The Rector of University of Iceland has launched an annual series of lectures called the University in Society. The lectures aim at engaging the public and professionals in discussions on pressing social issues. The first series pertains to the welfare of children and youth.
A wide range of subjects are addressed, including anxiety and psychological health, how to support literacy, ways to promote children’s participation in sports and out-of-school activities, the importance and effects of nutrition and sleep for healthy functioning, and the role of parenting and positive communications in children’s development. Efforts were made to select speakers who are experts in a topic relating to children’s wellbeing, are respected researchers, excellent lecturers, and who have experience or relations to applied work with children and youth. Each lecture is streamed online, will be available via the University’s website, and is accompanied by short videos where the lecturers give a short summery of the topic they addressed. In this way, the lectures will have an impact on the discourse in society long after they have been delivered. The first lecture of this year’s series has been very successful in reaching these goals.
The aim of the lectures and seminars is to analyse social problems and provide practical advice of how parents or professionals can prevent or treat these problems, thus supporting the healthy development of children and youth. The lectures are designed for the general public, parents, young adults and children, as well as professionals, policymakers at the municipality- and national-levels, and University students and staff. In this way, the University aims to ensure that the expertise of academic staff can be used to supporting Icelandic families and society, as well as increase the public’s trust in the University, and create awareness of the diverse scientific work that is conducted within the University.
Successful University – Thriving Society
The lecture series are in line with the University of Iceland’s Strategy for 2016-2021, which states that the University of Iceland stands for a vibrant discourse with the general public and professionals on pressing societal issues. The series forms a part of the university’s efforts to ensure that research is is used in a way that support Icelandic society’s social well-being and competitiveness.
The Best Choices for Our Children
The first lecture in the series, in January 2018, addressed anxiety among children, a topic much discussed in Iceland, recently, and according to recent surveys, is a problem that is on the rise in Iceland. Dr. Urður Njarðvík, Associate Professor of psychology, described the symptoms of anxiety in this age group, the links between anxiety and behaviour problems; how signs of anxiety are often confused with wilfulness and aggression, and why children with ADHD are at a high risk for developing anxiety. Finally, she provided advice for parents of how to address children’s anxiety at home.
It is safe to say that the first lecture in the series was highly relevant to the concerns in Icelandic society, and that there is great demand for knowledge based on high level research relevant to pressing social issues. The turnout exceeded anyone’s expectations and the series seems to be very a promising step towards bringing scientific knowledge and expert advice to a wide audience.