First of all, I hope you are keeping well and healthy in these COVID-19 times. Here in the Netherlands we are seeing an increasing number of infections, especially among the younger population, and are hoping we will not need to go into another lockdown.
These are worrying times, strange times, challenging times. And in these times, I feel that the knowledge and experience that the ISS community co-creates is more necessary than ever. Let me give some examples on how we try to do this, with our teaching, local participation and research:
In September, 126 students started their MA in Development Studies. Students from all over the world joined our online introduction programme, forming a fully connected online 2020-21 batch. It was amazing, and so nice, to see all of them in a zoom meeting at the opening of our MA programme. ISS teaching and support staff are now working hard to fit our teaching into the current online context and are developing innovative ways of teaching. 50 students have already physically arrived in The Hague and we will do our utmost to offer them, and the students yet to arrive, classroom education in January. In the meantime, we take this opportunity to develop and improve our online teaching, making it easier to share our knowledge globally.
We also share our knowledge locally. We have recently developed four small research projects on local engagement, the Local Engagement Facility projects. In true ISS style, researchers are co-creating knowledge in collaboration with undocumented people, socially marginalized groups, people from the African diaspora and social partners, aiming to produce both academically and societally relevant research on COVID-19 coping mechanisms in The Hague.
As a last example, we need look no further than ISS’ 68th anniversary which we celebrated on 8 October. No crowds in our aula, no cortege of professors strolling through the building during this year’s Dies Natalis, yet we still had a great celebration with over 350 people in the online ISS community. Under the guidance of a professional journalist and film crew, three speakers debated three current global crises in what we now call ‘Studio ISS’: COVID-19, climate change and racism as tackled by the global Black Lives Matter movement. Debating these crises, Wendy Harcourt, Murat Arsel and Aminata Cairo discussed how they are interconnected, how we can cope with them, what changes we need to see in society, what local and global society will look like after the corona pandemic, and what we can do to change and build a ‘new’ post-COVID-19 society.
This debate, and the other examples discussed above, are but a starting point for further action, in our research, teaching and engagement in these difficult COVID-19 times.
A last wish to you: please keep healthy and take care of yourself and your loved ones.
Inge Hutter, rector ISS