dies academicus 2023: "Research does not follow a zeitgeist"

2023-07-07 The academic year 2023 ended last Wednesday with the dies academicus, the University's day of celebration. At the ceremony in the Libeskind Auditorium, prizes were awarded for special research achievements as well as for student commitment. The German economist Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrike M. Malmendier was awarded an honorary doctorate.

"It is an immense honour for me to receive an honorary doctorate from Leuphana," said Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrike Malmendier, expressing her gratitude for the award. ©Fred Dott
"It is an immense honour for me to receive an honorary doctorate from Leuphana", said Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrike Malmendier, expressing her gratitude for the award.

"The action orientation in our mission statement - that was an experiment, where how much practical relevance can be established, what is suitable and proven. Today, when the idea of the Third Mission is virtually flooding science policy, it looks like we were ahead of our time," Sascha Spoun summed up in the Libeskind Auditorium, recalling Leuphana's realignment about ten years ago. In his speech on the importance of action orientation in research and teaching, however, the president also urged vigilance: "Your research does not follow a zeitgeist that manifests itself in some Grand Challenges, some of which will already change tomorrow." He encouraged researchers to break new ground: "Because only in this way, by also looking at what is supposedly irrelevant to society, do you create the greatest added value for society." Sascha Spoun reminded the audience that the hole in the ozone layer and man-made climate change were solved by this spirit of research.

The focus of the evening was the awarding of honorary doctorates. The Faculty of Political Science honoured Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrike Malmendier. The professor at the University of California at Berkeley has been a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, the so-called "Wirtschaftsweisen", since September 2022. She is one of the world's top economists. In his laudatory speech, Prof. Dr. Mario Mechtel, Professor of Economics, enumerated in. Empirical Microeconomics, listed just a few of the renowned international universities at which Ulrike Malmender works and has worked: Stanford, Princeton, Harvard and Oxford. Her research focuses on corporate finance, behavioural economics, behavioural finance, organisational economics and contract theory. "Her work has been published in the most prestigious journals in our field and Google Scholar citations are about to reach the 30,000 mark. It shows how important their contributions are for our discipline," said Mario Mechtel. Ulrike Malmendier expressed her gratitude for the words and award: "It is an immense honour for me to receive an honorary doctorate from Leuphana."

Forschungspreise ©Fred Dott
Transferpreis ©Fred Dott
CSM ©Fred Dott

The DFG Graduate School "Cultures of Criticism", which currently has 13 doctoral students and one post-doctoral researcher, was also able to present itself at the dies academicus: "Criticism is often perceived negatively. But criticism initially means looking at things in a differentiated way, taking different perspectives and weighing them up," said art historian Prof. Dr. Beate Söntgen. The research focus "Cultures of Critique" focuses on genealogical perspectives on the disruptive problematic situations and lines of conflict of the present: from technological transformation and platform capitalism, migration and coloniality/decoloniality to gender and racism and climate change.

Around ten international fellows conduct research at the Leuphana Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS) in Culture and Society. LIAS is a research institute that serves to raise the profile and internationalisation of the university's main research areas. Located in the university's central building designed by Daniel Libeskind, LIAS is characterised by interdisciplinary cooperation, university integration and co-creation. "We have created some guiding lines along which we encourage the fellows to think and make a contribution. Such are: what means coexistence in a globalized world; critique at imagination, thinking across hemispheres and potentialization", said Prof. Dr. Susanne Leeb, Professor of Contemporary Art. LIAS researchers and the university community should benefit from each other. That is why LIAS is in constant exchange with other researchers and actors.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Genschow, Professor of Psychology, was honoured for his pioneering scientific achievements, which led to the successful acquisition of an excellent funding format. Cognitive, Social and Economic Psychology, with the research award. Oliver Genschow's work on perception and reactions in interaction patterns and on imitation processes is at the interface of social and cognitive psychology.

The DFG research group "A Social-Ecological Systems Approach to Ecosystem Restoration in Rural Africa" with Jörn Fischer, Professor of Sustainable Land Use, Vicky Temperton, Professor of Ecosystem Functioning and Services, Berta Martín-López, Professor of International Sustainable Development and Planning and Jacqueline Loos, Professor of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources was also awarded.

Prof. Dr. David Abson, Professor of Sustainable Resource Use, was awarded the Leuphana Young Researcher Award for his outstanding scientific achievements, which led to the acquisition of an excellent funding format. Prof. Dr. Jordan Troeller received the Special Award for Gender and Diversity Research. The art historian critically examines mythologies of motherhood. The awards for transfer went to the Future Centre for Teacher Education (ZZL). "It is about a vision in teacher education and educational sciences that can contribute to change in schools. It is not just about knowledge transfer, but about cooperation in communities. That is what the ZZL implements. We are honouring the team for years of work funded in various rounds of the so-called Quality Offensive Teacher Education," said Sascha Spoun in his laudation.

Prof. Dr. Stefan Schaltegger was honoured for his services to the part-time MBA programme Sustainability Management. The world's first MBA programme in sustainability management celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year. Stefan Schaltegger thanked his staff in particular: "The achievement is, of course, primarily due to the team," said the Professor of Sustainability Management.

This year, the Unikino was honoured as a student initiative. Ronja Johanna Therese Kaiser and Julia Gobs, last year's winners of the "Leuphana Forest Garden" initiative, gave the laudation and were pleased to be able to make "the faces behind the popular Unikino" visible: "Today, it's not so easy to get people into the cinema. What you create there is a place for cultural encounters. The selection of films could hardly be more colourful and diversity is indeed your programme. Your framework invites people to reflect, learn and think outside the box."

Vice President Christian Brei looked back on the past academic year: "Leuphana is developing quickly and powerfully - both quantitatively and qualitatively. Just a few examples: We established a new faculty last year. There is a new Institute for Advanced Studies. We are currently giving impetus to a reform of law studies nationwide. We have just submitted the application for our first Cluster of Excellence. Our third-party funding volume has increased fivefold, our number of publications has increased almost tenfold, our third-party funding from the DFG has increased almost 25-fold, our citations in the scientific world have increased almost 200-fold since 2006. In the Times Higher Education ranking, we are among the best 100 young universities under 50 worldwide and among the best 400 universities worldwide."

Unikino ©Fred Dott
Big Band ©Fred Dott
HVP Christian Brei ©Fred Dott

The Leuphana Big Band, conducted by Marvin Zimmermann, and the artist in residence, Sandro Di Lucia, provided the music for the ceremony.