5 September 2017

Action research – UM students win awards

Two students have been awarded for their scientific project proposals in the field of action research. The awards were handed down at Maastricht University during the morning symposium of the official opening of the academic year 2017/2018. In line with this year’s theme 'Can academics change the world', the OAY included one competition for bachelor’s/master’s students and another for PhD students. Both groups could win a cash award of three thousand euros to implement their proposal. Out of the six (female) finalists, Marieke Hopman (PhD student) and Nrupaja Bhide (master’s student of Public Policy & Human Development) won the first prize in their respective categories.

Action research not only adds to existing knowledge but also has a positive impact on the subject of study. In other words, the results must help propel the existing situation forward and benefit society as a whole, even though the process often involves only small steps. Prof. Shyama Ramani, one of the UM pioneers in this field, held an inspiring lecture about action research at the symposium. She will support the winners in the implementation of their proposals. Ramani: "It always struck me why women are overrepresented in action research. This is about grassroots initiatives, and I think doing good without the glory is more appealing to women than to men."

Six finalists, sixteen proposals
A total of sixteen proposals were submitted, from which six finalists were chosen to pitch their ideas during the morning programme. "It wasn’t an easy choice," says Prof. Ramani, "because all six pitches were of high quality." As part of efforts to embed action research firmly within UM, she is active in various UNU-MERIT projects designed to offer a platform to students with good ideas and to support local parties with university expertise.


Winners and runner-ups of the Bachelor student prizes

Award-winning master’s student: Nrupaja Bhide
The winner in the master's student category, Nrupaja Bhide from India, saw that people in her native city, Pune, don’t do much in the way of waste separation, despite government policy supporting this. She hopes to be able to make a small step towards a cleaner India, first by investigating what prevents Pune residents from separating waste and then by providing them with easy-to-use compost techniques, including plants which they can grow on this digestible organic waste material. To begin with, Bhide says, the cash award will be sufficient to kickstart her project with around 25 households. This, she hopes, may have a snowball effect which will enable her raise funds from other sources. The jury, composed of Prof. Shyama Ramani, Prof. Rob Bauer, Dr. Blanche Schroen and Sueli Brodin, were particularly impressed with Bhide's deep commitment to her pitch and her personal experience with the subject in India. "I was a little afraid that the scale of my project might have been too small, so I was quite surprised that I won, and I'm very happy with the award," says Bhide.

Winners and runner-ups of the Masters student prizes

Award-winning PhD student: Marieke Hopman
The winner in the PhD category,  Marieke Hopman, received the award because the jury found that she had faced more obstacles than any other of the three finalists to raise funds for her research project. Hopman is investigating the violation of child rights in several countries, including the Central African Republic. As part of her research, she has documented the level of physical violence taking place at schools in the strife-torn country. The cash prize will allow her to return to the Central African Republic to join efforts by the education minister and two religious leaders to initiate dialogue about this culture of violence. The money will also be used to translate her report into French, thus making it accessible to teachers and other stakeholders in the Central Africa. "The country has almost vanished from the radar in the West, even though its people are among the poorest and least happy. That does not make it very easy to get funds for research, so I'm very happy with the prize,” Hopman says.