develop and test the tools and materials for the toolkit. The next step will be to determine whether the toolkit actually leads to more planet-friendly eating among the selected target groups. This requires a baseline measurement. If the toolkit is successful, it can be further refined and used more widely among the general public.

Read more background information regarding this challenge. 

The VU ambassadors of this Dream Team are dr. ir. Margreet Olthof and prof. dr. ir. Ingeborg Brouwer

Dr. ir. Margreet Olthof
Margreet works at the Department of Health Sciences, is a nutritional scientist and is programme director of the Master's programme in Health Sciences. She conducts research in the field of nutrition and human health, including nutrition in specific phases of life (young & old), the health effects of what we eat and drink (such as coffee), and sustainable, healthy food for people and the planet. She is happy to work with the Dream Team and take up the challenge of making concrete and creative plans that will help people in the Netherlands make healthier and more sustainable food choices, as part of the big mission ‘planet-friendly food’. 
Margreet Olthof
Prof. dr. ir. Ingeborg Brouwer
Ingeborg is a nutrition scientist and professor of Nutrition for Healthy Living at the Department of Health Sciences. Her research focuses on the effects of food on health and sustainability. She looks at how different foods and diets impact health and well-being outcomes and how much pressure they put on the environment, for example, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions or land use. Ingeborg is looking forward to working with the students to make the Netherlands a little better.
Ingeborg Brouwer
  • What is a Dream Team?
    A Dream Team consists of a group of highly-motivated Bachelor’s and Master’s students (and possibly PhD candidates) who, together with university staff, take on a concrete social challenge in which the learning experience of the team members takes centre stage.

  • Why is participation in the Dream Team programme a unique opportunity 
    Joining one of the four Dream Teams offers a great opportunity to work in a self-managing, interdisciplinary team that tackles a definitive social issue and works towards a concrete end result. This experience includes, for example, writing a business plan, setting up a website, attracting sponsors and making contacts within companies and institutions. You will be guided by a VU ambassador. This programme allows you to put your (theoretical) knowledge into practice in a team setting, together with students from other disciplines. A Dream Team could, for example, consist of Bachelor’s or Master’s students in Communication Sciences, Business Administration, Art History, Biology and Social Sciences.

  • What does the recruitment and selection process look like? 
    You can apply for one of the four Dream Teams from 16 April to 27 May using the application form on this page. Please include a motivation letter or video message (creativity is appreciated here) explaining why you want to participate in a particular Dream Team and how you think you can contribute. The selection interviews will be held in June. And if you’re selected? Then you and your Dream Team will officially get to work on the assignment from September 2021! 

  • Do Dream Team members earn credits? 
    Students who participate in a Dream Team can earn six extracurricular ECTS credits by writing a report about your Dream Team. This report should contain a number of elements (you can ask the ambassador or a member of the supervisory team about these in advance). In some cases, it is possible to earn six intracurricular ECTS if the ECTS credits can be integrated into an existing programme component (for example a practical internship or elective credits). It is up to the programme whether or not to offer this; it's not a given.  

  • How much time does it take to participate and can I combine it with my studies?
    You will be involved in Dream Team activities approximately one day a week (mostly in the start-up phase). You are free to spend more or less time on the assignment as you see fit. 

  • What are the selection criteria and do I need good grades to be selected?
    The selection is primarily based on the motivation of the student. Knowledge and expertise related to the topic of the Dream Team are also considered. Do you have contagious enthusiasm and an enterprising spirit? If so, this could work to your advantage! Grades and study progress can be taken into account in the selection process (as a secondary factor). 

  • What is the duration of a Dream Team?
    As a general rule, a Dream Team is active for one academic year. 

  • Does a Dream Team receive funding?
    Yes, every Dream Team receives an initial amount of capital. However, an important part of the project is to raise funds from external parties.

  • Does it matter which study programme I follow?  
    No, no matter what discipline you are studying, you can contribute in a meaningful way to any Dream Team.

  • What is the primary language of the team?
    Dutch or English, as decided on within the group.

  • What happens to our project when we are finished? 
    At the end of the academic year, a new team will take over the project and move it forward, ensuring that additional progress is made. 

  • How can I get answers to my (additional) questions? 
    You can ask additional questions during one of the webinars on Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 May. You can apply by using the webinar application form. During these sessions, you can talk to the various Dream Team ambassadors and get answers to any remaining questions you may have. This can be of great help in preparing for your application. You can also send any additional questions to [email protected]

You can apply for one of the dreamteams from 16 April to 27 May 2021 by using the application form.

In preparation for your application, you can attend one of the Dream Team webinars (on Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 May). You can apply by using the webinar application form. During these sessions you can talk to the various Dream Team ambassadors and get answers to any remaining questions you may have.

General questions and specific dreamteam related questions:
Peter Beek and David Oldenhof 
[email protected]

Questions on recruitment and selection:
Omayra Mac Donald and David Oldenhof 
[email protected]