Towards an engaged European University: Lessons on social inclusion and open research from SNSPA
CIVICA aims to have an impact on society beyond academia. To learn about best practices, we looked at existing experiences across CIVICA. Three professors from SNSPA in Romania talk to us about their current projects and what to consider when dealing with a diversified student community.
Actions require attention to the local context, clear objectives, and coordinated activities. Among the top identified priorities are strengthening citizen's knowledge and promoting access to higher education. On the one hand, this means raising people’s awareness of timely topics through social science research, as if they were successfully attending the classes of a prestigious global university, a "University for All." On the other hand, this also means helping high school students understand what to expect when they are about to enter higher education.
To learn about best practices, we looked at existing experiences across CIVICA. At SNSPA in Romania, these two aims are embraced in three current projects run by professors Mihaela Cărăușan, Cătălin Vrabie, and Alina Dragolea. We asked them what to consider when dealing with a diversified student community.
CIVICA acknowledges that our student community is quite diverse. At times, there are serious challenges to consider and a need for particular teaching approaches to help certain students feel closer to university life and to overcome vulnerabilitiesin different learning skills and environments. How do you tackle these challenges in SNSPA?
Mihaela Cărăușan, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Public Administration - SNSPA
We have recently started working on a new program called ExpertInAdmin[info in Romanian], where we assist bachelor students in public administration who find it difficult to interact with our professors to prepare their assignments and, ultimately, to stay in school and enjoy their academic life to the fullest. Our team uses a series of remedial activities, counselling, guidance, and support services, as well as experiential and non-formal education to reduce dropout and assist the most vulnerable in finding a right career path. We created an Experiential Learning Laboratory in Administration, a "friendly" learning space equipped with top-notch technological equipment where we use role-playing games and team exercises. We strive to improve our students' career prospects.
Alina Dragolea, lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science - SNSPA
#StudentAtSNSPA [info in Romanian] aims to deepen the understanding of social inclusion as one of the core values of our university. We explore what concrete steps need to be taken to increase access to higher education, especially for young people coming from a disadvantaged background. Also, how can the university further support the successful and equitable transition to the labour market of our students, irrespective of socio-demographic background? Due to the pandemic context, we organised a series of online meetings with senior year high school students to present the university and our forms of support for those from disadvantaged backgrounds: scholarships, financial aid and housing. We met with over 300 people located in rural areas and small cities in Romania. Furthermore, we started collecting data to begin designing a mentoring programme for our future students.
Cătălin Vrabie, lecturer at the Faculty of Public Administration - SNSPA
Our university is mentoring students who show a real talent for the study of social sciences and digital governance. The International Governance Student Competition aims at stimulating and harnessing the imagination and creativity of all students interested in social innovation, sustainable development and smart cities. Since 2015, we awarded the most creative solutions, policy drafts and research papers coming from bachelor and master's students. In doing so, we managed to form a community of enthusiasts interested in finding answers to the most complex problems of our current society.
Written by Cătălin Mosoia (SNSPA)
Photos: Mihaela Cărăușan is Deputy Dean, the Faculty of Public Administration - SNSPA, and manager of ExpertInAdmin, a project financed by The Romanian Secondary Education Project – ROSE.
Alina Dragolea is a lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science - SNSPA, and manager of #StudentAtSNSPA: a non-exclusionary education for success on the labour market, a project financed by the Romanian Council for the Financing of Higher Education.
Cătălin Vrabie is a lecturer at the Faculty of Public Administration – SNSPA, and coordinator of the International Governance Student Competition.