Building a bridge between science, society, and yourself: What outstanding education can look like

Building a bridge between science, society, and yourself: What outstanding education can look like

How can I meet the great challenges of our time with science and society? This is what Honors College students in the “Science, Society, and Self” track want to discover. How does honors education differ from regular education?

Like the name of the Honors College track Science, society and self As described, students explore the relationship between science, society, and themselves—including how they relate to themselves and others. Overall, they learn who they are and how to collaborate effectively with other academic disciplines to solve grand challenges such as climate change and polarization.

Participants begin their work Honors CollegeAdventure with her Social Sciences LaboratorySocial topics are discussed through workshops, dialogues and thinking exercises. What do these meetings look like and how do they differ from other university education? We attended two meetings to find out.

Students begin each meeting with a silent exercise

Colored sketches

At the end of April, we will witness a session in the Social Sciences Laboratory for the first time. Meeting title: Practicing reflexivity. The students begin the meeting, like all others, with a silent exercise. Breathe in deeply and exhale deeply. Students then share how they performed in the check-in round.

Then the thinking can begin. Students are divided into different rooms to reflect on previously read literature. They begin by dissecting the term reflexivity. what does that mean? What are the different views on that? Having a conversation doesn’t do justice to the originality of ideas, so they make posters. Students enthusiastically share their views and creatively transform their ideas into colorful drawings.

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Dialogue with deans

During the second half of this meeting, students ask the dean Sarah De Riki and Vice Dean Christian van der Heyden How they deal with social challenges at the university. This is intended to be an opportunity for students to learn about the complexities of the decision-making process and inspire their own reflection process.

One student asked: “Should universities adopt a neutral stance or be more firm in their ethical beliefs?” “It’s not a matter of either or,” De Ricci answers. I believe that the university can stimulate dialogue about ethical dilemmas. We can communicate with students and reflect on why we made certain decisions.

To what extent should social sciences be interdisciplinary?

Discuss and discuss

At the end of May, the students will meet again, this time at PLNT Leiden, for the final session of the course. Instead of a lecture or final exam, students test their acquired knowledge in interactive discussions. What are the opportunities and challenges facing the social sciences today? The students each wrote an essay on this question and now spread out throughout the PLNT building to provide feedback to each other.

After a short break, the discussion is moved to a higher level. In small groups they discuss the dilemmas that every sociologist faces. How objective can you really be? To what extent should social sciences be interdisciplinary? Some groups claim that the social sciences have become too interdisciplinary, while others see this as a strength. After each round, students reflect on what went well and what could be improved.

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How do students test the material?

Student Jacqueline (International Relations and Organizations) appreciates non-traditional exercises in the honors course such as posters and debates. “There is a lot of scope for discussion. We debate with our fellow students, but also with our teachers and other academic professionals. The high degree of interaction makes the course “unique,” ​​adds one of his colleagues.

“I learned how important it is to show courage.”

Another advantage of the course: the practical nature and focus on the application of science. Jacqueline: We worked in think tanks and action centers to address the problem of politics at the university. We have come up with a working solution and have already sent it to them to implement.’

Teaching assistant and former participant Alexia praises the entrepreneurial spirit the Honors College inspires in students. She talks about how this mindset helped her become a speaker at TEDxLeidenUniversity — and even land her current job as an assistant. I have had many valuable interactions with academic professionals, from which I have learned a lot. And I learned how important it is to show courage. Would you like to get involved in an organization? just ask! Do you want a job? Progressing!’

Text: Lynn Kokshorn, Stan de Vetter, Michelle Knoster
Photos: Boro JP

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