Professor Frédéric Herman was appointed Rector of the University of Lausanne (UNIL) on 1 August 2021, a role he carries out with all the curiosity, lucidity and serenity of an academic who is well aware of current upheavals, but also keen to take the long view, as one of the world’s experts in the interactions between climate change and the evolution of mountains.
Originally from Belgium, he knows the Lake Geneva area well and is aware that he still has to steer the UNIL ship through choppy waters, however much we may want the Covid-19 pandemic to be over. It goes without saying that this unparalleled situation affects the management of an institution whose raison d’être lies in bringing diverse groups together and fostering opportunities to exchange ideas between teachers and students, and between researchers from all over the world. Now more than ever, he knows that he can and must rely on the institution’s scientific, administrative and technical strengths to put "people at the centre of everything we do and create a human-focused environment".
He emphasises several major societal issues that UNIL can help to identify and resolve in its three fundamental areas of expertise: research, teaching and academic mediation. Logically, the strategic plan he is developing with other members of the Rectorate is focused on these issues - namely health, the ecological transition, equality, the role of science in society and the necessity of collaborating with other institutions.
Even in urgent situations, he notes, academics "have the right to give themselves time to think". First and foremost, the Rectorate’s role is to create the right conditions for passing on the knowledge gained through academic endeavours at the cutting edge of understanding in areas as diverse as the environment, health, social, economic, legal, political, artistic, ethical, psychological and technological issues, through teaching and in the wider society. These are all fields in which UNIL excels and offers its expertise as part of its public-service mission.