MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
After preparing vigorously for the conduct of our Fall Semester 2020 in the hybrid mode with about half to one-third of our students being on campus at any given time, at the beginning of September, we made the very important decision to conduct all classes via remote online instruction, per the clear and strong guidance from the Ministry of Health and Council of Higher Education (YÖK) regarding the recent development of the pandemic, with details outlined in my message.
The month of September has always been one of the best times of the year for me as we not only welcome the beautiful manifestations of the fall season in Istanbul and at our campus with its wonderful colors, but also welcome and embrace more than 1000 new undergraduates, hundreds of new MA/MS/PhD students and tens of new faculty and staff joining our Koç University community. Even though we expect our campus, devoid of the bulk of our students, to be dramatically different this semester, we aim to continue our traditions of welcoming the coming academic year of 2020-2021. This pandemic, however disruptive and obstructive it has been to our lives, shall not deter us from following our traditions. As usual, we still eagerly look forward to virtually meeting and welcoming our new incoming class, faculty and staff members across the range of Colleges & Schools & Units.
I would like to believe that we are merely postponing our face-to-face rendezvous on our campus to a further date, hopefully as early as the Spring Semester should the progress of the pandemic be more controlled and contained. We are hopeful that the face-to-face teaching/learning model with hybrid options we had previously planned for Fall 2020 Semester may still be possible for the Spring 2021 Semester, incumbent upon evaluation of the developments in the country and new guidance from the Ministry of Health and other related government authorities. With our own health experts, we are monitoring the current situation quite closely, evaluating each step with due diligence and allowing ourselves as much flexibility as possible so that if circumstances change, we can adapt swiftly and decisively.
We all have been eager to return back to our beautiful campus and many of our staff and faculty have dedicated literally hundreds of hours of work to develop our plans for Fall 2020, for which I am grateful. Fortunately, our planning efforts of these past four months have not been in vain. When we eventually return to our beautiful campus, we can put to use all our plans as our starting points, as we formulate new systems and preparations for a face-to-face teaching/learning model with hybrid options and a reduced population on our campus.
Each year, during Orientation Week, if we are lucky enough to be gifted with a bright sun by mother nature, we hold our Opening Address to new students at our amphitheater ODEON, one of the landmarks of our beautiful campus, where I am always happy to embrace our new students ancient style...This year, a few of us were still at ODEON, for our virtual meeting with the new students, but we all felt nostalgic, since the ODEON and the campus at large were surely so very devoid of the essence of our university without our students, faculty and staff.
Here are a few thoughts I shared with the new undergraduate Class of 2024 in my welcoming address which I delivered from the ODEON:
Our most basic premise is that people produce the best and the most when they are the freest. We thus strive to hire the best faculty, recruit the best students and then create/maintain the freest environment in which they can be the most productive, creative and successful. In this context, it is important that we do not limit ourselves by our preconceived rights/wrongs, and unnecessary central rules/regulations, but rather simply let great things happen by ‘getting out of the way’. Our method of governance is to govern without governing. We want our students and faculty to strive to find and pursue what feels right for them, to embark on their journey without fear, as the only way to find your true self is to listen to your inner voice.
We are quite proud of the interdisciplinary nature of our university and we strongly encourage all our students to take advantage and pursue studies in other schools and departments in addition to the one they major in.
I ask all our students to imagine university education and see the transition from ages 18 to 22 as a ‘rendezvous’, or an appointment if you will, between generations. My colleagues and I work hard to make this appointment as exciting, informative, fulfilling and productive as possible for our students. We strive to learn/teach together with our students so that we can maximize the dialogue among the generations in this ‘appointment’ of ours, for the benefit of both generations.
I also ask our students to see their university journey as a walk through a pipeline; they get in from one end when they first enter and get out from the other end when they graduate. What happens in between during their walk through that pipeline is up to them... All the good things that they experience make us very pleased and proud, but we also want very much to hear about those things that do not work out as they should for our students. Thus, it is the responsibility of our students and our wish from them to give us feedback, write to us, email us, complain or praise but always share your thoughts. Such feedback is very much needed in order for us to improve our great school; we need your feedback and your participation, so that together we can make this institution the best that it possibly can be.
At the beginning of each academic year, several of us in the university administration pay our respects to our founder, the late Mr. Vehbi Koç, by visiting his gravesite. Every year as we do so, I feel intense admiration and appreciation and I am overwhelmed with a great sense of responsibility of the amazing gift that he has bestowed upon our nation in founding our University, which his Family and Foundation continue to support so very generously. This year, we unfortunately had to gather for another funeral, that of Mrs. Suna Kıraç. We were deeply saddened by her passing away on September 15th, unfortunately succumbing to her relentless disease. Suna Kıraç was instrumental in the founding of our University with her indefatigable energy, drive and passion. Against her father's wishes to start smaller or support existing institutions, she wanted a full-fledged university and worked tirelessly to ensure that that dream may become a reality. Please watch a documentary about her life available on YouTube and read our 25th Anniversary Book, The Way of Science, to better understand her role in founding our wonderful university.
Koç University would not have come to being without Suna Kıraç, whose vision greatly helped make us become a “center of excellence” in such a short period of time. Our Suna Kıraç Library is the heart of our University; being the largest among many libraries established across Turkey by Suna Kıraç, it continues to be this unique space, in which our students can attain the highest level of learning.
As our Chairman Prof. Nur Yalman stated so eloquently in his message to our University, Suna Kıraç’s generous spirit and her honored name shall live on forever in the many cultural, scientific and educational institutions she helped create across Turkey. One of those noteworthy institutions she founded is AKMED - The Koç University Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Center for Mediterranean Civilizations. Next time you are in Antalya, I would urge you to make a visit to the wonderful museum there, converted from an old Byzantine church, that was a gift to Suna Kıraç from her husband for her 50th birthday.
Our condolences go out to her husband İnan Kıraç and her daughter İpek Kıraç and we relay our utmost respect and condolences to the other esteemed members of the Koç Family, including her sister Semahat Arsel and brother Rahmi Koç, and her nephews Ömer Koç and Ali Koç. May Almighty God forever bless Suna Kıraç’s beautiful soul and may she forever rest in Heaven.
Paying homage to the driving vision exhibited by Suna Kıraç at the time of the founding of our University, we shall continue to do our part by striving harder than ever to capture excellence in education of the architects of our tomorrows and in scientific research to ensure and strengthen the future of our Republic in the best way possible.
As Suna Kıraç has stated, 'may our ideals always be longer than our lives . . .'
Please continue to be cautious, be healthy, take care of yourselves and your families during these difficult times. I cannot wait to see things go back to normal when I hope to see you all on our beautiful campus . . .
My very best wishes...