Siv Elin Nord Sæbjørnsen is the very first to graduate with a PhD degree in health and social science from Volda and Molde University Colleges.
Today, at the PhD and Master’s Degree Graduation Ceremony on campus, Sæbjørnsen was celebrated together with a lot of soon to be former master’s students.
Jørgen Bjørke (MSc Logistics) received the NIMA award, and Julie Gulla-Pettersen and Marita Helene Halvari (both MSc SOL) received the Sølvi Dahl memorial prize. Fredrik Sørøy Strømme (MSc Petroleum Logistics) spoke on behalf of the students.
Rector Hallgeir Gammelsæter’s speech to the graduates:
«Dear graduates, honored guests, colleagues,
it is a privilege to have this opportunity to address so many young people, most of you ready to start new, different and uncertain lives. I can use this moment to congratulate you. Which I do. Congratulations! Be proud of yourself, of what you have achieved.
I can use this moment to thank you for doing your studies in Molde. I do that too, with the hope that you will forever be proud of it and that your time here will evoke good feelings in you. Thank you! Without you, our lives would be less meaningful and our future less bright.
I can also use this moment to advice you. That is more difficult. We use congratulations and words of thanks to address what has passed. To celebrate achievements or to appreciate relationships that are already experienced.
Giving advice is about the future. It is about the unexperienced. The unachieved. About the days that we do not know. It is about what is in principle, but also practically uncertain. The future you move into is uncertain. We do not know tomorrow! Why do we keep ourselves with concepts like “surprise”? If we knew exactly what happens in an hour or tomorrow or next week there would be no need for such a word! We expect surprises. If only exceptionally. If we could predict them, they would not be surprises.
If we do not know tomorrow, how can we face tomorrow? How can we cope with it? The answer is experience, of course. We base much of our lives on experiential learning. Through experience, our own and others, we create theories about tomorrow, and when theories work we call them practice. Much practice, even habits and bad habits, is nothing more than routinized theories.
You could not get here today unless you had theories about how to do it. You did not know yesterday what would happen today, but you trust your theories and think that you will cope with what meets you.
You have never been to this ceremony before. In fact none of us have, but others have past experience about it and exchange information about what it will be like. You collect that information up front, and create a picture of what will meet you and what theories will apply to meet the new situations. One of the more solid one is this one: “ I will see what the others do and then I do the same”. That is very often a good theory because it works. But, it is not always a good theory. At exams, for example, it would not be a good theory. So, we need different theories for different situations.
This means that theories help us cope with tomorrow. Theories help us to meet the uncertain future. In fact, theory is the bridge between the past and the future. THEORY IS THE BRIDGE BETWEEN THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.
The distinction between theory and practice is false. It is false in our individual lives and it is false for organizations and societies. There is nothing as practical as a good theory.
However, experiential learning is not always enough. There are problems and challenges in the world of such a complex nature that we have to explore them in very advanced ways. That is what science is for. And to learn how to deal with complexities of the future we need to learn old theory in order to develop new theories. And we need methods to test and develop theories. This is what you have learned at university. This is how we as society meet the uncertain future.
There are jokes about universities that they are not the real or practical world. Even in the university we sometimes talk about the world outside as the real world. And your new employer may well welcome you to the real world. But I tell you, universities develop and teach the theories of the real world and universities is of course an important part of the real and practical world. Without science and universities the real world would be a very different place.
Let me take one example that illustrates my point. I think this example also shows us that theories are sometimes more practical than practice itself.
Global warming. What do you think is the most practical and sustainable; to keep on with today’s practices or to change our practices to what now a bunch of theories tell us about what will happen if we do not change our way of living? Should we wait to experience global warming, or is it smart and more practical to act on what we already know from science?
The theories we have about global warming are not perfect. They will probably change. Be refined. Some may be rejected. There will be surprises. But I think we know enough to know that we should change our way of living. At the moment, theories about global warming are more practical and sustainable than our practice.
We know there are powerful people today that try to undermine scientific knowledge that does not fit their worldview, interests or purposes. As you know, “false truths” and “fake news” have emerged as new terms in the public debate, and some try to exploit the fact that there are many theories, that theories are not perfect, researchers disagree, etc. Well, we are talking about an uncertain and changing future, so theories cannot be perfect, researchers should not always agree, diverse theories should be developed. If you and I could not face tomorrow until we had perfect knowledge about what will happen, our lives would collapse.
I hope you get my point. Theory is the most practical way to bridge the past, present and future.
My advice to you is for the future. And it is that you keep respecting theories. And keep learning theories. You have learned science, methods and theories, but more than that, I hope you have learned how to learn new theories and how theories develop. That is very practical knowledge.
On behalf of the faculty and the admin staff, I wish you a wonderful day, and of course, all good for the uncertain future.
Journalist Maren Sæbø’s speech to the graduates:
«The costume I’m wearing today has been made at the local museum here in Molde, but it is a reconstruction done by a relative of mine, based on old fabrics found in an attic. My ancestors in Måndalen here in the fjord, wore a similar costume when they married in the latter half of the 18th century.
The costume is of course a statement of local culture and traditions, but it is more. The vest is made of wool, customary woven in the north of England. A cloth that made it’s way from the great industrial revolution of Yorkshire, to Romsdalen. The substance that made the red colour of the cloth, a colour favored by young brides of the West Coast, was imported from India.
The shawl of silk came here from Central Europe. So did the inspiration for the silverware. During the 18th century the cotton apron also appeared, also woven in England. The cotton imported from the colonies in the west. The cotton picked by slaves.
So my traditional and very local costume not only speaks about local customs and enterprise. It is a product of some of the great revolutions of the last millenia. A revolution in trade, a revolution in industry. The cotton apron a reminder that these revolutions also had a cost, slavery, appaling working conditions in the mills of England, a human cost.
Forward a century, my greatgrandparents emigrated to the Americas, to the great plains of North Dakota, and the suburbs of St. Paul in Minnesota. Immigrants seeking a better life. Fortune-seekers as our minister of integration would have labelled them today. But unlike so many of their contemporaries, and quite a lot of relatives, they returned. And brought new impulses to the fjords. A taste for citylife, american apple pie. My grandmother never really settled back home, her plan was to return to Minnesota. She never did. But her children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren all travelled, for studies, for work. I have three brothers, between us we have studied in England, South Africa, Italy and Hawaii. I went to school in Angola, and University in South Africa. As a student of history, I gained confidence in our own Norwegian history, I learned about European history and finally, African history.
It is this confidence in history and culture that allows me to appreciate how intertwined our world is. It is my education that has given me the tools to understand how a small village in the West Coast of Norway, tucked between mountains, always have been and is, a part of a global world.
In an age where politicians behave like bullies, where other cultures are portayed as a threat. Where our own culture is held up as something exclusive, our knowledge about it in some quarters frowned upon. It is in this age it is important to remember that this West Coast, those mountains and the fjords below them always was a place connected. Through trade, through travel and even emigration. And in more recent years, immigration.
Our culture does not only speak about what is typical for an area or one nation, it is not exclusive. It is inclusive. We are all in it together, bound by the logistiscs of the past and present. That is what our education tells us, and that is what you take forth with you. Confidence in both your own history and culture, and the ability to respect others.