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Building blocks for diversity

01 April 2020

Building blocks for diversity

This project researches what role diversity plays in university education with the help of Arts Based Research. The project aimed to make refugee students’ experiences visible, audible and tangible. Among other things, the project resulted in a mobile exhibition “Journeys into Diversity” and several workshops with which the dialogue on the improvement of diversity and inclusion are supported.

Download the complete Project proposal Building blocks for diversity
Download the final report

Project description & goals

This USO-project addresses the issue of inclusive diversity and explores how the UU can keep on board students from different ethnicities, religions, socio-economic classes, ages, genders and abilities. The project used an Arts Based Research (ABR) as an innovative educational tool to explore how diversity plays out in the UU educational context. The InclUUsion project, which offers refugee students access to UU courses, was used as a case study.

The project made visible, audible, and tangible the journeys, experiences, and ambitions of refugee students who embody diversity in terms of religious and ethnic identity, socio-economic class, race, age, gender, and educational habitus. By engaging refugee students in digital storytelling and other ABR methods, and involving their teachers and their fellow students in the process, spaces are created for refugee students to claim their presence and their right to speak in the UU educational context.

Results

  • Exhibition ‘Journeys into Diversity:

    The exhibition – curated by Mary Bouquet in cooperation with Alexandra Barancova and designed by Henk de Haan – was on display twice at the Uithof: 18th-29th March in the foyer of the Administration Building (Bestuursgebouw) and 17th-28th June in the Koningsberger Building (Koningsbergergebouw). Sites where announcements about the exhibition were made included the UU Intranet, the Incluusion website, the UU diversity webpage and the TAUU website. The exhibition comprises photos, drawings, videos, objects, and paintings made or brought by refugee students, their fellow students, and teachers. It made visible and tangible the experiences in and around UU education, related to the question: ‘What does diversity mean within UU?’. The exhibition illustrated the wide variety of experiences in and around UU education through photographs, texts, drawings, paintings, quotes (from conversations) and objects that were made or brought by refugee students, their fellow students and teachers. The title of the exhibition expresses one of the ways in which diversity is shaped; by the paths walked and roads traveled, including all transitions, inclusion and exclusion.5

  • Workshop ‘Arts-based approaches to diversity:

    The exhibition was accompanied by a series of four workshops entitled “Arts-based Approaches to Diversity”. The objective of these workshops was two-fold. On the one hand, participants were guided through the exhibition. We explained how the broad range of exhibited items had come together and invited the participants to reflect on and react to the concrete and complex image of diversity illustrated. On the other hand, the workshops were also geared towards familiarising the participants themselves with using an arts-based methodology as a means of gaining a better understanding of diverse educational environments. The participants got to know (some of) the diversity of backgrounds among the group through a bottom-up approach, as well as the potential of this approach in exploring the dynamics of diversity.

Originally we had planned to create a digital platform that would – among other things – create space for digital storytelling. Given that the approved budget was limited, this part of our plan had unfortunately had to be abandoned. During her visit to the exhibition in the Administration Building however, we met dr. Ioanna Lykourentzou from the Information and Computer Science department.

Under her supervision, a group of first year Honours students set up a ‘digital interactive application’ in the form of a website and smartphone app. As a result, the exhibition collection is now digitally documented and accessible: ​Making Journeys​. Additionally, the website serves as a possibility to supplement the collection with new material. There is – of course – also room for reactions, thoughts and contributions from visitors to continue the dialogue. As a means of following up on this USO project, our project team member Alexandra Barancova will be managing the digital collection in 2019/2020 and further develop the dimension of dialogue on the platform.

Conclusion

Diversity is an abstract concept, which we have attempted to concretise through visualising and materialising it. This not only through objects and exhibition items themselves, but also through a physical presence – in-between the entrance hall, study spots, coffee machines, the reception and staff room. With this approach, we give space and form to diversity in the UU context, in order to initiate dialogues and learn to see diversity as an opportunity rather than an extra burden to the already overloaded teachers’ lives. “Transform the many existing differences among students into a value in education; when differences are named and used, diverging from the norm is no longer a problem of the minority, but becomes a resource that everybody can benefit from,” Berteke Waaldijk, Leoniek Wijngaards, Jan ten Thije and Jan Hogendijk wrote on the issue of inclusive diversity in the aftermath of the 2016 Education Conference (Waaldijk e.a. 2016) .

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