Interviews with Educational staff

Every month a member of our teaching staff is interviewed on one of the master's programmes at our faculty. They talk about themes such as career perspectives, life after FASoS, and the small scale and personal aspects of studying at FASoS.



Adina Petre, Student Adviser

Personal Development

At one point in time, every student will need a safe space to ask for a piece of advice regarding student life, career opportunities, interviews etcetera. The experienced Student Advisers at FASoS have all the answers to a wide range of questions regarding your personal development path. But what if you have other questions, because you are about to start a new programme in a new environment. Maybe you come from a place far away, unfamiliar with Maastricht and Dutch culture, with no friends or family to help you settle and integrate. Faced with all these personal, practical and academic challenges, the risks of disappointment or even dropping out are realistic.
Not if Adina Petre can help it! Adina joined the Office of Student Affairs of FASoS in 2019 as a part-time student adviser. She has an MSc in Clinical Psychology, studied Arts and Sciences at FASoS when she came to the Netherlands 10 years ago. “I know how important it is that personal needs are addressed and cultural backgrounds acknowledged for you to thrive as a student. Therefore, I came up with the idea to offer students the opportunity to talk about this. I discussed it with my colleagues, the mentors, student representatives, the faculty council and everyone was very enthusiastic about our proactive approach. So, hopefully on 11 March, we will launch a one-year pilot called The Tribe. A monthly open forum where students can share, talk about student life, with all its little, not-so-little challenges, and victories. I am convinced there is a need for a very low-threshold initiative like this, so as student advisers we are very excited! Every student who is looking for a place to belong, and who is willing to contribute to growing our community, is welcome. Simply walk in!"
More information about The Tribe, dates, times and venues will be published via the official channels of FASoS.

February 2020

I know how important it is that personal needs are addressed and cultural backgrounds acknowledged for you to thrive as a student.

Costas Papadopoulos, Assistant professor in Digital Humanities and Culture Studies

Dr. Costas Papadopoulos is an Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities and Culture Studies and a fervent believer of the notion that learning is best done through doing.
“This ‘maker culture’ as it is known, is particularly evident in two courses at FASoS: Design Thinking & Maker Culture; and Creating Digital Collections. Both courses take a project-based approach to problem-based learning by teaching students how to bridge theory and practice through the making process and its products. In these courses, students are taken outside the university bubble and take ownership of a project, working towards a communal achievement. They undertake the entire project’s life cycle, therefore also dealing with project and time management. They realise that the process is as important as the product. They are really driving their own learning, conducting research, and finding ways around setbacks in realising the project’s goals. And by being allowed to make mistakes – within a carefully supervised framework – they learn to reflect critically. 
For the course ‘Design Thinking and Maker Culture’ students work in small groups to design audio narratives for Maastricht; the river, the market, the shops, and the sounds of people who shape the physiognomy of the place. The course teaches students how to design meaningful audio experiences first by understanding who their audience is and what their needs are. They are putting the four phases of design thinking (discover-define-develop-deliver) into practice, learning to think creatively, become agile and responsive to change; competences not often taught in academic programmes.
The course ‘Creating Digital Collections’ is entirely project-based and brings together many of the theories, methods, and skills acquired during the programme. This year students will design a 3D digital collection for the Nederlands Mijnmuseum in Heerlen. They will not only create 3D models of the objects, but they will also craft the narratives around the objects, for example by interviewing miners and their families; presenting health and safety issues; and the changes in technology. Ultimately, they will create a multimodal online space available for everybody to use. This is – again – learning by doing and is a win-win situation for both students and the collaborating institution. 
According to EU policy, technological and digital as well as entrepreneurial skills are crucial to boost the employability of graduates and adequately prepare them for the highly competitive digital and creative economy. Well, that’s exactly what our students are learning here!”

December 2019

According to EU policy, technological and digital as well as entrepreneurial skills are crucial to boost the employability of graduates and adequately prepare them for the highly competitive digital and creative economy. Well, that’s exactly what our students are learning here!”

Emilie Sitzia, former Programme Director Arts and Heritage

Practical vs. Academic
Looking into best practices where master’s programmes are firmly embedded in ‘the world outside’, you cannot miss the master's programme Arts and Heritage: Policy, Management and Education. Emilie Sitzia, associate professor at the Department of Arts and Literature and the former Programme Director of the master's programme Arts and Heritage, explains: “The overarching theme of our programme is that we deliver reflective practitioners, i.e. good academics that can apply a lot of professional skills and professionals with good academic skills. To that end, the academic content in the first semester has been integrated with a complete professional track in policy, marketing and management. In the second semester, students either go on an internship or choose an elective. Our internships are thesis-related and are in high demand, which is not surprising because students can choose between over 250 museums, galleries, institutions etc. from every continent in the world, including some very famous ones like Sotheby’s, UNESCO or the Guggenheim Museum.”

Clearer profiles
Last year, the elective programme was merged into three specialisations, Art & Audiences, Culture & Economy and Heritage & Society. Emilie Sitzia explains: “It’s working out really well, the three profiles enable students to make much more strategic choices. In the elective programme, students take on real-life projects with our societal partners, e.g. designing a social inclusion programme for the Bonnefantenmuseum. Our staff is very engaged, not only academically, but also professionally. They all have strong links with the field, either through their part-time jobs next to their teaching at the faculty, or through scientific research projects carried out in close collaboration with institutions in the field. Their many connections also make for great guest lectures, which provide students with a clear picture of the fields they intend to work in. In this way, they are well prepared for the launch of their professional career.”

May 2019

The overarching theme of our programme is that we deliver reflective practitioners, i.e. good academics that can apply a lot of professional skills and professionals with good academic skills.

Pia Harbers and Miranda van den Boorn, Student Advisers

Personal Development

Meet the two student advisers at FASoS, Pia Harbers and Miranda van den Boorn, with 18 and 14 years of experience under their belt, respectively. “The term student adviser is very broad. In practice, we do a lot of coaching as well. Whether it’s helping new bachelor students with time management and goal-setting or students from the opposite side of the world to find their way around Maastricht, the faculty and the Dutch culture. That’s what makes this position so interesting. Each case is different and every advice is tailored to the student in question.”

Student advisers are the linchpin in the faculty. Students can come to them for advice about the content of the programme, internships or thesis-writing, but also for help with personal issues or practical things like a disability or temporary impairment. “We have frequent contacts with all the programme directors of the bachelor’s and the master’s programmes, but also with roles on a central university level, like student deans, psychologists and career advisers. A lot has changed over the years. Students are now far more the drivers of their own destiny. It’s our job to assist them in that process, by helping them to analyse the situation and self-reflect. This self-reliance is an essential part of a student’s education and crucial for a successful life after university. It’s very rewarding for us to contribute to a student’s personal development in this way. The fact that a third student adviser will join us soon proves that we still have our work cut out for us!”

March 2019

As a (prospective) student at FASoS, chances are high you will have a talk with the faculty’s student adviser at any given point. In fact, each year, student advisers see approximately fifty percent of the active student body.

Giselle Bosse, former Programme Director Research Master European Studies

Choosing a master’s programme at FASoS means studying in a small-scale environment. In the Research Master European Studies they take the concept of small-scale even one step further.

Giselle Bosse, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and former Programme Director of the MSc European Studies (research) explains. “Our classrooms are made up out of 12-15 students which is really small-scale already, but in the various specialisations you often only have 3 to 5 students. They almost receive a one-to-one tuition.” This set-up allows for in-depth discussions. Every student has plenty of opportunity to discuss research projects and bring his or her ideas to the table. In such a personal atmosphere students tend to thrive. Bosse explains: “We try to create interdisciplinary groups. The different backgrounds of our students result in an explosion of creativity in the classroom and allows each student to contribute to group work based on his or her individual strengths. We often hear from students that this makes for one of the best learning experiences.”

Even though so much personal attention sounds great, for some students it may be a daunting prospect. There is no ‘sit back and relax’ attitude here. “During our admission process we try to match expectations on both sides. The students that get accepted are highly motivated with a strong drive to succeed. And once the programme starts, everyone adapts really fast, even the shy ones who aren’t used to the Problem-Based Learning method yet.” Giselle Bosse is very enthusiastic about the set-up. “For me as a teacher the small-scale aspect is very rewarding. In such an environment you are able to focus on each student’s individual needs. You get to know them, you can optimise their learning strategy and offer help where help is needed. I love it when I see my students grow and witness their development. It’s easy to keep in touch after their graduation, obviously starting with the ones who stay on at UM for a PhD or who work at think tanks or EU institutions in Brussels. In the end you are all part of this special little club. This bond is quite unique and can prove very helpful throughout our students’ careers. It’s something I cherish.”

February 2019

“For me as a teacher the small-scale aspect is very rewarding. In this environment you are able to focus on each student’s individual needs." 

Elsje Fourie, Assistant Professor of Globalisation and Development Studies

Dr. Elsje Fourie, Assistant Professor of Globalisation and Development Studies and herself originating from South Africa, fully agrees as far as her classrooms are concerned. “I would say that is about right in the course I teach for the master’s programme European Studies, but for the Globalisation and Development master’s programme, the percentage is even higher. There, we sometimes have only about 10% Dutch students in a given year, many of whom have travelled the world before choosing that particular programme. I’m also a member of the Admission Board, so I get a good view of the different geographical backgrounds of our applicants.” She is really happy with the cultural diversity and the wide variety of viewpoints in her classroom. “Dutch students are in general quite critical, especially about subjects like economic growth for example. The discussion becomes interesting when you also have students in your classroom from developing countries or countries that have experienced famine. Then it’s no longer about theories, but becomes very practical with first-hand accounts.”

Each year, she learns new things herself too. “I’m particularly impressed by students coming from countries like South Sudan, for example, a new country only founded in 2011! They usually have such a positive attitude towards education and are sometimes the first person from their home village to go to university and abroad. I would say that each year we have students from all continents, from the global North, the global South and everywhere in-between. Interestingly, British students are well represented too, obviously unsure about what will happen in a Brexit future.”

Dr. Fourie likes to stay in touch with her graduates and follows them on LinkedIn. “Our alumni can be found in every part of the world and that really makes me proud.”

January 2019

FASoS claims to be ‘the most international faculty of Maastricht University’ with 77% of its students coming from abroad. Is that a realistic figure?

Aline Sierp, Assistant Professor European Studies

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a learning method which has been at the core of Maastricht University ever since the university was founded.

Dr. Aline Sierp, Assistant Professor in European Studies at Maastricht University, explains why she was intrigued by PBL: “It was in fact one of the reasons I applied at Maastricht University. I had no experience with PBL myself, so I was eager to experience it, albeit from a teacher’s point of view. It’s a very active way of learning, students work with the information and process it in small groups in interactive sessions, which is much more effective than passively listening to lectures all the time.” After six and a half years of teaching according to the PBL method, she is now quite the expert. “It does take some getting used to, not only for the students who are in some cases not as outspoken as many of their peers, but also for us as teachers. We definitely take second stage, so to speak, and put the students first. It’s nice to see that after a few lessons, even the less confident ones start to find their feet. As a teacher, though, you never know exactly how a session is going to pan out, so you have to be flexible and ‘go with the flow’. It’s very rewarding to see that students become curious and are actively looking for answers, daring to go off the beaten path. It’s our role to provide guidance at certain points in the process. And all the time, students are not only in the driving seat of their own education, but also – almost unwittingly – learn all these 21st century skills, like working in a group, leading, listening, engaging. Skills that are so important nowadays to succeed on the labour market.”

December 2018

"It’s very rewarding to see that students become curious and are actively looking for answers, daring to go off the beaten path. It’s our role to provide guidance at certain points in the process."

Aneta Spendzharova, Associate Professor and Special Advisor in internationalisation

Career perspectives and life after FASoS

Aneta Spendzharova, an Associate Professor in the Political Science department, is highly involved in the content of various master’s programmes. “We keep track of all the latest trends and what the job market needs, through surveys and our programme committees. We know that employers highly value the ability of our students to be proactive, solve problems independently and function well in an international context – all competences extensively trained in FASoS programmes and through Problem-Based Learning (PBL) of course. Furthermore, we stay in close contact with our alumni, many of whom sit on our External Advisory Boards, together with employers from the relevant field. The boards and the programme committees make sure that our courses and the curriculum in general prepare students well for the job market.”

Alumni feedback
A lot goes on behind the scenes that current students hardly notice, if at all. All aimed at aligning education and the labour market as effectively as possible.

“We also link with our alumni on a personal and professional level, especially through LinkedIn with which we build programme-based communities. Our alumni tell us how they assess their competences in practice and how well they match with the ‘world outside’. All this information is aggregated and used to improve our programmes on a continuous basis.”

Varied career options
FASoS graduates find jobs ranging from policy advice, communication and public affairs, journalism, to data or regulatory affairs analyst, the IT sector and diplomacy. Aneta Spendzharova has one last advice: “If you want to stand out, start making choices early on in your studies. Do not be afraid to specialise. In this way, you can build up a portfolio of specific work or research you have done which will help you find a match when you start your career.”

November 2018

A recent survey tells us that over 90% of the 2016 FASoS graduates has found employment by now*. How does FASoS accomplish this?

*Shown by surveys by ROA, the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market, carried out 1½, 5 and 10 years after graduation



Vincent Lagendijk, former Programme Director ESST

When looking for unique programmes, the master’s programme European Studies on Society, Science and Technology (ESST) comes to mind. Why? Dr Vincent Lagendijk, Assistant Professor and former Programme Director of ESST explains: “This programme operates at the interface between technology, science and society. We study the impact of society on technology and science and vice versa. Take your smartphone, a simple example (literally) close at hand, and how this phenomenon has changed our life and indeed, our entire society, when phones at first were merely designed to make calls.

In the ESST master’s programme we teach them to combine the best of philosophy, anthropology, innovation studies, sociology, sustainability studies, history, feminist theory, risk analysis, evolutionary economics, and systems development and design. In that respect, we are quite unique in the Netherlands, and I’d say beyond.”The programme is unique in other ways as well. Lagendijk: “The first semester has 5 sequential modules which each cover one subject area or topic at a time. That is quite demanding, not only for the students, but also for the teachers. In the second semester you get to choose between an impressive 20 specialisations at 15 universities all over Europe, where you will also write your master’s thesis. Upon graduation, our students have become ‘specialist generalists’, ready to pursue careers all over the world at NGOs, research institutes, consultancy firms, you name it.”

November 2018

Students choosing this programme come from very different backgrounds, but they all have a few things in common: they are highly motivated, eager to build bridges between disciplines, not afraid to go into controversial areas and always looking for a multidisciplinary approach to complex issues.