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AI* of the month February: Spence van Asperdt!

AI* of the month February: Spence van Asperdt!

Mon, 11 Apr 2022

written by Arne Wittgen

Spence already mentioned this before the interview officially started, but we found it too fun to leave it out:

I analyzed all the previous interviews with Siena, and yesterday she was really prepping me: “What is your favorite animal? What kind of animal should CognAC get?” and stuff like that, she read all the interviews back to Paul Heldens.

Well, then you should know how this works: Let’s start with having you introduce yourself!

Alright, I’m Spence van Asperdt, 21, and currently in my third year of AI, as you already know. I’m originally from Veldhoven. I have two younger sisters, one is 20 and the other one is 11, she just went to high school, which is a terrifying experience for me as well. I can’t imagine the person who was saying her first words, like, yesterday walking around my high school. I do not have any pets, I’m unfortunately allergic to cats and dogs. My older sister always wanted a dog but that didn’t happen.

And do you have any hobbies you spend your time with?

As for hobbies, you can always find me at TKB (Café Twee Keer Bellen), I think that’s my main hobby haha! I spent a month having a going-out streak of every day with carnival because I just came out of quarantine and I was pretty messed up afterwards, but it was a fun experience! At some point, the doorman told me that he didn’t have to see my ID anymore. Also, the bartender introduced himself and gave me a free shot telling me “I see you here every day!” And I was like, this is a problem…

Moving on to more studious topics, how did you become interested CognAC?

Basically, I wasn’t active during my first and second year, the people I surrounded myself with were also not active members. That made the step towards becoming an active member a bit greater, but during the last orientation week I met a loooot of fun people, some of which I now call my best friends! Wholesome!

And how did you end up becoming an active member?

So, when I saw how motivated they were and what I was missing (For example, Noa was telling him a lot of stories about active membership before and during covid)… Just a lot of stuff I missed, a lot of stuff I didn’t know was there, and the culture and fun – it’s great! So when I saw that and Seyma asked me to join the travel committee I said “Okay, I will” and then that was a lot of fun, and then I joined another committee, and another, and another, and another, … and you kinda got spammed with mails from me trying to join more committees! I did indeed get quite a few committee applications from Spence during my year!

At this point in time, in which CognAC committees are you?

I’m in the WkC, TraC, FC, AlmanaC, SC, and CTC. Also, I’m in the S-Cape committee but that’s technically Kompanio. With that, Spence is currently tied for most committees simultaneously at the moment!

Now, spill the tea: Which one is your favorite?

I find that a hard question, people ask me that a lot of times… I really like the CTC: When I joined, it was almost empty and now a lot of people that are currently in the CTC are doing this specific committee for the first time. So, you don't stick to the format of last year too much as there's nobody saying "oh but last year we did this". The experience from people last year helps, but it's amazing that we have this much freedom! So, it’s a bit like a 1C experience? True, I really wish I’d joined the 1C in my first year, so it feels like a re-telling of that, or at least what that story could have been?
I also really like the TraC, it mostly filled with a lot of old board members, so I get to learn a lot from them. And then, the AlmanaC is really nice, it was also my first treasurer experience and it’s nice to assist Carmen here and there as she is doing great as a chair!

That’s already quite an impressive list of committees, but are there any still on your bucket list for next year?

I really wanted to join the WkC, but I’m already in that so for now there are none really left.

Going to slightly different topics, what do you think there’s something CognAC really needs (like a pet)?

Some pictures from activities in the board room would be nice! I wanted to propose a dolphin as CognAC pet, but then I got scolded at by Timon because dolphins are kinda rapey and he was like “that’s not a good pet, because they are smart enough to know that they are rapey”… that’s a hard question then because I’ve not really thought about it that much. We had a short interruption counting all the cacti and stuffed animals in the board room. But in the last orientation week, I bought a flamingo with my orientation group, so it resembles an symbolizes the orientation week for me, how much fun it was and the emotional storytelling I did. So I think a flamingo would be nice because it brings me back to that orientation week. At this point, we developed a plan to convert the grass field in front of Maria Montessori into a petting zoo.

I know that you are also very active outside of CognAC, what other projects are you keeping yourself busy with?

Currently, I am co-chairing the ELSA organization (Ethical, Legal and Societal Aspects of AI) with Suus Pechtold, but it’s still in the initial phases, so we are still setting up contact with a lot of people and organizations. But I think it’s a lot of fun, also because it has given me chairing experience, and it really shows you how hard it is to start up an organization. You really have to think about everything: Internal structure, what it should look like to others, what documents and logos you have, what your plans are since you really have to write them out. And then you think of an idea, you try to execute it, and then you find out that the idea is garbage, so you have to rewrite the whole plan. I think we have redesigned the sub-committees three times now, and I think we are going to keep doing that until they work. But it is pretty fun to keep busy with that. Beyond that I have five jobs.

Five jobs! Then tell me, what are your money makers?

I have my own start-up with Ivan Roy, who was named one of the most innovative students of Radboud last year. It’s a start-up that focusses on driving schools and people that need driving licenses: Currently, when you need a driving school you usually just rely on recommendations of friends, but we want to make sure that the match is better, so we can focus on quality instead of just prices. Essentially, we want to create a booking.com that focusses on driving schools! I do the software side and Ivan does the business side.
Then I also recently started doing E-support in the Commenius building, Noa reeled me into that. So that’s pretty fun as well. Next, I work at student consultant as a consultant. Currently, I am doing a project for Ahold Delhaize, the pension company. I analyze and optimize their data quality, which is a lot of fun because you really get some hands-on experience. Recently, I had to write some regular expressions where I was like “this is so cool, because I’m actually doing Formal Reasoning and NLP stuff for my job!”
The fourth job is teaching a high school class in IT and web design specifically (HTML and CSS) and that’s pretty fun as well. It’s hard at times, when you enter uni you become a lot more motivated to finish your studies and stuff like that, but you forget how were yourself in high school. And then you see that reflected in the other students and you think “why are they not paying attention?” but you were just like that, so it’s pretty fun to see. And then the fifth job is being a TA for Human Computer Interaction, so just a workgroup every Friday and checking the submissions.

Next question: What’s your biggest achievement?

That’s probably my start-up, that’s something I’m really proud of. Last year, we ended up in the top 10 of most innovative start-ups of the Netherlands, so I feel like that would be one of the biggest achievements. Just sitting there being in the top 10 was simply amazing!

Seems like you already have quite a few things going for yourself – do you already have any plans what for what will come after your bachelor’s?

I was gonna apply for Stanford, but I’m kind of doubting that. It’s 100.000$ a year, 70.000$ for tuition and 30.000$ for housing since it’s in the bay area (of California), and as an European student you don’t get the scholarships American people have access to, so it’s kind of scary to take out that kind of loan. And then, there is also the 4% admission rate… So, I’m still debating on that, but I’ve also got a plan B already. I would probably do a double master’s, one in Eindhoven and one in Nijmegen: Artificial Intelligence and Data Science in Eindhoven and something with Genetics perhaps here in Nijmegen, but I’m still figuring that out.

Moving away a bit from all the serious topics: What kind of music do you listen to?

Very diverse! I’ve really gotten into Froukje, especially with her new album coming out. I’m also going to her concert in May the day after we’re (aka the TraC) coming back from Vienna, so that’s gonna be intense. I like her a lot, but I also listen a lot to The Weeknd, Kaytranada and Beyoncé, those are my three favorite artists. When I’m going out, I listen to typical “Dutch-Going-Out-Music” as well. It really depends on my mood, sometimes techno is also nice. I think I just don’t listen to a lot of rock and metal, but the rest? Sure.

Do you also have any movies are series that you like or are currently watching (if you even have time for that in your life)?

Well, not really! But I’m actually quite obsessed with Avatar, the last Airbender. I have all the Funko Pops set up in my room and all that. I think I’ve watched that show like 50 times, and I can recognize episodes by the shade and the color of the forests and stuff like that – everyone just calls me really obsessed, but it’s true, because I am! Forget calling your startup your biggest achievement – the fact that you can recognize episodes by the forests is insane!

So would you say Avatar is your guilty pleasure, or is there something else?

With my housemates, we sometimes watch the really really bad TV shows: The Bachelor, Temptation Island and stuff like that. It’s basically just everyone’s guilty pleasure! Also, at night, sometimes when you come back from going out: not immediately going to sleep, but instead putting on your headphones and quietly signing along and pretending you are still going out. That’s a lot of fun, you’ve got your own music and still that club vibe.

Seeing how you are in the FC, what are your favorite recipes?

My mom’s Jollof Rice is definitely my favorite one! It’s a difficult recipe, but she taught me recently how to make it. Then, I made it with Lasse and it worked out, so I was really happy about that. I also hope to make that during the Fine Dining! Whhooaaaa, don’t spoil all the tea Spence! Then, I’ve been experimenting a lot with different pastas, I’d say the Gigi-Hadid pasta and a red pesto pasta are my favorites.

Jollof Rice sounds quite exotic, what ethnicity/cuisine is it from?

It is Nigerian, my mom is from there so she has all these Nigerian dishes I can’t make except this one she just taught me. I hope to learn more one day! I don’t think I can cook my favorite dish because you have to spend a full day in the kitchen, but maayybe I can make that one day as well.

One last, very deep question: Do you have a life motto?

Yes, I do: It’s a Dutch one, and goes “Soms zet je jezelf beter op de kaart, als je van de kaart bent”. That roughly translates to “sometimes you make a better impression when you are drunk”, but the Dutch version is funnier because it has the word “kaart” in there twice.

And then the one obligatory thing of every AI* interview: The shout-outs!

I’m gonna give Siena a shout out because she asked for it yesterday – she was prepping me for this interview. Then I’m gonna give the current board a shout-out, you guys also inspired me to apply for a board year. Which has been successful, congratulations! This year, when I saw you become board, I thought “Wait, I’m in the same year as all of these people, why did I not apply myself?” Then I’m also gonna give a shout-out to the twaars, that’s basically Carmen, Lasse and all that for making me enthusiastic enough to become an active member! Lastly, a shoutout to Timon, Sara, Crispijn and Erica as well, "for being there since day 1"!!

Thanks a lot for the interview Spence!