This year, too, COVID-19 prevented us from opening the academic year in the way we have always done: in a pleasantly full Martinikerk, with students, staff, professors, lecturers, and guests. This time, however, the ceremony was able to take place with more people than last year. Although I am very happy that our students are able to attend lectures in person this year, we must continue to be very careful. The pandemic is not over, even though the prospects are much more positive than they were last year.
Now that the year has officially started, I am looking forward to working with my fellow members of the Board of the University to start implementing our new Strategic Plan for the next four years: ‘Making Connections’. This plan is all about making connections. The lessons that we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic have also been incorporated into this plan. More than ever before, we are seeing the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, both within and outside the University. Society is facing major scientific and social challenges relating to climate resilience, sustainability, social resilience, ageing, and digital change. As an open academic community, we have a responsibility to take on these challenges and prepare our students for them—not only from our ivory tower, but in connection with society as a whole.
How are we going to do this? In the near future, we will establish four ‘Schools’: meeting places where we will conduct interdisciplinary research, teach, and engage in dialogue about and with society. They will be places where we will truly be able to realize the connections that we would like to make. The four Schools will be the Wubbo Ockels School for the energy transition and climate change; the Aletta Jacobs School, based on the theme of healthy ageing; the Jantina Tammes School for digital innovation and technological progress; and, finally, the Rudolf Agricola School, which will focus on governance, politics, and society. These schools will also play an important role in connecting to the University of the North.
We aim to be and remain an open and closely knit academic community that is positioned squarely within society and that makes concrete contributions to meeting the challenges that society is facing—not only in the North, where we have our roots, but also nationally and internationally. We aim to be a resilient, agile University, where students and staff members feel at home, where they are able to develop, and where they enjoy returning to—even long after they have graduated.
Cisca Wijmenga, Rector Magnificus
By Marjan Brouwers
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