Tim Marshall’s ECIU University journey is truly one-of-a-kind – he started it as a University of Stavanger student and has since become a full-fledged team member first working as a student assistant and now leading teams for some of the European University’s core activities. Tim hopes to stay with ECIU University for years to come, using his unique perspective to help students discover opportunities he once did – and feels like he’s only getting started.
For Tim, it all began back in 2020 – when the British student moved from the UK to Norway and started his second master's degree at the University of Stavanger. It was not long before he heard of ECIU University – and an opportunity to contribute to actual change by solving real-life challenges. It spoke to Tim immediately.
For over 10 years, both his studies and work in Britain had been deeply rooted in societal change – be it charity projects, policy development, or consumer rights initiatives – and participating in ECIU University challenges only felt like a natural next step.
‘I got really excited,’ he remembers. ‘It was a chance to work on a real-world challenge, meet people from various European universities, and do something different from our regular studies’.
The ‘Intimate Cityscapes’ challenge introduced by the University of Stavanger set a goal of creating a sustainable city that works for the benefit of its community. So, Tim and his team came up with a solution – turning the city’s empty spaces into an indoor community center where people could grow and plant their own food.
It was just the beginning, though. Tim’s enthusiasm and passion for the challenge didn’t go unnoticed – with his then-team mentor (known as a teamcher at ECIU University) suggesting Tim take on the part-time position of a student assistant as he finishes his master's.
As a student assistant, he would help fellow students navigate the basics of challenge-based learning, offer guidance, and give feedback on their work. Even more importantly, Tim kept learning himself – both through the challenges and from his peers.
‘There are so many topics to study, from food waste to circular economy to green energy, and so many practical skills to gain,’ he explains. ‘There’s so much to learn’.
One more thing stood out for him, though. The sense of community.
‘I just loved the idea of students, professionals, learners, and researchers connecting, sharing knowledge, and contributing to important goals,’ Tim remembers. ‘That’s something ECIU University does really well’.
‘It’s nice to see students from different backgrounds and cultures working as a team. They come together, become friends, and stay in touch even after the challenge ends. Through ECIU University, they develop communities of their own’.
When in June 2022 Tim graduated from the University of Stavanger, he felt reluctant to part with ECIU University. Turned out, the feeling was mutual – and in December of the same year, a new chapter in his journey began.
This time, Tim was offered a full-time position as a Scientific Assistant. As part of his new job, he would work within two work packages – focusing on user experience and learner guidance.
If you’re wondering whether you’ve seen the results of Tim’s work already, you did – and probably more than once. For example, his team worked with other work packages to design and develop ECIU University’s motivation scan that helps new students discover the most suitable learning opportunities for them to get started.
Going from a student to a fully-fledged staff member may have been quite a change, but it has provided him with a unique perspective on things. Tim explains he understands the students’ challenges and struggles well – and that makes guiding them and seeing them grow especially rewarding.
‘Students are often used to getting the task from the teacher and then just trying to come up with the best solution as soon as possible to get the best grade,’ he points out.
‘But here, they are given time and space to look for solutions and discover different approaches, to think creatively and holistically. Something like that can completely change the way your brain works. And as a former student, I really relate to that’.
After all, ECIU University is all about embracing a new way of thinking – and even more importantly, about exchange. The exchange of knowledge, experiences, ideas, and perspectives. With everyone constantly learning from each other, the community feels truly special, he says.
‘It’s amazing to work with people from different universities, from across Europe and even outside of the EU,’ Tim shares. ‘I’m a British person working in Stavanger, while one of my colleagues is an American who works in the Netherlands. People are coming from countries outside of the ECIU network, and it creates an even more diverse and international environment to work in’.
‘Sometimes different mindsets can clash, but it has never been that way for me. On the contrary, because we’re so different we try to be more respectful to each other. We’re always looking for common ground and common purpose’.
Lately, Tim and his colleagues have been busy – working on various ECIU University activities aimed at improving the students’ experience. And he knows there’s even more to come.
‘I’m excited to see this project grow,’ Tim shares. ‘Sure, there are still many goals to accomplish before fulfilling ECIU University’s 2030 vision but I can already imagine how amazing it’s going to be in seven years’.
His own ECIU University journey is in full swing, too. Tim says it’s an incredible feeling – working on something you truly love and knowing you’re making a difference.
‘It’s a fantastic job that combines different kinds of tasks and responsibilities. There are always new things to learn and new things to do,’ he notes. ‘You also have a real opportunity to shape the future of higher education in Europe. It’s a chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself’.
Some of his plans? Tim wouldn’t mind going back to the basics – and signing up for a challenge once again.
‘Even though I’m now part of the team, I’d love to enroll once more and be treated as a student for a while,’ he laughs. ‘This way, I could learn and change my mindset again’.
‘That’s what ECIU University is about – always learning new things. Challenging the way you think’.
All photos were provided by Timothy Marshall.