Elective course for students

Students from different study programmes are brought together to reflect critically on urgent social issues. For a year, they work on a project in collaboration with a Brussels-based organisation. The aim is to arrive at a well-founded proposal, which can be taken into account by the organisation in its further operation.

More info and registration? Be sure to read more under take this course.

One central topic each year

Each year, Reason and Engage focuses on one central topic. The sixt edition (2020-2021) explores issues related to poverty. How big is the inequality between rich and poor? Does this inequality threaten democracy and peace? What interventions are needed to close the gap? How much wealth do we need to live well? And of all the questions this one stands out: can we eradicate poverty altogether?  In a series of four lectures, we examine poverty challenges through different perspectives. For more info, see program. Curious about our previous editions? Take a look in our archive.

Projects with Brussels-based organizations

Students who register for the course Reason and Engage work in multidisciplinary teams on a project submitted by a Brussels-based organization. The projects refers to a concrete challenge or need the organizations face with. The students are monitored to work out an innovative idea or proposal. Is your organisation interested? More info can be found under submit a proposal.

Public lectures and activities

Reason and Engage invites experts from different disciplines to share findings and opinions with students and the broader public. With our lectures, debates, workshops, guided tours... we want to facilitate dialogue and reflection among students, researchers, professionals and active citizens on some of the most urgent challenges of our times. Due to the Covid-19 measures, the public activities take place digitally. Watch the interviews under program.

with the support of

Reason & Engage exists thanks to the support and contributions of many people. Structural partners are: deMens.nu, Humanistisch Verbond - afdeling Brussel, Wtnschp, Crosstalks & Citizenne.


Who can register?

Reason and Engage is open for students from 3rd bachelor onwards and can also be taken by students following a bridging or preparational program. For registration, 120 ECTS need to be obtained within a bachelor's degree. VUB-students who want to take the course Reason and Engage can register via Student Self Service. Other students should contact us via redelijk.eigenzinnig@vub.ac.be

Why register?

Reason & Engage explores contemporary social issues. Students are challenged to consider their own frame of reference and forms of individual and collective responsibility. Throughout one academic year students work on a specific project, submitted by a Brussels organisation. The course aims to give students the opportunity to gain practical experience, to get to know the research and professional field in Brussels, and to engage in society. Critical scientific reflection and active involvement are central pilars of the course.

How is the course organized?

Reason and Engage is a one-year program and exists in two variants: 3 or 6 credits. All contact hours take place on Tuesday evening, starting at 6 pm. For more information, take a look at the course information sheets: 3SP variant & 6SP variant.

The educational team?

Course titulars: Prof. dr. Karl Verstrynge; Prof. dr. Joke Bauwens

Student supervision, project proposals & Public lectures and activities: dr. Bieke Abelshausen (mail: bieke.abelshausen@vub.be)


Are you interested in taking the course Reason and Engage or any further questions? Come to the information session on Tuesday 29 September (Etterbeek campus, 1 pm, Aula QA).

This is what students thought about the previous editions:

Edition 2020-2021: Why do we put up with poverty?

Looking at history, Western people today are less exposed to poverty than previous generations. But with that observation, all optimism ceases. Globally, the gap between rich and poor is constantly widening. Even in the Western world, we see a general expansion of social insecurity, including for working people. Reason enough to ask questions out loud and look for solutions: How big is the inequality between rich and poor? Does this inequality threaten democracy and peace? What interventions are needed to close the gap? How much wealth do we need to live well? And of all the questions this one stands out:  can we eradicate poverty altogether? 

Interview with Julia O’Connell

Soon online

Would you like to work with a multidisciplinary student team?

Reason and Engage students work in multidisciplinary teams on a project of by a Brussels-based (non-profit) organization. The projects are based on a challenge or a need the organizations are faced with. The students are guided to develop an innovative idea or proposal.

Taking into account the broad background of the students, the projects can be very diverse in nature. Students can, for example, contribute to the design of a prototype, a try-out, research inspiration or support for a certain idea, help in mapping good practices, the organization or evaluation of an event, and so on.

Submit your project proposal!

Does your organization need fresh ideas, new perspectives, young people who can look at challenges and future plans along with you, from their experiences and expertise? Would you like to work with a multidisciplinary team of VUB-students? Submit a project proposal!

It is important that the proposal can be handled from various disciplines, and invites students to develop a well-founded point-of view on issues that can be related to the annual theme.

For more information or questions, contact bieke.abelshausen@vub.be

The project call for the '20-'21 edition is closed.



Find an overview of the project results from previous editions below.

Contact details

Need more information about Reason & Engage?

Contact redelijk.eigenzinnig@vub.ac.be

Reason and Engage team?

Course titulars: Prof. dr. Karl Verstrynge; Prof. dr. Joke Bauwens

Student supervision, project proposals & Public lectures and activities: dr. Bieke Abelshausen (mail: bieke.abelshausen@vub.be)


Where to find us?

Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus of the VUB

Pleinlaan 2 – 1050 Brussels (building C, 5th floor, room 451)

Tel: +32 (0)26292415

Program '19-'20

The fifth edition (Climate Rage For Just Transition) focused on the climate challenge. Last year, citizen protests sparked the biggest climate mobilization ever. Young and old took to the streets to support their demand for more ambitious climate measures. But which type of action is most efficient for influencing policymakers, public opinion, large companies, consumer behaviours...? How far can you go with protest actions and which elements are essential for a sustainable and fair climate transition?

15 Oct '19 - Joke Hermsen: 'Turning the tide'
29 Oct '19 - Natacha Brion, Philippe Claeys & Bas Smets: 'Before the Flood'
Nov 19 '19 - Sander Van Der Linden: 'Empathy and Climate Change'
03 dec. 19 - Anneleen Kenis: 'Climate change in times of the Gilets Jaunes'
Feb 12, 2019 '20 - Soirée with workshops participative futuring, interview techniques and Socratic conversation techniques

Fête Divers, in collaboration with BrusselAVenir
Zero Waste Campus, in collaboration with sustainability cell VUB
Gaiagrafie of the Senne, in collaboration with La Polyclinique de la Culture
Inclusive Climate Action, in collaboration with Citizenne & Climate Case vzw
Peacejam'in for Climate Change, in collaboration with Peacejam Belgium
Fairisme as a guideline for climate transition, in collaboration with Fairisme vzw
Sustainability charter for the travel sector, in collaboration with Zomer Zonder Vliegen
Youth in Action for the Climate, in collaboration with vzw Humanistische Jongeren

Supervised by Prof. Karl Verstrynge, Prof. Joke Bauwens, Goedele Nuyttens & Linde Moriau

Program ’18-‘19

The fourth edition of Reason & Engage, we explored topics related to War, Conflict, Peace & Resistance, under the title Just Peace. For four evenings, Reason & Engage looked at the source and impact of war and conflicts. During the lectures, debate and workshops, researchers and students, along with the broader public and the professionals, looked for new foundations and visionary images for peace and justice, and investigated which role science, politics, education, art and media could play in constructing them.


Oct. 16, ’18 – Gertrudis Van de Vijver: ‘Immanuel Kant: To perpetual peace’

Oct. 30, ’18 – Joes Segal: ‘Art and Crisis’

Nov. 27, ’18 – Sophie de Schaepedrijver: ‘Remembering the war in public space’

Dec. 02, ’18 – Nils Duquet: ‘Guns for sale: Legal and illegal arms trade in Belgium’

Feb. 12, ’18 – Soirée with workshops on digital storytelling, interview techniques and socratic dialogues


Film heritage from the war past, in cooperation with Royal Belgian Film Archive (CINEMATEK)

Traces of War and Peace in Brussels, in cooperation with Royal Belgian Film Archive (CINEMATEK)

Conflict and Sexual Violence, in cooperation with University Center for Development Cooperation (UCOS)

Living Library for a peaceful, inclusive society, in cooperation with vzw Humanistic Youth

Sense and nonsense of military operations, in cooperation with vzw Vredesactie

Mind Over Media: contemporary propaganda under the microscope, in cooperation with Mediawijs – imec vzw

Signal Kanal: urbanism and conflict, in cooperation with Globe Aroma

Supervised by Prof. Karl Verstrynge, Prof. Joke Bauwens, Goedele Nuyttens & Linde Moriau

Program ’17-‘18

The third edition of ‘Reason & Engage’ explored the impact of New Technologies. Will (bio)technology lead to a new human species? Who will guarantee our privacy? What is the impact of the increasing robotization on healthcare, jobs and aging? Will smart machines emancipate us from inhumane working conditions or will they make the social inequality increase? Will they pave a way for more sustainable production methods? Our Brave New World: Technocalypse or Technotopia?


Oct. 12, ’17 – Peter-Paul Verbeek: ‘Smart cities and citizens, a question of technology?’

Oct. 17, '17 - Mireille Hildebrandt & Bernard Manderick: 'Democracy (as a successful misunderstanding) in an algorithmic world'
Nov. 07, '17 - Sophie Wennerscheid & Bram Vanderborght: 'The science & fiction of human/robot relationships'
Nov. 21, '17 - Soirée with workshops, documentary, walks and debate
Feb. 13, '18 - Mitch Altman: 'Hacking, rethinking technology in collaboration'
Feb. 27, '18 - Soirée met workshops en debat
Mar. 20, '18 - Robert Riener: 'Human-centered technologies for movement assistance and rehabilitation'


DIY-BIOTECH, gene technology for everybody, in cooperation with Open BioLab Brussels (EhB)

Philosophy with the youth about Man and Technology, in cooperation with vzm Humanistic Youth

Bad behavior in cyberspace, in cooperation with CAW Brussel & VUB Meldpunt

Gender stereotypes 2.0, in cooperation with vzw Zijn

Refugee use of social media,  in cooperation with A Kind of Space

Culture policy in the digital age, in cooperation with Flemish Government, CJSM department

Arming undereducated people for the digital revolution, in cooperation with JES Brussels

Circular economy in Brussels, in cooperation with GoodPlanet

Supervised by Prof. Karl Verstrynge, Prof. Joke Bauwens & Linde Moriau

Program ’16-‘17

The theme of the academic year 2016-2017 was migration. Through lectures, workshops, debates, tours, testimonies,… a number of important questions, developments and challenges concerning migration were illuminated from different disciplines. The first semester, we focussed on the causes and the impact of migration. During the second semester, we examined questions in relation to participation and citizenship.

Oct. 10, '16 - Saskia Sassen: 'Migration and Expulsions'
Oct. 18, '16 - Bram Cleys: ‘Migration and development’
Nov. 08, '16 - Fred Mednick: 'Emergency Education'
Nov. 22, '16 - Soirée with workshops, documentary, walks and debate
Feb. 14, '17 - Mary Bosworth: 'Is immigration detention a form of punishment?'
Mar. 07, '17 - Nadia Fadil: 'On radicalisation. Critical perspectives on a contested paradigm'
Mar. 21, '17 - Soirée with workshops, documentary, walks and debate

Supervised by Prof. Karl Verstrynge, Prof. Joke Bauwens, Sophie Withaeckx & Linde Moriau

Program ’15-‘16

In the first edition (2015-2016), the central topic was sustainability.

We explored 4 themes: sustainable science, sustainability and climate, approaching work in a sustainable way, sutainable mobility.

Oct. 13, '15 - Eric Corijn: Inaugural speech: 'A world in transition, a mission for this generation’
Oct. 20, '15 - Jean-Claude Burgelman: ‘Sustainable science’
Nov. 10, '15 - Philippe Huybrechts: ‘Climate and sustainability’
Feb. 16, '16 - Marc Elchardus: ‘Approaching work in a sustainable way’
Apr. 12, '16 - Paul De Knop: ‘Lifelong and sustainable mobility’

Supervised by Prof. Karl Verstrynge, Prof. Joke Bauwens, Sophie Withaeckx & Linde Moriau

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