#UNWRAPPED: promoting unity through diversity

If you are a frequent visitor of the Polak building, you have probably seen a mysterious whiteboard pop up near its entrance not too long ago. “Diversity is…”, it said, inviting curious passers-by to share their thoughts on the topic. And share their thoughts they did: after a few days, the board was full of ideas, comments and opinions. Last week, the initiative was claimed by a local student-led social movement called #UNWRAPPED. In April, this movement gained presence on social media, and now they are moving offline. Who are the people behind all this, and what do they want to achieve? We spoke with IBCoMmers Inge Wessels (BA-3) and Wei Wha Xu (BA-2) to learn more.

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The #UNWRAPPED team consists of eight EUR students who came together in February and have since worked together to build an online platform to fight extremism and division and to create awareness of the benefits of diversity. Both Inge and Wei Wha are part of the social media team, where they discuss and implement social media strategies and create online content. Inge explains where #UNWRAPPED came from. “It’s part of a worldwide initiative aimed at fighting extremism through online campaigning, and Erasmus University wanted to set it up here. Indira Gerards and Etienne Augé posted about it on Facebook, and we just responded.” Wei Wha: “Officially, they are our supervisors. But we are encouraged to do things autonomously, because in the end, it’s a student-based project. We have the authority to do what we think is best, in the social media team as well. As long as we stick to the strategies we came up with together, of course.”

Although the team contains members from all across the university, our programme is well represented with no less than three out of ten members. Perhaps because much of what #UNWRAPPED does is very much in line with IBCoM. With its diversity theme, of course, but also as a social media campaigning project. Indeed, Wei Wha joined the project primarily to put the knowledge he gained about media campaigns and communication into practice. “I’m interested in how media can influence people, and for that, #UNWRAPPED is a great learning opportunity.” Inge: “I’m really happy there are people from other courses in our team too, though. Everyone has different insights and skills. For example, we have someone from IBA who is really good with money and numbers, which is something most IBCoMmers don’t enjoy. It’s good to have that kind of diversity.”

These kinds of perks of diversity is what #UNWRAPPED is all about. Inge explains: “We want people to see that everyone is unique and can bring great things to the table, but also that this uniqueness makes us all similar again. A lot of people think in terms of ‘us vs. them’ and fear the unknown other, and we want to change that. Because you never know what beautiful things other people have to offer. #UNWRAPPED is a platform to make that happen, by bringing people together from all sorts of backgrounds.”

A nice idea, but how does that look in practice? Right now, the team mainly focuses on its Unwrapped picture 3live event that will take place on the 29th of May. Wei Wha: “There will be three speakers who talk about the wins of diversity in academia, business, and society, as well as a fun social experiment and drinks.” A social experiment? That sounds exciting! “With the experiment we want to show that thinking in boxes is not the way to go, but that’s all we can say for now. Just come and see for yourself!”

But #UNWRAPPED is doing more, especially on social media. Inge: “We recently organised two photo shoots, and we regularly post a column on our Facebook page where a student explains what diversity means to them. Wei Wha adds: “Everyone can contribute and share their own stories of how diversity improves their life. That’s also the purpose of the whiteboard: it’s a means for people to get involved. To share freely what they have to say about the issue.”

With all these initiatives, the #UNWRAPPED team hopes to first create awareness of the benefits of diversity and the us vs. them mentality, and then to appreciate diversity and actually do something with this information. Wei Wha: “We focus mostly on students, because they have a lot of potential later in life. We hope they will bring their awareness with them in their work lives and use their influence to help fight extremism and promote diversity.” Although it’s still very early, the movement seems to be doing very well. “We notice that people actually want to get involved, they are very enthusiastic about the cause. The whiteboard was full within a couple of days, we get a lot of columns, and we get a lot of help from inside and outside the university as well. We recently got mayor Aboutaleb to help us out, that was amazing.”

Did you get excited to contribute, too? There’s a few things you can do. Follow the project on Facebook, visit the live event on Monday or contact Inge or Wei Wha for a column, for example. Or stay tuned for opportunities to join the team, as some positions may become available when members of #UNWRAPPED have to leave for masters or internships next year. And don’t forget about the little things. “Keep an open mind”, says Wei Wha, and Inge wholeheartedly agrees. “You have no idea what someone can bring to the table.” They may have a lot to offer, no matter what you see on the surface.”

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Humans of IBCoM – Julia de Vogel

Ever since I found out that lecturer Julia De Vogel used to be an IBCoM student, I knew her story was definitely one to share! Wanting to know more about her IBCoM journey, this week I finally got the chance to interview her about about what it’s like to go from former student to present lecturer. Here is Julia’s story:

Julia is from the Netherlands, from a small town between Dordrecht and Rotterdam. She studied IBCoM because she enjoyed writing and the idea of improving her English. During her three years in the programme, the best thing about it was “how all the prejudices and stereotypes you have disappear from day one onwards”. As a lecturer, Julia says she loves that she is still in an international environment, because she knew she was going to miss that if she left.

Julia explained she never studied communication to become a lecturer specifically. It all came about when she was writing her master thesis and a friend informed her of a vacancy. As she had previous experience with tutoring, she figured she would give it a go and try teaching a class. She applied for the lecturing position and then, next thing you know, in September 2016 she was back in IBCoM. But this time as a lecturer.

I wondered if it was weird to go from sitting at a desk as a student to standing in front of the classroom and controlling it as a lecturer. “It wasn’t weird actually. Because of the teaching experience I had, but also HOI - Juliabecause I feel like I know what students are going through. I’ve done most of the assignments already, read the textbooks, did the exams, so I feel like that makes my job a little easier. I hope I can empathise with people better because I know what it’s like. Other than that I just do it!”

Talking about her first day and how teaching went, it turns out that I was in the first class of Academic Skills that she taught! If you were to ask me how well she did, I would tell you she did perfectly – but I may be a little biased 😉 Julia revealed that she was nervous, “but of course you cannot show that. I just prepared and followed my slides.”

The difference between Student Julia and Lecturer Julia? “The biggest difference is not having homework, but now I have to do the grading. Luckily on the weekend whilst you are writing papers, I don’t have to do gradings! I still have to do the readings and stuff so that doesn’t disappear.” Chuckling a little, she also answered  “I earn a living now so thats a big difference from being a poor student. I still have my student friends though, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

Now that she is a lecturer and has the insights and access to the backstage of IBCoM, I asked Julia whether there was anything she took for granted as a student that she doesn’t anymore. One thing that she mentioned was the amount of work that lecturers go through. “There are meetings every week where all the lecturers of the course come together to talk about the best approaches, how to develop slides and everything.  It takes a lot of time and we do our best to find examples. I never thought about that as a student.”

Julia’s favourite thing about being a lecturer is to be part of student life a little. “I like talking to students and hearing their stories as well as have a positive contribution to their university degree. This is my first job and I’m happy to go to work every day, to hopefully benefit students with my teaching and to learn something.”

The lovely interview ended with Julia giving us two pieces of advice. From a student perspective, Julia suggests: “Plan as well as you can, even though it’s hard to work in advance. I enjoyed my student life a lot more because I was able to start things and finish them on time, and could enjoy things a lot more without a deadline in the back of my mind.” From a lecturer’s perspective, Julia persists students should pay attention to grading rubrics, “because so often students leave out things that could have easily been included!”

Curious for more insight, I asked Julia’s fellow lecturer and colleague Vasiliki, who was listening in on the interview, how she is as a colleague and lecturer. Much to Julia’s surprise, Vasiliki admitted that during the previous weeks they had been talking about giving Julia an award or building a statue for her to show how grateful they were. “She is always really helpful and a problem solver! She’s very reflective and great with the teaching material.” “That so sweet!” Julia replied with fake tears of joy.

This was her story, thank you so much to Julia for sharing!

The New Fashion Society Annual Fashion Show 2017

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Feeling like an intern for the Devil Wears Prada high fashion magazine agency, on Tuesday night I got to attend the New Fashion Society’s Annual Fashion Show. Situated at the Witte de Withstraat in the famous NRC cafe known for it big glowing lights, I followed the beautiful people who were dressed to impress into the big entrance, where we were wel-comed with a goodie bag and drinks.

The cafe that is usually filled with crowds and pre-drinkers was turned into a modern space with a DJ booth and catwalk going all around. After everyone took their seats, the show began as models walked the stage and exhibited the designers creations along to music played by the DJ. The central theme of the fashion show this year was Revolution, and the lucky designers who go to present their collections were Laura Meijering, Yuki Ito, Evy Papa, Beata Micialkiewicz, Agne Alburdaite, Mariana Zinga, Hyoseon Jang and An-newil Ravensbergen.

Each creator brought a unique aspect and the whole show was a beautiful art piece that incorporated a variety of designs, followed by fitting music and great vibes. For Yuki Ito’s collection for example, eccentric music played as male models wore futuristic and dysto-pian looks featuring grey tones and dark hues. In contrast, Beata Micialkiewicz’s collection consisted of models wearing white and nude tones, with some female models sporting translucent black fabric over their eyes. Inspired by psychiatric hospitals as stated on Be-ata’s website, the collection entitled Hysteria was modelled as hard electric guitars sounds played in the background. This juxtaposition created a collective whole. Beginning with “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, the poppy music created a happy mood as Mariana Zinga’s collection featuring African patterns with popping colours and intricate designs, were presented by smiling models. After 8 rounds of collections, the show ended with de-signers taking the stage with their models, followed by rounds of applause.

This whole beautiful event that left audiences pleased and satisfied was planned and orga-nised by fellow IBCoMMER Goda Šiugždinytė! As the event manager of the NFS board, her team and her worked hard on making their vision become a reality. Asking how she managed, Goda explained that together with her team they started brainstorming for the fashion show in November and thought about the concept of the show. The real planning began in January as they started looking for the location. Though it took a while, NRC worked as a great place! At the same time, they searched for designers by looking at “so-cial media pages, previous show groups and design academies”. Once that was finalised models were then casted (which included another IBCoM student) and they were then “matched with the designers needs and the description of their collections”. The team also looked for makeup artists and found hairstylists from the TONI&GUY salon who did an an amazing job on all the models’ hairstyles. To finish off, photographers and videogra-phers were also found. Though it was a long process, Goda acknowledged how it was “really rewarding”and allowed for her and her team to “gain a lot of experience”.

Congrats to the events managing team, the designers and models for presenting a nice fas-hion show! The New Fashion Society bridges the fashion world with the business world, so if you have interests in these two things, I definitely recommend attending one of their events or becoming a member of their association.