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These are the 10 nominated ideas of 2021

UvA Create a Course Challenge

Below, you can read, in alphabetical order, which 10 ideas have been selected. All UvA students and staff could vote once on their top 3 until 17 November at 12:00 pm (noon). The five ideas with the most votes will proceed to the grand finale on Thursday 25 November.

1. Another Type of Social Inclusion within the University Space

By Alina-Mihaela Olareanu & Ionita Irina-Maria, Bachelor's students in European Studies

Do you think the UvA offers equal opportunities to all of its students? What about those that are cognitively or physically impaired? How do you talk to them and more importantly, how do you talk about them? Which discourse is right to use in this context? And how can we further improve social inclusion in our university and society? This course brings a hands-on approach to the issue of social integration by looking at how suitable and welcoming the UvA is for the other-abled students. We invite you to visit the university campuses, and critically assess the existing policies on this matter. This way, you will become more aware of how inclusive UvA is designed to be. By the end of this course, you will come up with ideas on how these policies could be improved. Being taught by teachers from different disciplines, the course provides you with a more encompassing perspective on social inclusion.

2. Conflict, Peace and Me

By Henry Kurze, Bachelor’s student in Politics, Psychology, Law & Economics

“They are wrong, I am right, and they have to change or else!” In major conflicts, it seems normal to antagonise our opponents, highlight their wrongs and stand up for what we believe in with a “we-versus-them” mentality. Although perhaps justified, our anger, disgust or even hate poison us and threaten a peaceful solution. This course will teach you to become aware of our human motives, feelings, and beliefs that set us up for hostility based on underlying psychological and social mechanisms. Then, you will encounter and discuss a variety of approaches, philosophical and practical, to reclaim your cool and levelheadedness. You will learn how to analyse and deescalate a conflict situation, and, most importantly, reflect on how you get there in the first place. In summary, you will learn to be part of the resolution, not the conflict.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

3. Corporate Autocracies & the Internet

By Barbora Bromová, Bachelor’s student in Politics, Psychology, Law & Economics

We spend a lot of our time online - working, shopping, playing, catching up on the news, forming our political identities, talking to our friends and foes. We feel restless when the connection is down – be it due to a global outage or a cable we misplaced. Yet how much do we actually know about the Internet? Do we understand how it works, and who makes the rules in this elusive semi-public space?  

This course aims to enhance students’ understanding of the online spaces they occupy, complete with their politics, incentive structures, and social implications. Throughout, the proposed course will tap into technical, legal, psychological, and economic perspectives on the digital revolution, and discuss the important yet inconspicuous ways through which technological corporations structure our experiences of the Internet on the individual as well as broader social scale. 

4. Decolonising our Future: Creating Solutions to Protect and Sustain the World 

By Sara Baheta, Clara, Laura & Chris, Research Master’s students in International Development

POV: You are scrolling on your phone, and you come across a post of an unexpected climate disaster in another city. You lay there hopeless wondering how you, an individual, can even begin to help or support an issue that seems so big and so far away. From global pandemics to wealth inequalities to climate change, our generation is struggling to understand where and how to start solving these issues. Although this course does not offer a direct answer to these questions, it equips you with the skills necessary to begin taking the initiative. Decolonisation, as a concept, questions dominant ‘Western’ bias in our understanding of the world and challenges us to destroy current hierarchies. In this course, you will be provided with an interdisciplinary introduction to the topic of decolonisation through 5 different themes: race and migration, global economics, sustainability and climate change, gender and sexuality, and digital culture and technology. Because what if you actually can solve these issues and all you need is a different foundation of learning, one that transcends western values and allows you to create the life you imagined when you were a child?

5. Decolonising Yoga: Prospects for a Better Humanity

By Gionata Bouché, Research Master’s student in Information Law

Yoga is now a mass phenomenon in the West. In search of well-being, millions of people dedicate hours of their weekly time in studios and parks to the execution of physical and breathing exercises. Rarely, however, is Yoga associated with the vast body of spiritual, philosophical and psychological inquiries lying at the roots of such practice. In this course, students will undertake a fully immersive journey to the discovery of one of India and mankind’s most longevous and deepest traditions with a practice-oriented approach. The course will allow students to bridge the millennial wisdom of Yoga with the needs of modern generations, focusing on some of the greatest challenges dominating the public debate, such as (mental) health and healthcare, environmental sustainability, and gender identity. With the help of a diverse team of lecturers, including Indian and Western academics, health professionals, rural communities, preachers and Yoga teachers, the course will employ a set of innovative learning experiences to revisit the underlying assumptions of Western approaches to these issues through the eyes of Yogis-in-the-making. Participation in the curricular and extracurricular activities will indeed proceed in parallel with a self-reflective path through which students will learn to integrate Yoga principles and practices into their lives, with the hope of growing into better persons.

6. “Everything is some kind of plot, man”: A Critical Perspective on Conspiracy Theories

By Leonie von Platen, Bachelor’s student in Politics, Psychology, Law & Economics

While conspiracy theories seem to be virtually omnipresent in the age of social media, history is witness to the potential breadth and impact of classic examples such as the moon landing hoax, water-gate, 9/11. For as long as they’ve existed, conspiracy theories have been laughed off by mainstream media; yet their story-telling power and psychological underpinnings are not to be underestimated. This course seeks to investigate the complex nature of conspiracies by asking: Who believes in conspiracy theories? How is a certain narrative maintained across people and contexts? What role does fear play? The aim is to approach the phenomenon with respect and without making normative judgements while feeding a curiosity for uncovering the inner mechanisms and functions of conspiracy theories. Will you fall down the rabbit hole?

7. Managing your Finances

By Andra Huidu, pre-Master’s student in Communication Science

“Managing your Finances”consists of a complete guide in managing one's money from the first day of starting university. It is a practical, hands-on course with a self-study rhythm on a weekly basis. The course combines Finance, Fintech, Economics, Sustainability, Ethics and History and applies these to modern times. The course teaches you how to manage your money, including short-term financial goals wanted, building a budget, establishing an emergency fund, building a credit score while avoiding debt, saving for a long-term strategy towards retirement, investing ways and property purchases, as well as looking at pension schemes and insurance. All these aspects are tackled, while understanding how the financial world works, through the Bloomberg Market Concepts course, as well as other very interesting resources that could be further used in one’s career. There are short assessments on a weekly basis and interactive sessions with university and external lecturers on a biweekly basis. 

8. Patents, Power and Public Health: Access to Medicines in an Interdisciplinary Perspective

By Sarai Keestra, Bachelor’s student in Medicine

What responsibilities do universities have in addressing health inequalities? Can we radically rethink our biomedical innovation system post-pandemically? This action-oriented course bridges economics, biomedicine, law, and global health examining why our profit-driven R&D model is not delivering affordable drugs where innovations are desperately needed, such as neglected tropical diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and pathogens of pandemic importance. It will critically examine (1.) inherent biases in medical research, in which someone from a western, industrialised country is 37x likelier to be included in a medical study, (2.) why two billion people lack access to essential medicines and <3% of people in low-income countries received COVID-19 vaccines, (3.) activists’ role in protecting the right to health during pandemics. Bringing in lecturers from beyond academia (e.g. WHO, Doctors Without Borders, Third World Network) this course dares to explore what reimagining our innovation system means in practice, stimulating students to propose creative solutions.

9. Sustain the Chain

By Jesse Kommandeur & Wouter Knibbe, Bachelor’s students in Information Sciences

With their wealth, the rich create high-demand services on top of freely available infrastructure and knowledge provided by society. However, strict confidentiality contracts and copyright block society from building upon these services. Blockchain makes all contributions open-source, allowing society to build as it pleases while being able to pay the creators. One of the biggest challenges in making this future reality is mass adoption.

That is where you come in.

Interdisciplinary students can help bridge the gap between the technical world of blockchain and the everyday world. We need psychologists to understand the needs of both sides, sociologists to help guide the masses to the right solutions, and communicators to help say things in the right way. Collaborate with us to combine your skills with our knowledge of computers, networks, and blockchain. Together we will be able to bring people together out of the two worlds.

10. Thinking “Modernity” through Eight Everyday Objects

By: Kristina Domna Papadopoulou, Bachelor’s student in Political Science

The concept of “modernity” remains a point of dispute. While some argue that technological change and globalisation have transitioned us from a period of ‘modernity’ to ‘postmodernity’, others contest that we are simply experiencing an epochal shift. Nevertheless, modernity is interwoven in a frequently decisive dialogue with capitalism, due to the forms of subjectivity it presupposes and provides the vehicle of generalizing. This course focuses on objects representative of the “everyday” in providing an analytical window into modernity. By first exploring fossil fuels such as oil and the colonial background of sugar, the course will move on to more tangible objects such as the clock and pharmaceuticals. These will finally culminate into “material” culture such as the passport, credit card, and mobile phone. How does the notion of “value” affect our everyday life? In which ways do liberty and discipline interact within the context of “modernity”? And, how do these ontological assumptions relate to present-day economic and ecological issues?