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POPcorner: helping make the University more inclusive

One of the ambitions of the Learning@LeidenUniversity vision on teaching and learning is to foster an international and inclusive educational community in which everyone feels welcome, regardless of religion, sex, sexual orientation or cultural background. One student service that promotes inclusion is POPcorner. What is it and how is it helping to make the University more inclusive?

POPcorner helps students find their way around their faculty and as a student. First-generation students, whose parents did not go to university, and students with a bicultural background can be in particular need of a bit of help to make them feel at home at university. The POPcorner at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences opened several years ago already. The Faculty of Humanities opened its POPcorner at the start of 2018.

Student panel

The POPcorner student panel at the Faculty of Humanities plays a key role in creating a diverse, more inclusive Faculty community. This community can launch its own initiatives and organise lectures, excursions and receptions on topics relating to diversity and inclusivity.

Free popcorn and POPTalks

Over the last year, the student panel has engaged in a range of promotional activities, such as handing out free popcorn from an old-fashioned popcorn machine. It has also organised a number of POPTalks: a mix between a TED Talk and a pep talk. These are short lectures that are followed by a debate and rounded off with drinks. The topics have included: ‘Leiden University; towards an inclusive community,’ ‘Growing up among different worlds’ and ‘Stress to impress,’ which was about young people and the pressure to succeed.

How the student panel is helping

The student panel consists of four somewhat-older students from different programmes. They know the ins and outs of the Faculty and can act as a kind of ambassador, which makes them the right people to think about what POPcorner should offer. Emma, Sam, Pepijn and Hezja explain how they are helping make the University more inclusive.

Emma Oosterink – International Studies
‘In my programme, I have a lot of contact with international students. Everything is in English in International Studies, so that brings us together. There are many different cultures and languages in the workgroups, which makes for a great atmosphere with room for everyone’s unique perspective. For me, feeling at home is not having to feel any different from who and what I am. My fellow international students often feel undervalued at the University because of the language barrier and don’t know whom to contact about what. As a member of the POPcorner panel, I want to help them.’

Sam Saifullahzadeh – Middle Eastern Studies
‘As a member of the POPcorner student panel, I’m working on creating a community. I’m also a buddy and support an Iranian refugee. This means I can help make another student’s first year a better experience and ensure he feels welcome.’ 

Pepijn Boumans – History
‘I’m here to do what I can to help. My drive to help promote diversity and inclusivity is in part because I want to learn more about this. Equal treatment and opportunities for all; no one should start off at a disadvantage. That’s important to me, which is why I think POPcorner is such a good initiative.’

Hezja H. Mahmood – Middle Eastern Studies
‘I feel at home at the University, also because I can help others who come from the same background as me, as a first-generation student. For me, diversity and inclusivity mean that everyone is equal. No one should feel as though they don’t count. Many students are unaware of what everyone is doing to make the University more inclusive. POPcorner is a good example of this. I help organise events and lectures, to ensure that students receive more attention.’

‘Talent is what you make of it’

Gianelle Vacca is the POPcorner coordinator at the Faculty of Humanities. She studied law in Leiden, was a first-generation student and comes from a bicultural family. ‘I believe that diversity and inclusion are an important theme. To me, this means feeling welcome and at home and being given the opportunity to develop to your full potential. We at POPcorner want to contribute by being a point of contact, organising workshops and courses on study skills, helping people identify and develop their talents and helping give shape to an inclusive community for and of students. We can help students who want to develop. That is what our slogan is all about: ‘Talent is what you make of it!’

Header photo, l-r: Emma, Sam, Pepijn, Hezja

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