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University is hope. The XXIII Dies academicus of USI

Prof. Lars-Erik Cederman
Prof. Lars-Erik Cederman
Prof. Boas Erez, Rector of USI
Prof. Boas Erez, Rector of USI
Monica Duca Widmer, President of the University Council
Monica Duca Widmer, President of the University Council
Doctorate honoris causa to Boris Andreevič Uspenskij
Doctorate honoris causa to Boris Andreevič Uspenskij
Credit Suisse Award to Laurent Frésard
Credit Suisse Award to Laurent Frésard
Thank you to Albino Zgraggen
Thank you to Albino Zgraggen

Institutional Communication Service

The XXIII Dies academicus of Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) took place on May 4, at the Lugano campus. After the opening address by the President of the University Council Monica Duca Widmer, who underscored the importance of USI in the regional context and to the consolidation process undertaken by the University at a time that presents a few challenges, the Rector Prof. Boas Erez emphasised how the University can be a source of hope, with its students and their ideas, with its initiatives in the region, with its projects that can offer an alternative to doubtfulness, and contribute to fostering a more inclusive and plural society.  

In her welcome address, Monica Duca Widmer, President of the University Council, underscored the strategic importance of USI’s endeavours for the economic and social development of the Canton Ticino. USI is now focussing on consolidating what has been created, aiming relentlessly for the highest quality and rigour and seeking continuous improvement of the effectiveness of its activities. Monica Duca Widmer thanked the public and private organisation for their support and trust shown over the years and hoped that USI can count on their support in the future to ensure the financial sustainability of the institution. 

The speech delivered by the Rector of USI Boas Erez was focussed on the theme of hope: the hope placed in young students who, with their ideas and their commitment, drive new initiatives for the development both of the world around us and of the less fortunate regions of the planet; the hope of the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland towards its University, which provides not just an opportunity to discover and understand the world, but which is also developing a number of initiatives aimed at supporting innovation in the economic and social context of the region. Hopes that feed the growing presence of USI in the life of the Canton, with projects aimed at providing a service to the community, from Airolo to Mendrisio, from Lugano to Locarno, in the vision of a university that is widespread and mindful of its territory.  

Lars-Erik Cederman, Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zürich) and expert in the field of international conflicts, then presented an analysis of the phenomenon of ethnic nationalism at the global level during his keynote speech. The proposed considerations are based on a massive quantitative research able to capture – thanks to a digital platform based on interactive maps – the evolution of the phenomenon in more than 100 countries around the world. Prof. Cederman's studies on the political construction of peace and the involvement of ethnic minorities earned him last year the Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist, considered the "Swiss Nobel". 

In line with tradition, the ceremony continued with the awarding of prizes. 

Boris Andreevič Uspenskij, an internationally renowned semiotician and linguist, received the Doctorate honoris causa in Communication Sciences – by nomination of the USI Faculty of Communication Sciences – "for having contributed in a decisive way to the understanding of the organic link between culture and communication, developing, together with Jurij M. Lotman, a semiotic conception of production and cultural transmission, and for having given substance to this conception through an inexhaustible practice of analysis, exercised with philological rigour on the figurative arts, on religious and political symbols, on the cultural significance of historical events". 

The Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching was conferred to Laurent Frésard, Professor of Finance at the USI Faculty of Economics, “for the quality of teaching”. 

This year's Dies was also the occasion to say thank you to Albino Zgraggen, Secretary General of USI since 1999, who has recently turned 70 and who will leave his post on 1 July. With the help of Fabio Capello and Franco Baresi, who appeared in a video message, the University wanted to publicly express its gratitude to a person who has been and is a true symbol of the University, a captain and exemplary coach of a team of collaborators who has carried out for over 20 years a decisive and tireless work in favour of USI, with enthusiasm, dedication, empathy and generosity. Albino Zgraggen, after his mandate as Secretary General, will continue to work on two important projects: supporting the development and growth of the USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and of Campus Est in Lugano. 

The ceremony was complemented by musical interludes by the Wise Monkey Lab. 

The digital press kit is available in attachment.