International Perspectives on Research-Based Education13-07-2017
Karol Skalski is a student at University College Maastricht, and has for the past academic year been involved in organizing and leading the innovative Think Tanks project. According to their Facebook page, the project is a space where students «discuss complex topics in interdisciplinary teams». EDLAB had a chat with Karol where he shared his Think Tanks story:
First of all; what is the Think Tanks project and how did it evolve?
– The idea behind the Think Tanks was to connect students who wanted to pursue interests outside their studies, across the faculties to create a meaningful output. Through support from the EDLAB, we set up weekly meetings where a dedicated group of around 10 students from the diverse UM student body meet to brainstorm the topic at hand in a soft environment. Eventually, we create some final project or a form of presenting what we have found to the outside world. We have had two successful editions so far, one on the topic of «The rising price of medicine» and one on the topic of death.
What is the overall aim of a Think Tanks project?
– During every Think Tanks project, the group decides upon what output they prefer. For example, the «Death»- Think Tank ended in a creative setting with a «wine, cheese and death»- evening, where findings from the project were presented in a room surrounded by medieval paintings and other artifacts to set the right mood. Personally, I like to have an output which is open to the public and which helps spark important discussions on the topic. In this sense, the Think Tanks end with a beginning of new ideas. It would also be wonderful if the university would recognize the Think Tanks project academically one day.
“The Think Tanks is the cherry on top of education”
Yet, starting such a project from scratch never comes without any humps and bumps. Karol admits that there have been challenges that the Think Tanks had to overcome as well:
– The first Think Tank, «The rising price of the medicine», took on a difficult and very broad topic, something that added to the learning experience, but I think we had very exciting and engaging discussions. We then learned a lot about organisation, which was improved in the second Think Tank. We also work on reaching out to more people, and for now we depend on social media to recruit and create engagement around the topics. We are therefore very active on for example Facebook in the weeks before the Think Tanks start. However, when the project is going, some people get really committed- they spend time finding their own sources and present their weekly findings using tools such as PowerPoint.
From your perspective as a student- how does doing a Think Tank adds to the UM experience and your education?
– Firstly, I think the aspect of working with students from different academic backgrounds and faculties provides for discussions and perspectives that you do not usually encounter in the ordinary tutorial settings. You get to try out how good of an expert you are on your topic, and you are directly responsible for what you deliver. In this sense, it is the cherry on top of education. There is also the teamwork aspect, where you work together with other, like-minded students to create a final result. It has to be said that it is also challenging and requires a lot of effort aside your regular studies. Yet, at the same time it is intellectually stimulating and a great chance to directly pursue your interests!
So, what is next for the Think Tanks team?
– We are currently working on a new edition of the Think Tanks which has the title «Violence as an epidemic», an intriguing topic, which will finish over the summer. We will also continue the Think Tanks in the next academic year, and welcome anyone to propose new ideas on topics for future Think Tanks.
Karol’s 4 reasons why YOU should join a Think Tank:
You get to work with really devoted people and interesting topics.
Try yourself out as an expert! You get to experience a lot of responsibility by contributing with your expertise and being in charge of the content.
You can go further with a group than you can go alone- everybody builds on top of each other’s interests.
Get motivation back to studying- pursue your own interests!