MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
Dear Members of the Koç University Community,
Our Newsletter this month, marks the first anniversary of this new tradition of monthly Newsletters that we started in October 2016. I greatly enjoy sharing what matters to me with all of you in this format and look forward to many more years of doing so. For those regular or casual readers out there, please know that any observations or suggestions concerning the content or the format of the Newsletters are most welcome.
October is a special month for Koç University since we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our university as a result of the brilliant foresight of the late Vehbi Koç, signified by his ‘opening lecture’ delivered on October 4th, 1993. Vehbi Koç bestowed upon our country and the world at large this great institution, driven by his deep held belief that "The more we educate quality people, the more we serve our country".
In his opening lecture, Vehbi Koç underscored the importance that he attached to education by saying: "My address to you now is your first lecture and is symbolic. As the founder of this university, I want to pass on to you things that I have found important during my 70 years of education in ‘the university of life’. People learn things continuously day in and day out; the education of those who are open to new things and learning never ends during their lifetime…"
The charge given to us by our founder 24 years ago, was to protect and preserve this institution as a beacon of excellence and a symbol of progress in education and science and to always work hard to raise it to new heights. As we continue on our path to realize this charge, we can be proud of our achievements so far.
For me October started with a short visit to Kyoto, Japan to attend the Science, Technology & Society Forum, a gathering of intellectuals and leaders from business, academia, government and non-government organizations, where I served on a panel titled ‘Collaboration between Business, Academia & Government in Research’. I love Kyoto as I have been there probably 20+ times. It is a beautiful city that presents the best of Japanese tradition and culture and is greatly enhanced by the presence of Kyoto University, the second largest in size but the best research university in Japan.
Before coming to Koç University as President, I served for 30+ years as a faculty member at Stanford University, in charge of a large group conducting research on near-Earth Space Physics, i.e., the physics and chemistry of the upper atmospheric region that surrounds the planet Earth, constituting the so-called ‘ionosphere’ and the ‘magnetosphere’. For more than 20 years, we competed and collaborated heavily with a similarly large research group of Professor Hiroshi Matsumoto of Kyoto University, who is a dearest friend of mine. Shortly before I became President of Koç University in 2009, Hiroshi was appointed as President of Kyoto University, thus presenting an outstanding opportunity for collaboration between KU of Turkey and KU of Japan. That is why we have a healthy student exchange program with Kyoto, and are working on research collaborations involving workshops and joint programs. It was a pleasure to once again see my friend Hiroshi in Kyoto, who was attending as a panelist and who is now the President of RIKEN, the largest comprehensive research institution of Japan.
Our second most important activity this October involved hosting the Head of the Council of Higher Education (YÖK), Prof. M. A. Yekta Saraç, who visited our university and met with our Academic Council. We are pleased to see efforts on the part of YÖK aimed at raising academic standards via instigation of quality assessments of universities, establishment of new doctoral-student support programs, encouragement and support of research universities and plans for allowing more autonomy (for example in Associate Professor appointments) for established research universities. There exists a huge diversity in quality across the 180+ universities that operate in Turkey, many of which were established after 2006, so quality control by a central body is important. At the same time, well-established and globally highly ranked universities such as ours hold themselves to generally much higher standards and would greatly benefit from more autonomy and flexibility in their operations.
The last two weeks of October involved a marathon 8 nights of dinners at our residence, for the founders or heads of companies who are the sponsors for our Anatolian Scholarship program. My wife and myself have been hosting these dinners since the inception of the program (2011) and initially hosting these dinners was easy, as with 6 companies and 14 students we could fit around a couple of tables inside the residence.
Now with 180 sponsors and 376 students, our dinners are spread over 8 nights with 100 people each, held in a large tent built in the garden of our residence. Each evening is a joyous event of celebration, as our students are introduced to the sponsors and their spouses and as we thank them for their contributions. During the dinners, I typically ask one sponsor and one student to say a few things each night, but I inform them just 10 minutes prior to their speech, making sure that they really speak from their hearts and that expression of their feelings is spontaneous and not studied or prepared. And the result, I can tell you, is always much more than any one of us can imagine. What our sponsors and students share with us each night underscores the wonderful work we do with this program in touching the hearts & minds of so many people. I cannot be more proud of our students or more grateful to our sponsors.
All the while in the midst of our intensely busy schedules, we are blessed with the beautiful scenes of the fall season all around us in our beautiful campus. Let us all enjoy the wonderful colors and the sedate and dignified disposition of the falling or fallen leaves and the colorful edible or nonedible berry-like fruits that decorate the otherwise green or yellow plants. If you do not have time to enjoy the outdoors much, follow my tweets (@umransavasinan) for some beautiful photos of the fall season all around us.
My best wishes and regards to you all,