A farewell and a new beginning
It is with mixed feelings I write this blog. It will actually be the last blog I post as Director of the ISS. As a matter of fact, I formally quit the position as of May 1 after nearly 25 years of service. Prior to that I taught at the ISS for four years, and I have been at the University of Oslo ever since I started as a student there in 1975, except for three years in the 1980's when I taught at the University College London. It is therefore a great step and a great change to leave this institution which I love and cherish.
I have not, however, retired, if that is what you think. I now work as a parish pastor in Våler, a rural community two hours drive north east of Oslo, close to the Swedish border. As a young man, I started studying theology, but after two years changed to language and literature. Approximately eight years ago I resumed my theological studies alongside my job at the ISS, and I graduated last semester. It was therefore time for me to change fields now, and I feel confident about that decision.
I have had wonderful and extremely rewarding years at the ISS, and it has been a great privilege to be Director of such an excellent institution. What I look back at with the greatest feeling of gratitude is all the wonderful people I have got to know through the years, students, faculty, staff, collaboration partners in Norway and worldwide. They unanimously express that their time at and their work with the ISS has made a difference. I think the secret of the success of the ISS is that it is anchored in a spirit of community building; building an academic community, of course, but also a community with a vision of fostering deeper intercultural understanding and hence paving the way to a more peaceful future.
In my present job, I also work with community building, in a different context admittedly, but I still feel there is a link and a coherence between my job at the ISS and my job as a rural pastor.
It is strange to look ahead to a summer without the ISS. Even if I will not be there on a daily basis, I will no doubt drop in for visits, attending some events, and I will even give a guest lecture in the Norwegian Life and Society lecture series.
The ISS will be in good hands also in the future. Nita Kapoor has recently been appointed the New Director and will start in September. An announcement of her appointment and a short presentation of her has already been posted on the ISS home page. In the meantime, Sonia Noronha Mykletun, former Executive Director of U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation in Oslo, will be Interim Director, and you will no doubt get to know her through future blogs.