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Faces of our CommUNAty - Mariet Vriens & Terezia Rua

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This interview is part of Faces of our commUNAty – a series shining the spotlight on the individuals behind Una Europa.

As our 1Europe project slowly draws to a close, we are busy future-proofing Una Europa’s activities. Una Europa Week – an alliance-wide gathering kicking off in Helsinki today – is a good example:

In the coming days, Una Europa will:

  • Welcome our three newest partners – Universiteit Leiden, University College Dublin and the University of Zurich – to their first physical Una Europa meetings;
  • Explore avenues for global collaboration with rectors from African universities;
  • Launch our first joint MOOC;
  • Discuss the next steps of our 2030 strategy to cement pathways beyond the 1Europe pilot.

Against this backdrop, we introduce two Faces of our commUNAty whose work behind the scenes is no less vital to securing Una Europa’s future: Mariet Vriens and Terezia Rua.

Mariet and Terezia from KU Leuven’s Una Europa team have been working tirelessly to deliver our roll-out proposal under the European Commission's European Universities initiative.

Mariet, Terezia, what intrigued you about the work of coordinating the roll-out proposal?

Mariet: What I loved the most was the opportunity to help think about the future of Una Europa, bringing together the different ideas and views for our alliance in the future in one coherent and strong story.

Terezia: The whole writing process was really exciting! Since I joined Una Europa just three months before submission it was also a very challenging and intense learning experience for me. What intrigued me the most was the collaboration within the coordination and writing team. The tough part of the process was to select only some of the ambitions in line with the maximum budget we could ask for. Unfortunately, not all of our great visions made it to the application.

" My favourite moments are without a doubt when the Una Europa community meets physically. I always consider myself lucky to be part of such a great group of really nice, international colleagues. "

Mariet Vriens, Una Europa Policy Advisor and Operational Lead, KU Leuven

What is your professional background and how did it prove helpful?

Mariet: I have been working as an operational lead for Una Europa for the past two years. My role is the bridge between Una Europa and KU Leuven, so I was already very well informed of the ins and outs of the alliance. Before this, I was also involved in writing the 1Europe proposal.

Terezia: Before joining Una Europa I worked as an advisor for EU research and innovation policy at the Slovak Liaison Office for Research and Development in Brussels. I had experience in EU research and education policy and funding as well as practical experience managing a Horizon2020 project. It was helpful to know the EU policy and initiatives that Una Europa contributes to. And hands-on experience with the application processes is always handy...

Do you have a favourite Una Europa moment?

Terezia: So far, my favourite one was the moment of the proposal submission.

Mariet: My favourite moments are without a doubt when the Una Europa community meets physically – and the informal moments are always very enjoyable. I always consider myself lucky to be part of such a great group of really nice, international colleagues.

Which Una Europa initiative do you identify with most?

Terezia: I would say the Joint Bachelor in European Studies, mostly because I studied international relations and political science and also spent my studies at three different universities in different countries. This joint bachelor is truly unique programme for students to get an excellent education from the leading European universities and have a real international experience.

Which new feature or ambition that Una Europa wants to tackle in the future do you personally find most interesting?

Mariet: I have a background in educational support and policy, so the ambition to really work on a joint vision of what Una Europa’s joint education stands for and how we can offer students truly unique learning experiences, is something I am really excited about.

Terezia: The most interesting for me is the ambition of integrated education and research. The world is changing at great speed, bringing along new challenges which universities have to adapt to. Una Europa has the ambition to re-assess the current learning environment and further integrate the acquisition of research skills to equip future graduates with the knowledge, transdisciplinary thinking and competencies to tackle these global challenges.

Which is your favourite Una Europa city (of course, apart from Helsinki, where we are heading just now)? Why?

Mariet: I have not been to all Una Europa cities yet, but I was really blown away by Kraków in December. There was sun, there was a Christmas atmosphere and it all felt a bit like a fairy tale. Also the food was amazing

Terezia: I cannot be very objective here as, unfortunately, I have not visited all of them yet. But if I have to choose only one, I would go for Berlin. The city has a very special vibe for me, there is so much to see and I have very nice memories from there.

Una Europa's vision is to build a University of the Future. Achieving our goals and delivering our ambitions requires enthusiasm and passion, and countless people are working tirelessly behind the scenes, across our community, to make Una Europa a reality.

This interview is part of Faces of our commUNAty - an interview series spotlighting the individuals behind Una Europa. Get to know the people who make our community so special, their stories and passions, and help us celebrate the amazing work happening across the alliance and beyond.