MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
April on our beautiful campus is truly special, with the cherry tree (‘Prunus serrulata’ or ‘Sakura’) blossoms displaying their beauty in full, albeit for a very short time, and the greenery of the many other trees around us appearing somehow fresher, brighter and crisper. The sounds of our many birds are also more beautiful as they welcome the spring season in their own way. April also adorns its beauty on our city of Istanbul with tulips all around the city and the Judas tree (‘Erguvan’ or ‘Cercis siliquastrum’) blossoms dominating the streets and the hills with their fantastic colors.
The month of April started for me with a trip to Brown University, where I was invited to serve on a panel at the 10th annual Reinventing Higher Education Conference, bringing together 37 university Presidents to discuss the challenges in managing the human capital of the future. As part of the panel ‘The Future of Work’, I shared my thoughts on how I see university education as a rendezvous, or an appointment if you will, between generations. My remarks were received very well and deemed rather revolutionary and did stir a lot of new ideas and discussions among the attendees, both before and after the panel. It has always been my belief that what we have at our university and others now is the ‘appointment’ of Generation X (Born before 1980s) with Generation Z (Born after 1995). The way the ‘teachers’ learned what they know is dramatically different from the way the ‘students’ are poised to learn or are ready to absorb. Technology is advancing rapidly, so much so that customized instruction tailored to individual students, based on their past histories of learning (or not), may soon become possible. So how important is the syllabus? Should there even be one? How much of university education should be based on departmental curricula? Should we not stop being rigidly insistent on covering syllabi and listen to, follow and be guided more by our students? Such thoughts constituted the essence of my remarks on the panel.
My visit at Brown University also included special meetings with many individuals, including President Christina Paxson. We have many things in common with this great institution and will explore the many opportunities for collaboration and partnership that became apparent during my meetings.
The conference at Brown University unfortunately coincided with the Çiğdem Kağıtçıbaşı Human Development Research Award Ceremony, which I am sorry to have missed. Prof. Çiğdem Kağıtçıbaşı, who passed away tragically 2 years ago, was an outstanding scientist, a true humanist and a woman of the Turkish Republic. Among her countless contributions to science, her most important legacy are the many students and highly accomplished scientists she has educated and inspired. This award scheme she had introduced shortly before her untimely passing is now dutifully carried out by our College of Social Sciences and Humanities and our Center for Gender Studies (KOÇ-KAM). We shall remember Prof. Kağıtçıbaşı by celebrating the remarkable life she has lived and her many contributions to science and Turkish society. The last time she and I had met, we were in my office and she had brought the book where she was listed as one of top 100 influential scientists. I was so happy and proud to see that, and it is this memory of Prof. Kağıtçıbaşı that I will always cherish.
The busy month continued with the “Corporate Governance Experience and Sustainable Development in Turkey” Conference organized by Koç University Corporate Governance Forum. I am quite glad to see that we are steadily progressing with the work of the Forum and with collaborations, support from prominent companies like Siemens and Deloitte, I expect more meaningful results in the next few years to come. In my opening address to the attendees, I shared my own experiences meeting with many family businesses which were founded 30 to 40 years ago and which struggle to survive in the new century. Family companies are quite critical for the welfare and development of our country, and we should support the remediation of their shortcomings as we all know that they can produce enormous potentials if/when they are governed with a well-established corporate culture. We are happy to be able to contribute to this endeavor with our Corporate Governance Forum, and we have to lead the way with our field studies and research.
As a person who has been wearing the same wristwatch for more than 55 years, I personally like traditions; not only on a cultural level but also in terms of creating and maintaining them for future generations to enjoy and follow. One such tradition, our annual 8-man rowing race between Koç University and Kadir Has University, took place on April 13th this year. Former Kadir Has President Mustafa Aydın and myself initiated this competition 8 years ago to emulate the traditional annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities that was started back in 1829, and it is nice to see that the race has now become a great tradition and an opportunity to celebrate sportsmanship. I congratulate our hard-working team who wake up at 04:00 to 05:00 am in the morning to practice in every weather condition. The tally for the traditional race at this time is Koç winning the first three and Kadir Has winning the last five, including the one on April 13. Our team and trainers obviously have to work harder and be more vigilant, if we were to close this gap in the future.
On April 23rd, we celebrated the National Sovereignty and Children's Holiday which is a most meaningful gift to the children of our country by the founder of our Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and which also marks the founding of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 23 April 1920. I cannot help but think that much of present-day Turkey was occupied by enemy forces at that time and that it took so much bravery and self sacrifice on the part of our forefathers to establish our Republic within three years thereafter. We must never forget the blood spilled by our martyrs so that we can live free in this beautiful country of ours.
The very busy month of April wrapped up with our General Faculty and Staff Meeting on April 26th when we celebrated those who have shown the kind of dedication and commitment that have deserved our Awards this year. The Faculty Outstanding Teaching Awards allow us to acknowledge the effort, experience and time put into quality teaching. The Outstanding Service Awards this year included awardees from among our faculty and administrative staff being rewarded for their many special outstanding contributions. We wholeheartedly congratulate all of our Award recipients and wish them continued success in their careers.
April 26th was also the date of the presentation of the annual BAGEP awards given by the Science Academy to young scientists. We are proud to see our faculty members receiving 7 of the 43 Awards presented, solidly establishing Koç University as the recipient of the largest number of these awards since inception of the program back in 2013.
April is also the month when our fantastic student performance clubs start to exhibit their performances in the Sevgi Gönül Auditorium. My wife and I cherish these; the evenings go on my calendar as early as in January and are protected at all possible costs. So far, we watched wonderful performances of the Turkish Folk Music Club and enjoyed again a highly entertaining performance from our Musical Club, both of which were truly outstanding. Upcoming month of May looks to be full with more performances from our student clubs, our Spring Festival and the end of classes, as we rapidly move towards completing another Academic Year . . . Let us try to enjoy it all as time goes by faster than we can blink . . .
Best wishes and regards to you all,