The EPICUR Network Conference with the motto “Diversity of Regions” took place from 18th – 20th May 2022 at the campus of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. Associated partners, external stakeholders, speakers from the fields of “diversity” and “regional cooperation”, and EPICURians from all nine EPICUR partner universities were invited.
The EPICUR Network Conference was the first opportunity for EPICUR to hold a live event on-site. Through workshops on communication, research infrastructure, diversity and inclusion, distance internships for students and student participation, staff shared new ideas and evaluated the pilot phase.
On 18th May evening, EPICUR accepted the invitation to attend a panel discussion at the French Embassy.
The conference on 19th May was certified as a “Green Event” by the Austrian Eco-label. It included two presentations on regional cooperation and inclusion through innovation, as well as an EPICUR presentation on equity, diversity and inclusion measures, concluding with a panel discussion.
A broad cultural programme was also provided with a queer sightseeing tour, a Viennese waltz dance class and wine tasting.
On 19th May, the conference day at the Ilse-Wallentin-Haus on the BOKU campus in Vienna saw two presentations covering regional collaboration and inclusion through innovation, as well as an EPICUR presentation on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) measures, and it was concluded with a panel discussion. BOKU’s Vice Rector for Teaching, Continuing Education and Students, Prof. Karsten Schulz, opened the public event and EPICUR’s strategic coordinator and Vice-President for Academic Partnerships and Governance at the University of Strasbourg, Prof. Jean-Marc Planeix addressed associated partners and EPICUR researchers, staff and students.
Billy Batware, a programme officer with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), founder of the United Nations Regional Academy, and the civil society initiative “United for Education and Sustainable Futures” spoke via video conference about the potential (technological) innovation has in overcoming social inequalities. “Involving young people and academic institutions will be crucial in achieving this goal,” reminded Billy Batware in his conclusion.
Vivian Stribos, an EU lobbyist for “Huis van de Nederlandse Provincies” in Brussels and representative of the province of Gelderland in the “Assembly of the European Regions” (AER) gave an insight into the work of the AER and what role universities play in it. “Universities do not compete with each other. They all have their strengths and can work together and complement each other.”
EPICUR’s internal EDI working group presented recommendations for equity, diversity, and inclusion measures based on best practices at individual EPICUR universities.
The plan is to incorporate EDI measures into all project levels and all EPICUR activities, for the benefit of both students and staff. The promotion of multilingualism and intercultural competencies have been an essential part of EPICUR since the beginning.
On May 18th, the French Ambassador, Gilles Pécout, invited a large EPICUR delegation to the French Embassy. Eva Schulev-Steindl (BOKU Rector), Jean-Marc Planeix (Vice-President of the University of Strasbourg and strategic coordinator of EPICUR), Bogumila Kaniewska (Rector of the Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznań) and Alain Dieterlen (Vice-President of the University of Upper Alsace) discussed the topic “Quo vadis EPICUR?”.
The panel discussion from the French Embassy is available on the BOKU Youtube channel:
The EPICUR Networking Conference was certified as a “Green event” by the Austrian Eco-label for Green Meetings and Green Events (“Oesterreichisches Umweltzeichen”).
EPICUR followed the criteria of the Austrian Eco-label for Green Meetings and Green Event. There were many steps on the way to receive the Eco-label. The conference must meet environmentally-friendly requirements in mobility and CO2 compensation, accommodation, venue, procurement, material and waste management, exhibitors, catering and gastronomy, communication and social aspects.
The aim of the application for certification as a green event was to facilitate guests to participate in the conference in the most sustainable way possible and, thus, to contribute to raising awareness for environmentally-friendly events. The BOKU organisers shared with the participants from other countries the most environmentally-friendly arrival and departure practices, recommended accommodation in hotels certified with the Austrian Eco-label, and selected catering with vegan or vegetarian diet and regional offerings that adhere to ecological standards. There was the possibility to calculate travel with the CO2 calculation system from BOKU.
EPICUR tree as a symbol of sustainability
At the end of the festivities, EPICURians gathered in the BOKU garden behind the main building for the planting of a wild apple tree. BOKU rector Eva Schulev-Steindl, accompanied by the BOKU choir, broke ground before the EPICUR team freed the young tree from the netting, filled the hole with soil and watered it. The EPICUR tree is a symbol for biodiversity, a good urban climate and sustainability. It is a promise for a bright future.
Prof. Karl-Georg Bernhardt from the Institute of Botany at BOKU said about the importance of biodiversity:
“Biodiversity increases the resilience of habitats. Biodiversity should not only be preserved in nature reserves, but especially in the cultural landscape. Plants, animals and fungi share the habitat here with people and it is to our own advantage if we also preserve a species-rich cultural landscape.
But diversity is also important for our mental well-being, since an environment without the concert of bird calls or without a variety of flowers that delight us with colours and scents provides less relaxation and joy. The wild apple represents the connection between nature and people. It is one Origin of cultivated apple varieties and thus also the source of crop diversity. The diversity of plants and animals cultivated by humans also ensures our own survival.”
photo credit: ©Christoph Gruber | BOKU-IT