Rektors tal vid den akademiska högtiden


Jag är ny som rektor nu sedan två veckor och i mitt första blogginlägg vill jag passa på att återge mitt tal från akademisk högtid, där jag ju installerades den 7 oktober.

rektor martin Hellström vid Akademisk högtid 2022

"Madam Minister of Education,
Mr. Chairman of the University Board,
Members of the University Board,
Dear guests of honor,
Dear all new professors and doctors,
Dear students and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is a new and growing scientific discipline in Sweden and in other countries of the world. Work Integrated Learning is rooted in the belief that theory and practice should go together when it comes to Higher Education. Therefore, collaboration between academia and society - and industry as a part of the society - is crucial. Considered as a method of learning, Work Integrated Learning can be described as a conceptualisation of mutual collaboration. For a collaborating university like Mälardalen University, Work Integrated Learning is an important issue we must look at.

It is less known that literature, storytelling, philosophical texts, and art are and provide important perspectives in Work Integrated Learning. Not as education (in Swedish “bildning”) in the general sense, nor as humanistic ornaments in our educational programmes. But rather as a question for opening rooms of understanding and to shape critical contexts for the content of our education and research. In that way our students can get a wider understanding of their learning and the objects of learning and research.

In line with that I would like to tell you a story now – a story about George, who was born in 1914 as a son of Jewish immigrants in Oregon, USA. George grew up like any other boy, but he initially had problems with mathematics in high school. However, his father and teachers encouraged him not to give up, but rather take a greater interest in mathematics. With great effort he eventually improved and even continued with mathematics at university level, and then with statistics as a PhD-student at Berkeley.

At the university he often arrived late for lectures, once a full 20 minutes late to Professor Jerzy Newman´s lecture on statistics. George snuck into the auditorium and took notes from the blackboard, where the professor already had written two mathematical problems. George believed this to be their homework. According to himself, they seemed to be “a little harder than usual”. However, a few days later, he handed in completed solutions for both problems. After a few weeks, he was called to the professor’s office where all the university’s professors of mathematics are gathered. “Congratulations, George, you have solved the two problems!”

A surprised George eventually learns that the two tasks had not been homework. The professor had merely presented two mathematical problems that no scientist in the world had yet solved. But George had missed just that information because of his late arrival to the lecture.

What can we learn from this true story, the story about George B. Dantzig (1914-2005) - who became a famous mathematician, of great importance to industrial engineering, operations research, computer science, economics, and statistics?

Well, what I take from this story is that presumption and attitude matter. Not many students feel challenged or motivated by tasks that are claimed to be unsolvable. At least, none of George´s fellow students even tried to solve them. And would George have taken them on if he had known that all the world´s scientists had not been able to solve them?

The question then becomes: how can we turn our students and doctoral students into curious solvers of today´s and tomorrow´s seemingly unsolvable problems? How can we at Mälardalens University contribute to a sustainable future?

Dear fellows! Today, you will be appointed professors and doctors and honorary doctors at our University! It is now your duty to figure out how to encourage and motivate our students into becoming the brave academics and game changers of tomorrow. Let me be clear: You have the power to influence our future!

Speaking about the future and unsolvable problems, the latest UN climate report is a very final wake-up-call for the future of human life on our planet. The problems are described in apocalyptic terms. The challenges of today therefore are complex and global. They require cross-border, cross-disciplinary, cross-professional, and cross-generational interaction.

As Amanda Gorman says in her poem “The Hill We Climb” which was performed during Joe Biden´s inauguration as US president:

We will not be turned around Vi kommer inte att låta oss vändas om
​​​​​​​Or interrupted by intimidation Eller avbrytas av hotelser
Because we know our inaction and inertia För vi vet att vår passivitet och tröghet
Will be the inheritance of the next generation kommer att vara nästa generations arv.
Our blunders become their burdens Våra misstag blir deras bördor

Dear friends! There is no time to wait until one of our students will arrive late for one of our lectures to solve them. In a sense we are already late – all of us. Time is a luxury we no longer have. So let´s all forget that the problems seem to be unsolvable. Let us work on them together, with courage. With all collective competence at our new University, Mälardalen University. Then, together with our students and surrounding society we can be and will be the game changers needed to change our story to a success story for future generations.”