From hospital assistance to children's television

Erasmian Values: Nizar El Manouzi

When it comes to the Erasmian Values, the prodigious Nizar El Manouzi (24) embodies all five. He studies Medicine, Philosophy, Health Care Management and Media and Creative Industries. In his free time he is involved in many social projects in the city of Rotterdam, creating strong ties between Erasmus University, Erasmus MC and society at large: “What I really like are the possibilities of Erasmus University. You can achieve so much here.”

Next to studying, Nizar is a passionate and professional actor, playing in several Dutch movies and television shows such as Catacombe en Het Klokhuis. Acting allows him to widely display his societal engagement, but Nizar is also active on a local level: he is the main man behind a Diversity and Inclusion initiative at Erasmus MC. And when the pandemic hit hardest last year, Nizar worked there as a student assistant at a corona department. In summer, the master student operates as a tour guide, inviting friends and strangers alike to visit his home country, Morocco.

Diversity and Inclusion

It’s safe to say Nizar means a lot to many people, but he doesn't dare to go as far as calling himself an Erasmian model student, making modesty a characteristic of him, too. “We should put 'impact' in perspective,” Nizar says. His face displays a bright smile via a video call from his family home in Rotterdam. To emphasize his point, Nizar recalls one of his friends, who has never completed any higher education. "But now he owns a really cool social company, hiring social workers in Rotterdam. And that also has an impact, you know?"

Nevertheless, Nizar's own social engagement becomes apparent in his work mediated by the Erasmus University. In 2018 he started a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiative at Erasmus MC. Together with a fellow student, he met with teachers, policymakers, and medical students, making several faculties aware of cultural differences and sensitivities that require their own modes of communication. Especially in a city like Rotterdam, where many cultures find their home. "One of our biggest achievements is that the bachelor curriculum will offer a course in cultural diversity from 2023 on," says Nizar. "Another is that the medical staff and teachers will receive a D&I training too."

Medical assistance

When he’s not working, you can regularly find Nizar in the University Library, where this medical and media student happily studies from morning to midnight. He loves to study and learn new things and immediately applies them in a professional environment. During the corona lockdown, Nizar supported the nurses in a corona department in Erasmus MC, by washing patients and administering medication. "Some patients were very unstable, making it hard for the nurses to cope sometimes. We helped out as medical students, as a side job. I mainly did night shifts. If the patients needed something during the night, for example, I would bring it to them." Nizar enjoys working there, and finds this experience valuable for his long-term career perspective: "I want to become a doctor one day."

What are the Erasmian Values?

As a university, we feel called to help solve the complex problems of modern society. Impact' implies social commitment. It also implies a commitment to egalitarian and democratic values, to inclusion and a culture of dialogue and discussion. It appeals to commitment to research and education that have a real impact in the region, in our country and in the world. Our students and staff subscribe to the fundamental principles of social commitment and equal opportunities.

In the spirit of Erasmus - world citizen and namesake of our university - our students, researchers, educators and alumni come to new scientific insights. They devise solutions to societal challenges on a regional and global scale. In this constant search for solutions, we step outside the boundaries of countries and disciplines, embracing a cosmopolitan world view. We tap into our international networks to build alliances and gain knowledge and inspiration.

Social impact also means connection, movement towards each other and cooperation. It means building bridges between different disciplines, in cooperation with society. A tradition of dialogue is inherent to this. Students are trained to be experts in their own field or in a multidisciplinary context. They are equipped with the knowledge and insights they need to make connections. The research we do and the education we provide is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. It builds on our solid foundation of monodisciplinary knowledge and expertise. This is supported by new, co-creative and inclusive ways of working (together). Connections are an integral part of how we think and work.

Building on the legacy of our founders, our university is characterised by an entrepreneurial spirit: a can-do culture focused on results, experimentation and innovation. We are not afraid to go off the beaten track from time to time, daringly and sometimes unconventionally. Within our shared values, we build bridges between past inspiration and current challenges. Our students, teachers and researchers play an active role in the way research and knowledge are put into practice. We are as committed to experiment and innovation as we are to our own research and teaching. We accept ownership and take responsibility.

Erasmus was a tireless champion of freedom and tolerance. We encourage our community to participate in the academic debate from its strengths, talents and background. Our students and staff reflect our international and multicultural environment - we believe in the power of inclusion. We have a tradition of independence and integrity, striving for mutual understanding across social and cultural divides. Our students develop the knowledge and competences they need to properly assess different viewpoints and opinions. The academic staff sets a good example and stimulates vigorous debate. As a community, we are open to a broad view of social, political and ethical dilemmas. Views, generally accepted norms and personal values are discussed and critically examined in dialogue.

Prime-time

The enabling role of Erasmus University in Nizar's personal and career development can hardly be underestimated. With both hands, Nizar grabbed the opportunities that Erasmus University Rotterdam offers. "What I really like are the possibilities of Erasmus University. You can achieve so much here. There are so many people who are enthusiastic about ideas and are open to trying new things. Without that entrepreneurial and open-minded climate, I couldn't do all these things. I'm very grateful for that."

Outside of university, Nizar also creates a societal impact. Last year he made his introduction on prime-time television as a presenter of 'Het Klokhuis', a Dutch television show that brings scientific knowledge to children - and a household name in the Dutch television landscape. He was picked out of three thousand candidates. And his movie debut was in 2018 when Nizar played in Catacombe as a young soccer professional who wants to make it big.

Transcending boundaries

It's clear that Nizar is a multidimensional student who uses his time efficiently: for many projects, Nizar is the initiator, making other people feel enthusiastic, getting them behind a single goal, and enabling him to reach further and start something new. But he always still feels responsible. Take the ‘Explorocco Initiative’. Every year Nizar would visit his home country Morocco. Then he figured: "Why not give others the experience of this warm and beautiful country too?" Aware of cultural boundaries, and ways to transcend them, Nizar has taken many students with him, opening up a new world to them. After initially starting this project, he has gathered a group of friends who now guide Moroccan tours too.

Ideally, in Nizar's work and personal life, all his pursuits will come together one day: "In ten years I see myself in a place where I work with people who are fighting for a certain vision, a common vision that focuses on social development and well-being. The form that can take is as a doctor, but also as a person involved in the media, indicating the bigger issues that form a threat to the public health."

This is the first interview in a series about the five ‘Erasmian Values’ that Erasmus University identifies with: Social Engagement, being a World Citizen, Connecting, Entrepreneurial and Open-minded.

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