12 July 2017 • by Anneke Dam
First group of students completes Honours Programme
In their Honours Programme, ‘Urban Expedition in Life Quality’, THUAS students became acquainted with a new form of education during this academic year. The projects they worked on were not assigned by THUAS but were developed by the students themselves. After brainstorming with lecturers and experts about various issues, they dived into their projects. Meanwhile, the lecturers supported the students during this journey of discovery. And with good results: the first group received their Honours Certificates on 7 July.
The Honours Programme, explained lecturer Inge Audenaerde, is intended for ambitious students who want to acquire as much knowledge and as many skills as they can during their years at THUAS. ‘Together with lecturers, the students work on projects, expand their network and develop the skills they will need for life in the 21st century. These are the “four Cs”: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity. The students operated as part of an international team on solutions meant to improve people’s quality of life,’ she said. Students in the Honours Programme were enrolled in five degree programmes: International Public Management, International & European Law, European Studies, Nutrition and Dietetics, and Safety & Security Management.
Students have a voice
‘What makes the Honours Programme so special is that these students have a voice in deciding what they want to learn. Then, they can choose how they want to do this. Standard curricula are extremely structured; they involve clearly established timetables and examination schedules. Not so in the Honours Programme. This meant that we – the lecturers – started working with these students as equals – as team members,’ said another lecturer, Memon Boukiour.
The students had to get used to some new things during the initial weeks: not just to each other but also to all the freedom they had. ‘That was a big challenge, especially with this group of students from seven different countries who were enrolled in various degree programmes and had different perspectives and ways of working,’ said Sushma Achaiber Sing. ‘We found it difficult to work together at first. When we got to know each other better, this became easier.’ Nadine Shalaan confirmed this. ‘Our search was a process including ups and downs. Fortunately, we got a lot of support. We wrote a set of “golden rules” that listed our ambitions and talents and what we wanted to achieve. We decided that we wanted to work on two projects: sustainability and the refugee issue. At the Knowmads Business School in Amsterdam we learned how to focus on content, and the Deep Democracy method taught us how to cooperate with each other using the principle of democracy. These are skills that we will often put to good use in the future.’
Creative and critical thinking
Like all her classmates, Hanneke Kros saw the Honours Programme as a chance to challenge herself. She explained how she put the four Cs into practice. ‘This wasn’t that easy at first. I like to be in the driver’s seat. Things like making a good schedule are important to me. We worked together in a highly diverse group of students, each of whom had a personal set of learning objectives,’ she said. ‘I learned to work together on equal terms and to communicate with students, lecturers and professionals. I also learned to think critically and to apply my creativity to solving problems. These skills helped me prepare well for the internship I will be doing next year.’
From sustainability to refugees
Liliana Moreva and Anna Maria Urbanova worked on a project focused on sustainability issues. ‘Anna Maria and I share the conviction that the concept of sustainability is part of responsible citizenship. We live on this planet, so we should take good care of it. It was very exciting for us to work together on this project,’ said Liliana. These two made an inventory of what THUAS is doing to promote sustainability. ‘Based on our research, it appeared that a lot is going on but students and lecturers aren’t sufficiently aware of this. That’s why we developed a platform for sharing information and personal experiences.’ The result is an online magazine featuring inspiring articles and interviews about initiatives involving sustainability issues at THUAS: from recycling to waste processing.
Alexandrea Wagenaar and Elissa Saltani conducted a study into the position of Syrian refugees who are doing a bridging year at THUAS. ‘They told us that they were confronted with an “invisible wall” inside our school. It was difficult, for example, to make contact with other students, because their classes were given in separate buildings and we often had little time to interact with others after a long day at school,’ said Elissa. ‘We developed ideas intended to get these worlds in touch with each other. One of these ideas was to give Syrian students an impression of the educational programme during our Orientation Days.’ Lecturer Claudia van Zoelen is proud of what the students achieved last year. ‘They didn’t know what to expect ahead of time, and that took a lot of courage. These students started on a journey with us to an unknown destination. But they took on the challenge, persevered through setbacks, and turned in a fantastic performance.’