(Extended version – not presented at the ceremony)
For the media department by the Volda University College 2021 will be remembered not only for being the last year of the pandemic. But also the year in which the department celebrated 50 years as a school of media practices – and we are opening a new university building, made for media practices.
It was a stroke luck which opened a window of opportunity 50 years ago when a new kind of University level-education was established in Norway – District University College – or in Norwegian: Distriktshøgskule. The Norwegian parliament, Stortinget, in 1969 decided that one of the new District University Colleges should be located to Volda. The local professors and planners decided that an education in media studies could be an interesting niche. Originally they intended to educate students for work as journalists in small newspaper in the rural areas of Norway, and preferably writing in nynorsk, our beloved version of Norwegian.
But the teachers as well as the media development in the 1970-ies and 1980-ies geared the media department in Volda towards electronic media; broadcasting and film; and towards journalism. But always with an opening for the artistic, creative and sometimes crazy ideas of students – and teachers. Later on Animation, Documentary, Media production and other subjects was added to the portfolio. The number of students have grown from about 20 in the modest beginning in 1971 to about 550 students today.
Wow! What a ride! Both for media in general as well as the media department. Seemingly, no matter what direction the general media runs along, there are some students or teachers by the media department who are eagerly picking up new ideas and not least: Testing them out for themselves and fellow students. And testing, experimenting, being hands-on on media equipment, facilities, formats and a open mind to playfulnes has always been hallmarks of the media studies by the Volda University College.
In the big old university they talk about media. In the small young Volda University College we do something about media. You do actual media practice. Students are making media content, and you have started the process of changing media, little by little.
So it’s no coincidence that the name of Your master is: Master in media practices. A lot of people can become masters in media studies. Not so many will become master in media PRACTICES. So you are a select few!
The Volda University college is in 2021 in the process of developing a new strategic plan, and I hope the following sentence will find a place in the final plan – as the plan is not finalised this is a crude translation of a Norwegian text still under evaluation:
Our motto: «Knowledge for a better future»
Our target is knowledge, technical know-how and maybe most important: Prudence – or wisdom – which is about the ability to make good decisions, combining knowledge and technical know-how with other aspects. Being it ethics, democracy, sustainability or saving a life.
For most of the 50 years passed the media department and the media students has been very important for the Volda University college. But this has not necessarily been self-evident from the facilities you have been offered. But a few years ago the Volda University College decided to construct a new house dedicated to media teaching and research – and this fall the house will be finished, after about 2 years of construction and 250 mill NOK – about 25 mill Euros.
A few notes about the name of the house. It’s called Sivert Aarflot-huset, and who was Sivert Aarflot? The one thing I think is important for you to know about Sivert, is that he was for his times, a master of media practices, in all aspects of the concept. In 1809 he had established a printshop in Volda, one of the first in Norway, demonstrating political skills as well as practical knowledge. And he was able to persuade the authoritarian King of Denmark-Norway, that it was a good idea, in the midst of the Napoleonic wars, to allow him to establish a newspaper in Volda. And he did it an ran the newspaper for several years. And the newspaper being published in Volda to day is still run by the Aarflot-family. He also was a great farmer, collected and distributed books in a private library and was a man of the law.
But without Sivert Aarflot – maby no newspaper in Volda – maybe no University College and probably no media studies. So – thank You Sivert!
You are all more than welcome to visit the Sivert Aarflot-huset later on, as most of you now probably are leaving Volda as you have graduated. I’m very happy for our motto: Volda is the place you’ll never forget. And we don’t want to forget you either! So please keep in touch!