A fond farewell and a new beginning

A Fond Farewell and a New Beginning

Text by Julia Kuhn Mirza

On the surface, Stanford University might seem worlds away from the Swiss institutions of higher education. But when it comes to social media, there are a few universal principles to keep in mind, according to Ian Hsu, former director of Internet outreach at Stanford. EPFL’s community manager Yan Luong distilled them succinctly in a tweet: “Be curious, empower experimentation, celebrate new learning, learn from failures.”

Swiss Academia and the Social Media Landscape

Swiss Academia and the Social Media Landscape

Hsu gave examples of his work at Stanford to wrap up swissnex San Francisco’s program, “Swiss Academia and the Social Media Landscape,” in the 18th-century Wildt’sche Haus at the University of Basel. The day was full of highlights, but his appeal to never stop experimenting and learn from mistakes resonated with the social media enthusiasts from Swiss universities and other academic institutions.

Over the course of two years, program participants met in person on several occasions in Switzerland and even in California’s Silicon Valley during two study tours. They connected on Twitter and shared ideas on Facebook, exchanging best practices and recurring challenges at gatherings like this one.

Appropriately, participants tweeted as they converged on Basel that a cold November morning, making good use of the event’s hashtag, “#swissedsocial.” Ladina Caprez from the University of Lugano shared a picture of a clock, its hands frozen at 5:30am, in the early morning darkness of the Lugano train station, with her tweet, “Up and on our way to Basel – looking forward to the day #swissedsocial.”

The president of the University of Basel, Antonio Loprieno, kicked off the event with an official welcome at Switzerland’s oldest university, followed by a few remarks from Walter Grossenbacher of the Swiss State Secretariat of Education and Research and swissnex San Francisco Executive Director Christian Simm.

University of Liechtenstein

University of Liechtenstein

The morning began with a keynote speech by Matthias Lüfkens, formerly with the World Economic Forum (WEF), where he had established WEF’s social media presence. Barnaby Skinner of the newspaper SonntagsZeitung moderated a discussion on the status of social media in Switzerland that included Markus Maurer of Switzerland’s largest retailer Migros, Marcel Bernet from the public relations agency BernetPR, and François Benveniste from the Geneva-based advertising agency details.ch. Then, Florencia Prada and Julia Kuhn Mirza from swissnex San Francisco, who headed up the program, took the audience on a deep dive into two years of research, illuminating how Swiss universities use social media.

Later on, Caprez, along with her colleagues Gilda Schertenleib and Barbara Vogt, gave a rundown of the University of Lugano’s social media activities. Their presentation and that of Herwig Dämon from the University of Liechtenstein—another relatively small university—demonstrated how small teams can have a huge impact on the scope of an institution’s outreach.

In between talks, participants had enough time to catch up on what their counterparts in social media at other institutions have been up to. They all appreciated the opportunity to collaborate, network, share ideas, and exchange knowledge.

The community built during the event, and indeed throughout the entire two years, was one of the most valuable outcomes of the program. Walter Grossenbacher from the Swiss State Secretariat for Research and Education captured that sentiment best when he said, “Sometimes you have to go away to get closer to each other.”

University of Basel

The Wildt’sche Haus on the campus of the University of Basel

With that community as a foundation, swissnex San Francisco is excited to announce its new program for Swiss academia called “The Digital Campus.” This evolution of the program will support Swiss universities in their efforts to leverage new communication technologies and increase the visibility of these institutions.