Campus - 29.05.2021 - 00:00

Virtual dies academicus 2021

On May 29, 2021, the University of St.Gallen celebrated the virtual dies academicus with university members and guests from politics, science and the population.

29 May 2021. Once a year, the University of St.Gallen’s academic day of celebration brings together friends and former students of the HSG with personalities from academia, politics, business and the population. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented the 2021 dies academicus from being staged in the customary manner. Instead of the traditional event on the campus, the HSG organised an imaginatively designed virtual event on Saturday, 29 May 2021. 

This year’s dies academicus was opened by President Bernhard Ehrenzeller with a review of last year’s first virtual celebration. Although he would have wished to welcome the guests on the campus again this year, he said that a virtual gathering was also an occasion for joy. Such joy was also caused by the milestones which the HSG was again able to reach. Bernhard Ehrenzeller emphasised that successes were only possible thanks to an essential resource which the HSG possessed: trust. In a crisis, in particular, it was revealed whether an organisation was able to enjoy trust, said President Ehrenzeller. “Trust Matters”, the topic of the 50th St.Gallen Symposium of early May 2021, was also of fundamental significance for the University of St.Gallen. Any organisation only acted credibly if it was guided by conviction: “Only those who act from conviction and not in the service of an image are credible and earn – or better: deserve – trust.”

New space for thinking and learning on the Platztor campus

Ehrenzeller said that the HSG had repeatedly received votes of confidence from the general public; approval of the Platztor campus, where plans by the architect Pascal Flammer for a Haus im Park were to be realised, being a case in point. The expectations and promises in connection with this would have to be fulfilled, on the one hand by the graduates, who were meant to learn how to act in a responsible and value-oriented manner, and on the other hand by the HSG, which had to make responsible use of its scope of action. The University, said Ehrenzeller, depended on basic funding from the public purse and thus on the general public’s trust. At the same time, it was able to realise experiments and projects of excellence such as the establishment of the HSG Center for Financial Services Innovation. Despite the freedoms, the fundamental values of every university, the freedom to teach and conduct research, should be preserved, which was a goal not for reasons of image, but of conviction, said Ehrenzeller.

Software increasingly determines value creation

In her ceremonial address, the Dean of the School of Computer Science, Prof. Dr. Barbara Weber, focused on the relevance and omnipresence of computer science in our world. “Only those who promote the basic competencies in computer science will be able to help shape tomorrow’s digital change,” said Professor Barbara Weber. With the establishment of the School of Computer Science, the HSG had laid a solid cornerstone for this. In this way, the University could not only cover basic competencies but offer new educational options in computer science which were tailored to the requirements of a digital world, said Barbara Weber. The resulting interdisciplinary cooperation helped society to solve the big problems of our time and additionally provided a solution to the personnel problems in the region.

Unmistakable parallels with 1921  

“The Student Union has its origins in 1921, when the world, the European area and also Switzerland were characterised by a high degree of uncertainty. The First World War had just come to an end, the Spanish flu was spreading in Europe, and a general strike was edging Switzerland towards a revolution,” said the President of the Student Union, Mertcem Zengin, at the beginning of his speech. The then Commercial Academy was confronted by a change in general global conditions in the economy and in regional expectations. This caesura in the HSG’s history constituted a central element for the University, for it was decided at the time not only to impart knowledge to students but also to enable them to anticipate the future and to change it actively in a positive sense – both individually and in cooperation with others. 100 years later, the erstwhile association for the representation of student interests had turned into a platform that pooled 9,000 perspectives, offered a variety of services on the campus with seven initiatives and was an ecosystem with more than 135 associations and different fields of interest. The momentum of this sense of togetherness would also have to be preserved throughout a pandemic. “Ethical values and norms, empathy and also trust, are components which distinguish personalities and will also only be able to be communicated in interpersonal communicative interaction in the future,” said Zengin.


Brief video clips about the academic year of 2020-21 did not only highlight the establishment of the School of Computer Science, the anniversary of the Student Union and 50 years of the St.Gallen Symposium, but also the rapid progress in the construction of the new HSG Learning Center and the appointment of women professors. Efforts to achieve a higher proportion of women among the professors at the University of St.Gallen were increasingly successful. Thus in the past three years, approx. 40 per cent of the newly appointed professors were women. By 2025, the HSG would like to have women in at least 30 per cent of job at all levels.

Three honorary doctorates awarded, one new honorary senator

  •  Prof. Ph.D. Richard Whittington, Professor of Strategic Management at Saïd Business School and Millman Fellow, New College, University of Oxford, was awarded an honorary doctorate of economics.

  • Prof. Ph D. Jennifer Arlen, professor of law and faculty director of the Corporate Compliance and Enforcement Program at New York University School of Law, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

  • Christian Frei, producer, filmmaker and adjunct lecturer on reflective competence at the University of St.Gallen, was awarded an honorary doctorate of social sciences.

  • Long-time HSG Alumni President Dr. Urs Landolf was named a new honorary senator of the HSG for his great services to the alumni organization and the University of St.Gallen in general. Landolf had a significant impact on the organization during his 20 years as HSG Alumni President. Among other things, the Alumni-HSG Advisory Board and the HSG Alumni Seniors Chapter were founded during his tenure. 

HSG Impact Awards to three projects

On the occasion of the 2021 dies academicus, three research projects were honoured with the HSG Impact Award. This prize is awarded to projects of particularly great societal relevance.


Matthias Fengler and Martin Brown received the HSG Impact Award for their project Monitoring Consumption Switzerland. The project uses aggregated and anonymised payment data to measure private consumption in Switzerland and to show how this was impaired by the Covid-19 crisis.

Sebastian Utz was honoured for the project An integrated approach to generate higher impact portfolios . Utz developed a new kind of portfolio model which mutually optimises risk, profit and sustainability impact and enables users to identify unexploited sustainability in investments and to efficiently redirect capital towards sustainable challenges.

Charlotta Sirén, Michael Hudecheck, Joakim Vincent and Dietmar Grichnik received the award for their project Staying on Top of the Crisis: Tracking the Economic and Social Impacts of SARS CoV 2 and Future Disasters to Improve Global Disaster Management and Response Efforts . They worked with satellite-based data, for instance about pollution and nocturnal light emissions, and compared these with the emission and economic data of a reference period. Their research resulted in a global platform which enables users to identify emerging trends and to better understand their economic and social effects.

Award of the Latsis Prize

The Fondation Latsis Internationale annually honors young researchers at selected universities in Switzerland. This year, the prize went to Dr. Matthias Weber, for his highly regarded work and the insights it provided on financial bubbles and human behavior in social networks where Fake News emerges.

First HSG Culture Prize 2021

The HSG honoured the songwriter, singer, musician, cartoonist and comedian Manuel Stahlberger for his hyperfine power of observation and his relentlessly debunking, but at the same time affectionate treatment of his characters. “A man of many talents” – he depicted all sorts of absurdities and small dramas of everyday life with stoicism, laconic precision and seismographic sensitivity, always darkly, but with unfailing calm.

The student body honored Prof. Dr. Martin Kolmar with a Teaching Award and Dr. Jessica Aschari-Lincoln and Prof. Dr. Omid Aschari with the Mentor Award.

You can view the event at any time on the Events page.