from April 1, 2023 to April 30, 2023
Published on April 5, 2023 Updated on April 10, 2024

The Portrait of EUTOPIA (April 2023) - Fiona de Cuyper & Matías Díaz Roqueta, co-presidents of the EUSTT

Portrait of EUTOPIA April 2023
Portrait of EUTOPIA April 2023

Every month we present to you a new profile, a portrait of an engaged individual in EUTOPIA. Today, meet the two new co-presidents of the EUTOPIA Student Think Tank (EUSTT), Fiona De Cuyper and Matias Diaz Roqueta.

Can you present yourself, and your work / studies?

Fiona: My name is Fiona De Cuyper, I am 23 years old and I am from Belgium. I am currently working as an intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until the end of June, and I am finishing up a Master’s Degree in International and European Law at the VUB. I have been involved in the EUSTT for two years now. I started out as an editor, then moved-up to managing editor, editor-in-chief, and now together with Matías, I am the Co-President of the organisation.

Matías: Thank you Fiona. I am Matías Diaz Roqueta, I’m 20 years old and a third year student in Global Studies at the UPF Barcelona. I am currently interning at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, in the Czech Republic. I joined the EUSTT one year and two months ago as Head of Events. It was a new position, so I was basically the only person in my area. I worked on creating a plan of what was going to be the output of the EUSTT in terms of events, of how do we show ourselves and put ourselves in the outside world. Then I became Co-President with Fiona only two months ago, and I am really looking forward to the many challenges that this new responsibility will for sure bring.

How did you first hear about EUTOPIA, and how did you first get engaged in EUTOPIA activities?

Fiona: I first heard of EUTOPIA thanks to word of mouth before the project was even launched. It was during the preparatory phase when universities were recruiting their first staff members, before doing public communication to the students. I just sent through a spontaneous application, and at the time they told me that they were not there yet and would recontact me in a couple of months. Some months later they reached out to me again, did the interviews, and I joined the EUSTT in its beginnings! I started out as an editor, editing articles and working together with the editorial management, then after a while climbed up the ladder in the editorial area and in the board.

Matías: In my case I first heard of EUTOPIA - and the potential of EUTOPIA - from the coordinator of my degree, whom also happened to be very involved in EUTOPIA and eventually became the Vice-Rector for Internationalisation at the UPF. He was really on top of EUTOPIA issues, so he always tried to introduce us to EUTOPIA, and introduce EUTOPIA-related stuff into our degree. I hadn’t heard of the EUSTT then, but I heard about it from a friend who was General Coordinator at the time. So that’s how I joined it, and my first EUTOPIA-related activities were a joint session on sustainability that we did along with students from Ljubljana, and also a Student Conference called “The SDGs in the post-pandemic era”.

Could you describe what are you current responsibilities and your role as co-presidents of the EUSTT?

Fiona: Our main role for now, we call it “Reinventing and reenergizing the organisation”, because we encountered some stagnation over time, and we were both kind of frustrated with this and really wanted this project to succeed. So we decided to propose our co-presidency together to replace the last president. We did this because both Matias and me don’t have a lot of time, so if we pool our time together it’s easier for us to be more present, more engaged, and also it represents the EUTOPIA alliance a bit better as we’re both from different universities. Our responsibilities are mainly managing the internal restructuring that we’re doing, recruiting many new members, we are extending our existing teams, adding new writers, we are also venturing into research groups, so many upcoming projects… We are also the links between the EUSTT and the Student Council and the larger EUTOPIA alliance.

Matías: I totally echo Fiona’s words about the reasons that motivated us to present our candidacy to become co-presidents. Also as Fiona said our current day-to-day work is mainly internal, we’re in the midst of a big recruitment process, the biggest in EUSTT history actually. We’re opening more positions than ever, but we’re also changing some internal structures, the way we work, the way we communicate with each other, and we’re trying to energize our team again. That takes a lot of work, and that’s our main responsibility, but also projecting the EUSTT, projecting our work, and getting the right message to the right people in the EUTOPIA. So projecting us, and making sure the EUSTT has the right tools. So for example if someone from my team tells me “I need this” and, that thing depends on a EUTOPIA office, then that is our responsibility to contact EUTOPIA and make sure we have the right tools available to advance in their work.

What is your vision for the future of the Think Tank? Do you have a plan of what your responsibilities will be if you want the EUSTT to grow in importance in the community of students?

Fiona: We actually split up our vision for the EUSTT into a short-term vision, that’s the restructuring and recruiting that we talked about, making sure that everything internally works well, and the longer-term, which is what Matias so eloquently stated to “project the EUSTT”.  That leans to create new partnerships, or to publish papers from students external to EUTOPIA, because we have been receiving papers from students whose universities are not EUTOPIA-related, as well as proposals from other student organisations to become partners with them to co-promote each other’s initiatives. We’d also love to expand further our events area, or do special publications, things like that. We’re doing this in a very structured manner, so that it will be sustained when leadership will inevitably change, and so the people that will follow us will have a strong foundation to base their work on.

Matías: Yes. I think we are going to see a massive growth in our publications. Our core mission and work is to publish student research and to give voices to students, and now that we are incorporating a writers team, and that we’re trying to reach more and more people, we foresee that we are going to be able to publish many more papers than before and we will se growth in the editorial area. But our main goal is to reach more students. EUTOPIA is a community of a quarter-million students. That is easy to say, but it is a lot of people, and how many of them know about the EUSTT? How many of the know about the opportunities and possibilities that the EUSTT can offer them? Many students have done a certain level of research even in Bachelors or Masters degrees but these almost never get published and they stay in some corner of a hard-drive for years, if not for ever. They could publish their research thanks with the EUSTT, and be given a voice. So I think we can be of service to students as well, and we want to get our message across, and we want to be much more effective in reaching more students in the future.

What do you appreciate most about EUTOPIA, as a European University alliance? And what are you most proud of having accomplished while working within EUTOPIA?

Fiona: For me, it would definitely be reaching other students from different universities. Being at the VUB, even though it’s great, you’re just in your own university-bubble, and you’re not very concerned with any universities outside of your own, or outside of your country. I think that’s a great benefit of the EUTOPIA University alliance, because it connects across borders, which exemplifies the European Projects as a whole, the effort to kind of abolish university borders, and country borders, and bring everyone together. What makes me most proud is that I am now at the head of an organisation which spans across so many different countries and universities. It’s been very great to work in such an international team, because you learn from each other, from each other’s culture, background, everything... It really allows for much more fruitful debates, and I’d say that’s what has made me the happiest working in EUTOPIA so far.

Matías: I think the thing I’m most proud about is my time in the Events area, because we started from scratch, we incorporated some new people into the team, we managed to organise some nice events I think, and to devise the concepts for the EUSTT’s events. For some months it was indeed a very personal project, during the time when I was the only person in the Events area, so for me that’s what I’m most proud of.

As for what I appreciate most about EUTOPIA as an alliance… Maybe it is a bit of a classical thing to say, but I’d say the bridging of cultural differences, and having the chance of working – because we work a lot, and long hours – and communicating with people from diverse and different backgrounds, and coming from different countries, with different sets of values… And we try to bridge those gaps, and to produce something that we share in common, to produce an output together. For me that’s the most exciting part about EUTOPIA and the EUSTT.

Fiona: I fully echo all that Matias has said. Reflecting on my own experience in the editorial department of the EUSTT, I think I’m quite proud to have started at the bottom as “just a member” and to have grown systematically with the organisation. It’s been a great journey to be a part of the EUSTT, to have been able to help shape it and built it to what it has become, and what it will become in the future, and to have been able to really pull our thoughts together and develop it to reach its potential.

We have always used a very horizontal approach to leadership in the EUSTT. We listen to everyone’s input, we try to get everyone on board and to use their opinion on how they want to see the organisation grow, what they think should change, or what they think works… We have this kind of family dynamic, even though we barely meet each other in real life, we meeting online every two weeks within general board meetings, or during more in-touch meetings. We talk a lot with each other, and we are very open to listen to anyone’s questions. I am very proud to be a part of an organisation that functions like that and to help everyone develop their own skills and their own journeys, in their universities, in their research, and in the EUSTT itself.

Matías: I think the emphasis here is that the EUSTT is an organisation where there is a particularly high level of mobility. If you put in the work, that you are dedicated, and you care about the EUSTT, chances are that the floor is open for you. Positions are open. You can start from the bottom and get to the board. There are a lot of generally open discussions in the EUSTT, so I think that’s also one of the great things that we can offer to people.

Fiona de Cuyper
Fiona de Cuyper - Fiona De Cuyper
Matías Díaz Roqueta
Matías Díaz Roqueta - Matías Díaz Roqueta