Koç University News & Announcements Bulletin

October 2020


Our Newsletter this month marks the fourth anniversary of this tradition of monthly Newsletters that we started in October 2016. Back then, I simply wanted to communicate more often with our Koç University constituency and community via different channels and the Newsletter was a new means that we wanted to use. This newsletter has since become more than a communication vehicle; it has become an important archive of our history.

October has always been a month of new beginnings for us at Koç University and for us as a nation . . . We start the month celebrating the birthday of our great institution and end it with the all important Republic Day.

We celebrated the 27th 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. This year most celebrations, including birthdays, have felt bittersweet, sad and incomplete without the joy of being able to enjoy the company of friends and loved ones and most of the time being confined to virtual screens.

This pandemic, however disruptive and obstructive it has been to our lives, shall nevertheless not deter us from following our traditions. We usually have our academic year start in mid-September but this year, the birthday of our great institution and our start of the school year coincided,  giving us all the more reason to celebrate the brilliant foresight of the late Vehbi Koç.

I would like to take this opportunity to express our wholehearted gratitude to Mr. Vehbi Koç, who 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”. On behalf of all of you, I would also like to express our deeply held appreciation and thanks to the Vehbi Koç Foundation, and the Koç family, for their generous, unrelenting and extensive support of our university for the past 27 years.

In his opening lecture, 27 years ago, 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 . . .”

Another homage also goes to Suna Kıraç, who recently passed away, unfortunately succumbing to her relentless disease. She was instrumental in the founding of our University with her indefatigable energy, drive and passion. 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.

My belief, that we shall prevail and come out of these troubled times as a stronger institution, is greater than ever as we see many positive developments in our student recruitment efforts, in garnering research grants, in the new Research Centers that we have established and new international recognition for our faculty and research efforts. The duty thus bestowed upon us remains the same: to protect and preserve this institution as a center of excellence and as a symbol of progress and to always work our hardest to raise it to new heights.

Koç University has realized many great achievements in its 27 years that have not only enriched our university but also our country. This great institution has emerged as a beacon of excellence as one of the best faces of our nation abroad. As a member of our community, I am truly proud of our achievements so far and greatly excited about the heights that we shall climb and the challenges we shall overcome in the coming years.

Following an exciting Orientation Week, the school year started at full force on October 5th, 2020. Like last year, I shared a video message, which you can watch here. This year, my message is a bit different and nostalgic, with our campus empty and longing for our return.

In my earlier messages, I had shared the immense investment we have made, enabling state-of-the-art video recording technology in all of our classrooms and learning spaces to further strengthen our infrastructure and capabilities in real-time learning modalities and to ensure academic readiness for flexible hybrid teaching and learning. I am very pleased to know that our investment is already paying off with many of our professors using writing pads etc., to conduct their classes with real-time dialogue with their students.

As I now teach my Physics 101 Class to nearly 130 students, with most of them connected in real-time, I am reminded of my days back at Stanford University in the late 1970s, when I taught classes with students remotely connected in real-time under the Stanford Instructional Television Network, well before the times of Personal Computers and the Internet. The remote connections at that time were established via cable TV and microwave links. Nevertheless, we would be writing on a white board standing up or a writing pad sitting down, with in-class students watching from the board or on their individual TV monitors while tens of remote students in companies across the Silicon Valley and all across California, Oregon, Colorado and other Western United States would be watching in specially designed rooms at their companies. With two-way cable communication in place, remote students were able to ask questions and get their answers in real-time and participate in class as if they were present. Throughout my 30+ years on Stanford faculty, I must have taught so many courses with this mode, and interacted with so many engineers and professionals from so many companies. We have definitely come full circle with what we can do these days, with now much more flexible fully digital means over the Internet, literally teaching to hundreds of students joining the class in real-time from all across our country, enriching the entire teaching-learning experience.

As I state on many occasions, one of the most important focus areas for me is the relationship and the collaboration opportunities between industry and universities. When such liaisons, connections do succeed, highly effective and innovative ecosystems can be created, bearing extraordinary results. Silicon Valley with its proximity to Stanford and Berkeley has been the paradigm for such ecosystems. After very successful initiatives with İş Bank this year, first with our Artificial Intelligence Research Center opening in February and then with our Infectious Diseases Research Center opening in August, we are quite excited to yet have another successful cooperation with a leader in the sector of manufacturing, digital production and optimization, Siemens Turkey. Our long-lasting partnership with Siemens dates back quite a few years, including the Koç University Corporate Governance Forum where we work together to remediate the shortcomings of family companies which are critical for the welfare and development of our country. Our collaboration is cemented with the new Koç University-Siemens IOT EDGE Research Laboratory located at our Rumelifeneri Campus as a part of our Manufacturing & Automation Research Center (MARC), under the supervision and guidance of Prof. Ismail Lazoğlu. This Laboratory provides an advanced manufacturing industry-focused platform for developing applications that are a combination of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines, digital technologies and cloud technologies that facilitate digital manufacturing support and production optimization.

Moving on to philanthropy and alumni relations, another initiative, which we launched last year, namely the Koç University Giving Week, kicks off in November. Giving Week is a weeklong online fundraising drive for alumni, students, faculty and staff, and friends from all over the world to come together to give back to our great institution which in turn will help us elevate this unique place to greater heights. In our first foray into this new tradition, we had done rather well last year, collecting more than 50,000 TL from 78 participants, 23 of whom being new donors. I do sincerely hope that we can generate the same kind of enthusiasm this year as well; more details soon to follow so please stay tuned...

We end October by celebrating the 97th anniversary of the founding of our Republic, the very reason for our existence as a nation and as a country.

When the founder of our Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, said on the night of October 28, 1923, 'Gentlemen, we shall proclaim the Republic of Turkey tomorrow.', his words not only reflected his unmatched vision, courage and foresight, but also his eternal faith in the Turkish people, and his confidence in the openness of this nation to great innovations and in its ability to prevail against great peril and adversity, especially in the light of the resilience exhibited in the heroic struggle during our War of Independence.

We have been dealing with a pandemic that has gripped our lives for more than half of 2020; as winter months are right around the corner, we know that a difficult period awaits us. However, let us not forget Atatürk's belief and trust in us from exactly 97 years ago. We shall also overcome these difficult days and emerge out of them stronger than ever before. 

Recognizing that universities such as ours are among the most important institutions of our Republic, we embrace the legacy of our founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk by continuing to strive for excellence in learning, teaching, and scientific research, so as to make leading and defining contributions to the development and enlightenment of our country and nation.

As I extend my best regards to you all, please continue to be cautious, be healthy, take care of yourselves and your families during these difficult times.

My very best wishes for success, health and happiness . . . 

Umran İnan