Stanzi Litjens '19 (Netherlands)

Practical learning in Israel and the Arctic

Current student Stanzi Litjens '19 (Netherlands) is from the Netherlands and as of Spring 2018 is in her first year of MESPOM. Her academic background is in Business Administration (B.A.) and in applying to MESPOM was seeking a more environmental approach rather than seeing the world in terms of money and ‘shareholder value’. She made a decision to focus on the link between government, business, and non-governmental organizations to pursue a healthier balance in the current system. While studying for her B.A. she also worked for World Wide Fund for Nature in Argentina in forest and coastal management. Later she worked for a sustainable investment bank (Triodos Bank), where she developed a community currency that is designed to bring value to things which are currently undervalued in society.


“Right now, I am studying in MESPOM, a program where I can use my previous knowledge and experience in business to grow skills in the environmental field. The level of inter-disciplinarily within this program and the variety of adventures to be explored throughout is truly exciting.”  - Stanzi Litjens


In between the first and second semester of her first year, Stanzi chose to take the vacation from her usual studies to participate in two separate practical learning programs– one in Israel, and one in the Arctic. In Israel she took a short-course called the Politics of Renewable Energy: the Transition to a Low Carbon Society,’ organized by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Center. The second program, which took place in Trømso Norway, was the Arctic Frontiers Student Forum organized by the Arctic Council to take place alongside the Arctic Frontiers Conference. Though the experiences were not related, what they shared in common was the focus on collaborative management of environmental issues.

For Stanzi, there was a natural connection between her first semester of courses at Central European University as a MESPOM student and the extra-curricular experience in Israel and the Arctic in December 2017 through January 2018. Her inter-semester experience motivated her to design her second-semester course program, beginning in January 2018, around more focused topics. Her course selection focused on the themes of social justice, environment management, and collaboration and teamwork. The experience of transitioning from learning theory in her first semester to practical application in extra-curricular courses, and then back to theory has been, for her, an amazing way to learn. Her current courses in Spring 2018 include Advanced topics in Global Environmental Governance, Environment and Security, and Social Justice Frameworks in Action.



The Politics of Renewable Energy: the Transition to a Low Carbon Society,’ organized by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem


The opportunity to attend a short course in Israel came through a guest lecturer, Dr. Itai Fishhendler of Department of Geography at Hebrew University, which is an Associate Partner of MESPOM as of 2017. Dr. Fishhendler visited Central European University in fall 2017 to give a talk about water diplomacy. The current students of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy (MESPOM and 1-year) attended the talk and some became interested in learning more about the water situation in Israel. Several students approached the MESPOM faculty and staff coordinator who helped make the connection, and with their help Stanzi was able to attend with the hope that this is the beginning of future student exchange.

Stanzi was one of two international students who attended the short-course with approximately 30 Israeli undergraduate students who are currently studying various topics such as geography, biology, communication, and business management. During the 3-day course, which focused on the politics of renewable energy, the student group went on site visits to see solar panels and learning about in-use renewable energy technology, spoke to government officials and engaged in group work projects.


Arctic Frontiers Student Forum (Arctic Council)

After the course in Israel, Stanzi traveled to Norway for the arctic student forum, a 5-day forum, working in the field with people from all over the world, especially coming from the Arctic region. The forum was a vibrant program with workshops, seminars, and roundtable discussions on collaboration in the Arctic.


[To prepare for the forum and to contribute], "the fall semester at CEU was incredibly useful, as introductory courses on Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management were provided, together with two specialization courses that went more in-depth - Energy Transitions and Climate Change; and Environmental Justice, Politics, and Humanities." - Stanzi Litjens

After the student forum, which included skill building, training and innovation seminar, the students participated in the 3-day Arctic Frontiers Conference with various stakeholders from government attending. Stanzi, coming from the MESPOM background of interdisciplinary thinking, saw the importance of integrating disciplines operating at the highest level of climate management and environmental protection.

“The thing I learned throughout the two programs is the need for strategic implementation -

-first, I observed how collaboration can be much more efficient when professionals from different multidiscipline listen to each other and know who is best able to solve a problem. Therefore, it's incredibly important to know your talents and strengths as a young professional. I feel this is something MESPOM can help you find out.

Secondly, collaboration is always necessary of course, but I think in the problems we face today regarding climate change we might be too fixated on the process. Diplomacy is a good thing, but I strongly felt (especially during the conference) the need and urge to get started and really work to achieve targets. Another thing, there is the need for disciplines to listen to each other and see who is best at a specific problem.” - Stanzi Litjens


MESPOM is a program which values helping students find practical learning opportunities throughout their studies, whether it’s part of a course or during a break between semesters. Like Stanzi, many current students take the initiative to seek out additional opportunities. Stanzi believes that coming from a multi-disciplinary framework such as MESPOM gives her a perspective which is of value in her participation in forums and courses. She believes that it gives her the ability to recognize the many pieces of a whole and bring them together. MESPOM is a program where curious people can follow their interests and end up gaining diverse experience – attending a guest lecture can eventually lead to traveling to Israel to be the first to participate in a newly established student exchange.

To sum up her experience, Stanzi reflected on her first semester and the special additional experiences she sought out during her winter vacation. 

“MESPOM is a program that not only offers you courses in all environmental fields, it is a fantastic pallet that you can paint the way you want. You can go out there and ask for consultations from faculty who can guide in the direction where you will flourish. It is your adventure, and there is great faculty and likeminded co-students that want to make a change. The two projects described above were just two of those adventures. My classmates have similar experiences studying at CEU (from documentary filmmaking to starting an organic garden, from helping kick-start entrepreneurs to working in biodiversity conservation in Kruger Park). Looking back, I was afraid that my background was not compatible with what MESPOM would ask for. Now, I look at myself and classmates, and see people from all over the world from all imaginable backgrounds that work together. Looking at the future, I see a lot of hurdles, but also feel the confidence of having a community around me that hold the same vision."


Co-written by Stanzi Litjens '19 (Netherlands) and Lindsey Zemler '16 (USA)

Photos by Stanzi Litjens