Paradigm Shift: Science Shop Connects Responsible Research to Civic Needs
Practitioners believe that this “designed cooperation” approach is not only viable for higher education, but it also involves community-engaged practices that create real-world impacts. Additionally, these practices have been proven to boost student motivation and the development of a range of essential skills and competences that are hard to acquire in traditional teaching.
CEU’s Community Engagement Office recently reported on Science Shop’s first year, in which six courses, eight internships, and one thesis were produced in partnership with European Humanities University (EHU) in Lithuania.
Science Shop facilitates collaboration between citizens, civil society organizations (CSOs), public entities and CEU by transforming CSO requests for research-based data into course projects, internships, thesis work, or other academic research collaborations. The collaborations serve community partners as well as CEU, with the university offering coordination and support while it stimulates co-creation and mutual learning for all involved.
Producing a Roma Music Festival in a Hungarian Village
One project involved a Civic Engagement course co-created with Jelenlet Jesuit Roma Mission in Arlo, Northeast Hungary and Teach for Austria, educating students on civic and social responsibility by allowing them to co-design a project that actually functions in the real world. The goal was to design an event that brought together people and cultures that would not have met otherwise, shedding light on the positive values of Roma culture and showing the importance of music and dance in intercultural communication and positive identity-building.
During spring of 2022, a student team organized a two-day musical festival in Arlo and documented it on video. “Seeing the smiles of the 400 people who eventually turned out at the festival and hearing that after the festival, dozens of local children approached Jelenlet so they could learn music within their subproject, Szimfonia; and seeing locals dancing to live Roma music with people from outside the continent – all of these made us feel that this was indeed meaningful, something that is worth working for,” says one of the students. “Importantly, this project helped us put our studies into context and explain why it’s worth studying what we study.”
Sharing Cultural Heritage through the Arts in Vienna
The Cultural Heritage and Event Management Project with Teach for Austria and Mittelschule Absberggasse introduced the basic elements of managing cultural identity initiatives. Students developed a heritage interpretation project within the Cultural Heritage Studies Program, supported by CEU Culture Hub, and working with the community partner Teach for Austria (TfA), an NGO that advances education equality. With the help of TfA, students worked with a school in the Favoriten district to engage children in dialogue about their cultural heritage through art. The goal was to learn together in a way that is empowering and different from elitist or monocultural ideas about what heritage is – and express this through the arts.
Students organized workshops in which schoolchildren shared their ideas about objects and intangible mediums linked to heritage: photos, stories, songs, clothing, food, jewelry, religious iconography, and decorative items. Students and children also shared with each other objects and photos from their heritages and then assembled collages. This activity was followed by a discussion on stereotyping, nationalism, and mass media. Collages were then exhibited in a ground-floor “Glassroom” of the CEU campus, visible to passersby on the street, giving the class a chance to share their cultural identity with the Favoriten community.
OSUN Science Shop Manager Andras Martoni says the initiative’s purposes are two-fold: making higher education resources accessible to a wider public while bringing the complexity and relevance of contemporary civil society cases to CEU’s courses and student projects. “We think of community engagement as a third mission of the university alongside education and research,” he says. The collaborations are motivated by a desire for the university and civil society organizations to learn from each other, he adds, pointing out that co-created knowledge is unique and made possible by the diverse experiences and perspectives of those involved. In Science Shop collaborations, academic knowledge and the experience of field practitioners are treated as equally valuable.
Faculty may embed a research question from the partnering civil society organization into course work. The student output then doubles, serving not only as coursework but also as applicable data and proposals going back to the civil society organizations. Martoni acknowledges that while course planning with an external partner may entail more initial work, the learning becomes richer by integrating the experiences of local practitioners.
“Universities can sometimes extract information from communities, using sources via interviews and focus groups for research purposes alone. After working together it’s common for the researcher to take away the findings and never come back,” Martoni points out. “Shifting the paradigm, Science Shop is very much connected to responsible research and innovation, providing a mutual benefit relationship.”
Post Date: 07-29-2022