VMU Multifunctional Centre: Open to the World

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On 6 October, Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) held an official ceremony opening the new VMU Centre for Research and Studies (23 V. Putvinskio Street), a modern, multifunctional centre which is open to the entire academic community, researchers and innovators, world Lithuanians, and the public at large. The ceremony was followed by the first event hosted by the Centre: the Forum on Science and Innovation, Social Code.

“Ever since its inception, Vytautas Magnus University has been integrated into the life of Kaunas, Lithuania and the world. We are continuing the construction of the university’s faculty buildings, which first started in the interwar Lithuania of 1918-1939. We hope that this modern multifunctional building will be a space available not only for university students or researchers but also for World Lithuanians (in the wider sense) and Kaunas residents as well”, explained Juozas Augutis, the Rector of Vytautas Magnus University. He explained that the centre’s functionality can be fully realized only by the people visiting it, teaching, learning or planning events there. This sentiment was echoed by the Prime Minister of Lithuania Algirdas Butkevičius, who noted that the time has come to follow through on the promise made during the burial of symbolic capsule for future generations at the building’s construction site two years ago: to be active citizens of the global world and to combine our knowledge and abilities.

Open to Environment and Ideas

The modern construction by architect Gražina Janulytė-Bernotienė emerged in the historical New Town district of Kaunas. “The building is located at the very heart of Kaunas, and the city itself is situated in central Lithuania. This represents the idea of the university itself: to be the centre and the beginning of everything”, Janulytė-Bernotienė said. According to the architect, the VMU Centre for Research and Studies also promotes the values of this university: it is open to ideas, the world, and the environment.

The building is particularly bright, the entire city is visible from the outdoor terraces. The key section of the construction is the common area in the middle, which is not divided by walls. “The reading room and library is the central space of this centre. It is very open but also has many separate areas for individual learning or teamwork: plenty of opportunities for establishing one’s individuality in a common environment”, the architect elaborated.

World Lithuanian Network

The Centre for Research and Studies was built as part of a VMU project dedicated to the implementation of the concept of “World Lithuanian University”. “VMU has been working on this project almost since its reopening in 1989: its goal is to unite all Lithuanians living around the world. These days, in the face of high emigration levels, this idea gains a new meaning, a goal of not only supporting, but also building a common network of all Lithuanians of the world”, VMU Rector Prof. Juozas Augutis said.

In pursuit of these goals, VMU has been working on a new strategy dedicated to four directions: identity, internationality, interdisciplinity and networking: plans are in place to develop relations with various Lithuanian and foreign social partners, to create closer connections between studies, research, and business, give more focus to lifelong learning, improve the dimensions of national identity, internationalism, and interdisciplinity. “As identity is a very important subject, it is crucial today to organize unifying activities, projects, and channels through which an international network of world Lithuanians could be created”, former Rector of VMU, world Lithuanian Prof. Algirdas Avižienis stated.

The professor claims that, for world Lithuanians, the new multifunctional VMU centre is a symbol of exceptional collaboration. “It is honourable that VMU assumes the responsibility to provide world Lithuanians with the opportunity to communicate at the academic level. I am certain that there are people who would like to not only get acquainted with Lithuania but also to build it, regardless of which country they currently live in”, Avižienis said, highlighting the scientific cooperation of Lithuanians living in different corners of the world.

The new multifunctional VMU Centre for Research and Studies was built in two years, with construction starting in the spring of 2014, when Avona became the contractor.

The building’s central part is the library with separate learning zones in the second floor above it. The centre also has two large amphitheatric halls, as well as numerous recreation rooms, modern auditoriums, and some of the most cutting-edge audio recording studios in Lithuania. It houses the VMU faculties of Humanities and Political Science and Diplomacy.

On its opening day, the VMU Centre for Research and Studies hosted the Forum Science and Innovation, Social Code, a high-level meeting of entrepreneurs, business and public policy decision makers, scientists and researchers to discuss the state of innovation in the Baltics and Europe. Highly experienced businesspeople, researchers and creatives from USA (Silicon Valley), France, UK, Switzerland and other countries shared their good practices and drew focus to issues that prevent successful utilization of social innovations while building a more advanced Lithuania.

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