by Farah Kools
The Graduate School of Life Sciences and Career Services of Utrecht University developed a new course in 2017 called ‘Co-Create: Life’s Professional Challenges’. This two-week full-time elective came forth from the ‘Educational Challenge 2015’ and the ‘EduChallenge 2016’ which were 2.5day hackathons during which small groups of students from different faculties were challenged to think about forms of educational innovation and to pitch their ideas in front of a professional jury. The format was elongated into a yearly full course schedule and focuses on solving a different real-world problem with each run brought in by the Municipality of Utrecht, thereby connecting the university with the city and directly utilizing academic knowledge for maximal societal impact. Students, staff, and other stakeholders have received these ‘Challenges’ with great enthusiasm, appreciating the strengths of interdisciplinary collaboration towards a shared goal while simultaneously helping students develop non-content related soft skills in preparation for their future.
Within the PATHWAY Project, the Educhallenge serves a similar purpose. It will be integrated into the yearly Eureka summer school, ‘Translational Medicine: Doing the Right Research Right’, hosted by Utrecht University which welcomes early career clinician-scientists and life-scientists from around the world to an intense week of sessions and discussions about the current (bio)medical research landscape. During one afternoon of the packed program, small groups of students will be challenged with existing complex medical issues and have to navigate the intricate translational minefield to come up with solutions that suit all stakeholders (patients, academia, industry, and policy). By looking at these issues from different perspectives, students are put in touch with real-world scenario’s that they will have to successfully transverse on their way to becoming successful translational scientists. Apart from bundling their diverse expertise, students also work on their individual professional soft skills making the Educhallenge a very versatile educational tool.