Alumni return to deliver programme to current students
December 11, 2023
The Critical Engagement (CE) team of four facilitators Gummi, Maria, Flora and Luis joined us on the UWC Maastricht campus for a weekend in October to guide a group of Y12 students through the journey of exploring more about themselves as well as the three pillars of CE: identity, diversity and social responsibility.
CE Team, can you please introduce yourselves to our alumni?
Flora: My name is Flora, I am an interdisciplinary artist and this is actually my first time working at a UWC with the CE programme.
Gummi: I’m Gummi and I think that this is my sixth time at UWC Maastricht. I started here as a facilitator and then took on coordinating. My passion is working with youth and guiding and facilitating groups through learning. Next to CE, I work on other projects as well as finishing up my master’s thesis in Cognitive Neuroscience.
Maria: My name is Maria. This is my third or fourth time at UWC Maastricht. I have done CE at UWC Atlantic College and UWC Adriatic and then as a part of UWC short courses in different parts of Europe. I am a UWC alumna, I graduated from UWC Mahindra College in 2015 and I have been involved with CE ever since I graduated from UWC. I used to be involved in the core team of CE and then a few years ago I stepped back and now I am getting back into it again. In my day job, I am a lawyer and a barista.
Luis: My name is Luis. I also graduated from UWC Mahindra but in 2019. My link with CE started via short courses. After I graduated, I was involved in all the short courses organized by NC Spain. Now that I completed my CE training I see that the beginning of each of the short courses was in a way a version of CE as well. I have always been interested in alternative, non-formal education although I did not study anything related to education. I am now exploring potential paths to perhaps become a teacher one day.
Please tell us, what is Critical Engagement?
Maria: Critical Engagement was started, more than 10 years ago, by a small group of alumni from UWC Atlantic College who felt that there was a missing link between the UWC values and how they were taught within UWC, especially when it comes to transferring these values to the real world and experiences. They developed this programme to be about UWC values but also about critical thinking and personal engagement, hence that’s where the name critical engagement comes from. It all started at UWC Atlantic College and then moved to a whole bunch of other UWCs, for example: Maastricht, Adriatic, Red Cross Nordic or ISAK Japan. Moreover, the CE programme has been used during UWC short courses all over the world too.
It is worth mentioning that while CE is based on three pillars: identity, diversity and social responsibility, it does not have a strictly defined format and structure, it depends on the context, the students as well as facilitators, which allows us to modify it each and every time to fit the current situation and needs.
CE has been around for over 10 years, how has it developed over the years?
Gummi: Over the years, CE facilitators have been better trained when it comes to mental health and learned more about possible triggering conversations and moments and how to handle these. Also, we increasingly bring more of the DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) lens into the CE programme.
What is your motivation to do/keep doing CE? For UWC alumni, is this your way of giving back to the movement?
Luis: Absolutely, it is definitely a way of giving back to the movement. I so enjoy watching how young people have so much of everything – power, energy, creativity and life. It is insane how they can think so out of the box and you never know how things will go because their imagination is so rich. When I think about CE and the UWC movement, I think that the ideal UWC is a UWC where CE does not take place, not because CE is useless, but because it is incorporated into the day-to-day learning of the students and everything they do.
Maria: I echo what Luis has said and I would add something slightly more personal regarding my own motivation. Something that was very difficult to describe once I left UWC as a student and something that I missed the most was what is sometimes described as the “UWC magic”. The UWC magic, for me, is a connection on a profound level with people from very different backgrounds to your own, with people who have very different stories and personalities and yet together with them finding a common space and connection. It is this UWC magic that is one of the reasons why I enjoy doing the CE work. I see this magic arising among the students during the CE programme but also among the facilitators when we are preparing for the course – we can quickly go from being very silly to getting into some really deep and meaningful conversations which is something that I am sometimes missing in my day-to-day life. In addition, when facilitating CE you get to witness the origin of beautiful ideas, learning points and reflections made by the students. I learned so much from the students each time I ran the course and that’s why I keep coming back.
What is your motivation to do/keep doing CE? Some of you are not UWC alumni yet you come to UWC colleges to run the CE programme, what’s your motivation to do so?
Gummi: I did not graduate from UWC but I can relate to what Maria said about the “magic”. In my early 20s, I was lucky to attend an intensive 10-day programme which helped me to find more purpose in life and to find my direction and connect with myself. The magic element in CE is something that draws me to facilitate and coordinate CE and that is why I love it so much. I am interested in exploring the tools and know-how behind creating such a magic environment and holding the space for a group to go through a truly impactful experience.
Flora: I have a lot of belief in the next generation and their skills, talents, perspectives and their youthful energy. To come into direct contact with all of this and to offer something in guiding young people towards positive change in the world gives me a deep sense of joy and contentment as well as an affirmation that this is the right thing for me to be doing. I am always on the lookout for where I can place myself and CE is one of the spaces where I can offer my skills and experience and contribute to something meaningful.
Are you still looking for facilitators? What type of people are you looking for and how can alumni reach out to you?
Gummi: There is no set of requirements, the application process is very humane and it is not about submitting a well-written essay but more about the substance behind the words. In general, we are looking for curious and motivated people who want to work with young people. The best way to be in the loop is to sign up for the CE newsletter by sending an email request to email@example.com and then one can see when the next CE course is happening. We are really pleased that a good number of UWC Maastricht alumni have been involved in facilitating CE because students always appreciate connecting with someone who attended the same school and not so long ago was in their shoes.