“To me, character means: educating students to become resilient citizens of the world”

When Emile Aarts first became Rector Magnificus, the current Tilburg Educational Profile ‘Knowledge, Skills, and Character’ was adopted and implementation of the profile was initiated. A few years down the road, now seems a good moment to look back with the Rector and take stock. What characterizes the Tilburg Educational Profile? Where do we stand now? What, in this view, should be the next few steps? And what is his own definition of character?

by Annemeike Tan


‘Tilburgs Bekske’ – The ‘Tilburg Cup-of-Coffee’ project

And what role can students find to play in this?

Emile: “Get active and make a difference! Let me give you an example: the ‘Tilburgs Bekske’, a project that students of ours are participating in. Women in Rwanda are taught how to plant, grow, and harvest coffee beans. The beans are transported to the Netherlands, roasted here, and sold under the name of “Tilburgs Bekske” (‘Bekske’ is a ‘cup of coffee’ in the Tilburg dialect). I talked to two student teams that have been to Rwanda, and I saw with my own eyes how this journey had been a formative experience for them character-wise. The students had witnessed first-hand how the women in Rwanda had to come to terms with all the misery they saw, and how in that process they had developed an extreme form of willingness to forgive. They have had to forgive the likely perpetrators of atrocities, and that is an element of resilience of the highest order. You can tell this has affected these students. So what can students do? They can engage in activities like these, and such activities can also be found closer to home. I say, go for it!”

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