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Honours Conference brings ‘equally ambitious students’ together

At the Honours Conference, honours students shared interesting projects and valuable lessons learned during their honours education. As icing on the cake, the event provided opportunity for students to enter into interdisciplinary discussions with each other. ‘’We should have events like this every week!’’

Students were invited to the Honours Conference to show - as well as to witness - the possibilities that honours education has to offer. Bram Hoonhout, coordinator of the Honours College, encouraged everyone to choose the room with the topic that interested them most. Each room had two speakers with complementary presentations on a similar topic. With three rooms, visitors had much to choose from.

Rethinking climate change

One of the highlighted research projects is still ongoing and was explained by Rush Massey, a student in the Leiden Leadership Programme. ‘’When I was in the LLP, I was invited to apply for a research traineeship and that’s how I ended up joining this research project.’’

Massey explained that although climate scientists have the best intentions, their graphs and figures inspire insufficient climate action. ‘’To get people excited, we have to stop just throwing data at people and rather rethink how we tell the story of climate change’’, according to Massey. After her presentation she opened the floor up to input from the crowd about different approaches to climate storytelling, making for an engaging interdisciplinary discussion with students from different backgrounds.

Thinking alike

In a different room, two presenters told stories about their personal adventures with honours education abroad. Cas Haasdijk informed the crowd about his extraordinary experience in Dubai. In a course of the Honours College Beta and Life Science, Haasdijk got a group assignment: to think of a solution to a sustainability challenge that McDermott International was facing at the Jebel Ali fabrication yard in Dubai. 

In the end, Haasdijk and three other students won the prize and got to visit the Jebel Ali fabrication yard for themselves – making their honours assignment come to life. ‘’We saw the location where our solar panels – which is part of our solution – would be placed.’’ 

Normally, Haasdijk studies Computer Science & Economics, so the sustainability challenge was quite different from his usual curriculum. ‘’This course really challenged me to go beyond my bachelor study. Honours classes are not just about writing papers and academic performance, but also challenge you to resolve real world issues.’’ And there is one more advantage: “You are with students that think alike and are equally as ambitious.”

Interdisciplinary learning

According to Iago Jover Mariño, events like the conference are what helps students connect with different disciplines. This interdisciplinary approach is exactly what the educational system needs, says Mariño. One could see why: real-life problems rarely limit themselves to just one discipline.

Last year, at the first ever edition of the Honours Conference, he already shared his wish to change the current educational system. ‘’It is my dream to found a university where the interdisciplinary approach is the leading approach.’’ If it were up to Mariño, the conference would be organised more often. ‘’Events like this are amazing, we should have them every week, maybe even every day!’’ 

Text: Lynn Mans
Photos: Eric van den Bandt

Presenters of the Honours Conference in the garden of the Old Observatory.
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