International Staff Days 2021: What international exchange of expertise can look like
Under the title “Responsible Universities – Universal Responsibility”, the International Staff Days 2021 took place at the end of April. The digital get-together of colleagues from WU’s partner universities was organized by WU’s International Office via Zoom and was well received. During the course of the event, which lasted several days, it became clear that the topic of responsibility and sustainability is engaging for universities worldwide and offers potential for action.
Which topics were foregrounded at the event? What did the kick-off look like?
In terms of content, the International Staff Days 2021 focused on inclusion in student exchange, more sustainable mobility options, and the concept of the “Responsible University”. See a few of our participants:
WU Professor Sigrid Stagl, Head of the Department of Socioeconomics and the Competence Center for Sustainability and Responsibility, kicked off the event. In her keynote speech, she provided the participants with definitions how the concept of a “responsible university” can be understood and which areas should be taken into account in one’s own actions – both at the individual and institutional level.
WU Professor Edith Littich, Dean for International Affairs, then welcomed the attendees and introduced them to WU, including its programs, international focus and ongoing initiatives.
How did the exchange of expertise work?
At the International Staff Days, best practice examples were exchanged and knowledge transfer was proactively encouraged. This was made possible by various formats, such as a workshop, a virtual market place and a discussion forum. Fortunately, the virtual framework of the event enabled colleagues from WU partner universities in Europe and overseas to participate in the same way.
Why is it important that we focus on the issue of responsibility?
Responsibility is a broad term that, in its most general understanding, means taking responsibility for one’s own actions, including the consequences. In the context of a university, the term is often interpreted as social-ecological responsibility. In practical terms, this manifests itself in the design of lectures, research, university management and in interaction with students as well as society. As a “Responsible University” and as an institution, WU has set itself the task of addressing future issues and challenges.
Which insights have been gained?
On an international level, everyone is currently equally concerned with the issue of responsibility. Through the joint exchange, new ideas were gained and it became clear how diverse approaches and solutions can be.
At WU, one approach is to involve students and faculty in the development and optimization of services and programs. Therefore, it is essential for progress to create an awareness for topics and available services within the area of inclusion and sustainability. In this respect, the International Staff Days benefited from contributions by former outgoing students and faculty members. WU Professor Giuseppe Delmestri, himself an advocate for bicycle and train travel, for example, showed what a more sustainable mobility could look like and what kind of rethinking is needed.
Closely related to the point of raising awareness is the area of student communication, which involves supporting and advising students. On the one hand, information on topics such as inclusion and sustainable mobility must be passed on; on the other hand, it is necessary to listen to the student community in order to get to know the diverse needs and realities of students’ lives. If both aspects of communication are successful, joint development with students is possible in a goal-oriented manner.
Statement of a participant:
“I really enjoyed the session and the way you made it interactive and to be able to participate in a virtual way. I truly hope that I will be able to visit the campus in person once we have returned back to normal as I was impressed by the architecture and open environment.”
Kim Willems (International Office, Masstricht University)