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Laura van de Plas: ‘We want to show that we’re a community that cares for each other’

Laura van der Plas has been Wellbeing Officer for the Campus Den Haag since the end of 2021. By means of various projects, she makes sure that more attention is given to student wellbeing. How are things going so far? And what are these projects exactly? Laura talked to us to give us an update.

Previously, Laura had told us that offer and demand of student wellbeing failed to match up. The emphasis should be more on connection and a safe study climate, because for many students the social activities at Wijnhaven had come to a halt because of the pandemic. One of the first tasks on the list that Laura tackled was addressing the problem of loneliness among students.

The ‘Acts of Kindness’ project was launched in February.  Campus students can attach notes to a pillar to ask for help and get in touch with each other. ‘We started with a pilot of 500 cards and those have all been used by now. People have taken the cards home with them to get in touch with each other or have left notes on the pillar themselves, ‘according to Laura. The project was well received and several hundred more cards have been printed in the meantime. Something that Laura is very pleased with: ‘With this project we want to show that we’re a community that cares for each other.’

Laura van der Plas

Covey Program

Another project that has gotten off to a good start is the Covey Program. Students are matched to coveys. These are groups of approximately five students who are all in different programmes and different years of their studies. Over the past two months, 25 students have enrolled in the programme. ‘The programme is an ideal, low key way for people to get in touch with other students from Campus The Hague,’ Laura informs us. Coveys get to know each other by participating in activities. One of these activities is Crazy88 that allows students, by means of various tasks and assignments, to connect with each other while based in their own countries.

New initiatives

Apart from the existing programmes, several new initiatives will soon be rolled out. The programmes ‘Siggie’ and ‘PERSPECTIVE’, for instance, are waiting to be launched.

Siggie provides coaching to students who are dealing with stress, fears, or procrastination. The programme makes use of professional coaches who, based on online modules, coach the students during five sessions. ‘Siggie is tailored to the students’ needs. For some problems, it isn’t really necessary to visit a student psychologist, but students would still like to receive support in other ways,’ says Laura.

PERSPECTIVE is also about to go live. PERSPECTIVE focusses on performance pressure: what does it mean for us to be successful? How can we create a better role for wellbeing within that definition? And how to we put that into practice? One of the ways in which we address this is by inviting practitioners as guest speakers to discuss their work, successes, and especially their setbacks. According to Laura it is very important that setbacks are also being discussed: ‘If all you hear are success stories, you start to believe that exceptionalism is the standard, while that is only part of the picture.’

Guest speakers that have taken a different career route than you would have expected based on their studies, are also invited. ‘We are looking for a new definition of success, while telling a more honest story and also discussing the things that didn’t go so well,’ says the Wellbeing Officer.

Students will be informed about the new projects from the beginning of the new Academic Year. A vision on student wellbeing is also being developed on a university level. If you are interested in participating, please contact Laura via: l.van.der.plas@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

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