Guest blogger Johan Tysk
There’s something special about coming back to UCLA: this was where I took my PhD in mathematics in December 1986. When I arrived, I didn’t recognise the campus: many new buildings have sprung up, particularly in medical sciences. The day was dominated by meetings with leading representatives of UCLA who told us how their university is managed. Here, the individual departments don’t have to worry about rent, as these costs are borne centrally. Many initiatives are pursued at university-wide level, such as sustainable development and cooperation with the local community – the metropolis Los Angeles. We identified some shared ‘grand challenges’ in the fight against depression and work to promote sustainable cities.
We took a break at a table under a parasol fitted with solar panels connected to an electricity outlet by the table. This equipment had been donated by a student whose name and graduation year were clearly marked on the outlet. Finally, there was time to visit the Department of Mathematics. On the way, we passed Kerckhoff Hall, with its coffee house where I spent many hours. The teaching staff has changed since ‘my time’ and now includes a Fields medalist, but the buildings looked just as they did in the 1980s. In the midst of this changed world I felt a moment of sentimentality and recognition. This happy sense of nostalgia made me think of the words of the poet Erik Axel Karldfeldt, “I would see all as I saw it then”.