A look at: Know Yourself Challenge

Every autumn, Studium Generale organises a challenge: a citizen science project in which participants team up with researchers to explore a topical issue. In 2022, the theme was “mental health”. Participants found out how they coped with pressure and stress, discovered whether they can improve their well-being by dancing or meditating and explored how they give meaning to their lives. The outcomes helped them gain more self-knowledge while simultaneously benefiting science. The programme also included three talk shows during which the scientists involved in each challenge interacted with each other and the audience.

“The National Education Programme was introduced to restore student well-being during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Utrecht University offers additional counselling, activities and facilities – such as the Know Yourself Challenge – with the help of National Education Programme (NPO) funds. The challenge offered students a fun, accessible way to explore the topic. From activities like meditating and dancing to self-reflection exercises: why do I behave the way I do, and how did I become who I am now. It was great to see so many students attend the talk shows, and I hope it helped them gain some self-awareness." 

Iris Nieuwenhuizen is coordinator of Utrecht University's National Education Programme (NPO).

We can put the data to good use. And the challenge will still be available online after it's over, which is great. We'll be doing 'the national Nature Intelligence Test' with pupils in the final year of primary school in collaboration with IVN over the next few months. We'll also be asking teachers to take the NQ test. They can do that on the challenge website, which is really helpful. Teachers appreciate the fact that they can immediately check their results.

Dr Agnes van den Berg is environmental psychologist
Publiek tijdens een van de Ken Jezelf lezingen van Studium Generale
Photo: Ebru Aydin

"I had no idea what direction the challenge would take when I first started, to be honest. I started calling lots of researchers focused on mental health and student well-being in January 2022 to ask them if there was anything they wanted to explore with a broader audience. We helped them find ways to make their research small-scale, accessible and engaging, which was a fun process. For example, participants got to dance with MC Hammer, discussed their personalities with Freud and took stock of their personal experiences in nature."

Nienke de Haan is project manager at the Know Yourself Challenge and event curator at the Centre for Science and Culture.

That was a nice bonus for me; I got to compare my findings with those of other researchers. The live lectures and debates are still the best activity, though.

Participant in the Know Yourself Challenge

Text: Nienke de Haan


This article also appears in the third edition of the magazine Close-Up, full of inspiring columns, background stories and experiences of researchers and support staff.

Go to Close-up #3