This year’s academic achievements were celebrated during festive ceremony

Last Friday evening, it was time for Halmstad University’s academic ceremony, which is arranged to highlight academic successes and merits during the past year. The programme included everything from the inauguration of new professors and the conferment of new doctors to the awarding of prizes, and the inauguration of the University’s new Vice-Chancellor Susanna Öhman.

The academic ceremony is an annual event to celebrate and highlight academic achievements at the University. When staff and external guests gathered in the University Hall on campus on Friday evening, they took part in a festive celebration that included traditional installations and conferment ceremonies, the presentation of prizes and awards, and many inspiring speeches.

A dark room with round tables with white tablecloths and lit candles on the tables. The photo also shows a stage with a brass band. Photo.

This year, the University celebrates its 40th anniversary, which was reflected in the academic ceremony. The food that was served had an 80’s inspired theme and even the music had a connection to the anniversary. Göteborgs Brasskvintett played a fanfare composed especially for the University’ s anniversary.

The first speaker was the Chair of the University Governing Board, Harald Castler. In his welcome speech, he reflected on the development that has taken place during the time that Halmstad University has existed as a higher education institution:

“40 years ago, we had 400 students and 40 employees. Today, there are 12,000 students at Halmstad University, and we are over 700 employees. We offer a wide range of high-quality educational programmes, we have research with international vitality and we have made a name for ourselves as one of Sweden’s strongest universities when it comes to collaboration. The University has a lot to be proud of, and some of those things will be celebrated today.”

A woman with a black gown and a large piece of silver jewelry around her neck stands next to a man in a black gown. They are both smiling. Photo.

Susanna Öhman was inaugurated as the University’s new Vice-Chancellor. According to tradition, it is the University’s former Vice-Chancellor, in this case Stephen Hwang, who hands over the Vice-Chancellor’s gown and the chain to his successor.

“Great honour to be inaugurated as Vice-Chancellor”

Halmstad University celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, which characterized the ceremony in everything from the music that was played to the food that was served. This year’s ceremony was also special as the University’s new Vice-Chancellor Susanna Öhman was to be inaugurated. On site to carry out the inauguration was former Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Hwang. After the inauguration of the Vice-Chancellor, Susanna Öhman gave her inaugural speech.

“It is a great honour to be inaugurated as Vice-Chancellor of Halmstad University. To also be inaugurated as the first woman makes it extra special. Halmstad University’s vision is to create value, drive innovation and develop people and society for the future. All employees contribute to realising that vision,” said Susanna Öhman and continued:

“Employees with different skills and roles work together with each other and with our students with the motto 'We make each other better' as a guiding principle. As the new Vice-Chancellor, I look forward to, as best I can, live up to that motto and try to make us better.”

Five men in blue gowns and a woman in a black gown are lined up next to each other. The men have bouquets of flowers in their hands. Photo.

Vice-Chancellor Susanna Öhman inaugurated the five new professors during Friday’s ceremony, in accordance with old tradition. As a relatively young university, Halmstad University has created its own traditions and rituals, but is also linked to the traditional ceremonies.

New professors and new doctors

An important part of the academic ceremony is to install new professors at the University. In a ceremony based on centuries-old academic traditions, five professors were inaugurated. This year’s professor’s speech was given by Christoffer Englund, who had just been inaugurated as Professor of Information Technology.

“We are all on a journey and that journey has a beginning and it has an end. Now we have become professors. I am very happy to be here on my journey. As a professor, it feels very good to be able to be part of other people’s journey and see other people realising their dreams, both students and colleagues,” said Christoffer Englund.

A woman with light long hair and a dark, glittering dress stands on a stage. In her hands she holds a bouquet of flowers and on her head she has a wreath. Photo.

Ulrika Lögdberg was one of the new doctors who received a diploma and a wreath during Friday’s ceremony.

The University’s new doctors were conferred during a ceremony that was carried out in accordance with the academic tradition. Traditionally, the doctors received a cap or a laurel wreath as a symbol of freedom and a diploma as a sign of worthiness. After that, the newly graduated doctors took the symbolic step over the so-called parnassus, which at Halmstad University is a white rug with the University’s blue ceremonial symbol. The step over the rug is a sign that from now on they have the right to conduct academic teaching.

A new Honorary Doctor was also conferred, Carl Bennet, who has been appointed Honorary Doctor for outstanding contributions in the field of innovation science.

“It is a great honour for me as a person and as a business leader to be awarded an honorary doctorate in innovation science. It warms my heart and soul,” said Carl Bennet, when he held his inaugural lecture at the University a few days before the ceremony.

A man in a black gown and black hat stands on a stage and shakes hands with a man in a blue gown and a wreath on his head. Photo.

Carl Bennet was conferred an Honorary Doctor by promotor Thorsteinn Rögnvaldsson, Professor of Computer Science. During the ceremony, two marshals were on hand to assist during the various ceremonies. Here Saga Mattsson is ready to hand over flowers.

Awarded for good efforts in collaboration and pedagogy

At the academic ceremony, the University’s Prize for Collaboration and Innovation and the University’s Teaching and Learning Prize are also awarded each year.

This year, Magnus Clarin, Research and Education Manager at Region Halland and Project Manager at the University, and Stella Erlandsson, Collaboration Coordinator at the School of Information Technology, received the Prize for Collaboration and Innovation. This year’s Teaching and Learning Prize was awarded to Fredric Ottermo, Senior Lecturer and Docent in Energy Engineering.

A woman with light hair and glasses and a dark dress stands on a stage. In her hands she has a speaker's card. Photo.

One of the evening’s speakers was Halmstad Student Union’s President Linnea Håkansson, who talked about the importance of universities in today’s society.

“We must defend academic freedom”

Guest at the ceremony was also Halmstad Student Union’s President Linnea Håkansson, who held the students’ speech. Among other things, she spoke about how important higher education institutions are in a time of challenges such as the climate crisis, war and the restriction of democracy, freedom of the press and academic freedom.

“Our mission as a bringer of knowledge has never been more important. We know what academic freedom is and why it’s important, but do all the thousands of students know that? It doesn’t matter if you have just written your first exam or have defended your doctoral thesis. Within the walls of the University, we must all stand united and always be ready to defend academic freedom,” Linnea Håkansson urged.

County Governor Brittis Benzler then gave a speech and thanked the audience for a fine evening.

“Thank you for a fine and dignified event in the name of science. Halmstad University is a relatively young university that has already made its mark and is now an important part of the Swedish academic landscape. You are here as an opportunity for both people and companies. The opportunity to make dreams come true. That is your role in the county,” said Brittis Benzler.

Inaugurations, conferment ceremonies, prizes, and celebrations

This is what happened during the academic ceremony:

  • Vice-Chancellor inauguration.
  • Professors’ inauguration.
  • Honouring of visiting professors, adjunct professors, and deputy professors.
  • Honouring of new docents.
  • Conferment of Honorary Doctor.
  • Conferment of doctoral degrees.
  • Honouring of employees who have defended their doctoral thesis at another university.
  • Honouring new excellent teaching practitioners.
  • Announcement and awarding of the University’s Prize for Collaboration and Innovation.
  • Announcement and awarding of the Teaching and Learning Prize.

Text: Thimmy Mård
Photo: Ida Fridvall, Helena Bengtsson