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AI* of the month January: Yael Raz!

AI* of the month January: Yael Raz!

Mon, 8 May 2023

written by Carmen te Wechel

Interviewed and written by Spence van Asperdt


Congrats on becoming AI*! Can you introduce yourself for us please?

Yes of course! My name is Yael. I use she/her pronouns and I am a fourth-year bachelor student at our wonderful program.


Did you expect to become the AI* when you did?

I did, sort of, expect to become AI* at some point, because I have been an active member for very long and I’ve also been a board member… However I was definitely not expecting it when it happened. I remember I was taking pictures of Carmen making the announcement at the CognAC lunch. While she was talking I realized that it all started to sound very familiar. When I looked back everybody was looking at me like ‘mhm mhm’.

Yeah, it was a fun moment. I remember standing there and you were holding the camera. And we, as the board, were stressing about who would be going to take the camera away from you, so you could go to front haha! And then suddenly Hein walked up to you and he was like ‘Gimme that!’

Yeah that was good thinking by Hein, haha!

You deserve it! For your efforts.

Thank you!

*We share a laugh and continue to reminisce about the moment and the sudden camera panic.*


You were the chair of the XXXI board of CognAC and are still a very involved member. What motivated you to become an active member?

That’s a funny story actually; I wasn’t an active member for my first semester at the study, because I didn’t live in Nijmegen yet and I was kind of unsure how to go about my student life. I never heard any tales about uni experiences at home, because my parents never experienced university in the Netherlands. At some point I saw a CognAC activity pop up and thought it was interesting and something for me. This activity was the board interest moment. So my first interest in becoming an active member was immediately to do a board year haha! Obviously, I was the only first-year there at the time and I didn’t recognise anyone, as I hadn’t attended many CognAC activities before. And now when I think back I can imagine how crazy it must have looked for the other people who were there!

A wild card. You always have a wild card, regarding the board application. Gotta keep it interesting.

Indeed! At that point, Jamie, who was Chief of Internal Affairs at the time, took me aside after the info session and explained to me the concept of committees and how to join them. I told her I would be interested in a creative committee with some blog writing and that’s how I ended up joining the PaparaC!

Sounds like a good place to start haha!

Yeah indeed a good start. A better start than immediately doing a board year, good call by Jamie.

She saw you and she immediately knew that this was going to be the start of Yael’s CognAC career. Was that the only committee you joined at the time?

At the time yeah, the PaparaC was my only committee for a while. During covid, I became chair of the committee, which you can imagine was a tough year to be the chair of a committee like the PaparaC. We got a chance to think about a lot of new projects. The CogPod was born, of which then only two episodes came out, as it was mostly only me and Arne working on it before we became candidate board members. I mostly also remember it as a difficult time to keep committee members motivated.

That makes sense. Regularly, you would see people in the hallways and then you don’t all of a sudden and there is no way to approach them anymore. And if they don’t reply to texts, then that’s it.

It was me and the void in the Whatsapp group. Obviously there’s people that still stuck by the committee and I appreciate them a lot. Apart from that I definitely recognise that we all had our down moments during the pandemic. But this is also why I didn’t join any new committees for a long time. It was because of Covid. I didn’t really know which committees would suit me, because the activities they would usually be doing, weren’t happening anymore. I felt like I would get the same kind of experience at other committees as I was already having.

Yeah, no needs to get more voids in your life.

Exactly. I was only in the PaparaC for about a year and a half. And after that I joined more committees like the XC and the TraC.

Right, cause currently you are in the XC, PaparaC… any others?

No others currently. Well, I’m part of an Olympus committee but I guess that doesn’t really count for this tally. I’m in their Movie Night Committee, which is also really cool. Everyone should come to the Movie Night May 16th!

Duly noted, Yael! Short promo, short promo. I’ve also seen your name in an AlmanaC at some point?

OH, RIGHT! That is something I did. Oh, I remember now. I wanted to do more writing, so I joined the AlmanaC in the last half of the fully online year. It was very weird. I didn’t really have access to a lot of the programs that I needed to be able to do a lot of meaningful work. But I was there! I did help brainstorm the designs and everything and give more ideas. The AlmanaC also was a weird committee at the time. It was like 3 people, maybe 4? 

You put an almanac together with that little people????

Yep… And take into account that I didn’t even know how to use InDesign! It was a very difficult effort over Discord. The eventual almanac design was a desktop with all this computer software. And it is kind of cool to have helped working on that, it ended up looking awesome! But yeah, I was in the AlmanaC, even though I forgot for a second haha!

It looked great! Coming back to the PaparaC, if there was a change you would make in the committee, what would that be? Is there still something you would love to do?

I would like to make the blogs and the podcasts steadier projects. We also want to bring back the CognAC movies and do more activity after-movies. The CognAC weekend after movie is in progress currently! I do hope in the future that apart from taking pictures, the blogs and podcasts will become a more stable part of the committee, so people would join the committee to do exactly that.

Fair enough! Maybe for future years!


You’re also the secretary of the Faculty Student Council. How is that going next to your studies?

I would definitely recommend a year in co-determination to anyone who is mildly interested to see what goes on behind the scenes. It’s very nice to get the opportunity to really make a difference. Recently, there were some people during a CognAC activity that mentioned to me that they had seen some people with a disability having difficulty accessing the front entrance of the Maria Montessori with the revolving doors. There wasn’t a way to open the normal doors without asking the porter, which is quite annoying and it doesn’t make the building accessible to someone who can’t go through the revolving doors.

I wonder why even they decided to go with the revolving doors…

Nobody really knows. But when I heard those voices in a casual borrel setting. And I realized I could help out. I sent an email to the faculty board and they just changed it. Now there’s a button and anyone who wants to enter the building can simply press the button. It’s really cool to see that you’re in touch with the people who make changes. And when you have a good idea and you support it well enough, it’ll just be changed.

That’s beautiful. You can actually really help people out and give people a voice.


After this year, you’ve done a board year at CognAC, FSC, do you have any other aspirations after this year?

It really depends on how this year goes, as I still have a lot of courses to do. Many second and third years might see me in their classrooms… And will still continue to see me next year, probably haha! I do think I have the taste for pushing my nose into people’s business. Especially the faculty and the university. Just making sure students are still important to everyone. I might run for the Degree Program Committee, or I’ll find a different way to help out.

Would you maybe also be interested in the University Student Council, or is that too high-level?

That’s too much politics for me. Generally, the higher you go, the more bureaucracy you get. Within the faculty and department of AI there’s much less bureaucracy. It’s much more humanised and more about talking to people and getting stuff done. I think the USC is too large-scale for my interest. But they’re doing great work! They always help us when we need it, so shoutout USC!


I know you’re from Eindhoven (de gekste), what inspired you to move to Nijmegen and study here?

I went to see many different universities. I knew I did not want to go to the Randstad. I’m just not that type of person. And then if you want to study AI, there’s not that many options left. You could either do Tilburg, Maastricht, Groningen, or Nijmegen. Maastricht and Groningen were too far away for me and Tilburg kind of sucks (sorry Tilburg people), so Nijmegen it was! I didn’t see much of Nijmegen itself before I decided to study here. I also didn’t see a lot of Nijmegen after I came to study here to be honest. I only really got to know it after two or three years of studying.

That’s okay! Late bloomers are also bloomers! And it is indeed a very nice city. I always love the fact that it’s village inside a city. You get the village idea and there’s a lot of people that you know, but it does have all the facilities that a city has.

Yeah indeed! And it’s so nice that it’s quite small and everything is so close. I used to live in the suburbs of Eindhoven, all the way in the north. And everything was always so far away. And now even when I lived in the suburbs of Nijmegen, all the way in the south, it was not that bad.

Fully agreed!


I heard you’re living together with the former chair of Thalia now! How is that going?

It’s been going great! We’ve been doing it for a month now, maybe a month and a half.

*A bit longer now, as this interview took place on valentines day!*

We got together at the start of the board year. We met as chairs of associations that usually interact with each other. The CognAC and Thalia boards were historically always really close with each other. At the SOFv BBQ where all the candidate board meet for the first time and we met and thought: ‘why not make our boards closer together again?’. At first it was just nice to share thoughts with another chair, as it was both our first time chairing an association.

Exchanging tips and war stories.

Exactly! How do you deal with this, how do you deal with that? Mostly just information sharing. Then we just found we have a lot of things in common and we started dating. And indeed, now we’re living together. Many people also waited for the board baby, but that one didn’t come luckily haha! No board baby, but board house. Huisje boompje but not beestje.

*We continue to explore the possibilities of a beestje getting added to Yael’s huisje boompje while laughing for quite a while.*


What’s your favourite CognAC memory?

Good question! I think one of my favourite CognAC memories was at the intro cantus, when I was still a candidate board member.

Oh, I remember! You requested Angels and Mark Rietvelt was there.

Yeah haha! That were the two most important things. I requested Angels and Mark Rietvelt was there! That was about everything.

Story told, start to finish haha!

Indeed! But yes, I requested Angels and because we were candidate board and we were all there, we had to do a mime performance of Angels at the front. It was a lot of fun. And at this cantus, I got the chance to speak to Mark Rietvelt, because, well, he was there. He had been a part of the BAC when I applied for board in my first year, when I was just a PaparaC member for like two months. We didn’t really know each other, but he came to me after the cantus and he said to me: ‘Wow, the person who sat in the Zoom call with us then and this person are so different. You’ve grown so much and you’ve changed so much. I really feel like now you will be such a capable board member and I’m so happy that you applied again after being rejected the first time!’

That’s really nice to hear!

Yeah exactly! Especially since we were about to become board and everything was still a bit scary, it was so heart-warming and affirming. It really confirmed that people didn’t think that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Because that is the thing with imposter syndrome. I have a lot of great memories at CognAC, but this one is definitely up there with the best.

I can imagine yeah. The person that first said no to you, now saw you grow and then finally affirming that you are the right person for the job. That’s lovely.


What do you like to do outside your studies and CognAC and FSC?

What don’t I like to do outside my studies? Do I even like to do my studies at all? Good question! I think outside my studies, I really like seeing my friends and making sure I keep up with people I find important. This often also includes chilling with my sibling. They also study in Nijmegen!

How many siblings do you have?

Just the one! And they also study here so that’s fun. It’s nice to be able to catch up with your sibling now that you’re both kind of adults. They study history, so that’s also completely different from what I do. Sometimes we talk and I notice that they actually learn things that are applicable to their daily life, whereas I don’t have that feeling.

That’s what I always love about studies like history and political studies. It’s really immediately applicable on what you see in society and our daily lives. You can learn so much from your own mistakes, but other people’s mistakes as well.

Yeah true! When I’m on my own, I really like to go watch movies at Lux.

What’s your favourite movie?

That’s a difficult question. I think - and it’s not a very shocking answer - it’s Everything Everywhere All at Once. It’s a really good movie! But there’s also so many other movies that I think are great. My dad used to take us to international films, such as Italian films and Japanese films. Now I like to take myself on little dates to the film house.

Yeah, there are many great underrated movies there. You can tell people really put their blood, sweat and tears into their art craft.

Exactly! And you can really see those big names sometimes in movies that will never go to the Pathé or Vue. For example, Babylon, which stars Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt, who are mega movie stars. They’re just acting in this movie that’s not intended for the big audiences. Then you really see why they’re such big name actors.

It's just more raw. I get that! Also, when you say Babylon I have to think of the study association haha!

Haha, no I don’t prefer to see the study association Babylon, that’s not one of my hobbies!

Haha, fair enough!


A bit of a more personal question. Because I know you personally, I know you’re a very warm and caring person. If you could make one big change tomorrow, what would you choose?

Awh thank you! Can I change anything?

Yes! Anything in the world. Or on a more personal level. Anything you want!

Hmm, I guess I would instil more patience in people. I feel like if people had more patience and they would listen to others, before having their own conclusions about who people are or what other people want everything would be a lot better.

So no more assumptions and better communication. Just taking the time to hear the ground truth instead of making it up because you don’t have the time to listen.

Exactly! Or people that refuse to listen, because they don’t have the patience to wait for this other person to explain their side. Because their side is obviously the most important and it doesn’t matter what others have to say!

Right, yes, because you are of course the main character!

Exactly! No, but I feel like instilling patience would diminish the amount of polarisation in the world. It’s a cause for a lot of … well … all of the -isms (e.g. racism, sexism). So, in that sense it’s very applicable to the world, but also to me, I feel like I could also have more patience.

It really is. Breaking the stereotypes and enriching as a person!


Is there anything you would like to share with your fellow CognACcies?

In my opinion a university experience isn’t complete if you only study. If you like a sport, even a little bit, join the association! If you feel like you’re interested in bettering courses, apply for the DPC! If you’re like in any way interested in how the Radboud is run, apply for FSC or USC! Do a board year at your study association! Even if you’re not sure if you’re ready for it, if money allows, you can always apply! Do committees that you’re not sure about, as they may turn out to be a lot of fun and you’ll meet a lot of new people.

Yes! And if you don’t like it, you can always still leave. You just have to try!

Indeed! I think university time is all about trying new things, finding yourself and looking for what you want to end up doing for the rest of your life. It won’t just improve your study time, but perhaps also the time after! I can really recommend doing things besides studying, also to make sure that your CV is not just ‘Oh I studied for three years’.

So lots of personal growth as well!


Do you have any shoutouts?

Yes, I do have shoutouts! Shoutout to the 31st board, to Cis, Fenna, Marlous, Arne and Ishani! Also to my predecessors. They did a very good job of preparing us, and I enjoyed hanging out with them. To our successors, the 32nd board, for taking it over so nicely and also for electing me as AI*. I couldn’t have done it without you, haha! And to my committees the PaparaC and the XC, much love! I really enjoy being in them and the people are so nice. To my partner Mark, also a shoutout. I think he’s still a benefactor? In that case he’s my favourite CognACer.

Hahaha, ahw!

And to my sibling, who was a benefactor of CognAC for a whole year, just to buy the sweatpants. They are also an honorary member in my book.

I call that iconic.

And to my cat Miep! I will show you a picture now!

*Miep looked so cute!!!*


Thank you so much for the interview Yael!