“It is a pleasure to have you all here in Florence.” Those were the warm words of welcome from Prof Alessandra Petrucci who took office as Rector of the University of Florence this September. Almost 50 leading representatives from all seven EUniWell partner universities, among them rectors, vice-rectors, and student delegates, came together in Florence on the occasion of the 2nd EUniWell Rectors’ Assembly on 22 October 2021. In many cases, they met in person for the first time after months of intense digital collaboration. On the agenda: a look back at the first year of working together since the official launch of EUniWell, joint stocktaking and exchanging perspectives on important upcoming development steps for the road ahead, such as creating a virtual campus. The overarching goal of the meeting was to strengthen the voice and collaborative competence of all partner universities and EUniWell as a whole.
Reflecting on the first year of EUniWell, Prof Beatrix Busse, Chief Development Officer of EUniWell, thanked everyone for “a year of co-creational efforts, for all the achievements and all the work,” adding that the joint activities were directed towards “achieving well-being for each of us, the society and the environment.”
In the spirit of EUniWell’s holistic approach to well-being, to offset the carbon emissions of the guests who had come by plane, the hosting University of Florence planted seven trees, each representing the country of origin of one EUniWell partner university, and able to thrive in the region of Tuscany. The symbolic act was announced as part of the opening session and a certificate of tree patronage was presented to each university rector or their representative. The gesture, which elicited great approval, is now to be repeated at all other EUniWell campus locations, and the idea of EUniWell as a growing tree was present throughout the event. Prof Olivier Grasset, Vice-President for Research and Open Science at the University of Nantes commented: “The tree corresponds well to the University we’re building. Most of the activity is still happening underground, but our branches are sprouting, making our efforts visible.” Prof Miklós Kellermayer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Semmelweis University, also highlighted that “the tree symbolises our future and ever-growing efforts,” connecting it with the “aim to communicate and transfer our efforts into our universities, Europe, and beyond.”
Looking to the future, Prof Giorgia Giovannetti, Vice-Rector for International Relations at the University of Florence, highlighted the role of EUniWell in shaping the future of society, saying: “Universities have an opportunity to facilitate social mobility and help shape the citizens of tomorrow.” Commenting on this key aim of EUniWell to break down boundaries, Prof Ann-Charlotte Larsson, Vice-Rector for Internationalisation and Innovation at Linnaeus University, noted that “we need the possibilities of all our platforms to realise our objectives and enable seamless mobility.” Prof Isabelle Richard, Vice-President for European Affairs and International Relations at the University of Nantes, emphasised the unique competence of EUniWell as “the first and only European University that places well-being at the heart of all of its concerns,” in striving to effectuate this role as a force for societal change. A sentiment that was echoed by Prof Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor International at the University of Birmingham, who underscored the “crucial role EUniWell is playing in helping build our society back better as the only Alliance that focuses on well-being.”
Considering next steps, Prof Johanna Hey, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at the University of Cologne, asserted the importance “to integrate students and staff” also highlighting the importance of Seed Funding Calls to “foster research collaboration across universities.” EUniWell’s Chief Student Officer expressed appreciation for the Seed Funding Calls as “constantly evolving to highlight the contribution and training of students”. As an example, she mentioned the recent ‘Good Practices for Student Well-being’ Symposium and the upcoming Mental Health Symposium as “just two examples of the dedication of EUniWell for student well-being and student-led research.”
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