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Personal experience Marjolein and Edine

In a think tank, you collaborate on a completely different level

Bachelor’s students Marjolein van Hoften and Edine Remmers attended the University-wide Honours Programme Building Bridges last year. Linguistics student Marjolein explains why she chose this programme: “Linguistics is a small study programme, which means you pretty much function in a bubble. I thought it would be fun to collaborate with other disciplines as well.” Interdisciplinarity also appealed to Biomedical Sciences student Edine: “I wanted to do something extra besides my studies. I thought it would be interesting to work with students from different disciplines.”


Photos: Edine Remmers and Marjolein Hoften

The honours programme is divided into two parts. In the first semester, you choose a thematic studio. For example, Edine chose a studio on politics and Marjolein chose a studio on the green future. Marjolein explains: “The studio is actually a build-up to the think tank.” In the second semester, you take part in a think tank, in which you work in a group on an interdisciplinary issue. Edine and Marjolein both joined the think-tank on ‘The youth of today’, a topic they were not likely to work on from their own discipline. Marjolein elaborates on the topic: “It was commissioned by VIGO, a youth welfare organisation. They had developed a tool for identifying vulnerable families, but they noticed that it was not being used, and were wondering why. So they asked us to investigate.”

A group of nine students worked on this topic. The students’ different backgrounds meant that everyone could focus on an aspect they already knew something about. Edine: “It was nice that everyone could do different things. One student could transcribe interviews and another knew a lot about statistics. That way, everyone had something to contribute.” Students could also apply the knowledge they had acquired in their own discipline. Marjolein explains: “I study linguistics, so I had little prior knowledge of the topic. On the other hand, I noticed that I began to pay more attention to the use of language. For example, I looked at whether the questions in the instrument were formulated properly.”

A key element of the think tank is a four-day study trip. After doing some research, Marjolein and Edine’s think tank opted for Bergen, Norway. Marjolein: “Youth care there is pretty much the same as in the Netherlands.” Edine adds: “However, they have had relatively many scandals that were widely reported in the news.” In Bergen, the group spoke with a professor who worked a lot with youth welfare, but also to young people from vulnerable families. For both students, this trip was the highlight of the honours programme. Edine recounts: “We learnt so much on this trip. There was no way we could have learnt it in the same way in the Netherlands.” Marjolein adds: “The trip was a real eye-opener. It gave us insight into how to move forward with our assignment.”

In the end, the group adapted the original instrument based on their findings to make it more readily usable in practice. These adjustments were presented by Edine, among others, to VIGO, the client. She explains: “I really enjoyed presenting our results to the client. They were super enthusiastic. While we were there, they were already making plans to implement our modifications.”