Campus - 28.02.2023 - 11:32
The opening of the HSG SQUARE celebrated its first anniversary on 24 February 2023. The new HSG building opened its doors for the first time to students and guests in 2022, almost five years after the project had started in 2017. The “Open SQUARE” open day took place on 25 February 2023 on the occasion of its first birthday and the 125th anniversary of the University of St.Gallen. The programme, available all day, was full of contrasts, organized by all kinds of university clubs and institutes. Panel discussions and information booths lured many visitors and offered young and old an exciting day.
HSG president Prof. Bernhard Ehrenzeller kicked off the open day with a speech, providing insights into the origins and course of construction of the building. The origins of the project are to be found in an architectural competition in 2017 and it was completed in less than three years after construction had been approved. A special construction element: a time capsule installed in the foundations of the building, containing notes with wishes and expectations regarding the building. SQUARE was inspired by the learning centres of other international universities. However, it is intended to be far more than just a conventional learning centre, namely, a space for free thinking and encounters and consequently, according to president Ehrenzeller, a “place to be”.
It was not just the opening of the SQUARE that had its first anniversary; the Russian invasion of Ukraine also started on 24 February last year. Consequently, the university devoted many programme items to clarifying the events in Ukraine and collecting donations. There was a panel discussion at the beginning, titled “A lost generation? Rebuilding education after a year of war in Ukraine”. Together with Ulrich Schmid, HSG professor for East European culture and society, Lisa Yasko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, and Ukrainian student Anna Povstemska took part in the discussion and talked about the situation in Ukraine. This concentrated on the perspective of the younger generation.
Anna Povstemska provided insights into her everyday life in Ukraine. After the first two years of her studies had been severely restricted by the pandemic, her studies were again interrupted just a few months later by the war. In February 2022, the student was forced to move to Germany for a few months, where she was put up by a German family. When the Ukrainian institutions resumed their educational mandate at the end of April, Anna returned to Ukraine to continue her studies. The discussion concentrated on the future of young Ukrainians and the extent to which it would be limited by the war and its consequences. The speakers agreed that the young generation was not lost, but had suffered severe traumas, which would require profound processing and recovery.
The parliamentary representative Lisa Yasko was also forced to leave her home in Kiev at the beginning of the war and has since devoted herself to supporting Ukraine across the whole of Europe. As a representative of the organisation “The Light Will Win”, she accompanied the whole event, providing information about the situation in Ukraine, as well as encouraging visitors to help by making a small donation.
Another panel discussion dealt with the subject of artificial intelligence (AI). Four HSG professors discussed the risks and opportunities of the new technologies. To date, there have been over 30 years of continuous progress in the field of AI. Consequently, now more than ever, the question being raised is that of its effects on various spheres of life. For example, the discussion looked at the AI-supported selection of suitable candidates for a job, the new chatbot from OpenAI “ChatGPT” and ethical questions related to the use of artificial intelligence.
Apart from discussion rounds and information booths, there were numerous interactive booths and programme items involving student clubs. Guests could take part in recording a podcast and make statements about SQUARE, contribute to creating an NFT work of art or develop their own design for a window of the SQUARE. There was a treasure hunt for young visitors, various games and a teddy bear’s hospital, where children could treat the small fluffy patients.
Lara Ziegler is a fifth semester bachelor's student studying economics.