Welcome to UMpowerment!
Do you want to realise your potential? Do you want to achieve your goals? Do you want to change society…?
Congratulations – you are about to enter the world of empowerment – or rather you are going to take off the blinders that might keep you from realising your true potential.
We have to admit: “realising your true potential” is an expression somewhat sewed off, a cliché often used and abused. We use it nevertheless as it captures what this conference is about: it is not about getting good grades or maybe just passing, it is not about performing and satisfying the norms and requirements established by other people – be it your friends, your family, your working colleagues, this university. Your potential is uniquely and truly yours and it is only You who can realise it.
Realising implies action – action you want to take on matters that matter to you. Empowerment has been written about and has been defined in abundance. Inspired by the capability approach of the Nobel-prize winning Indian economist Amartya Sen we developed following working definition:
"Empowerment is the process in which people acquire the ability to envision a rich range of alternatives and the ability to achieve the chosen one."
Empowerment can be individual or social and mostly it is both. We are all parts of different kinds of communities but we all share that we belong to the community of the University of Maastricht (UM). In abstract terms, the UM is an institution of higher education. Higher education is not only about “the pursuit of truth”, it is also about the “practice of virtue” (cf.: Procee, 2004). During he Europtop Conference organised by the UM half a year ago it was emphasised that “the quality of a university’s education lies in is ability to fulfil the expectations, potential and aspirations of its students. It should help them reach their potential and challenge them to pursue new aspirations to be fulfilled”.
Empowerment is an offer you have to make to yourself. This offer becomes more interesting though when supported by other people. At the UM there are already a good number of initiatives that are truly empowered. (For a non-exhaustive selection of such initiatives see our section on Testimonials). Also, the UM philosophy on student centred learning – the notorious Problem-Based-Learning- is a feeding-ground for empowerment to be recognised. See the section on student-initiated learning for inspiration how to take this a significant step further.
“Jack in the Box”
The UM infrastructure stimulating empowerment is, however, only one side of the coin. The other side is You and Your ability to envision – to envision change which allows for empowerment. Envision means questioning the status quo, to be able to think out of the box. We believe that this ability to envision cannot be conveyed in a lecture, nor can it be studied from a book. It must be experienced – lived – just like empowerment and it is for this reason that we offer four hands on workshops during the conference. (see conference programme)
The time is NOW!
The place is HERE!
The person is YOU!