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Ellen Cieraad

Environmental scientist Ellen Cieraad enjoys interactive classes and the creative contributions that students bring to the classroom. ‘It is rewarding to see students’ growth in the course of an education programme and witness their changing perspectives.’ For instance, Cieraad lets groups of students work on current and real challenges posed by stakeholders in society. ‘This is an enormous boost to students’ confidence and motivation,’ she says. ‘I find it very important to motivate students to gather the skills necessary for solving some of the world’s environmental sustainability problems. For me, delivering students with these capabilities is at least as impactful as writing a highly cited paper.’

‘For me, delivering students with the right capabilities is at least as impactful as writing a highly cited paper’   

Cieraad believes that the role of university educators is to help students reach their potential, and to foster curiosity and the urge to discover. ‘Sometimes there is a fine line between throwing students in at the deep end and giving them the autonomy to set up their own learning experience,’ she says. ‘Creating a valuable learning experience, therefore, requires careful navigation and ongoing communication with the students.’ 

Interdisciplinarity plays an important role in Cieraad’s courses, with students from over fifteen disciplines. They are pleased with how she deals with this: ‘Ellen brings together students from different disciplinary backgrounds and facilitates interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.’ Cieraad would use the prize money to take her interdisciplinary teaching style to an even higher level. ‘I would enlist help of a group of students from different disciplines who followed my courses. These student-assistants could help me cater for the varying needs in interdisciplinary classes even better, for instance by designing peer-taught elements so students can share their specific expertise with the group.’

Nominated for the courses: Minor Sustainable Development | Resilient Cities 
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