Speech by the Rector, Annick Castiaux, at the opening of the UNamur experience staff party

22 June 2023

Staff Day is a time to show our gratitude to every member of staff in every category! We get together in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and celebrate our achievements. It was in this spirit that I prepared this little speech. By asking myself, for each department, for each faculty, what had particularly struck me as an achievement. By also trying to understand, for each of these achievements, what obstacles had to be overcome to achieve the result. And by trying to identify, for each department, for each faculty, a major challenge for the next academic year. That's my vision of things. So don't take offence at my ignorance if I don't mention THE project that has mobilised all your energy during this academic year, or if I don't put my finger on what you think will be the major challenge of the coming year. It will only show that we should talk together so that I can better understand your reality, and there will be plenty of time to do that this evening or later.

Thank you to the Faculty of science for its dynamism in research, which is not always rewarded for the quality of its projects. I'm thinking here of the very fine ERDF research projects that were unfortunately not selected. I would also like to thank you for your work on the role of women in science, in particular with the Women and Girls in Science initiatives and the naming of the auditoriums, which pays tribute to women researchers who have been somewhat forgotten by history. Special thanks to Robert Sporken, who is completing his term as Dean, and to Sabine Henry, who will soon begin her own. Unfortunately, the challenge facing the Faculty of Science is the same as that faced by all science faculties: to attract more students to disciplines that are important in terms of the challenges of the future, but which are under-funded. We're going to work together to meet this challenge, which is one of my priorities!

Thank you to the Faculty of economics, social Sciences and management for its determination to offer 'something different'... A commitment to society that is reflected in teaching programmes and teaching methods that make students responsible players. This commitment to society is reflected in our teaching programmes and teaching methods, which encourage students to take an active role in society, such as the new specialised master's degree with a staggered timetable, which will focus on the management and economics of the ecological transition. This commitment is also evident in the research carried out by CRED and the Transitions institute, for example, where two new ERC grants will enable recipients to explore issues of democracy in greater depth. And the faculty was recently rewarded with a very promising Positive Impact Rating, which highlights the investment made by business schools in sustainable development objectives. The challenge for this school is to dare to remain unique in a hyper-competitive environment. It's not easy, but you have our support.

Thank you to the Faculty of arts which is flying the flag for research in Namur, winning numerous awards from the FNRS in particular. From the conversations I've had with all of you, I can see a deep attachment to the Namur teaching model, a demanding model in which disciplinary training is very present. A model that takes students to a level of training that opens all the doors to master’s degrees. It's a model that they clearly like, as many of them return to UNamur to do a doctoral thesis. In my opinion, your challenge is to find the right balance for the faculty as a whole between investment in teaching, which is a guarantee of the recognised quality of our courses, and investment in research, which is constantly developing...

Thank you to the Faculty of medicine, which is also in full expansion thanks to the current and future success of its new programmes (pharmacy, general medicine, biomedical sciences). Thank you for standing firm in the face of headwinds in these projects, which are not always supported either within the French-speaking academic world or by politicians. Thank you also for the constant innovations in teaching (role-playing, simulation tools, didactic pharmacy and medical practice): you are not resting on your laurels but seeking to bring students closer to professional reality. Special thanks to the outgoing Dean, Pierre Garin, and the incoming Dean, Jean-Michel Dogné. The challenge I see for you is to develop the 'public health' dimension and assert your place in the network of health players, which is also becoming more dynamic in Namur.

Thank you to the Faculty of computer science for its willingness to work across disciplines. In teaching, as part of the specialised master’s degree in Business Analysis and IT Governance, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, or in the data science programme. In research too: the sign language - spoken French translation project, the work on artificial intelligence as part of the TRAIL initiative and the digital education projects, to name but a few examples. This constant collaboration with your colleagues in the humanities and social sciences in particular enables you to position digital technology in the reality of society, in line with our values. Your challenge, in my view, is to take advantage of this diversity, which is what makes you who you are. It's not easy to 'sell' to funders, but we're going to get the message across by insisting on it.

Thank you to the Faculty of law for the creativity it develops to motivate students by putting the law into practice. The common thread that has animated the teaching teams around the 'Mawda' case is a unique and inspiring initiative for staff and students alike. I'm also thinking of the double bachelor's degree that you have built with Hasselt University, which is also an innovation. Or the master's degree specialising in archivistics. These innovations have always brought the faculty to life and make alumni proud and nostalgic about their years at UNamur. I am struck by this network of loyal alumni who are always ready to get involved. Thank you to the outgoing Dean, Marc Nihoul, for his commitment over 2 terms, and to Nathalie Colette-Basecqz, who will become the first Dean of this Faculty! I would also like to thank you for your patience, as you have been waiting a long time for a master’s degree to be added to the law programme. The first step has been taken with the staggered timetable programme. The challenge now is for us to work together to find ways and means of realising the legitimate ambitions of a master’s degree that would also be offered during the day.

Thank you to the DET, soon to be the new Faculty of Education and Training. Your expertise in education and training has long been recognised by your peers in the world of research, by politicians and by students, without UNamur being able to award degrees to students at any level in your field. For a long time now, you have also put this expertise at the service of other faculties, of teachers in terms of teaching support, and of students in terms of methodology and guidance. The challenge is obvious: to implement this initial teacher training and firmly position UNamur as a player in education and training sciences. If anyone still had any doubts...

Thank you to the Ecole de Langues Vivantes, which constantly agrees to develop its language training offer, including by becoming more and more involved in multi-disciplinary teaching methods. The quality of our language training is an asset that we must continue to develop so that our students can feel comfortable and active in a global, multi-cultural world. I believe that this remains your challenge, to be met in collaboration with the faculties.

Thank you to all those who run our 11 research institutes and 9 technology platforms: thanks to you, the visibility and recognition of the excellence of the UNamur research have received a major boost. Let's continue to work together to raise the profile of the institution's researchers. Our challenge is to position the institutes in the governance of the university, while respecting the prerogatives of the faculties.

I would like to thank the Student and Campus Life Department (VéCU) for the dynamic sports and cultural activities that you organise with and for students, often with very limited resources. I would also like to thank you for all the schemes you have set up over the years to help those in need: social assistance, psychological support, support for victims of harassment and for students with special needs. You are faced with difficult situations, changing legislation and increasingly complex reporting requirements. Thank you for facing up to these challenges head on. One challenge: to keep a little time for yourself, a breath of fresh air that allows each of you to escape when the emotional cursor is a little too high...

I would like to thank the brand-new Information and Communication Technology Department, which now brings together the former SIU and the local IT services, for its proactive commitment to this technological and organisational transformation. Change is never easy, and you have to be able to overcome certain prejudices and attitudes, but you are approaching these changes with positivity. The big challenge for you is to bring all these projects to fruition, each one more important than the last, while developing the close relationship with users that lies at the heart of your new organisation.

I would like to thank the Rectorate Services and the General Administrator's Support Unit for the enormous progress they have made in terms of quality files (AEQES, Euraxess, Rankings) and in supporting the management of the institution and its entities using business intelligence tools. Thank you to the Fundraising Unit for its dynamism. I would also like to thank the Chancellery and the various secretariats for their unfailing support, which is essential to the smooth running of the Rector’s Council and the Board of Administrators. Your challenge: to juggle your various tasks in an increasingly uncertain environment. Take care of yourselves...

Thank you to the Human Resources Department for continuing to get closer to the realities of faculties and departments through the deployment of HR referents. Thank you for organising the welcome days for new arrivals: each time it's a pleasure to welcome new people who testify to the attractiveness of the institution and its dynamism. Your challenge: to establish effective collaboration with the Rector’s Council in the context of the reorganisation of the HR portfolio between the General Administrator and the new Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, so as to make decision-making even smoother.

I would also like to thank the International Relations Department for supporting the university's internationalisation drive, both in terms of student and staff mobility and at institutional level. I'm also thinking of all the initiatives in support of development cooperation. The department has considerably expanded its activities, notably by joining the UniversEH alliance. And that, for me, is the major challenge: to involve the university community in this project, which positions us as a key player among European universities.

I would like to thank the Prevention Department for the fantastic work it has done, despite the difficulty of recruiting staff. It's all down to a handful of people, even though safety and well-being in the workplace are key issues. Thank you for the excellent collaboration with SRH and SIGEC. Your challenge: to complete the team to meet the institution's workload and needs, particularly in the area of psycho-social risks.

I would also like to thank the Infrastructure and Campus Management Department for the considerable amount of work it has put into compiling the backlog of maintenance work, and for the support it has given to Alain de Crombrugghe - whom I would like to thank for his work - in drawing up the Campus Plan, which will be presented to the Board of Administrators tomorrow. We are gradually building a clear, shared vision of the short- and medium-term real estate challenges. One of the many challenges you face is moving forward with the BUMP project on schedule. We have no choice, as you know, given the funding rules.

I would like to thank the Finance Department for agreeing to rethink a number of long-standing practices in the design of budgets and accounts. This important work has given the various bodies a clearer picture of the current and future financial situation. I would also like to thank you for all the work you have done, in addition to everything else, to drive forward the SEM project, the future financial management information system. Undoubtedly, your challenge will be to bring this project to fruition and to adapt the way in which Financial Services operates and its business lines to the new opportunities offered by SEM.

Thank you to the Moretus Plantin University Library for their sense of service to the community, and in particular to the students. Thank you for your ability to adapt to the major changes and diversification of the library professions. A major project awaits you with the renovation of the BUMP. Your challenge will be to ensure continuity of service during the transitional phase ahead of you. Take heart, we'll get there.

Thank you to the Research Administration for the support given to researchers in the form of European projects, ERC grants, the creation of spin-offs, contacts with companies, etc. The researchers are infinitely grateful to you, and many of them have told me how much they appreciate your help. Thank you for hanging in there between the end of MIRVAL and the start of MIRVALIS. This is it, the continuation is guaranteed for the current ERDF programme. At least we've had that. Two challenges for you: to comply with the requirements of Wallonie Entreprendre while remaining at the service of the university's missions, and to support the lobby necessary for the recognition of the many assets of research at UNamur.

I would like to thank the Education Administration for having overcome the great crisis of two years ago. There is still some way to go, but the situation seems to have calmed down. Thank you for working to bring ADEN and the faculties closer together. The feedback from the faculties has been very positive. Thank you also for your resolute commitment to the SIGALE project, which promises a great deal in terms of teaching management. It requires an enormous amount of energy from the teams. This will be your challenge, I think: to land SIGALE while continuing with your usual tasks. Take heart.

Thank you to the Communications Administration for organising all these events, all these internal and external actions that make UNamur ever more visible. The creation of the Newsroom, the social networking strategy, the preparatory courses, the awareness-raising videos, the major conferences in Namur, the exhibitions at the Confluent of Knowledge, to mention just a few examples of actions aimed at the wide diversity of our external audiences, are combined with the internal communication and community-building work that is essential to everyone's sense of belonging. It is thanks to your work that we are meeting this evening. Your challenge: to also become an agent of cohesion and coordination between all the university's entities, via their various communicators, so that the flow of messages reinforces each other, for the benefit of the university and its various entities.

Thank you to the SAPEFUN team and in particular to Charlotte Dernoncourt and her team for responding positively to our invitation to organise a childcare system to enable as many people as possible to take part in this magnificent staff party. You asked us for this type of solution last year. We were able to set it up thanks to the SAPEFUN team, which recently welcomed its new director, Isabelle Brouir. Welcome to her. 

Finally, I would like to thank the Rectoral team for the enormous commitment they have all made... In sometimes difficult circumstances, each and every one of you has shown that you are equal to your commitment and often go far beyond it. I would like to thank Valérie Flohimont, whose health problems have forced her to step down from her position on the Rectors' Council. Valérie remains an invaluable asset in defining our policy on well-being and safety at work, and we know we can count on her. Our thanks go to Cécile de Terwangne for coming on board as VR for Academic Affairs, and to our new General Administrator, Valérie Daenen, who will be sharing responsibility for HR policy with Cécile, among other responsibilities. The rectoral team is once again complete, at your service and that of the institution.