Speech by the Rector of Mykolas Romeris University at the Gala Celebration of the Science and Knowledge Day - MRU

1 September, 2023
Speech by the Rector of Mykolas Romeris University at the Gala Celebration of the Science and Knowledge Day

Good afternoon, dear students, lecturers, researchers, administrative staff,

Honored guests!

Welcome to Mykolas Romeris University to celebrate Science and Knowledge Day!

Congratulations to all who are starting the new academic year, ready to learn, to study, to discover the undiscovered, and to share their knowledge and experience. Congratulations to all who seek to expand their knowledge, who dare to ask and to seek enthusiastically answers to challenging questions that are of current concern to people in Lithuania and around the world.

"Science is not a finished book finished," claimed once Albert Einstein. "Every significant achievement raises new questions, and all progress eventually encounters new, ever-increasing difficulties."

A special salute to our freshmen, embarking on a new phase in their journey to world knowledge. This is a significant and meaningful stage of your life, which, as you will see, will end very soon. So, don't waste your time, as the time and effort dedicated to a good education is the best investment in your future success.

I am pleased that this year a large group of students from all levels of study will begin studying at our university - we accepted about 1700 students this year; over 300 students from abroad chose our university for their degree studies; 175 students arrived through Erasmus+ and other exchange programs.

 I am thus fully entitled to say, that if you wish to get to know the diversity of the world's nations and cultures, you don't have to embark on a long journey around the world - here, at Mykolas Romeris University, you can meet students from all four continents and from 45 countries.

Ninety years ago, a Lithuanian journalist, writer, and public figure, Matas Šalčius on completing his four-year journey around the world, wrote in his diary: "In general, I can say that people can be of different skin colors, languages, beliefs and customs, but their hearts are the same. Everyone and everywhere wants to be respected and loved. Everyone distinguishes between good and bad behavior towards them. Everywhere, people are offended if you insult what is sacred to them. People fight most fiercely against indignity cast against their person, their beliefs, and their feelings."

Dear all, we wish the hearts in our academic community to beat in unison, we stand for tolerance, respect, friendliness, and the ability to cooperate. Together, we make and will continue fostering a positive atmosphere of an open European university, giving the opportunity to get to know each other better, make friends, experience the taste of a fascinating student life, and to establish important human connections to last a lifetime.

I am sure that our professors, lecturers, and administration will sincerely share their knowledge and experience to ensure that the beginning of student life is as smooth as possible, and the path to academic heights does not end at the first challenges.

A world full of crises and unexpected challenges can be directed towards progress by people who can build bridges both between different cultures and between different scientific fields.

You, our young generation, have brought to the University your determination to achieve higher education, your expectations, and to meet future prospects. In the circumstances of the changed and ever changing world, you will encounter not only people and the communities into which they associate, but also the virtual space, because artificial intelligence and ChatGPT-based technologies and solutions are already part of the new reality in the academic environment. These technologies can help us if we use them for constructive purposes, but we will all have to learn to use them intelligently and critically if they are to expand our cognitive systems effectively, by broadening the limits and scope of our cognition and human capacity.

This gives a strong impetus to further nurture and mature the academic community of Mykolas Romeris University. We wish that MRU`s promise – studies for a quality life – to be abundantly fulfilled. Your success is the success of the entire University, and your success will shape the successful future of Lithuania and all of humanity.

I am happy that your choice was to study at our youngest state university. The founders of this new higher education institution in then recently restored Lithuania cherished the ideas of freedom, democracy, and statehood, appreciating the significance of European education for the future of the state and society. This formed the foundation on which Mykolas Romeris University grew and strengthened.

It's a great honor for us that our gala celebration is graced by the presence of the Doctor of Honoris Causa of Mykolas Romeris University, Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, the first leader of the restored state, who signed the Parliament's resolution on the new higher education institution that began the history of MRU.

"Today, Mykolas Romeris University is visible and recognizable in the international academic space as a modern, innovative, sustainable, socially responsible university ready to address contemporary challenges facing humanity.

MRU stands out in the Lithuanian academic horizon for its academic community's ability to combine academic solidity with the ability to rapidly implement innovations in the fields of studies and scientific research, and to adapt flexibly to the changing needs of the job market and society.

We were among the first in Lithuania to successfully integrate technology into social sciences. This enabled us to offer our students interesting, innovative programs and train specialists in new fields. I am pleased that this year Lithuanian and international experts highly appreciate MRU's progress.

We eagerly encourage students to engage in scientific activities and take inspiration from our doctoral candidates. I am delighted that today we will confer doctoral degrees on 17 of our colleagues.  We are happy to be giving the first European Doctor Certificate here today.

This year, MRU joined the European Reform University Alliance (ERUA), bringing together eight progressive European universities. This is a significant achievement. We secured substantial funding from the European Commission for pilot projects aimed at creating an alternative European university model in a global context, offering a wide space for critical thinking, creativity, and experimentation for both students and researchers. The first activities of the alliance will launch as early as this November, and will involve everyone: teachers, researchers, students, alumni and partners. For the University, these activities will open wide prospects for strengthening competitiveness in the region and globally.

So, my dears, we will have a place to "employ" your talents and convert your visions of the future into projects and solutions for the progress of a harmonious and sustainable society.

We will focus MRU development strategy for 2024-2030 on internationalization, future projection work, and cooperation of the scholars from various research fields in Lithuania and globally, from state institutions, businesses, NGOs to address the most pressing social, humanitarian, and technological problems. While updating the infrastructure essential for science, studies, and the well-being of the entire MRU community, we are launching the implementation of investment projects.

One of the great examples of the synergy of various scientific fields, an example of global cooperation of researchers and practitioners was the Global Medical Law Congress held at Mykolas Romeris University in August. I take this opportunity to express my respect to my colleagues for the great preparatory work that opened new horizons for the university to develop health law research and study activities on a global scale.

Dear esteemed audience,

By concluding my remarks, I want to remind you of one other important anniversary.

It's been 30 years since August 31, 1993, when a few minutes before midnight, the last military convoy of the Russian occupying army left Lithuanian territory.

Together with all the people of Lithuania, as we commemorate the Day of Freedom today, we wish for Ukraine, which bravely defends its freedom from invaders, to achieve its liberation soon, and we wish freedom for all the nations still facing oppression.

I am proud of the MRU community, which, since the first day of Russia's war, has been sincerely helping Ukrainians defend their freedom and overcome the hardships of war.

We are firmly convinced: without a free, independent state, there can be no academic freedom.

Without academic freedom, there can be no genuine progress in science and society.

Let us cherish our freedom to live, to learn, and to create our future in a free country, in a free Europe.

Let us joyfully celebrate!