Looking back on the last year, I am very proud of our achievements and the progress our YERUN community has made.
In 2020, we witnessed the huge impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the professional and private lives of our students, researchers and administrative staff. We had to adapt quickly and learn to deal with the challenges the new reality of a pandemic has brought – often by shifting from face-to-face communication to digital formats and, for many of us, by working from home. However, as it became more and more apparent that the pandemic would continue to stay with us, it also became clear that one of our most important goals for 2021 would be a return: from digital to presence and from work at home back to the campus whenever this was possible under safe conditions.
I am proud that we, as a university community and together with local partners and authorities, have managed to accomplish just that in 2021: Creating a safe environment for our students and staff, making it possible for everyone to return to campus. In April, a SARS-CoV-2 RT PCR assay developed by researchers from the University of Konstanz, Professor Daniel Dietrich und Professor Christof Hauck, was CE-IVD certified and approved by local health authorities. Today, all university members can use this test free of charge and on a regular basis. Together with our own vaccination campaign, which took place in the summer, this screening offer is an important pillar of our comprehensive concept that has allowed for a safe return to campus.
With great pleasure, we welcomed our students, researchers, and staff members back on campus in fall 2021, both those who have already been part of the community and especially the new ones who joined us with the start of the academic year. We have achieved this goal through cooperation, solidarity and, above all, joint creativity. My great thanks go to the entire university community for the spirit it has shown.
Global responsibility and collaboration lie at the heart of our future
Although the coronavirus is currently one of the biggest global concerns, the challenges of our time go far beyond the pandemic and include additional urgent issues for our world, such as social inequality and climate change. Sustainability, therefore, is and will be an important focus both in the activities of the Rectorate and the future development of the University of Konstanz.
In 2021, this was evident at all levels of university life, from teaching to research and the institutional level. For example, our students, irrespective of their study programmes, now can take courses with a specific focus on sustainability, and even obtain a “sustainability certificate” upon completion. Regarding research at the University of Konstanz, one of many examples is the work of Professor Christian Voolstra. His research group is part of a highly cooperative, international research alliance investigating the resilience of corals in the face of climate change. Anchoring sustainability at the institutional level, a new Vice Rector for Sustainability, Information and Communication Technology was elected in April 2021. In July and November, respectively, the Rectorate and Senate adopted two policies on sustainability: an Air Travel Policy for the future reduction of CO2 emissions from air travel by university members and an Open Science Policy – with freely accessible and transparent research being a key cross-cutting factor in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, if the recent years have shown us one thing, it is that we cannot meet the global challenges of our time on our own. It requires strong partners who work together – regionally, nationally and internationally. Therefore, I am delighted to see that our YERUN community continued to grow in 2021, striving for high-quality education and research, as well as building on self-reflection, mutual respect, care for our young talents, equity and social responsibility. I am incredibly proud of our YERUN achievements in 2021 that demonstrated, once again, that there are no limits, borders or restrictions to our collective commitment and visions. Our visions for the future are nurtured by the numerous innovative initiatives and examples of how our young research institutions provide new impetus to the higher education landscape in Europe.
It was a pleasure to join my YERUN colleagues at the YERUN General Assembly in September, albeit virtually, and I hope we can meet in person next year in Madrid. I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to the YERUN Executive Board, the YERUN Brussels Office and all the experts from our young innovative research institutions for their remarkable contributions and hard work. Further, I would like to congratulate Professor Snježana Prijić-Samaržija on her election as YERUN president and thank our former president, Professor Bernd Scholz-Reiter, for his engagement and strong leadership during the last two years.
In 2021, we set out towards the new direction planned in 2020, and we will continue to follow this path in the years to come. I am certain that we, along with our current and new YERUN partners across the network, will continue to work out of conviction and incredible devotion towards our further improvement, going beyond our limits to shape the future of the European higher education sector. I look forward to the many new opportunities for collaboration across YERUN, the future achievements of our scientists and researchers and the new paths we will explore together.
I would also like to take this opportunity to wish our amazing YERUN community a productive, prosperous, healthy and happy 2022!
Photo caption: Professor Katharina Holzinger, Rector of the University of Konstanz. © Ulrike Sommer