«We have a new leader.» These words the Minister of Education and Science Anda Čakša addressed to the new Rector of Riga Technical University (RTU) Tālis Juhna at the solemn inauguration ceremony on 18 May, when he, having received the RTU Rector’s chain of office and giving a solemn promise, became a full-fledged Rector of RTU.
T. Juhna in his solemn speech outlined his vision on further development of RTU: «We are the university of science that can change the Latvian national economy, providing knowledge to our children, creating technologies of the future and solving significant social challenges.»
During the inauguration ceremony, the Chair of RTU Council Andris Vanags put the chain of office on the new Rector, whereas T. Juhna gave a solemn promise: «I promise that all my work will be devoted to the growth and development of RTU. I will work in good faith for RTU to become an excellent and internationally recognised centre of studies, research and innovations, where students obtain knowledge based on research and practice and where, in cooperation with entrepreneurs, technologies of the future are created.»
Then T. Juhna gave his solemn speech, outlining there his vision of the future development of RTU: «Ultimately, we have to become the world-class university with a global influence, contributing not only to the training of professionals at the national level, but becoming a driver of development in studies, science and technology, thus positioning Latvia very convincingly on the world map.»
Greeting the new Rector, the head of the government Krišjānis Kariņš emphasised that the vision of T. Juhna about the future of RTU «is required not only for this university, but also for our State, so that we could continue increasing our prosperity, as without the technology development phase it is just not possible.» In his opinion, the goal set by RTU to be one of the world leaders in engineering education coincides with the government’s intention regarding the higher education development, and politicians can help universities by putting in order laws and regulations, as well as taking care that «state funds help to support the development of science.»
In her turn, A. Čakša emphasised that the inauguration of T. Juhna is «a very significant moment not only for the RTU family, but for the entire Latvian system of education and science, as big ambitions and big goals have been set – to achieve high results and designate Latvia on the map of world universities. Tālis Juhna, in view of his personal characteristics, by jumping into a bob and taking the entire RTU team with him, will show how to do it in the current changing environment,» said the minister, by using symbols from the world of sport, as T. Juhna used to be actively engaged in sport activities – he was a prospective long jumper and bobsleigh racer.
«You are lucky – your leader is both knowledgeable, and having ambitions and competences,» said the Minister of Economics Ilze Indriksone, addressing the RTU family at the inauguration. She also expressed hope that the results of RTU operation would be felt in the national economy and innovations, and «then we will see Latvia not only prospering, but also having lots of smart and well-to-do people, as our main value is a person. The national economy is based not only on technologies, but primarily on people, and RTU is a smithery of young talents and our future entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers.»
The Constitutional Assembly of RTU elected T. Juhna in the Rector’s position on 22 February, and he took the office on 27 March.
Prior to the election in the RTU Rector’s position, T. Juhna has worked for 12 years in the position of RTU Vice-Rector for Research, improving the research management system and developing RTU Strategy to establish the research and innovation system. He has launched different support mechanisms to promote innovation capabilities of researchers and students and to develop new technologies, for example, RTU Science and Innovation Centre, which aims at promoting RTU scientific activities and involvement of the academic staff and students in creating innovations and knowledge transfer, as well as developing collaboration with industry and scientific institutions.
Alongside with the administrative work, T. Juhna has been actively involved in research by managing and also participating as a researcher in local and internationally financed research projects. Whereas in the field of academic activities, T. Juhna established a new international Bachelor study programme “Biotechnology and Bioengineering”, new forms of studies for students were created and introduced in RTU at his initiative, for example, the entrepreneurship and scientific cooperation initiative “Industrial Doctor”, aiming at developing tighter cooperation between research and businesses.
In accordance with RTU Constitution, the Rector is elected by the Constitutional Assembly, which consists of 200 elected employees and students from the RTU family. T. Juhna was one of the two candidates for the Rector’s position brought forward by RTU Council for the vote at the Constitutional Assembly. In total, nine candidates applied for RTU Rector’s position competition announced last autumn.