‘Buen camino’. Speaking this words, Prof Thom Palstra said farewell as UT’s Rector, just after he had transferred the chain of duty to his successor Prof Tom Veldkamp. The theme of the 59th Dies Natalis – anniversary -, fully different from any of the previous ones, was ‘let’s get weaving'. From the single thread that represents one researcher, student or project, to a strong tissue or tapestry that is jointly shaped. Leading to connections ranging from the regional to the global scale.
Watch the full recording of the Dies 2020 celebration? Check the link at the bottom of this story!
‘Let’s get weaving’ refers to the past, to Twente’s textile industry. It is an appeal: let’s start working’. On this 59th Dies, it is also an appeal to do this together. The resulting woven tissue is stronger than any of the threads, and can be connected to other pieces of tissue as well, for together creating tapestry. Thom Palstra spoke about this, together with student Manouk Ramselaar, with table guests from science and industry. The discussions were about three themes that were close to Palstra’s heart as a Rector: talent development, interwovenness of science and society, and the role of the Twente ecosystem on a global leven. Questions were like: wat does talent need to flourish? How do we involve more people in science – like in citizen’s science? Is Twente still a ‘best kept secret’ or is that a cliché by now?
Photography Rikkert Harink
Listen and enjoy
Main conclusion: the tissue that Twente has woven, is already very strong. Strong threads are the many innovative companies that are young and can adapt fast. Still, there will be enough ‘weaving’ left to do, as was shown by the recommendations the table guests passed to the new Rector. ‘Listen, listen, listen, at all levels of the organisation’, ‘Create new types of collaboration, because the time of the ‘academic loner’ is over. Connect this to societal issues and challenges of various sizes. And, as Prof Palstra recommend to his successor: take the time to enjoy this position as a rector, with all the contacts involved.
The celebration of the 59th Dies Natalis, was different in almost all respects, caused by the corona pandemic. No Dies Lectures, no cortege of dozens of Professors, no Senate Dinner. Yes, the traditional ‘Gaudeamus igitur’ was sung, from behind many laptops and almost synchronously. Yes, the awards were there: the Professor de Winter Prize, the Marina van Damme Scholarship and the Overijssel PhD Award. All this was done online, with only a very small live audience, in a tv-show approach that had some typical student jokes.
The right path
And then there was, of course, the formal transfer of duties from Rector Magnificus Professor Thom Palstra, to his successor Professor Tom Veldkamp, who was a Dean of the UT Faculty ITC (Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation). Palstra, who was a Rector for four years, will continue his past as a scientist a gain, in solid state chemistry. Referring to his passion for hiking, he wished his successor and the University of Twente ‘buen camino’. That is more than ‘have a pleasant journey’. It is about choosing the right path, the right direction.