On 24 April 2014, 150 UNESCO-IHE students from 48 different countries received their MSc diploma as part of the closing ceremony of the academic period 2012-2014. The first class of Rotary sponsored students graduated also on this day, as well as the first group of the joint MSc degree in Limnology and Wetland Management as a result of the fruitful collaboration between UNESCO-IHE, the University of Egerton in Kenya and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, Austria. The graduates are now part of the UNESCO-IHE alumni community of nearly 15,000 water professionals.
Leadership is service
The students were welcomed by the Rector, Prof. Andras Szollosi-Nagy, who reminded them of their first days at the Institute, suffering through the cold, the many lecturing hours, the 3000 hours of study and hard work and even biting into their first stroopwafel. He stressed to the audience that the sustainability of our whole world depends on water: "With the new technical knowledge acquired, you have new responsibilities as well. On your return home, you will be called upon to lead. Never forget that leadership is service. It is working to serve the community for human and societal development and justice. Your contribution to using sound judgment to finding appropriate and sustainable solutions, based on solid ethical principles and the notion of integrity to key water issues is vital. No less than to sustainably manage one of the world’s most scarce resources, for future generations to come".
Perfection leads to inaction
The rector's welcoming words were followed by the graduation address of Dr. Fritz Holzwarth, Chairman of the Governing Board of UNESCO-IHE. He started with two personal stories of former students that reflect how special this Institute really is. A man from Burundi walked 18 hours to the post office to mail his application and a woman from Iraq received the sad news that her husband was killed. She went back to bury her husband and returned to Delft straigt after to finish her studies. "To me this Institute has everything UNESCO stands for and should be considered their flagship as well as for the Netherlands. UNESCO-IHE mobilizes education, creates cultural understanding, enhances scientific cooperation and stands for sustainable management of the enivronment", says Dr. Holzwarth.
He continues with giving the graduates advice on the choices they make in for professional future. Dr. Holzwarth: "Water is not a minor issue to be solved with technology only. It goes deeper than that. Don't shy away from its complexity and cross-sectoral nature and avoid to become a single issue specialist. The Nexus approach of agriculture, energy, environment and ecology is taken into account. A pragmatic approach is essential if you want to change things on the ground.
The challenges for you dear graduates is finding solutions that work in practice. A huge difference with the academic world, where you are thaught to be perfect. Perfection leads to inaction. The second or third best solution can be better than waiting for the perfect solution".
Rotary International Director 2011-2013, Paul Knijff, congratulates the group of 5 students who completed their MSc studies with financial support of Rotary International by saying: "The living evidence of the success of this joint effort that Rotary and UNESCO-IHE have embarked upon is standing in front of us." In their home countries Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Argentina and Italy they will work on water management and sanitation issues.
Honorary Fellow Award
The programme continued with the awarding and address of the UNESCO-IHE Honorary Fellow 2014, which was handed to Em. Professor Brian Moss by Prof. Ken Irvine. Prof. Moss is known for his research on the nutrient enrichment of shallow lakes through an ecosystem approach, his work has covered all parts of the globe, lakes as well as rivers and the landscapes that shape them.
In his acceptance speech, Prof. Moss points out three reasons for him to accept this fellowship, and one of them is the importance of water. He expresses his concern about the ongoing damage of natural systems for our short-term convenience. Prof. Moss: "In our economics we have treated natural systems as externalities. We could not easily put financial values on them, so we ignored them. But like the account books of a business, the income and the expenditure must balance. Improvement in the business demands a small profit, but the profit does not come from nowhere. It comes partly from the externalities".
Sanitary Engineering MSc thesis award
The Best Sanitary Engineering MSc Thesis Award” is given under the framework of the project ‘’Stimulating Local Innovations in Sanitation for the Urban Poor’’. The project is financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is awarded each year to an outstanding student from the Sanitary Engineering Specialization. The award will be used to finance the student's prolonged stay in the Netherlands to turn their research findings into an internationally recognized journal paper and to present the results at an international conference of choice.
Prof. Damir Brdjanovic presented the third UNESCO-IHE “The Best Sanitary Engineering MSc Thesis Award 2014” of the value of 5.000 USD to Mr. Grover Hector Mamani Casilla from Bolivia.
If we compare our lives to a thesis
Student representatives Maria Salingay from the Philippines and Tom Ogol from Kenya closed the official programme by sharing some experiences in their 18 month study period at UNESCO-IHE. As for all the graduates, their endurance and perseverance made them stand here today. Tom and Maria: "The diploma that we receive today represents success and achievement. But we must remember more the journey that accompanied this achievement - both the heartache and the happiness. If we compare our lives to a thesis report, the diploma itself is gently tucked away in the appendix, while the journey to attain it, fills the main pages. UNESCO-IHE has instilled in us a tremendous fire, a passion for life, and a desire to make the world in which we live better."