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Europe’s young universities visited SDU – online, of course

On 7-9 April, SDU hosted Staff Days on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as well as the general assembly of the Yerun Network of Young European Research Universities.

By Susan Grønbech Kongpetsak, , 4/28/2021

‘The University of Southern Denmark’s experiences in working with the SDGs were inspiring and added excellent practice perspectives to all of the theoretical aspects one often reads about the SDGs.’

‘Excellent format, truly innovative.’

‘Our colleagues at other universities have lots of great examples and experiences with the SDGs. Here’s hoping there will be even more opportunities to meet and learn from each other.’

‘Excellent keynotes and inspiration for our work.’

This is but a small selection of the evaluation feedback from the approx. 160 technical and administrative staff from universities in the Yerun Network, which in early April participated in Staff Days on the SDGs at SDU.

Digital Staff Days

This was the first time SDU hosted both the Staff Days and the general assembly of the Yerun Network. And due to the corona situation, the organisers from SDU were somewhat anxious when they invited the network to join the digital Staff Days and general assembly.

The Staff Days were conducted from a TV studio at the Centre of Journalism to give the event a more dynamic focal point compared to a normal online meeting.

From here, SDU’s Pro-rector Sebastian Mernild and University Director Thomas Buchvald Vind welcomed everyone and kicked off the fruitful talks about the universities’ SDG efforts and activities. The Staff Days featured keynote presentations from Hans Bruyninckx, CEO of the European Environment Agency, Janne Liburd, Professor of Sustainable Tourism at SDU and Pelle Guldborg Hansen, Associate Professor of Behavioural Research at Roskilde University (RUC).

A successful experiment

Prior to the Staff Days, the participants had been divided into groups according to their interests in relation to the SDG efforts. Each group had a personal breakout room in Microsoft Teams, where participants could meet up before, during and after the event.

- Creating a digital setup in Teams turned out to be a bit of an experiment, as we wanted to allow staff members who are both linguistically, geographically and academically asynchronous to meet up and have profitable conversations and seek ideas and inspiration from each other. It was especially important to create a positive vibe about the event in advance and during day one, so that we could avoid any ‘oh no, there are breakout sessions; I’m outta here’ situations, says Kristina Dienhart, Senior Consultant in the Rector’s Office.

She also explains that some groups naturally had fewer participants than expected, as committed participation always poses a challenge when events are online and free. But overall, the conclusion of the online Staff Days is:

- By and large, the experiment was successful – thanks to the great collaboration with our colleagues at SDU, who hosted the individual groups, says Kristina Dienhart.

The groups continue the collaboration

And even though the online Staff Days at SDU ended on 8 April, several groups have decided to continue their SDG efforts, explains Anya Aarenstrup, Specialist Consultant at the Rector’s Office:

- We have received very encouraging feedback that the participants formed great relationships, and it was a really efficient way to run the Staff Days event, she says and continues:

- Some of the groups are already working on getting back together to continue their discussions on the efforts towards the education-related SDGs. In a similar vein, the group working with waste management are also in the process of initiating concrete collaborations.

New strategy and new members

On 9 April, the delegates of the Yerun Network met for the general assembly. Here, SDU’s Rector Henrik Dam welcomed everyone with a speech about SDU and the important role of young universities in solving society’s great challenges. The speech was very well-received by the delegates.

At the general assembly, Yerun’s new ‘Enabling Talent to Grow’ strategy was presented together with the plan for the rollout of the strategy, which over the next five years will focus on talent development, open science and knowledge sharing, as well as interaction with and value creation for society in Yerun.

In addition, the expansion of the network with new universities and a more general discussion of challenges and items of interest on the European agenda for Yerun members were the most important items on the agenda before the Yerun Network rounded off by thanking everyone for a successful general assembly and Staff Days at SDU.

Brief facts about the Yerun Network

Yerun is a network of 17 young research universities – including SDU – working together to introduce new perspectives and strengths into the European debates and bring a united and strong voice to the European agenda.

The network collaborates on both research and education initiatives, which, among other things, can contribute to increased mobility and solutions to some of the societal challenges faced by European societies.

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Editing was completed: 28.04.2021