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Honours Conference 2024: why listening is valuable

An event where students from all honoursprograms meet, learn from each other and gain inspiration. That is the idea behind the Honours Conference, which took place at the end of February in the Old Observatory. The theme of the afternoon: why listening pays off.

A characteristic of honours education is that it brings students from different academic backgrounds together and that it challenges them to step outside their comfort zone. For example, there are honours students who solve sustainability issues together, while others delve into leadership or deal with the relationship between science and society.

Bringing people together is also the force behind the Honours Conference, says student assessor Veerle Berk: "We have put together a program with a focus on interdisciplinarity and collaboration. I hope students take away that a lot is possible and that it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you are enthusiastic.'

Different than expected

At the Honours Conference, students share what they have learned in honours education. What stands out this year: the power of good listening. Claudia Pili and Mateo Bilbao of the Honours College Science, Society and Self, for example, learned in a course on negotiations that you have to have an eye for the wishes of the other party. Mateo: ‘’Negotiation is not a fight between one party and the other; negotiation is about getting what you can and helping the other party to get as much as possible.’’

Open communication

Master's student Guarav Sharma gained experience with another skill thanks to the Leiden Leadership Program: inclusive leadership. This is all about creating "a welcoming atmosphere where everyone feels valued and has a sense of belonging," Guarav explains.

Here, too, listening comes in handy. It is important that diversity and inclusiveness not get bogged down in a blame game. ‘’The question should always be: what do we see not going well and how can it be improved?’’ In doing so, it is important to be empathetic. ‘’For example, by actively listening, putting yourself in someone else's shoes and communicating openly.’

Communicating with your parents

Open communication is also central to Thijs van den Berg's presentation. In the Honours Class "Strategies for resilience" he learned the importance of in-groups and out-groups:

"People automatically determine who belongs to their group and who does not. We take less value on the opinions of those who do not belong to our group.’’

For the course, Thijs applied this insight to his own life: he engaged in a conversation with his parents about their parenting style. In doing so, he applied a collaborative strategy he had learned in the course: ‘’See the shared goal and share the other person's perspective.’’ And, important: ‘’Change yourself if you want to see something differently.’’

Text: Femke van de Griendt
Photography: Buro JP

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