A Broader Mind

Look beyond the limits of your education

In Februari 2019, the VU Amsterdam is launching the pilot of educational programme A Broader Mind, in which Bachelor’s students come together to work on the issues affecting today’s society and where personal development is paramount. This course is special: A Broader Mind has been developed by Building teams which are a collaboration of students, lecturers, researchers and other enthusiastic members of staff at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

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Why the shaping of students on academic, personal and societal level should have a natural place in education. 

As Mirjam van Praag, the President of the Executive Board, said at the opening of the 2018 academic year: We don’t want our students to simply ‘become something’ – we also want them to ‘become someone’.

Mirjam van Praag: Wij willen dat onze studenten niet alleen ‘iets’ worden, maar ook ‘iemand’ worden.

How is your world changing? 
As the challenges facing society become more numerous and more complex, the need for a more multidisciplinary approach becomes greater. Themes such as artificial intelligence, ageing, geopolitical tensions, climate change, shortage of natural resources and the unequal distribution of wealth are all having an impact on our world today and will continue to do so tomorrow.

At the same time, the labour market is changing dramatically, the working landscape is shifting and knowledge is becoming less sustainable. Opportunities for education are multiplying and today’s students are far more likely to have a career that encompasses a whole range of jobs and disciplines. Despite these developments, government policy is geared towards encouraging students to focus on their own discipline and to graduate without delay. There is hardly any scope for students to broaden their interests or to study subjects in greater depth, let alone to reflect on their own role in society.

De wereld verandert

What does this mean for you? 
Society is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Now more than ever, it is essential to develop your skills, knowledge and personal qualities in ways that go beyond the boundaries of your own discipline. Broadening your mind means that you are better equipped to meet the challenges of the future. As a student, this requires you to think about who you are, how you look at the world, how you relate to others and the nature of your role in society.

You will develop personal skills such as collaborating across borders, debating openly and effectively, reflecting on your own perspectives, norms and values, and dealing with pressure and stress. In addition, through Community Service Learning, you will apply your knowledge to solving pressing issues that are having a major impact on today’s society.

There are two elements to participating in A Broader Mind:

  • Community Service Learning: a form of education in which you will put professional knowledge into practice. In doing so, you will make your own contribution to solving societal issues.
  • A Broader Mind course: you will work with students from other Bachelor’s degree programmes to develop your societal and personal skills.

Try it out!
Are you curious about the Course? Click here or scan the QR-code to get a sneak preview!
Sneakpreview

To enter the sneak preview you have to fill-in your e-mail address. Select "I am a new user" and then fill-in your name. Your mail address will not be used or distributed by the VU Amsterdam. 

    The A Broader Mind course is for all Bachelor’s students at VU Amsterdam, and centres on personal development, societal interaction and reflection on these processes. As a student, you will be encouraged to get to grips with major societal issues, such as sustainability, digitization and poverty. These are issues that cannot be solved from the perspective of a single discipline. That’s why the course brings you into contact with a wide range of perspectives held by both experts and fellow students. It will take you on a journey as you discover what these interdisciplinary themes mean to you and how you can draw on your own background and personal convictions in order to make your own contribution.

    For students, by students
    The course has been designed jointly by students, lecturers, researchers and other enthusiastic members of staff at VU Amsterdam: that’s what makes it so special. It gives you a genuine and active role in designing and improving your own education. For example, the themes you will tackle on the course were co-written by VU students.

    Online and offline activities
    The A Broader Mind course consists of a blend of online and offline activities. In the MOOC, you will watch videos and read articles in which experts present their ideas and insights. You will take part in quizzes and enter into forum discussions with other VU students. In addition, the MOOC will encourage you to undertake activities independently with a view to exploring your own personal response to the issues in question. This might include collecting your own plastic waste to make an artwork with other students, as part of the Sustainability theme. 

    Want to try out the online activities?
    Are you curious about the Course? Click here or scan the QR-code to get a sneak preview!

    Sneakpreview

    To enter the sneak preview you have to fill-in your e-mail address. Select "I am a new user" and then fill-in your name. Your mail address will not be used or distributed by the VU Amsterdam.

    Are you interested in A Broader Mind, but is it not possible to enter the Course? We are always looking for students and teachers for our building teams!

    If you have any questions about the A Broader Mind Course, please contact:

    SchippersRolinka Schippers, Project Manager for the A Broader Mind Course
    rolinka.schippers@vu.nl
    +31 (0)20 598 27 13

    The A Broader Mind course is led by Govert Buijs, Professor of Political Philosophy and holder of the Goldschmeding Chair in Economics and Civil Society at the Faculty of Humanities. 
    g.j.buijs@vu.nl
    +31 (0)20 598 66 83

    Govert Buijs

    Working with themes 
    Eight themes are discussed on the A Broader Mind course. As the course and the programme as a whole are still under development, these themes may therefore be subject to change. You will collaborate with students from other degree programmes and learn to approach the themes from a range of disciplines. The starting point for tackling each theme will be your own personal question and a challenge facing society.

    1. Health & Happiness  
    Societal challenge: Follow your own path to happiness.
    Personal question: Which factors influence my happiness?

    2. Poverty  
    Societal challenge: How can we reduce the negative effects of poverty in someone’s living environment?
    Personal question: What is my own experience of financial poverty?

    3. Success  
    Societal challenge: How can organizations achieve success by learning from their failures?
    Personal question: How can I achieve success by learning from my failures?

    4. The Digital World  
    Societal challenge: How can society gain a thorough understanding of requirements and applications relating to digital innovations in health care?
    Personal question: How do I weigh up the ethical benefits and the risks of digital innovation?

    5. Rebellion  
    Societal challenge: To what extent does society need a rebellion in relation to the societal challenges discussed on the course?
    Personal question: Wat kind of rebel am I?

    6. Viewpoints and Worldview
    Societal challenge: (How) can our different rules of life go together?
    Personal question: What rules of life do you (want to) follow?

    7. Sustainability  
    Societal challenge: Join the quest and help solve the plastic waste problem!
    Personal question: How big a part do I play in causing, identifying and solving the plastic problem?

    8. The Human Body  
    Societal challenge: What are the limits to biotechnical applications for human health? Personal question: Who owns my body?

    During your time at VU Amsterdam, you will progress intellectually, but also in terms of your personality, social environment and views towards society. What do you think are the most important issues facing society today? Are you open to new experiences? What do you find important in your future job? The A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey (ABMLS) aims to collaborate with students to find the answers on such questions!

    What is ABMLS?
    The A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey (ABMLS) is a panel survey among students at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The questionnaire contains questions regarding personality, university life, labor market orientation and views towards society. Students fill out the questionnaire every year, in order to track their development during their time at VU Amsterdam. The ABMLS is an innovative research project because it tracks student development for multiple years, and insights will be shared with students. All students in the A Broader Mind programme are invited to be part of this cutting-edge research.

    Is the ABMLS just another survey?
    A Broader Mind is an innovative programme, and the A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey (ABMLS) is an innovative survey. It is unique in tracking student development for multiple years in a mixed-method design, combining different types of data. Results are shared with students and researchers from VU Amsterdam to make this a collaborative project.

    Who runs the ABMLS?
    Leader of the A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey (ABMLS) is René Bekkers, professor in Philanthropic Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences. He is assisted by postdoc Arjen de Wit and junior researcher Rosan van Niekerk. For questions, please get in touch via abmls@vu.nl

    What happens with my answers?
    The individual responses of the A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey (ABMLS) will be stored in a secure folder, that only researchers can access. The data will be combined with data from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and course materials of the A Broader Mind Course, but only for those respondents who explicitly granted consent to do so in the questionnaire.

    The researchers will use the data for academic research on topics like academic performance, values in life, personality, civic attitudes, student engagement, citizenship education and Community Service Learning.
    Where possible, results from this study will be used during the A Broader Mind Course to provide students with insights in their (aggregate) views towards personal goals, university life, professional career, and society.
     
    Is my privacy secured?
    Yes. The A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey (ABMLS) does not collect personal information on your IP address and geographic location. While some of the questions may be sensitive, the information provided in this survey is stored in a secure location and will only be used for research purposes. It will not be used in any manner which would allow identification of individual responses. 

    The ‘Reglement bescherming persoonsgegevens studenten VU Amsterdam’ ‘Student personal data processing regulations Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’ applies to this research and contains the most important regulations concerning the usage of personal information at VU Amsterdam.
    The data that is collected in the survey will be saved in Qualtrics, a US-based corporation. Qualtrics follows the technical and privacy related regulations set by VU Amsterdam and the European Union. However, note that the US government may request access to data collected by US corporations.

    How can I contact the researchers?
    For questions, remarks or suggestions, please e-mail the research team via abmls@vu.nl

    If you have any general questions about A Broader Mind, please contact the programme team:

    Kirstin de Boer  Het programmateam
    k.de.boer@vu.nl
    +31 (0)20 598 76 05     

    Nynke Rodenhuis  
    n.rodenhuis@vu.nl
    +31 (0)20 598 63 12