On Thursday, February 21, 2019, Luiss officially inaugurated the 2018-2019 academic year in the presence of Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
Full of students and 40 Italian university rectors, the ceremony included speeches from members of Luiss leadership: President Emma Marcegaglia, Executive Vice President Luigi Serra, Vice President Paola Severino and members of the Board of Administration.
Opening the event was Luiss General Manager Giovanni Lo Storto, who celebrated the University’s recent success: “Sustainable, international and interconnected,” these are the elements that define our University. Still young, but with over 9,000 students in our 4 departments, with 40% of our courses in English, a 28% increase in admissions applications to our bachelor’s and single-cycle master’s programs, and with 90% of our graduates finding a job within six months of graduation, Luiss represents excellence, a positive community of ideas and values. Every day, we work to give our students the means to develop new and necessary skills, with a wide and inclusive vision of education, that teaches them to be more than just professionals, but open-minded, curious, courageous and generous. Our students are active entreprelearners, no longer mere spectators of their own educations. We include them, we give them space to choose their priorities and guide their actions to meet their goals. And they will do it, strengthened by their trust in their knowledge and understanding.”
The general manager then welcomed Student Representative Riccardo Carnevale to the podium. “Today, in addition to my excitement and pride, I have added the awareness that I have chosen a path that will give me more than just useful notions, but it will develop my research abilities, ideas and practical skills, necessary in interpreting the world we live in with a critical eye.”
Attention then turned to Professor Gaetano Manfredi, President of the Conference of Italian University Rectors, who added: “Supporting the continuous exchange between public research and the productive system is fundamental in ensuring qualified job opportunities for our graduates, and for stimulating and supporting new trajectories of development in the highly competitive sectors of our national economy.”
Luiss Rector Andrea Prencipe then took the stage, introducing the theme of cultural diversity and a new dialogue between different knowledges, as instruments to understand the multifaceted reality of the twenty-first century and the challenges of the digital revolution. “Luiss is a cultural model that is open to the world, that trains polyglot professionals that can dialogue with different cultures and experts in different fields, valuing differences and connections.” He continued, “At Luiss, internationalization means educating for diversity. With 40 visiting professors, 1,000 students participating in exchange students, collaborations with 270 universities in 55 countries and 40 opportunities to participate in double degree programs and structured partnerships, Luiss connects Rome with the world.”
Professor of Computer Science Giuseppe Italiano, expert in Algorithms and Machine Learning, then gave his prolusion entitled Artificial Intelligence and its Interdisciplinary Challenges. “Technology has completely revolutionized our society, our way of working, and our lifestyles. We must create a new relationship between ourselves and machines, which we can no longer underestimate. And this new relationship between humans and technology must be taught to all students as they will be tasked with contributing to the digital growth of companies and organizations.”
Next, the Lectio Magistralis from writer and translator Jhumpa Lahiri, professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University, entitled Elogio all'Eco: a reflection on the sense of translation and on the value of translation as an example of an encounter between different worlds.
The Pulitzer Prize winner invited students to ask themselves about the concept of diversity and on the importance of dialogue in enriching ourselves and growing. Just as a translator must reflect on the meaning that an author wanted to express with his words, opening “entire kingdoms of possibilities, unexpected paths that lead him in new directions and inspire the world of the writer,” future professionals, in this complex moment in time, must open themselves to new ways of thinking and understanding, with empathy and resilience. “The richest moments of literary history were those in which the identities of writers and translators melted away, where one activity strengthened and revitalized the other,” commented Professor Lahiri.
In conclusion, Luiss President Emma Marcegaglia cited the words of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, that feeling like part of a community means sharing values, perspectives, rights and duties, fundamental for freeing moral, economic and cultural energies that characterize Italy. “I have had the honor to work with this amazing University for nine years. It was an exciting experience, we did great things together as an extraordinary team,” said President Marcegaglia. “I want to conclude today by speaking to those who are at the heart of my work, our students. Studying at Luiss means assuming the importance and beauty of having rights and responsibilities, as each of us must give back to society what we have obtained. You will be the ones to mobilize technology in a positive direction, to take up the challenges that the current era presents us.”
Concluding the ceremony, Italian President Sergio Mattarella remarked: “We have heard the representation of the University, whose numbers are very significant: the teacher-student ratio, the number of courses in English, the school’s openness to foreign students, and our students’ to the world, the high employment rates of graduates. The ability to strengthen one’s knowledge by evading approximation and improvisation are elements that this country has great of.”
“If we look towards the fascinating prospects of artificial intelligence, the progress is always positive, keeping in mind the sense and the limits of the results, of the need to regulate them. Scientific research is necessary for all the branches of culture. As Article 9 of the Italian Constitution reminds us, we must not isolate our knowledge, which must be considered a part of the nation’s common heritage. Culture must never be secondary,” continued the head of state.
He then concluded: “We are grateful to universities like yours, who conserve culture and protect it, transmit it, nourish it and develop it. In her Lectio Magistralis, Professor Lahiri mentioned Narcissus and the tendency of individuals - but also of collective groups and nations – to close themselves off and refuse to do that which a translator does, who, in translating a text from one language to another, tears down barriers, overcome them and connects two different realities, which are not so different by definition, as emerges from the translation. It is a lesson for our times when the temptation has emerged to close ourselves off as individuals, social groups, nations. What we need now is a reflection that is worthy of this historic moment, in all countries.”