What is important is motivation and the ability to combine it with regular studies
“Would you like to gain insight and work on
a problem on a current, socially relevant theme in a multidisciplinary team? Here’s your chance!”. This was the first paragraph of the email that Lisa Maria Hilti, at that time a pre-Master student in International Business Communication, received one Monday morning. She continued reading the email and learnt about Radboud Honours Academy, an educational environment that offers additional programmes and projects to students that would like to gain additional educational experience next to their studies.
The email that Lisa had received was about Project Impact, a programme offered to Master’s students. The project that interested her the most was on climate change. “I have always been interested in environmental issues, and I got really excited to do a project that would allow me to contribute something to this issue. The project was assigned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: that was really cool!”
“It’s my last year as a student, so I wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities Radboud had to offer.”
Lisa saw it as an interesting opportunity not solely because the theme was interesting, but also she would have a chance to work in an interdisciplinary team. They have group projects in her regular studies as well, but all of them are related to business communication, and the students are from the same discipline as Lisa. “My Honours group is really diverse: from psychology and spatial planning to communications and biomedical sciences. I think it’s a great chance to meet new people and learn how various scientific approaches can be applied to one question”.
“If I had to sum up the goal of our project in one sentence, it would be something like: How can we generate more private sector investments in tropical forest conservation by means of blended finance?”
The group is still in the process of learning about the theme. Lisa said only one out of the eight members studies something related to finance. “Right now we are doing a literature search on the topic. I’m glad that all of us have different backgrounds, and I think that the synergy of our knowledge and skills will bring fruitful results.”
What is it like to be an Honours student? Do they also attend lectures and write assignments? Are they all straight-A students? How does the Honours programme differ from regular studies? “I realized from the very beginning that this programme was going to differ from other courses I had taken before. First of all, we didn’t meet on campus or online, but rather had to travel to Ravenstein for a kick-off day where we’d meet our team members and supervisors.” During the kick-off day, they also had an online meeting with their client and learnt more about the topic.
“We played some team building games that helped us learn more about each other and become less distant. For instance, we were divided into smaller groups and had to find as many similarities between us as possible. We also had another task where we had to build a tower from spaghetti and marshmallows. That was fun”.
It is not necessary to have high grades to become an Honours student. What is important is motivation and the ability to combine it with regular studies. “What I like about this programme is that we have the freedom to decide how to execute our plan. Although our supervisors and the client set up deadlines for us and advise us if we need them, they do not tell us what we should do: we’re the ones responsible for the project.”
“I think the experience I get by doing this project will be really helpful for my career. Communication experts usually do not work on their own, but rather interact with people from different departments, which might bring to conflicts about approaches. This is not just another 'academic' project at the university - it has a direct connection to a societally relevant issue and we are speaking with experts in the field, so we are not working in the 'academic bubble”
According to Lisa, stepping out of one’s comfort zone by doing projects like this will develop students. “I definitely recommend doing Honours. You’ll get to know different people, get extra experience next to your regular studies, and just have fun.”
Author: Knar Ohanjanyan