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GSD Case Study

Title: Academic fieldtrip in Brussels

Department: Global Sustainable Development

Staff Lead: Marta Guerriero



Warwick Enterprise's funding initiative played a pivotal role in supporting an innovative academic fieldtrip to Brussels, led by Dr. Marta Guerriero, designed to explore global sustainable development challenges within the city. The trip involved one staff member and up to four student co-creators, focusing on the interdisciplinary and co-creative elements integral to the School's transdisciplinary approach. Brussels, known for its complex multilingualism, colonial legacies, and role as a hub for multi-level and supranational governance, presented a unique case study for sustainable development. 


The funding facilitated a 5-day exploration (June 19-23) of Brussels' historical, political, cultural, economic, social, and environmental facets. This fieldtrip focused on past, present and future global sustainable development challenges and responses in the city. This fieldtrip was instrumental in co-designing a comprehensive WIISP module, scheduled to launch in June 2024, and available to all Warwick students as well as those from international partner institutions. The initiative aligns with Warwick's goal of diversifying its educational offerings and promoting environmentally sustainable travel, leveraging Brussels' accessibility by train. This idea has been discussed and is strongly supported by the Head of School, as well as the Vice Provost of the Faculty of Arts and Warwick’s Academic Director for Education and Internationalisation. 


    The fieldtrip's success was evidenced by the participation of 5 undergraduate students from the University of Warwick majored in BSc Global Sustainable Development and 4 undergraduate students from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona majored in BA Global Studies, accompanied by Dr Marta Guerriero and Prof Stephanie Panichelli-Batalla. These students, selected to partake in a variety of educational activities and site visits, received bursaries funded by Warwick Enterprise and additional support from EUTOPIA LCs. The activities included a notable visit to the European Parliament to discuss EU environmental policies, contributing to the co-design of the WIISP module. 


    The engagement with high-profile individuals and experts, Virginijus Sinkevičius and Gilles Vanden Burre, enriched the students' learning experience, offering them a first-hand understanding of sustainable development challenges and responses. The students' feedback highlighted the trip as an invaluable and honour-filled experience that significantly shaped their interests and vision towards global sustainable development. 


    The Brussels fieldtrip emerged as a significant achievement, universally acclaimed by the students as a transformative and enriching experience. Their reflections highlighted the trip as "a wonderful experience," "a pleasure and an honour," and crucially, as an opportunity that shaped their interests and vision towards sustainable development. The meticulous organisation of the fieldtrip, the diversity and orientation of the activities, and the depth of learning were aspects particularly praised by the participants. A highlight for many was the opportunity to engage directly with high-profile individuals and experts in the field of sustainable development, such as Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and Gilles Vanden Burre, a member of the Federal Parliament. These interactions provided invaluable insights and perspectives, significantly enhancing the learning experience. 


    From an organisational standpoint, the fieldtrip underscored the complexities involved in planning and executing an academic excursion abroad. The logistical challenges—encompassing accommodation bookings, travel arrangements, risk assessments, and coordination with guest speakers and tour guides—were amplified by the involvement of students from two distinct universities. This complexity notwithstanding, the experience offered profound learning opportunities, not only for the students but also for the faculty involved in the organisation. It illuminated the intricate details required to ensure a smooth and impactful educational journey. 


    The fieldtrip has laid a solid foundation for the development of a two-week WIISP residential module in Brussels, slated for launch in the forthcoming year. This module will be open to all Warwick students, as well as students from Warwick’s international partners, offering a comprehensive exploration of global sustainable development challenges and responses within the unique context of Brussels. The city, characterized by its diverse cultural landscape, governance structures, and environmental challenges, serves as an ideal case study for examining sustainable development in a global city context. 


    The forthcoming WIISP residential module in Brussels will invite students to delve into a range of historical, political, cultural, economic, social, and environmental questions. The design and content of the module are being refined through continuous student-staff exchanges and debriefings, leveraging discussions, collaborative platforms, and online forms to incorporate feedback and insights gained during the fieldtrip. This co-creative process has not only validated the field-based model of teaching and learning but has also facilitated the establishment of a network of Brussels-based collaborators. This network, encompassing activists, practitioners, and academics, has expressed enthusiasm for future collaboration, thereby ensuring the module's relevance and impact. 



    The lessons learned from the Brussels fieldtrip will have a lasting impact on teaching practices within the School. The successful model of student-staff co-creation tested during the trip will be further embedded in module design and revision processes. This approach, where students transition from passive participants to active co-creators, will enhance the relevance and impact of educational content. 


    Moreover, the integration of field-based and practitioner-based learning aligns with the School's emphasis on problem-based, student-led, and transdisciplinary education. By directly confronting students with real-world problems and facilitating learning from experts, the educational experience becomes more engaging and impactful. The Brussels fieldtrip represents a significant step forward in developing innovative, practical, and sustainable educational modules that prepare students to tackle global challenges.