The innovative pilot project inspired students, stakeholders and mission guides from across Europe at the kick-off event
During a three-day kick-off event at the end of last year, participants from across Europe came together to meet their fellow group members, their academic mission guides and external stakeholders. Due to the pandemic situation, the kick-off event unfortunately had to be shifted to an online event, but the circumstances did not detract from the great atmosphere and the lively exchange of ideas. We at EPICUR had the chance to talk with several participants of the Kick-off event about their impressions.
The Kick-off event
With 21 participants consisting of students, mission guides and stakeholders, “the high level of student engagement, the great atmosphere overall and the curious, excitable and simply awesome students”, made the event a great kick-off experience, says Mathias Hempfling, EPICUR Freiburg mission supporter, who co-developed the mission concept, took care of logistic tasks and hosted the kick-off event. Sharing these impressions, Andrew Heinz, bachelor student and member of the foundersclub in Freiburg, points out that the Kick-off event was very well organised and that the mission guides “made the environment quickly comfortable, which enabled the team to get along very well.” What was “particularly exciting about the event”, Ivan Acimovic, lead of the smart city project and staff member of department of digitalisation and IT (DIGIT) at the City of Freiburg, adds, “was getting to know the students interdisciplinary and cultural backgrounds and individual experiences they brought with them.” “I hope”, he continues, “that we were also able to arouse interest, e.g. in doing an internship with us, if that’s possible.”
Education and collaboration across disciplinary boundaries
Stephanie Pleasants, student at the University of Freiburg and Crew member in the EPIC Missions says she applied for the EPIC Mission because she wanted “more practical, hands-on experience”. Especially the “(…) possibility of working with people from multiple universities and students from all over the world – Korea, India, Thailand, Greece, the U.S. etc. can bring a cornucopia of experience and perspectives to this mission.” She points out that – while the CoVid-19 pandemic has prevented people from coming together, she is “excited to have this opportunity to finally collaborate with other students and hopefully to build upon (her) professional experience.” In addition, the international and interdisciplinary aspects of the EPIC Missions project are of great value, as Andrew Heinz explains: “These aspects also enticed me to join, allowing me to work alongside various students under the EPICUR association.” Stefanie Klose, one of the EPIC Mission guides explains, that “in this innovative concept, stakeholders can get a group of students working on one of their challenges. Since it’s an international and interdisciplinary group of students they also might get a broader perspective on the challenge than they usually would get. Students can gain many skills by working in an interdisciplinary, international team on a real-life challenge. They show active citizenship and hopefully gain valuable experience preparing them for future learning experiences.”
“Apart from tackling real-world challenges, the Missions offer the opportunity to implicitly build transversal competences required in today’s world of work, e.g. successfully collaborating as a virtual team. This includes a reflective use of appropriate project management approaches and collaborative tools”, Dorthe Hutz-Nierhoff, Digital Learning Designer and Consultant for EPICUR in Freiburg, who has been working on creating a motivating and user-friendly virtual learning environment for the EPIC Missions, says. During the Kick-off event, she provided an introduction to agile project management and agile learning (eduSCRUM) and suggested appropriate collaborative tools. The interesting thing about the EPIC Missions is that “learning happens as a by-product of tackling real-world issues while working as a team across boarders”, stresses Mathias Hempfling.
Added value for students and stakeholders
With two EPIC Missions offered, EPICUR is very happy to have the City of Freiburg (DIGIT) and the Carl-Schurz-Haus Freiburg on board. Friederike Schulte, director of the Carl-Schurz-Haus Freiburg, who has worked in the transatlantic field for over 20 years now and has joined the EPIC Mission as a stakeholder, stresses the importance “to enhance the understanding of what our work at the Carl-Schurz-Haus is. Having the impression that students that come to us as interns have the wrong ideas about what our work entails/encompasses”, she hopes that “students will gain insight into different work fields that could help shape and focus their career plans. That way, both job-seeking graduates and employers will profit from such a program. I am also interested in advocating among students for the power of culture/fostering cultural understanding and for going into the non-profit-sector as a very fulfilling and meaningful career option.” Dr. Renate Häuslschmid, coordinator for the DIGIT project at the city of Freiburg, is especially interested in the interface between smart city and sustainability and explains that “you can see that there is a new generation of students here who have different backgrounds, ideas and perspectives. Here I hope to learn more about the students’ perspectives and approaches as possible. Through the mission we want to go deeper into the topic than we could do so far and look specifically at the connections. How can we really make our smart city sustainable? I also really appreciate the contact with students, because their motivation really inspires us, too.” Even for the students, the interaction with stakeholders is of great importance, as Andrew Heinz continues: “To me, this interaction between stakeholder, students and EPICUR aims to ignite a collaboration between people representing various backgrounds and various specialisations.”
EPIC Missions – what´s next?
„It will depend on how much contact and feedback the students want and need, be it at the closing event or frequently throughout mission phase itself, etc. », Renate Häuslschmid states. We are still in contact with the students and are happy to provide support, because we are of course interested in giving the students a good time and also that there is a learning effect, the exchange with stakeholders is actively designed and the motivation remains ». Ivan Acimovic joins this thought saying that “the program is great and motivates you to contribute in this direction.” Happy to be part of the pilot-group, participants expressed their wish for more missions like these first ones to follow.
Find out more about the EPIC Missions here.
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Contact: Katharina Kiefel // EPICUR Communications // University of Freiburg // Email: firstname.lastname@example.org