Delft, The Netherlands, 16 Oct 2015

Opening Academic Year 2015 and Alumni Day

On 15 October, the new academic period 2015-2017 was celebrated during the official opening ceremony. Acting Rector Stefan Uhlenbrook welcomed 160 new MSc students from all over the world, who will start their study journey at UNESCO-IHE. Guest speaker Professor Lennart Olsson delivered a passionate speech on water as a political issue and the relationship between climate change and migration. Ms. Irish Frida Josch from Argentina accepted the Alumni Award 2015 for her outstanding work in the field of hydraulic engineering.

Education is key

Stefan Uhlenbrook: “In the first week of your time at UNESCO-IHE, you will also learn about the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, one of which focuses on water and sanitation for all. How can we change attitudes to reach this ambition of a fair water secure world? We need educational interventions to change norms. This does not depend on high level government officials or UN bodies, but it depends on you and all of us. The knowledge and expertise we build upon, changes things on the ground”.

Are climate change and mass migration linked?

Guest speaker Professor Lennart Olsson spoke about how the relationship between climate change and mass migration is poorly understood. There is no solid scientific answer for this link yet. He sees water as a political issue because of three things: it’s essential, it’s limited and it’s even becoming more limited in the future. Water is also a security issue: it’s subject to conflicting values and interests in the world. Migration is a very complex problem, and can be caused by various factors. A severe flood or drought might be the trigger causing somebody to migrate, but we cannot scientifically prove it is a cause-effect relationship due to its complexity and lack of data.

Lennart Olsson is a geographer and social anthropologist and now Professor of physical geography and the founding director of LUCSUS - Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies. In his research he is particularly interested in human[rc1]  interactions in the context of land degradation, water, climate change and food security in Africa, as well as globally.

In between the speeches, the audience was entertained by a beautiful dance performance of one MSc student and one alumna from Thailand. They performed a dance from the period of the Kingdom of Lanna Thai.

A very diverse community

Fredrick Mhega Mageni from Tanzania, who represents the Student Association Board of UNESCO-IHE, addressed the new students by sharing his own experiences so far: “When you start here, you are very ambitious to build on new competencies to use back home, but there is more. You are now part of a very diverse community, including people who know things about your country although they have never been there. How come? Because they have been at UNESCO-IHE. You are now a global citizen, you will learn to focus on a global perspective. For me, studying here is one of the greatest chances for personal growth”.

Improving water management in Argentina

Professor Stefan Uhlenbrook shared with the audience why Ms. Iris Frida Josch from Argentina has won the Alumni Award of 2015. “Mrs. Iris Josch studied at IHE, now UNESCO-IHE, from 1967 to 1968, obtaining her Post Graduate Diploma in Hydraulic Engineering with a scholarship given by the Dutch Government. She has been National Director of Hydraulic Projects and Public Works for the Undersecretary of Water Resources in Argentina since 1999. Under her administration, 371 hydraulic projects were completed and implemented in Argentina. She was also Professor of Fluvial Hydraulics at La Plata National University, Hydraulic Department of Engineering Faculty, where several generations of Argentinian water professionals received their training. 

Though close to her well-deserved retirement, she has chosen to continue her work, serving as leader of a team of engineers, architects, technicians and administrative staff, with the aim of developing more projects to improve water management in her country. 

We are proud to count Iris Josch among our alumni, as she has contributed enormously to the improvement of water management in her country. She has been an outstanding teacher and role model to her students, many of whom have come to UNESCO-IHE, inspired to further their knowledge in this important field”, says Professor Uhlenbrook.

Ms. Iris Frida Josch: “I am honored that you have selected me to receive this award. I would like to thank this Institute for its academic level of teaching. The training I received here was essential for the development of my professional life. It’s great to be back in this building, where I have had the most important moments of my student life. I would also like to thank Mr. Jose Maria Regueria, also an alumnus in Sanitary Engineering in the period 1998 to 2000, for nominating me. I hope many more Argentinian professionals will have the opportunity to improve their academic qualities here at IHE.”

The opening of the academic year and the Alumni Day were combined since two years ago with the issuing of the alumni award. The UNESCO-IHE Alumni Award is given to an alumnus/a who is at the height of her or his career and has proven to be a role model for other water professionals by showing an outstanding contribution to water management.

Dutch tastings

According to tradition, the opening ceremony was concluded by a reception where the new students could taste traditional Dutch food such as herring, bitterballen and stroopwafels. Good luck to the new batch!

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