Maastricht University (UM) celebrated the opening of the academic year on Monday 4 September 2017 by asking the question: ‘Can academics change the world?’ During the morning symposium, focusing on the action research approach in academic disciplines, six (all female) students (three Master’s and three PhD fellows) pitched their ideas for a project involving academic entrepreneurship.
In the Master’s category, the award went to Nrupaja Bhide, who just graduated from UNU-MERIT’s Master’s programme in Public Policy and Human Development (MPP). In the PhD category, Marieke Hopman, who is investigating the violation of child rights in several countries, including the Central African Republic, took the prize. Both winners received a cash award of 3,000 euros to carry out their projects. UM President Martin Paul said that all six stories showed “empathy and compassion for the people the research is done for, illustrating the societal engagement of UM students”.
The action research approach not only adds to existing knowledge but also has a positive impact on the subject of study. Prof. Shyama Ramani, a pioneer in this field at UNU-MERIT and UM, held an inspiring lecture about action research. She will support the winners in the implementation of their proposals. Ramani: “It has always struck me how women are over-represented in action research. This is about grassroots initiatives, and I think that doing good without the glory is more appealing to women than to men.”
A total of 16 proposals were submitted, out of which six finalists were chosen to pitch their ideas during the morning programme. “Picking the winners wasn’t an easy choice,” says Prof. Ramani, “because all six pitches were of high quality.” As part of efforts to embed action research firmly within UM, she is active in various UNU-MERIT projects designed to offer a platform to students with good ideas and to support local parties with university expertise.
Award-winning Master’s student: Nrupaja Bhide
The winner in the Master’s category, Nrupaja Bhide from India, saw that people in her native city, Pune, don’t do much in the way of waste separation, despite government policy supporting this. She hopes to be able to make a small step towards a cleaner India, first by investigating what prevents Pune residents from separating waste and then by providing them with easy-to-use composting techniques, including plants which they can grow on digestible organic waste material.
To begin with, Bhide says, the cash award will be sufficient to kickstart her project with around 25 households. This, she hopes, may have a snowball effect which will enable her to raise funds from other sources. The jury, composed of Prof. Shyama Ramani, Prof. Rob Bauer, Dr. Blanche Schroen and Sueli Brodin, were particularly impressed with Bhide’s deep commitment to her proposal and her personal experience with the subject in India. “I was a little afraid that the scale of my project might have been too small, so I was quite surprised that I won, and I’m very happy with the award,” said Bhide.
UM ; UNU / S.Brodin