A broader mind- New programme at VU Amsterdam

Date : 25/06/2019

Don’t simply become ‘something’, become ‘someone’

What the future will bring, no one knows for sure. As more and more people find themselves questioning their assumptions, global dilemmas such as polarization, climate change and digitization are becoming increasingly urgent, demanding innovative solutions. Scientific knowledge, analytical skills and classical teaching methods are no longer enough to tackle these challenges. Students, schools, society and the labour market are all calling for education that better enables us to get to grips on ourselves and on a world in transition. For professionals who look beyond their own interests to strive for and achieve personal and societal ambitions. For leaders who are not in it for power but are empowered to act. VU Amsterdam is responding to these calls for change with A Broader Mind – an innovative new programme open to all VU Bachelor’s students. Hello Zuidas talked with Kirstin de Boer (programme manager) and Nynke Rodenhuis (institutional affairs) at VU Amsterdam.


An important driver of the a Broader Mind programme is a course
that centres on personal development and learning how to address societal and academic challenges, Kirstin explains. ‘The course is based around eight themes, including health, love and happiness. Students have to tackle a personal question and a societal question relating
to each theme. The activities take place both online and offline, in interdisciplinary groups. So for the theme of poverty, for example, the students go online to read about the way poverty affects people and about concepts like hidden poverty, their offline assignment is to live on a poverty-line budget for a week and to cook a low-budget dinner for a large group.’ Overall, says Nynke, ‘the aim of the programme is to inspire students to not only become “something”, but also to become “someone”. That means that when you graduate here, you have an awareness of who you are and of your strengths and weaknesses. These are things that often get overlooked, but in order to be successful in
a career, you need to know more than cold, hard facts. Our goal with
A Broader Mind is academic formation – academic in terms of the knowledge, and formation in terms of personal development.’


A Broader Mind trains personal skills like collaborating, debating frankly and incisively, reflecting on your own outlook and coping with pressure and stress. ‘Student burnouts have soared’, Kirstin points out. ‘And while taking this course won’t solve that, our focus on the theme of success has helped students and lecturers to be more attuned to their feelings. You’ll have a better understanding of your own feelings and learn how to cope with them.’ On the other hand, Nynke states that, ‘We also have many students who sail through their degree, without forming a clear idea of what they want to contribute to society. We hope this course will indeed broaden their outlook, so that they do know what they want by the time they graduate. VU Amsterdam is taking on a leading role in that respect.’

At the moment, VU Amsterdam is gearing up to launch A Broader Mind for Business. Applying Community Service Learning, another driver of the a Broader Mind programme, VU will closely collaborate with companies and societal partners, to offer students the opportunity to put academic knowledge into practice. Many companies that are concerned about how to tackle social dilemmas have already expressed an interest. To learn more, visit www.vu.nl/abroadermind.