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“It won’t all be cosy and comfy. Learning is sometimes very uncomfortable”

“It won’t all be cosy and comfy. Learning is sometimes very uncomfortable” “It won’t all be cosy and comfy. Learning is sometimes very uncomfortable” “It won’t all be cosy and comfy. Learning is sometimes very uncomfortable”

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Observant and Joey Roberts

Official start for Global Studies in Vrijthof theatre

“Our dream is becoming reality because of you, students,” says an enthusiastic head of the Development Team Valentina Mazzucato. After three years of preparations, Monday 24 August is the kick-off for Global Studies, the new UM bachelor’s programme that is a collaboration between the six Maastricht faculties. Not all of the seventy or so students were present at the Vrijthof theatre. At least ten have travelling restrictions because of Covid-19.

Our world and the people on it are in trouble. I refuse to stand by and watch. With this study I hope to help.” Ringmaster Mark Kawakami reads from a motivational letter by one of the Global Studies students, and grinningly concludes that letters like these only raises the pressure on staff. But this afternoon, nobody seems to be worried about that. On the contrary. The 26 staff members who – under the leadership of professor Valentina Mazzucato – put the programme together with great care, cannot wait to get started.

Failure

“This bachelor programme started as a failure,” she explained. Four years ago, she submitted the plan as a possible new bachelor programme to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The latter, however, decided in favour of Digital Society, which started last year. But the plan for Global Studies didn’t fall by the wayside. As a result of an intervention by rector Rianne Letschert, it grew to be a UM-wide bachelor programme that will look at global problems such as climate change, poverty, racism, migration, and a pandemic like Covid-19, and study them from various disciplines. All six faculties – a novelty for the UM – worked together on the curriculum. It wasn’t without any struggle, says Lutz Krebs, program director of Global Studies who, after rector Letschert and FASoS dean Christine Neuhold (the new bachelor programme comes under FASoS), was the next to speak. There was a lot of discussion, ideas, and looking beyond the boundaries of disciplines. In the end, it was not only a “fun but also an educational journey”.

Best friend

“Look to the left and look to the right,” Mazzucato asks her students who are sitting at a distance of 1.5 metres from each other in the theatre. “That person next to you could become your best friend. Exactly how the next few years will be, doesn’t just depend only on the staff but also on you. You are pioneers, you will be given lots of room for your initiatives and ideas. We will all have to be open-minded, listen to each other and learn from each other. And that starts this week. Together we will determine the rules of engagement that apply within our programme. It won’t all be cosy and comfy, real learning can be very uncomfortable. But that is not a bad thing. It is important to try things out.” And yes, she adds, things will undoubtedly go wrong, “but failure was one of the best things to happen to me.”

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