Welcome to the College of Social Sciences, Stephan van Gasselt!
Faculties

Welcome to the College of Social Sciences, Stephan van Gasselt!

Happy Hour at the College of Social Sciences

T
he College of Social Sciences warmly welcomed its newest faculty member Professor Stephan van Gasselt. As customary, the director of IMES program (International Master’s Program of Applied Economics and Social Development), Professor Wang Shinn-Shyr, and with the help of both directors of IMAS (International Master’s in Asia-Pacific Studies) and IDAS (International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies) program, organized a Happy Hour event in honor of the new faculty member. Since Professor van Gasselt hails from Germany, a variety of German delicacies, such as the famous German pork knuckle along with a selection of German beers, were prepared. After the feast had ended, bellies filled, and spirits enlivened, Professor van Gasselt commenced with his talk.

With the topic of “Detachment & Resonance”, he states that he still might identify himself as German, but years of living abroad have detached him from his home country. In his childhood he moved to the Netherlands, where he spent most of his adolescence. At university, he pursued a degree in Geology Engineering in Clausthal, Germany, followed by his PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences at the Free University of Berlin. He remained at the institution where he was offered professorship for Planetary Sciences and Geographic Information Systems. In 2016, being weary of the provincial backwater Berlin, he started working at the University of Seoul as a Research Professor until last year, when Professor van Gasselt found his way here to NCCU. He is now working in the department of Land Economics as a Hazard Researcher, focusing on earthquakes and landslides. His current project is the development of an AI that might help better determine where possible landslides might occur.

According to him, the years living outside Germany allowed him not only to detach himself from his country, but also allowed him to learn about the foreign perception of Germany and its people. He managed to put these stereotypes and perceptions into three categories and evaluates their statements:

1. The Destructive View: Germany is inconvenient, old, and boring.
While it’s true that Germany is less convenient than most of the buzzing metropolitan areas in Asia, with its shops closing at around 8 pm and not even opening at all on Sundays, he argues, the advantage is that these rules give the people deceleration, a way to slow down their pace in life and find peace in their surroundings.
2. Historically Positive View: Germans are punctual, efficient, and well organized.
Even if some of these attributes are highly valued by the German population, Professor van Gasselt states that it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are omnipresent in Germany, as he presents some of the worst state owned mega projects wasting huge numbers of tax funding in the past (Such as the new Berlin Airport. Originally planned cost: 770 million Euros, currently estimated cost: 6 billion Euros).
3. Romantic View
According to van Gasselt, some countries just have a certain attraction to people. These might be triggered by nostalgic memories of a visit or might even occur if someone never travelled there, but has heard many stories about the place.

He concludes his talk about German’s perception, with the questions he is asked the most in his time, since he arrived in Taiwan:
Why did he choose Taiwan?
How long is he going to stay?
When will he marry?
While he didn’t provide any real answers to these questions (the last one seeming to be more of a request), he implies we should focus on the way ahead and not on obstacles on the side with his following quote:
“Don’t focus on the trees, but on the horizon in between”

We hope that Professor van Gasselt manages to acclimate to NCCU well, and that he will find some attachments to his new home away from home!

May 11, 2018

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Felix Ude