A word from our UMIO Director: Discovering the common core in diversity

I love to travel. From the hurried excitement and mild annoyances at airports and train stations to the somewhat disoriented strolling through a new city experiencing all the new images, smells and sounds. So the past four weeks I felt very privileged as I had the opportunity to visit and work on three continents. In Taiwan, I explored Taipei and surroundings with my husband and our eldest son who is on student-exchange there, I gave in Chicago presentations and led meetings during Beta Gamma Sigma’s Global Leadership Summit and in Lisbon I participated in the annual meeting of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative that Maastricht University is a member of.

At first sight these seemed very different places and experiences with a different architecture and infrastructure, a different pace and intensity of interaction and different languages and customs. Yet despite these striking and interesting differences, I found the commonalities even more fascinating. In all three places I saw parents enjoying the day with their children, people gathering to have something to eat and drink, people laughing and enjoying each-others company, people committed to getting their jobs done to the best of their ability. But unfortunately also people being excluded, begging for some help and attention and people appearing stressed when things did not go as they envisioned.

All of these are manifestations of a universal common human core in which more fundamental human values and needs such as belonging, being seen, respected and valued guide behaviour. I find the existence of this common ground extremely encouraging in today’s struggle to create a more sustainable future for our world as it can serve as the foundation to build the much-needed bridges between the current divides that perceived diversity has created. Of course, the different enactment of core human values and needs in different contexts might blur the recognition of the human common core at times, but with a curious mind and a willingness to connect to the other human being, it can easily be rediscovered. So, what will you focus on the next time you travel?

Mariëlle Heijltjes, Executive Director UMIO – Maastricht University