Campus - 07.09.2022 - 00:00

HSG StartWeek: 1,856 freshers get to know their university

No other Swiss university supervises its new students as closely as HSG. StartWeek, during which more than 1800 students familiarise themselves with the university and their new environment, will be rolled out in a new format in September 2022. Among other things, exchange between students and experts from business, politics and research is on the programme.

7 September 2022. Convincing jury and audience that you have the best idea in 90 seconds: this is the first thing that 1,856 young men and women will learn as they begin their Bachelor’s degree at HSG. The task of developing these short presentations, known as “elevator pitches”, is part of the HSG StartWeek. Between 12 and 16 September 2022, this week will introduce freshers to life and work at the university. In addition to administrative introductions, such as those for exams, course structure, the HSG campus and the library, StartWeek groups made up of 25 students will work on a case study on the topic of “polarisation”. The results of this – an elevator pitch and a short video – will be presented to a jury at the end of the week by six selected groups. This will not take place behind closed doors, but on a stage in front of the entire cohort of freshers in the Olma Halls. Alongside the jury, comprising the veteran SRF journalist Henriette Engbersen, HSG Vice President for Studies & Academic Affairs Martin Eppler, as well as HSG specialist in American Studies Franziska Brühwiler, the audience can also vote for their favourite with the Audience Award. 

COVID-19 provides boost to innovation 

StartWeek is unique: no other Swiss university supports its freshers’ start to their studies as intensively as HSG. In addition to the 1,856 Bachelor’s students, around 700 Master’s and doctoral students newly enrolled at HSG will attend several induction days known as “Kick-Off Days”. 

StartWeek is among the most comprehensive of projects implemented by HSG. The StartWeek team, comprising a 5-person core team and 4 student assistants, is supported by 190 tutors, in addition to various other HSG employees. Altogether, they put in an estimated 20,000 working hours each year. “The top priority of our work is to integrate the new students on a social, academic and administrative level to the greatest possible extent”, said Miriam Mrisi, Chief Coordinator of StartWeek. 

Coordinating over 1,800 students, who are on the go around campus every day as part of the StartWeek programme, requires a degree of planning from Mrisi and her team – and all this was turned on its head during 2020 and 2021 following the introduction of COVID-19-related safety measures. “Those were two challenging, but also very instructive years. Because this time of upheaval illustrated the potential for new approaches, while simultaneously giving us the courage to pursue them”, said Mrisi. In light of this, StartWeek was redesigned for 2022 and is now more modular, more flexible and more digital: tutors have greater freedom to plan which programme points they want to complete with their StartWeek groups and when. And the administrative inductions, in which hundreds of students previously took part in the large auditorium, are now fully digital and take place in individual groups via the learning platform Canvas. “We initiated this approach in 2020 as a type of emergency solution because of the pandemic. But it is much more efficient than channelling 1,800 people through the Audimax in numerous timeslots in two languages (German and English)”, said Mrisi. With regard to the expert input for the content of the case study, Mrisi explained, the StartWeek team came to the conclusion that this definitely had to take place in person. “Thus, equal use is made of in-person and e-learning elements”, said Mrisi. 

The idea of community at HSG will not be neglected during StartWeek 2022. During the course of a day in the new SQUARE building, all StartWeek groups will work on a case study on the topic of “polarisation”. In the SQUARE, various experts, with whom the students can spontaneously discuss, will be on site each day as a type of “human library”. For this purpose, this year HSG has invited, among others, SRF presenter Sandro Brotz, historian and political scientist Regula Stämpfli, HSG philosopher Michael Festl and public speaking trainer Michael Berndonner. The random intergroup and intergenerational exchange, as well as the approach of working on solutions collaboratively, is the focus of the day in the SQUARE and across the rest of the campus throughout the entire week.

Experienced students help freshers

Throughout the week, 190 tutors will support the StartWeek team. These are experienced students who pair up, with each pair supervising a group of freshers. “They have to apply for this role. Many remember how important their own StartWeek was and would like to make a contribution to the HSG community”, said Mrisi. Those who want to become tutors must complete a course over two semesters in the scope of HSG contextual studies, which focuses on social, historical and cultural elements.

These experienced students also help the freshers get to know the city of St.Gallen. StartWeek also includes various social events such as the Student Union barbecue, for example. In addition, 120 student societies who are active at HSG will present themselves to the freshers. Mrisi added the following: “Of course, conveying important information is the main focus of StartWeek. But it is also very important that the students have the opportunity to make as many new connections as possible during this time.”