Daniel Traça: “Times change and the world demands that we change ahead”
Within months, Daniel Traça ends his second term as the dean of the Nova School of Business & Economics, where he graduated in Economics, being the first Alumnus to hold this role. His leadership is marked by a transforming impetus and work developed, which includes, for example, the creation of an innovation ecosystem, the duplication of master's degrees, the launch of new areas of knowledge, the increase in the support provided to students in financial need. His contribution to Nova SBE is undeniable.
Question: What role does the University play in a world where the teacher is no longer the center of knowledge? What is the University today?
Answer: More important than its current role is the role it needs to hold. The University's first major challenge is the need to think and reimagine the world. (…) We live in a generalized pessimism, many of the things that are happening in societies today are most difficult to understand and are not positive, leaving people in a huge concern. We see less optimism in younger people than in the past, less willingness for people to be with one another, and less collaboration and cooperation between nations. There is, in fact, a feeling of pessimism generated by a certain fear of the future. It is in this context that we must see the University because historically it is the space where knowledge is thought and young people, the owners of tomorrow, are trained.
Question: How does the University assume this role?
Answer: For Universities to be able to help transform the future so that it becomes more optimistic, it is necessary to act in several dimensions, I give you three fundamental clues. The first dimension is pedagogy, that is, the way we teach and awaken in students the will to create new solutions for new problems. The learning process has to work not in the logic of ‘I know and pass it on to the students’ that belongs to the past, but in a logic in which students and teachers are part of communities that create, think, and have ideas together. One learns through a collective exchange. This implies very practice-based learning, in projects that students have to develop, which are new and the solution is not known… but we will get there!
Question: What is the second dimension?
Answer: The proximity. The University must be much closer to the reality around us, with companies, with the Third Sector, even with the State. It cannot remain closed in an Ivory Tower, in an environment very focused on its discipline, it must work with all the actors of society and in an interdisciplinary logic. Interdisciplinarity is the third line of action. The concept of discipline as it used to be, in which one learned this, that or the other, is no longer valid. We went from a logic of sources of knowledge to a logic of problems to be solved together.
Question: How does Nova SBE fit into this vision of the University of the future?
Answer: This new logic of solving problems together, in an interdisciplinary way and close to society has guided our work here and will continue to guide, always with the future on the horizon. Masters are a good example. We have just launched another program. In two years, we doubled the offer. We did it because we know that these new areas of science, innovation, entrepreneurship, analytics & data, the dimension of public policy, are fundamental. The new Masters, in addition to being in much more applied areas, have a structure based on “Project-Based Learning”, in which students immediately start working on projects.
Question: Nova SBE's strategy relies on companies as an important pillar. Would it be possible to build the future without this proximity?
Answer: Obviously, the whole Campus fundraising project was important, but the most interesting aspect is that it changed us. It didn't change us just because we built a Campus and got funding to do it, but it changed us because we realized that there is a lot of opportunities to co-create with companies, with NGOs, and even with the State. Last month we took a very important step on this path: we inaugurated our innovation ecosystem, a space that allows companies to bring innovation teams to the Campus and here solve their most important problems with our students helping them. These partnership projects guarantee, on the one hand, the development of important skills for the future of students, and on the other hand, they allow companies to benefit from more disruptive and change-generating inputs brought by students, who are the generation of the future and are stronger to think it. With the innovation ecosystem, students will no longer need to leave for companies, because they are here 24 hours a day, 364 days a year (we close at Christmas), with the objective, not only of working with them but of transforming themselves.
Question: And interdisciplinarity?
Answer: It is linked to all the major themes of the future, but I highlight the one that is gaining fundamental importance in the School: the challenge of sustainability, especially the climate dimension, but, in general, all the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are important for us.
You can read the full interview in Jornal Económico. – It is in Portuguese.