What do you get if you mix 120 Danish teachers and education professionals, a small group of Nordic talent developers, a location oozing both educational history and innovative plans; and two Dutch visitors? In the Danish town of Sorø, we experienced two inspiring days meeting Danish and Nordic talent developers. Their approach was contagious indeed!
Every year, the Danish organization ScienceTalenter organizes what one could call a ‘national talent day’. Acting Talent Chef at ScienceTalenter Uffe Sveegaard had kindly invited Marca Wolfensberger and me (Maarten Hogenstijn) to come to this meeting. This served two purposes: one, we could meet with a group of key persons in talent development in both Denmark and the other Nordic countries; and two, Marca could deliver a keynote presentation on Talent Development in European Higher Education.
So off we went on Wednesday morning 9 December, to be met at Copenhagen airport by professor Nils O. Andersen, who we already knew from an earlier meeting and as member of the steering group of the European Honors Council. Not only was he so kind to pick us up at the airport, he also filled us in on the history of the place our meeting was held: the town of Sorø in central Zealand. One could consider this the birthplace of Danish education. In the Middle Ages, a large monastery was erected here, and in 1586, the ‘Sorø Akademi’ was founded, a boarding school. This still exists and a great number of famous Danes have been educated here. The importance of the place is shown by the fact that next to the school grounds, there is a house which is reserved for the use by the Danish minister of Education. Professor Nils O. Andersen turned out to be chairman of the advisory board of the academy and kindly showed us around the school and its grounds, situated in a picturesque place on a lakeshore.
At the edge of the school grounds, a new building stood: the Mærsk Videncenter. In this building, ScienceTalenter is housed. This nationwide organization is responsible for running science camps for talented pupils from 12-20 years old. The Videncenter holds a number of well-equipped laboratories where these kids can experiment. Opposite the building there is a ‘Talent Hotel’: a building where during camps, the kids can sleep. Now, we were housed here. The whole center was sponsored by a very rich Dane, founder of the company Mærsk, and was opened in 2009. In the centre of the building was a large auditorium for 120 people, with such great acoustics that microphones are not necessary.
In one of the labs we met on Wednesday afternoon with a group of Danish key people in talent development, representing different Danish higher education institutions; and with representatives of the Nordic Talent Network, an organization aiming to strengthen cooperation in talent development between the Nordic countries. We shared with them our plans for the European Honors Council and discussed possibleforms of cooperation. Discussions continued over dinner and well into the evening, accompanied by great traditional Danish food and drinks.
The next morning, it was time for the Danish Talent Conference. This year the theme centered on the contagiousness of talent and many teachers, policy makers and others interested in talent development were among the 120 people present – the conference was fully booked. The fact that most presentations were in Danish (or Swedish) proved a challenge, but Marca’s keynote was well-received and opened interesting discussions, which continued over lunch. Then all too soon it was time to leave Sorø. Again, Nils O. Andersen accompanied us to the airport. Our heads were still brimming with all the new ideas from the people we met – as well as with the engagement with a place full of educational history.
Talent developers in Denmark From left to right: Pål Simon Fernvall – Danish Technical University Skylab; Linda Mattsson – Swedish representative in Nordic Talent Network; Marca Wolfensberger, Camilla Svens-Liavåg – Finnish representative Nordic Talent Network, Uffe Sveegaard – acting Talentchef at ScienceTalenter, Maarten Hogenstijn; Nils Overgaard Andersen – Copenhagen University, representing Nordic talent Network in European Honors Council; Nynne Afzelius – incoming Talentchef at ScienceTalenter
By Maarten Hogenstijn, project leader Honors in Europe at the Professorship Talent Development in Higher Education and Society