Celebrated the 26th USI Dies academicus
Institutional Communication Service
7 May 2022
The 26th Dies academicus of Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) took place on Saturday morning in the West Campus Lugano Aula magna. On the eve of a significant change, USI marked with gratitude the end of the leadership of Prof. Boas Erez, opening up a new chapter with an awareness of the importance of fulfilling the role that a university is called to play: that of a voice which, by cultivating feeling and aesthetics together with logic and reason, offers energy and hope and, through knowledge, traces a path to the future.
In her welcome address, University Council President Monica Duca Widmer highlighted USI's academic progress under the leadership of Prof. Erez. Indeed, since 2016, USI has grown from several angles: number of students (from 2'862 to 3'922), academic staff (from 917 to 1'108), number of institutes (from 19 to 24) and competitive research funds (from CHF 21.9 to 29.4 million). "Boas Erez, with his team, has led USI to achieve excellent results in the academic field, and for this, Università della Svizzera italiana is grateful" - continued the President - "There remain differences of opinion with the USI Council on the administrative management of the University, which led to the consensual decision to end his mandate as Rector early, at the height of the University's achievements in the academic field".
The role of the University
In his last appearance in this role, it was then the turn of USI Rector Boas Erez to recall that USI is fulfilling its mission of education and research and its role in the region's social, economic, and cultural growth. USI is well represented in the leading international rankings and is now fully integrated into the Swiss academic system: the Rector pointed out that the recent renewal of its accreditation by the Swiss Accreditation Council is proof.
However, beyond the figures and recognitions, Boas Erez retraced the main stages of his term of office and referred back to the previous Dies, stressing above all "what matters most", what informs and gives meaning to those figures and recognitions: the importance of the voices of the members of the University and the voice of the University as a living and active actor in the community; the vocation of USI as a way for the future, that of its students and researchers, of the region in which it operates, of its employees; the University as hope, with its students and their ideas, with its initiatives on the territory, with its projects offering an alternative to mistrust and contributing to proposing a more inclusive and plural society; the University as an energy for tackling challenges such as sustainability and digitisation; the University as a reality in Southern Switzerland, from Airolo to Mendrisio, and with which the region, and beyond, can continue to "shape knowledge", especially now that, as the Rector recalled with a reference to the Japanese technique of kintsugi, the relationship between science and society is perhaps asking to be "stitched up" by working collectively and openly. In this context, the Rector emphasised that USI completely fulfills its role as a university and that, despite all the difficulties this may entail, it does so responsibly to heal any rifts and earn the trust of its various interlocutors.
Journalism, academia and society
Next, Serena Tinari, investigative journalist and Co-President of Re-Check, in her keynote speech "Journalism, academia and society. In crisis mode", illustrated the importance of fact-checking and maintaining a critical spirit when dealing with complex topics, for example, in journalistic coverage of health and geopolitical affairs.
As is tradition, honours were bestowed at the end of the ceremony.
Lorrie Faith Cranor, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Informatics - at the suggestion of the Faculty of the same name - "for her relentless pursuit of making privacy and security usable - including her pioneering work on privacy policies, her fundamental contributions towards understanding phishing attacks, and her active role in shaping public policy to better protect our privacy".
Roxana Mehran, Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Biomedical Sciences - at the suggestion of the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences - "for her many substantial contributions to the field of modern cardiology, for her inclusive and multidisciplinary vision in clinical research, and for being a spokesperson in the international community on issues related to equal opportunities and gender medicine".
The Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching was presented to Laura Pozzi, Professor at the Faculty of Informatics, "for the quality of her teaching".
Finally, Boas Erez symbolically handed over the baton to Lorenzo Cantoni, who will take his post as Deputy Rector from Monday, 9 May.
Art and music
Thanks to the collaboration with the Museo delle Culture in Lugano, a "small masterpiece" from the Montgomery Collection was presented to the public in the Aula Magna: a 16th-century ceramic bottle repaired using the kintsugi technique, one of the works in the temporary exhibition "Japan. Arts and Life", on show at Villa Malpensata until 8 January 2023. Kintsugi, also known as "the art of the precious scars", is a restoration technique in which the fractures and gaps in the artefacts are covered with golden lacquer, with patterns designed to generate the highest harmony of the parts. The heirloom thus restored retains its essence and history while renewing itself and acquiring value precisely because of its 'scars'.
The ceremony was accompanied by musical interludes by internationally renowned Lugano guitarists Stefano Romerio and Roberto Pianca, who played four jazz pieces.
Note: Following the article that appeared on Sunday, 8 May 2022, in the Sunday edition of Corriere del Ticino, USI wishes to point out that, after verifying the information with the University Council and the person directly concerned, Prof. Luca Maria Gambardella, the rumour that the latter has been "offered the position of Rector at the University" is without foundation. USI will soon publish the international call for applications for a new Rector.